Week 4: We All Fall Down

This week’s Explore the MathematicsTwitterBlogoSphere prompt is awesome: You are going to write a blogpost about one mistake/error/failure you made, and proudly and publicly share that with the world. OR… and this is more ambitious but wow would reading this keep us glued to the screen… keep a log of teaching failures for a day, a few days, or even the entire week… and then publish it!

I love the vulernability of this prompt and am also terrified of answer it, partially because it’s embarrassing (but worthwhile) and partially because there are so many things I wish I could do over that it makes my head explore.

Anyway:

Monday: Solving Equations Group Test

We do a group test to prepare for the individual test on Wednesday. In general, the test runs short, which is actually OK, though I wish I’d added some more challenges to some of the problems. I also forget to give out the supplement – a half page on inequalities and equations with weird solutions (no solution, infinite solutions, x =0), which would have been a productive way for more groups to talk about interesting mathematics. During group tests, Curriculum Partner and I only allow groups to ask 2 group questions – if someone has a question, the whole group has to talk together and one person – the Resource Manager – has to call me over. I don’t do a great job setting this up or necessarily having kiddos follow through. I wish I’d made a bigger deal of it since it’s our first group test of the semester and so many of our kiddos are new. There’s at least one group where one team member is totally capable of doing the work, but seems to want to call me over. I don’t necessarily regret answering some of the questions in the name of relationship building and mathematical confidence, but I know this kiddo and I probably should have pushed them to talk to their group more.

Monday evening, I mean to look through the group tests. I skim through some from my first class and note that students aren’t always using the scripts we gave them to help with language and are sometimes not solving equations with negative numbers correctly (they subtract from both sides when they should add to both sides). I think about ways to address this on Tuesday…and then don’t.

I also make a mental note to write up the team meeting agenda for our Wednesday team meeting…and then don’t.

Tuesday: Test Review Day

Many of our kiddos either don’t really know how to study for a test or don’t have the time to do it, so we always spend a day reviewing in partners. Curriculum Partner and I explicitly explain that the groups are leveled – someone who knows more English and someone who is still learning. I don’t do a fantastic job framing this. One of our four school values is Act With Empathy. It’s a value that most of our kiddos recognize, though I’d argue that understanding empathy is harder. I wish I’d explicitly made more calls to that.

We also give kiddos a copy of the rubric to help grade their tests. It seems like kiddos understand that they should read through the rubric, which is a step up from earlier in the year. I wish I’d made the rubric more explicit. A part of me wants it to be general enough to guide the kiddos, but not give anything away. Another part of me needs to remember that, if we’ve gotten through the group test and are still confused about something, we need to step up the intervention and be more explicit.

I also find Racing Dots on Desmos as an extension. It looks awesome. Some kiddos try it. I don’t look at the results or really talk to or support the kiddos working on it. It’s an extension and there are kiddos who are still trying to make sense of the test (let alone all the study materials). I stand by this decision, but I regret it a bit, too.

Wednesday: Individual Test

The curriculum part of today actually goes as planned, largely because it’s a test day, so we spend most of the day taking the test. I do have one kiddo from last semester, who now has a different teacher, come in and say “I miss your class because you would always help me on the test.” I wonder if I’m giving too much help on the test.

Team meeting goes well despite me only having sent out the agenda and checked with facilitators the night before. The team meeting part of meeting (there’s also a student support meeting) is actually being facilitated by a different team member. Had it been strictly team meeting, I would have liked to have thought about the agenda more and sent it out earlier.

I think about grading when I get home, but end up not having time, partially because I have to buy flyswatters.

Thursday: Shapes Review

In preparation for our next unit on similarity, we do a bunch of different review activities. We draw shapes, we put names to the shapes, we find area and perimeter, we play the flyswatter game where I call 2 students to the front, name a shape and then have them swat the named shape with the flyswatter. This activity also actually goes relatively smoothly. Except for the one class where the Instructional Coach lovingly has to ask us not to be so loud when celebrating. #IRegretNothing

I take a phone from a student who is taking a selfie with their entire table when they should be doing the opening. This is followed by about 20 minutes of bickering with another student who says it’s not fair and they should have gotten a warning (it’s the first time anyone has taken this student’s phone; they will have many more warnings).

I have an interaction with a student while explaining our work for today. “But this is middle school work,” says the student. I continue reminding students that we have a range of abilities in our class and are doing review to help everyone learn. I make call to act with empathy and then start class. Do I wish we had talked more about why we’re reviewing for a range of abilities? Do I wish I had specifically drawn attention to the fact that this student attended solid schools in their country while some students struggled to even attend elementary school? Answer unclear…

I do have a cranky interaction with a coworker in the staff room in the morning, which is what happens when everyone is trying to do everything in the morning. I wish I had just backed away and asked to talk about it later, but couldn’t quite get my brain to process that fast. We talk about it at lunch and things are better.

