Time to Check In

There have been a fair share of issues so far this year, and those were made very aware to us over the past week with parent teacher conferences and other communication from parents and students. So today during lunch I decided that we were going to start class by having a bit of a reality check and refocusing on our goals and the goals for this program.

We posted 8 sheets of paper with various prompts around the room and instructed students to spend 5-10 minutes writing a response on each one. I’ve shared the responses for three of the prompts below.

When I have an issue with Canvas (learning management system) or course material, I can…

  • try and solve the problem myself
  • talk to a teacher/ask the teacher for help/email my teacher
  • talk to my parents
  • communicate with others
  • google

Not so helpful but still semi-serious responses included:

  • wait and procrastinate, then complain to my teacher
  • blame it on technology
  • have a panic attack

When I have an issue with my group or someone in Pathways, I can…

  • talk with the teachers
  • talk with my group to resolve the problem
  • ignore them
  • get over it
  • talk to the group member in question

Not so helpful but still semi-serious responses included:

  • yell at the person
  • call them out

Jobs that require working on teams in some capacity include…

  • actors and actresses
  • people in doctor’s offices
  • business partners
  • law firms
  • teaching
  • engineering
  • pilots
  • designers
  • surgeons
  • coding
  • making movies
  • military
  • sports
  • scientists
  • construction
  • mechanics
  • assembly line workers

This gave us the space to hold the conversation about becoming self-advocates (“I’m sure your parents are great but we don’t teach them, we teach you! So you should be emailing or asking questions when you come in!) as well as a reminder that jobs across all career pathways are going to involve group work, so it’s important for us now, in high school, to gain the skills to be good group members (“Who wants to be 45 and working in an office and still picking up the slack on a project? Do you think you’ll enjoy working unpaid overtime because you procrastinated?”)

The rest of the day went well. Most of the time these kids are great. It’s important though, as freshmen and students in a pilot program, for us to have these conversations periodically so nothing blows up.

End of Year Survey – Part 2

As my last set of students are working on their final, I’m ready to reflect on the rest of my end of year survey. This was the part where students were given a set of 30 statements and asked to rate me on them, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree”. I then inserted all of the data into Excel and sorted based on average (mean) rating. So without further ado, ten things to work on from highest rating to lowest rating:

  • “My teacher gives the right amount of work.” I find this very surprising, but I’ll go more into this when we reach #10.


  • “My teacher is interesting.” This one made me a little sad, but as a new, young, female teacher I feel as though I have to draw really hard boundaries when it comes to divulging information about my personal life. My students know I have a younger brother and younger sister, and they know I have a boyfriend in med school. That’s about it. Maybe it’s time for me to start letting them in a little more so they can see I’m actually a real life normal young adult? Any advice here would be helpful; how much is too much for students to know about you?


  • “My teacher is patient.” Not surprised by this. It’s something I’m actively working on and I truly feel as though this year I was more patient than last, but it’s so much harder than I thought sometimes…


  • “My teacher gives me enough time to finish.” This goes with the last statement – wait time is something else that I’m actively working on. It’s also hard to figure out when students aren’t writing because they’re done or because they never started without constantly being on the move. I think as I get more comfortable using my iPad as a casting device I’ll get better at this and honestly if I lose technology I’ll probably have to relearn it all over again.


  • “My teacher plans fun activities.” I do more activities than the other teachers teaching the same subjects as me but the students still don’t see them as fun. While I’m going to continue finding new activities to incorporate this one doesn’t bother me a ton.


  • “My teacher seems to enjoy her job.” Well at least I know that a good amount of my students are empathetic enough to pick up on how stressed I was this semester! I’m going to be even more stressed next semester but I’ll be doing mostly project-based learning so I think I’ll be enjoying the stress.


