What I’m Reading

This week’s post for the Exploring the Math(ematics)TwitterBlogosphere blogging initiative is about a post or posts that you appreciate.

I find myself going back to Dan Goldner’s post on fault tolerant mathematics programs frequently (fun story: I forgot to bookmark his post initially and spent about 6 months googling and searching for it. It’s now bookmarked in my browser). Dan discusses how his department thinks about their mathematics program in ways that support students who come in below grade level or are repeating a course or have minimal information about their prior mathematics knowledge. As I watch our department struggle with many of the same issues, it’s always comforting to know that other schools are thinking through the same things and facing similar issues. (This is also an embarrassing reminder to myself that I need to actually go back and watch Uri Treisman’s speech, which inspired that post)

As an advisor, I also find myself rereading Chris Lehmann’s post on Making Advisory Work (not technically mathematics, but we teach kiddos mathematics, so…). Our school has an advisory program and it is relatively supported (we delegate certain days to certain topics and probably more importantly, have other advisors with whom we can plan and brainstorm), but there’s still so much to do. And this post covers a lot of it. I find the points about “There’s nothing about the typical teacher preparation program that [prepares teachers to be good advisors]” and “I was good at the one-to-one with kids, but I don’t think I maximized the time we spent together.” (except I’d say I’m a solid to low so-so with the kiddos).

So those are the posts I go back to.

In terms of blogs, I will read anything Fawn Nguyen has to say any day.

Y un gran saludo a Heather Kohn and Mathy McMatherson (Daniel Schneider) for so many #MathandELLs posts that I am trying to be more diligent about reading these days.

And to Sarah DiMaria, Kaitie O’Bryan, and Sheila Orr. I try to read your blogs for the awesomeness and in hopes that I’ll have something smart to say about them when I see you at conferences.

Day 43: The One With the College Trip

Field trips are simultaneously awesome and complicated.

Every year, we take the kiddos to a local college. For many of them, it’s their first time actually spending time on a college campus. This year, it feels like the first time I’m actually asking them if and what they are thinking about college.

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Miguel (who opts to go by “Mike” these days, presumably to keep things easier at his work) and Pedro miss the field trip departure, which is not entirely surprising, especially since Miguel works a lot, has late hours, and has stated that he wants to work full-time after high school instead of going to college. As we bus towards College, I notice Alex, another advisee, texting. This is also not entirely surprising.

“OK, who are you texting?” I ask as we near the College.

“Miguel,” he replies.

We wait around the student center prior to our tour. I am not entirely surprised when Miguel and Pedro run up to us, having taken unknown buses for at least half an hour to meet us. I’ve lost kiddos on field trips before, but this is the first time I’ve gained them.

***

Probably the most interesting part of the College Tour (other than the food court and the video arcade, sigh) is the part where the college students actually talk in small groups to our kiddos. These students are part of a program through the College and come from similar backgrounds to our students (first generation college students, often Spanish-speaking, often low-income).

The chaperones circulate throughout the room and I find myself in Mike’s group. Our kiddos are quiet, probably because it’s such a new place. The student they are talking to presses them for questions.

“Some of our students are thinking about working full-time after college. They have debts to pay and families to support,” I say (I think in Spanish). “Why should they go to college?” I shoot a pointed glance at Mike.

“That’s a good question,” says the student (also in Spanish). “If you work after high school, you’ll be making money sooner. But you’ll always be working for less money.” (This is a horrible, horrible paraphrase of what he actually said, which was much more thoughtful and eloquent. And in Spanish. But he said it in front of Mike, which was what I was hoping for)

***

The bus we’re supposed to take back to school doesn’t come, so we walk to another bus. Alex leaves to go to a dentist appointment, but we’re far away and he doesn’t really know the buses, so he texts Mike and comes back. As we wait, I notice Mike, deep in thought, standing apart from the group. I pull him back and make him board the bus.

***

Ultimately, I don’t care if Mike goes to college (this is a lie; I want Mike to go to college, but I also understand that I only know the surface level version of his circumstances and that he will make the choice that is right for him). But I want him (and the rest of the kiddos) to understand the benefits of going to college and I want him to keep that door open for as long as possible.

Photo: Going up to the lookout during the College tour.