I drop the ball a bit again after school. I have 2 meetings and am relatively unable to help Curriculum Partner print out materials for Mondays, though we are able to finish most of our planning during prep.

My Favorite: Group Roles

It’s always hard for me to think of something that’s my favorite that a) feels like it’s something I feel I’ve used enough to call it “mine” and b) is related to mathematics.

I’m rather fond of the 4 group roles we’re currently using in mathematics class (9th and 10th grade algebra and geometry). It’s hard to trace where the roles started from, but I’m fairly certain they’re from CPM and have been used frequently by folks from Grad Skool and in the Complex Instruction schools in our district. We’ve put our own emerging multilingual spin on them. Most of the credit here goes to my awesome Curriculum Partner and our Teaching Coach.

Here’s how it goes:

I seat kiddos in groups of 4 (or 5, if we’re getting stuffed to the gills, which, surprise, we are, right now). Each kiddo is given a role:

Task Manager: Responsible for getting the group started. Asks “What do we do?”

Group Manager: Responsible for making sure everyone understands. Asks “Do you understand?” (I lean on this one heavily; there have been disputes over whether such a closed question is useful, but I find it easy to ask and understand)

Communications Manager: Was responsible for making sure people are writing. I think I’m going to rewrite this one to make people put things in the middle of the table or helps with translation. Currently asks “What do we write/say?”

Resource Manager: Calls the teacher for group questions (if no one in the group knows and all resources have been exhausted). Says “Excuse me, we have a question.”

(Side note: I love the use of “excuse me”. So polite and makes it ok to ask other people things even if they look busy. Also the use of “we” rather than “I”.)

Evolution of How I Use Roles

I used group roles when student teaching and tried implementing them unsuccessfully for about 2 years.

The gamechanger was actually taking away structure. I used to assign each manager a role and them make them sit in a specific seat. Somewhere during Year 2 or 3, I gave up on assigning roles and just told all the kiddos in one corner of the table that they were Task Managers and went from there. I also taped the roles down on the table and one of my super awesome coaches taped the sentences on them.

It’s been a game changer. Mostly because I’m able to name and call different managers. Even if the kiddos don’t remember their roles (they often don’t), they are visible enough on the table that some of the more on-point kiddos can remind them.

How We Made the Roles

At some random District planning day, Curriculum Partner, Coach and I randomly decided to pick apart the roles. We knew about them and had tried to use them, but weren’t entirely sure about them. We decided that there needed to be a tension between someone who pushes the group ahead (Task Manager) and someone who slows the group down so everyone has access (Group Manager). We’ve always needed a Communications Manager and a Resource Manager, so those roles stayed.

(I teach mathematics at a high school entirely for emergent multilinguals who are recent immigrants. Groupwork is heavily encouraged in all classes.)Laminated group roles

Day 171: Confessions of a Field Trip Chaperone

Context: School Without Walls is our 2 week elective credit recovery program where I co-teach a PE class called “Bike and Hike”.

#MTBoS30 challenges the math education writer to write a blog a day for 30 days. Inspired by Anne Schwartz and the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS)

Confession: Blogs titled “Confessions of…” make me a bit crazy.

Field trips also make me a little crazy.

We go kayaking today (Wednesday) which is both awesome and crazy.

It’s cold and windy at the bus stop. The bus doesn’t come. Everyone says they will refuse to go. “What if we die before the bus gets here?” Thomas 2 asks.

The bus comes.

I worry about getting all 22 kids off at the right stop.

It’s sunny and warm by the water.

We pair them in partners, which mostly works.

We tell students repeatedly to not bring phones and to bring a change of clothes.

Students end up wearing jeans. Students bring their phones into the kayaks.

I am paddling along, checking things out and wondering if this is something I should do more often when I realize that there are Kiddos In the Water.

I paddle over to Tomas and help him get into my kayak.

“Did you fall in?” I ask.

“No, me saltè.” I jumped.

We make Tomas swim over to his partner, then yell at the other 4 kiddos who are now in the water.

At one point, a kiddo makes me hold his phone in my lifejacket. I later drop it, by accident. Into. The. Water.

There is much swearing on my part and the kiddo in question basically checks out for the rest of the trip. I refuse to take pictures out of solidarity for the rest of the day.

Field trips are crazy making.

Favorite quote from a video another teacher made:

Àlvaro: Tengo miedo.

Teacher (off-screen): ¿Por què? (Why?)

