Day 173: The One With the Letter

Context: School Without Walls is our 2 week elective credit recovery program. I co-taught a course called Bike and Hike. Self-explanatory.

#MTBoS30 is a challenge by Anne Schwartz to post once a day for 30 days. I am catching up (#SorryNotSorry to ChitoAndKGo and AmusingMathias who actually get an email when I post)

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Monday is apparently the day when everyone gets tired of School Without Walls.

We make the kiddos wait a long time, then get on a hot, packed bus.

Domingo does not get on the bus, which I don’t realize until the other teacher texts me.

He shows up on time (a rarity) the next day.

We make him write a letter and basically beg us not to fail him (he needs this class to graduate).

I’m sorry. But I’m not that sorry.

(One of my advisees, who has basically not shown up all of 2nd semester, shows up. We go bouldering. Despite her high heels, the nice people at the bouldering place swap her shoes. One of her friends makes her climb to the top of the bouldering thing. I am so, so pleased.)

Photo: The Letter in Question2016-05-24 17.18.40

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Summer Meeting Recap: Read It Again (and Again) and Shared Experiences

Every summer, I spend three days meeting with other beginning math and science teachers from across the country (through the Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship…which also includes math teachers). That’s a lot of math and science teachers – 5 cohorts worth of about 30 teachers each. Some takeaways from this year:

3 Read Protocol: I went to a workshop on the 3 Read Protocol. (and yes, this links back to something from my own district, though I’ve never used it before. Oops.) The idea is to take a relatively dense word problem. You as the teacher read it aloud once. You ask students to summarize the main idea. You (or a student) reads it aloud a second time, this time asking students to look for the math – numbers and quantities in the problem. You (or a student) reads the problem aloud a third time and students come up with a list of questions they can answer.

This feels like a great exercise to try with English Language Learners and feels like a good structure to help students strategically make sense of problems. It also dovetails nicely with norms we’ve been establishing about “read the question (many times) before you ask for help.” Huzzah student persistence!

Course Narrative: I went to another workshop on establishing coherence and narrative throughout a course. The workshop was designed for biology teachers and our course narrative (or, uh, lack thereof) feels choppy for many reasons. That being said, thinking about how one unit motivates another is something I haven’t done (But feel like we should engage further. Maybe next time we teach this course). We’re going to try using guiding questions for each unit to try and help students make sense of how the content in each unit is connected. We’ll see.

Talk: Our cohort, which is mostly second and third year teachers (and two fourth year teachers) is focusing on “talk” in our classes – how our students talk and how this helps them learn. Up until this point, I’ve mostly tried to get students to talk to each other for the sake of talk and speaking English (because: English Language Learners). So I’m excited to think about this and get more into details and figure out why I’m asking my kiddos to talk. This also dovetails nicely with a book that Mr. Williams recommended on Intentional Talk. Geared to elementary schools, but that’s not such a bad thing.

Teacher Leadership: Everyone at Summer Meeting read Jose Vilson’s “This is Not a Test”. One of the many themes that emerged was the idea of teacher leadership and teacher voice. How do teachers communicate the work that we do? How do we advocate for ourselves and our students? No easy answers here, but I’m excited to see the conversation grow and continue.

Restorative Practices: Another theme based on “This is Not a Test” is the idea of restorative practices. Our school (and district) has done some work with restorative practices, but there is still so much to learn. I still struggle to clearly define restorative practices, but I would describe them as building positive relationships early and trying to include all voices and thinking about how to include students in discipline processes. So interesting to see the tension between implementing restorative practices as an individual teacher versus as a full school (in hindsight, I feel extremely fortunate that our school has been working together to try and implement restorative practices)

Norms and Shared Experiences: Our cohort of 30 teachers spends lots of time together. We have a meeting in the fall and a meeting in the spring. We do Google Hangouts every other week. We’ve gone through a year of teaching (for some, the first year). So we’re close. Similarly, other cohorts are very close. It’s really interesting and tricky to see what happens when these different cohorts with different experiences and expectations come together. Often times, they don’t. One of my biggest takeaways is thinking about how to bridge those gaps and talk to people with different experiences and expectations.