# 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.

## Beautiful Disaster or The One with the Mess

### Image

I am very off-and-on about how well I document my lessons. About once a month, I’ll frantically leave Google doc comments on everything and then forget about it for another month.

I don’t remember this lesson (lifted almost directly from a lesson 2 years ago) going this well 2 years ago, but it felt like students were having solid conversations while acknowledging that some students had already learned formulas for area (and often couldn’t remember why they were derived the way they were) and some students were just making sense of things.

Photo: “Mister, we left a mess on your board.”

Some days (when I remember, lately), you can’t even pose pictures as amazing as the ones the kiddos accidentally leave. There’s some thinking around the area of a circle and connections to half squares and formulas. Feat. the flyswatter from the flyswatter game (Show pictures of shapes on board. Say the name of a shape and watch the kiddos try to swat it. Get lovingly scolded by the Instructional Coach because the class next door can’t focus while your squirreliest class is celebrating victories over correctly identifying a pentagon versus a hexagon).

## The One Where the Kiddos Teach Algebra Tiles

### Image

One of the tricky things about having kiddos for 2 years and constantly taking on new kiddos (emerging multilingual/recent immigrant school) is that many of the kiddos have seen or already learned things that are important to know (like, say, algebra tiles) and half the kiddos have never seen it (or the mathematics leading up to it. Or a class in English. But, I digress…).

Curriculum Partner and I were both excited at various points about a lesson we did last year where kiddos who had been in school longer taught their group members about the algebra tiles and had them do practice problems.

We did it again today and it was about as awesome as we remember it. For all the worries that creating status and rocky starts to the year bring about, kiddos generally did really good at teaching each other and helping each other. In groups where there were multiple kiddos who had seen the algebra tiles, they often (somewhat) naturally co-taught or translated or otherwise differentiated their support. I tried to videotape one group, but they promptly stopped talking.

This photo taken shortly after trying to talk one kiddo down about phone calls home and shortly before the video caused them all to awkwardly stop talking:

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

(Context the first: This is from a mathematics class for students who are all emerging multilinguals.

Context the second: This blog is part of the #MTBoSblogsplosion, spearheaded by Carl Oliver (Thanks, Carl!). The Mathematics-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere is a collective of mathematics educators on the internet who commit to blogging a certain number of times throughout January.

I’ve said I’m going to post a photo of student work every day for #teach180 (Thanks Sarah Carter!) and one post every weekend on more reflective things.)

## The One with Bags and Coins Groupwork

### Image

On our 3rd day back, I’m finally getting back into the swing of norms and routines (recovering from sickness is not helpful here). As part of our differentiation snake (a term Curriculum Partner and I borrowed from our coach last year), we spent yesterday working on bags and coins problems together. Some kiddos saw it last year, some are just now starting to understand. So we spent today doing individual practice. (Differentiation Snake note: We’ll be doing groupwork again tomorrow)

Even though work was individual and kiddos could move at their own rate, a couple groups worked together. In one of those rare “Only-In-First-Period-Am-I-Functional-Enough-To-Do-This” moments, I was doing a checkpoint with a group and they actually worked and talked together to help one kiddo correct a mistake.

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

(Context the first: This is from a mathematics class for students who are all emerging multilinguals.

Context the second: This blog is part of the #MTBoSblogsplosion, spearheaded by Carl Oliver. The Mathematics-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere is a collective of mathematics educators on the internet who commit to blogging a certain number of times throughout January.

I’ve said I’m going to post a photo of student work every day for #teach180 (Thanks Sarah Carter!) and one post every weekend on more reflective things.)

## The One with Bags and Coins

### Image

More balance as we explore Bags and Coins problems as a more concrete way of talking about balance on our way to solving equations. I forewent the usual demonstration that we (Curriculum Partner and I) do in front of class as the balance is a little faulty and doesn’t always do what I want. Kiddos struggled a bit, but it also might be first week waves with so many new kiddos in the mix. That being said, there were a lot of great conversations and supporting other students happening, so…

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

(Context the first: This is from a mathematics class for students who are all emerging multilinguals. We take on new kiddos throughout the year and are currently working our way through norming and teaching 3-4 new kiddos in each class of 25)

Context the second: This blog is part of the #MTBoSblogsplosion, spearheaded by Carl Oliver. The Mathematics-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere is a collective of mathematics educators on the internet who commit to blogging a certain number of times throughout January.

I’ve said I’m going to post a photo of student work every day for #teach180 (Thanks Sarah Carter!) and one post every weekend on more reflective things.

That being said, I already missed one day since I’m recovering from a cold and took an accidental 10 hour “nap” as soon as I got home from work yesterday. Sorry I’m not sorry?)

## The One With Balance

### Image

First day back from vacation. New unit on balance. Wish I’d put more of an emphasis on the word “equals” and given kiddos the names of the shapes on the paper. I think the most thinking and talking when I let the kiddos draw on the paper. Also, there were about 10 new kiddos spread across my 4 classes. Which is not a lot, but is enough to complicate things (especially when all the kiddos are emerging multilinguals). Dem’s the breaks at a school of emerging multilinguals, I suppose.

(Also, I am largely back on the bandwagon due to Carl Oliver’s #MTBoSBlogsplosion. Check it out and join in!)

What do you notice? What do you wonder?