More misbehaving

Today was extra fun because of some students throwing little bits of linguini all over the class. Oh joy!

The teacher with whom I share a classroom is doing a cool project (relating to the sine and cosine) and among the art supplies was a package of uncooked linguini off to the side of the room today. A student thought it would be so funny to steal the linguini, break it into little bits and throw it at people whenever I had my back turned to them. What distresses me more is that this student is very bright and somewhat of a ring leader and so his behavior is immediately copied by others.

I made two of the students who I saw doing this sweep the floor after school. Parents notified.

Inability to multitask

I could be much better at teaching high school if I could multitask better. I used to think I was good at multitasking, but I’m really horrible at it.

In my classes today, I meant to assign homework, pass back graded papers, give work to students who were absent, make copies of a handout needed for class, carry supplies from one classroom to another classroom. I didn’t do any of those things. Oh, and there were a couple more things I know I forgot, but I don’t know what they are because I forgot. (My bad memory is also a big problem.) The issue is that I’m not willing to set aside class time for these kinds of things because I’m always freaking out about having the most learning possible out of every class period. For example, in my imagination, while students are working productively on a task I’ll be able to walk around a pass back papers. However, that never happens in reality. Students invariably need help, or someone knocks at the door, or the phone rings, or someone needs to go to the office, and then I forget to do what I thought I would do.

Another issue is that I need to get from the fourth floor to the fifth floor between third and fourth periods, and I have a really hard time making this transition smoothly during the five-minute passing period. Arriving disheveled causes me to forget things as well.

There is no way I will become massively better at multitasking, so the solution is that I need to do is to make students responsible for as many tasks as possible. I can hear Harry Wong yelling “Procedures, procedures, procedures!!”

I’ve been insisting on passing papers back myself up to now because I’ve been trying to learn students’ names. But now I think I can let students pass back papers or put them in some central place. That’s at least one thing I can try to do. Other tips from seasoned teachers?

IT issues / copying / students helping each other

Our school district is large and uses a centralized web-based system for taking attendance. I think it’s interesting that this system has a separate web page to tell users whether the service is working properly. Hmmm… Any guesses from readers about what this means about the reliability of the service?

A minor setback over the weekend. The copier is in our school’s office. The office is often locked during school because staff or admin are not there. When us teachers need to make copies, we have been relying on the teacher who room is next to the office to let us into the office through his side door. This is really not a good solution and the teacher, rightly so, has decided not to allow us to come through his room. So now, our ability to make copies is restricted. We found out today the copier is out of toner, so maybe it doesn’t matter anyway.

And now nice anecdote to end the post: Today in third period, I noticed one of my students (who previously complained about being in a group with people she did not know) helping another student. She was explaining things methodically and not just giving the other student the answers. She was doing it so earnestly and she seemed so pleased that she understood the material enough to be able to explain it. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness at the end of class. Hooray!

Lots of learning = Good day

I leave school feeling encouraged today because of the amount of learning that I saw.

Today, in my third period class we started working on making that “Cartesian Connection”–connecting a patterns with graphs with algebra with tables. It’s a central part of the CPM algebra curriculum.

Most of my students were able to successfully look at a table of numbers such as

x 0 1 2 3 4 10
y 3 9 15 21 27 63

and generate a rule for it: y = 6x + 3. This is something they could not do just a few days ago. And they seem to be really understanding. Some of them were able to explain to me that the reason the “6” is where it is in the algebraic rule is because the pattern of blocks grows by 6 each time.


But here’s the thing: Sometimes I worry that if any of my colleagues or administration were to walk in my class, they will think the class is out of control and that no learning is happening. Certainly, there was a lot of talking and lots of movement. Students find it hard to sit still for a long time. But, there was still a great deal of work and learning being done–more than I’ve seen in this class in a while. Furthermore, there were lots of meaningful mathematical conversations taking place. Students were saying things like “I think it should be 6x+3 because…” or “I think Figure 0 should have 3 blocks because of the pattern of numbers…” I’m sure I have a long way to go in developing classroom management and effective discipline, but I’m okay with a noisy classroom if there is real learning happening. I made sure to give positive feedback to the class on their good effort.

In geometry, today we learned about the incenter (intersection of the angle bisectors in a triangle) and learned how to construct it in two ways: using patty paper and using compass and straightedge. Again, there was a good deal of learning taking place today. Many students were able to find the incenter using compass and straightedge, and that is a relative intricate task for them. We ended the class with some dynamic geometry software on my tablet computer and the students seemed to enjoy that.

So, a good day overall. Someone please remind me about days like this when I feel like quitting.

Yucky Monday

Not a great way to start off the week. Lots of resistance and defiance from students today. Few stand out moments.

In third period, we (me and the resource teacher) instituted seating charts to get students used to doing group work. One student was very publicly criticizing her group: “I don’t like my group and don’t want to work with them.”

In sixth period, one student was texting during her class. It took about 2 or 3 minutes before she would give me her phone. She’s very mature and very emotionally manipulative and the interaction totally drained me. (“Well if I’m going to give you my phone I don’t want your dirty hands to touch it so go get some paper to wrap it first.”)

It’s also discouraging to see how many students complete their homework, even after I explain how important it is to practice to get good at math.

Days like this really make me dislike my job.