Àlvaro: Por que me  puedo ahogar. (Because I might drown)

Àlvaro: Y si me ahogo, mi mamà me va a regañar. (And if I drown, my Mom is going to kill me.)

Photo: Reflection slips that kiddos fill out every morning. (’cause no kayaking photos)

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Day 170: View Within Reach

Context: School Without Walls is our school’s way of helping students to catch up on missing PE and art credits through an intensive 2-week elective course. I am teaching a course “in the style of” Bike and Hike (our instructional coach’s words). We bike and hike a lot, as you would guess.

#MTBoS30 is a challenge started by Anne Schwartz happening in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS). You write a blog every day for 30 days. I’ve already missed 4 5 and math content ended for me 2 and a half weeks ago, but anyway…

The class is called “Bike and Hike”, because it’s always been called that. There are between 2 to 4 sections of similar classes with different names.

We spend the morning in a bike workshop. It’s heartening to see that some of our students who struggle most with English and with school are super proficient with bikes.

We spend the afternoon walking. Kiddos are still tired from the previous days. The hill we walk up is close by, but (apparently) steep. Um. Mapquest Google didn’t tell us that.

I hike in front with 2 of the seniors. We talk about dance classes they took and how one of them was a little horror in his country because he knew he was leaving for the United States. Every 5 seconds (it seems), someone asks if we can take the bus instead.

“It’s bike and hike, not bus and hike,” I say. It’s Dad-level humor and no one laughs because they all think they are dying as we keep hiking.

The views of the city are amazing. And less than a mile from school. Some students find a swing and take photos while standing on posts and trying to be taller than they already are. Other students basically remake an Arabic music video. I wonder why no one really ever seems to understand my life at cocktail parties.

Photo: The One Where We Don’t Even Talk About Taking the Bus

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Mission #2: The Twitter Mission

Justin Lanier’s Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere Challenge (#2 of 8):

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to try your hand at Twitter. Maybe for the first time, maybe for the first time in a while, maybe in new ways, maybe with new people.

 

This mission, combined with our blogwork in Mission #1, will provide you a sure foundation for all future Explore MTBoS enterprises. You’ll be platformed up and ready to mingle by the week’s end.

Continuing my theme of “evading work like my students”, I tried some aspects of this challenge and repurposed some of what I already do into something that sort of fits the challenge. And I took a lot of photos that I meant to tweet and then didn’t.

In general, I use Twitter to find information. If I see a blog post or article that’s been reposted by a handful of people, I’ll check it out.

Missions

While I love blogging, I haven’t been able to find the time for it these days, which is why the brevity of Twitter (and Instagram) is nice. I’m experimenting with posting photos of my board and my classroom on Instagram. I’ve gotten some good reactions from friends on Instagram (who aren’t math teachers, but still have contributions all the same). It’s neat to see how people connect to math and what they learned about math. I’m not sure how much of a presence the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere community has on Twitter, but given how visual teaching math can be, I think it’s a neat space to explore. I try to cross-post these photos to Twitter in conjunction with #180blog posts, though I’m  behind on both.

I tried started some hashtags – #MusicWhileGrading, #MusicWhilePlanning, #TeacherPockets, #MyBoard. None really took off, but I wasn’t consistent about using them. They are also less related to math. I also acknowledge that many people don’t listen to music while working and that even fewer want to know that I basically only ever listen to the Old 97’s and Billy Joel. I am curious to see what #MTBoS hashtags start trending.

Most exciting twitter moment

Through a professor that I follow in Twitter, I connected with a math teacher in Pennsylvania who is working on complex instruction. Short twitter conversations were had, emails were sent, I’m excited to see how it goes. Even if nothing concrete comes of it (teachers are busy, planning is hard, implementing groupwork is really hard), I’m excited that we got in touch and am excited to follow the work that he does online.

The Future

Moving forward, I am trying to contribute more to the world of math online. Right now, I’m more of a passive consume and I’d like to be more of an active participant. For me, this means trying to be consistent about posting and trying to stay active on Twitter (short attention span, relatively little free time, etc). I am trying to take part in #AlgChat (Algebra Chat) on Sundays, if nothing else, just to see what other teachers are doing.

Related but Unrelated

Related but unrelated #1: I thought it would be cool to tweet my first tweet from the top of Mt. Cotopaxi. Unfortunately, my cheap Ecuadorian phone couldn’t quite connect to Twitter and we didn’t make it to the top anyway, so…

Related but Unrelated #2: A few of my students from last year used to randomly say “Follow me on Instagram, Mr. Chan!” If only they knew…

Related but unrelated #3: Possibly my biggest accomplishment of my last job was convincing my boss that he should be on Twitter. It hasn’t 100% happened yet, but he texted me a month ago to say he’d gotten an account. Baby steps, y’all…