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Day 18: The One with the First Quiz

We just gave our first quiz of the year (though technically the group quiz was probably the first of the year, so I guess this blog post is already a lie).

Thought process is that it’s pretty similar to the group quiz but with enough changed that the kiddos have to prove they know the concepts, but aren’t totally thrown by new, irrelevant things.

Got some solid work, especially from some kiddos who tend to leave their papers blank:


Fascinating also to see where kiddos get stuck. We asked them to draw their own pattern with the point (5,16) and it ended up being more of a stumper than we expected.

Also, the littlest advisee (the same one I spent my 34th birthday chasing around the school in an attempt to get them to do homework) drew me a truck instead:

(To be fair, they did try to take the quiz and they struggle with reading and got very little formal education in their country).

And a quote from another kiddo: “Mister, you look like a – (to friend) – ¿Cómo se dice ‘abeja’? (How do you say ‘bee’?):


Objectives:

Day 12: The One With the Language Testing

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“Mister…did you do something to your room?”

The desks are in rows, which is apparently a contrast to the groups they’re normally in. More than one kiddo comments on it. So it must be a thing.

Every year, The State requires that we test our emerging bilingual students to see how much growth them make. In theory, it’s a good idea. Especially now that my first group of advisees are Actual Seniors, it’s crazy to hear them speak English and to see it somewhat actively reflected in their test scores.

It’s harder for the 9th graders, many of whom are extremely new. I reiterate several times (and still not enough) that this is really a practice and that it doesn’t affect their grades, but many of them are still so defeated. If nothing else, we lose a day of curriculum and many of the kiddos refuse to (or just can’t)  do work in the afternoon.

I thought I took a picture of the tables in rows, but it’s just as well.

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Day -1: The Secret Reason I Ordered Another Bookcase

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Friday was our last day of professional development before the kiddos arrived. During team meeting (around 10am), I said, out loud (oops), “Yeah, I think I’m just going to leave at 3:30 and be done with it.” The rest of my team was, um, flabbergasted (I can’t ever get myself to leave  at a decent hour.”

It’s tradition that seniors come to school on Friday for their orientation. It’s crazy to see this class, since they are the first class that I taught as freshmen. My first advisees are seniors (it’s a bit mind-blowing to me, and I tell them as such on a pretty much daily basis).

By 6:30, most of my team had (rightfully) left and I was just starting to round the bend on Things That Needed To Be Done Before Monday (namely, seating charts). I gave up and decided to come in on Sunday.

A while ago, there was an offer at our school to get more bookshelves. I asked for one. Mostly so I could stand on it to change my seating charts (out of the range of kiddos, though an advisee last year tried to jump in order to switch seats, so…).2016-08-12 18.28.51

Day -3: Me and the Real Day*

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Every day of Professional Development week starts to get a little more real. And I think yesterday (Wednesday) was the actual day where everything felt real. We started talking heavily in our teams about concrete things like leadership and advisory. We have pretty accurate class lists (as accurate as they get before the first week in an urban school) and a master schedule. My to-do list has actively pending things that feel real and important (“share information about last year’s students” versus “dream big about reading through Smarter Balanced claims”.)

We did some writing  about ourselves as leaders and how we feel about advisory. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

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*I know, I know, “The Real Day and Me.”

Day 176: The One With the Last Day

We see other teachers after graduation. They say they have a potluck at school the next day and no classes to teach. I am grumpy and tell them that we have a 2 hour block, a 1.5 hour assembly and an hour with our advisory.

Admittedly, I love it. (Love is a strong word – I don’t hate it.) Kiddos are grumpy and antsy and complain about having to do work on the last day (though they mostly do it anyway). I make my advisory do our somewhat honored traditional of writing letters to themselves and then writing notes to the rest of the class. I stand at the board and help them spell weird things like what North Americans call the different grade levels and think about how I’ll miss this a little bit in the summertime. 

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***
“The Mister (that’s me) is going to lock the door and won’t let me back in next year,” says 10th grader Gregorio (probably in Spanish) as class winds down. “He doesn’t want me in class any more.”

“He’s totally right,” I tell the class, deadpan, and move on.

It’s a good thing we’re both lying.