  • “My teacher has a sense of humor.” I’m not a funny person, I’ve never considered myself to be funny, and I don’t have any drive to become funnier. Also my students quite probably have a different sense of humor than me. I’m not broken up about this one either, but it is something to keep in the back of my mind. I don’t want to be a stone-faced killer my whole career.


  • “My teacher is enthusiastic about teaching.” This one goes along with the stress. I do enjoy my job, but that’s hard to portray sometimes when you’re working on 6 different things in your mind and 3 in front of you. And I’m a very organized and prepared person, I just know that as a new teacher there’s always stuff I could be doing better. I also got the lowest rating on this statement from my worst behaved/managed class, so that’s a factor.




  • “My teacher is challenging.” This one really surprised me. Really surprised me. My students complained all year about how they didn’t understand things, how we were doing too much work, how the other Algebra 1 classes didn’t have homework, how low their grades were, and yet in the end they didn’t think I was challenging enough. Why? I’m not sure. This is going to be one of the things I reflect on the most over the summer, because I really was starting to think that maybe the classes were too hard or that I was expecting them to do too much work. But maybe the voices of the many were drowned out by the voices of the few, and in reality most of my students were surviving and okay with simply passing the class regardless of the grades they received or what they actually learned. I really don’t know about this one. It’s going to require a lot of thought.

A lot of these relate to each other, and while some of them made me sad they were also reassuring. I knew I was struggling with most of these things, and hearing it from multiple students in multiple classes via this survey is reaffirming the fact that I’m not crazy and these are things I actually need to work on. I know that with some of these statements they are ever changing, and I’ll have to adapt to every group of students in every school that I’m at, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to be better at classroom management or connecting with my students.

I know that some students loved me and therefore agreed or strongly agreed with each statement, and some hated my class and the highest they gave me was a 3 (which was “unsure”)… but, such is life. I almost don’t want to get to a point in my career where all of my students love me. Having critics, whether they’re honest or biased, is a crucial part in helping me reflect and grow. I wouldn’t be forced to confront the issues otherwise.

I wasn’t offended by the low ratings of the statements above. The students told their truth and this is me listening and responding one final time this year. The most offensive thing on any survey was a student strongly disagreeing with the statement that I have nice handwriting. What a rude and wholly inaccurate thing to say.

Reflection Is So Hard To Model

Self-reflecting is an amazing ability and tool to have. It really is. I want students to be able to self-reflect and self-reflect well. I want to be able to self-reflect and self-reflect well. . But do we ever give our students the tools to do so? I’m not sure I can remember ever learning what it means to really self-reflect or strategies for how to do it. So this is one of the classroom management things I’m really going to work on next year (along with the cell phones).

I have a small group of students this year who seem to think that the classroom is their playground. About 4 students in my 1st and 4th block each. They have pushed each other into cabinets and desks. They have chased each other around. They have played catch with dry erase markers and other things. They shadowbox and stick each other in half-nelsons and headlocks. We’ve had discussions, they’ve had referrals and lunch detentions and individual conversations with the assistant principal, and parent contact has been made. And yet here we are, in May, still dealing with it. There are other behavioral issues occasionally, but this is by far and away the most common and most aggravating.

At training this weekend (influencing 3/4 posts so far… thanks DukeTIP!) we discussed how to create a behavioral agreement with students in the summer programs that just weren’t doing quite what they were supposed to be doing. We also discussed the SBI model for feedback – focus on the situation, behavior, and impact (this can be used positively and negatively!) So taking these things into account, I’ve created the document below. This is my first time using box so I hope it works how it’s supposed to…

Behavioral Reflection Sheet

I plan on hanging these on a clipboard right outside my door for when a student needs a break from the classroom. I’m hoping that giving them the time and space to cool down, as well as tools for self-reflection and potential improvement, will prevent repeated behaviors. Maybe I’ll step out and do one once in a while too.

Attaining Maximum Appropriate Involvement

I’m back and attempting to participate in the #MTBoS30 challenge this month. There are 31 days in May, but I’m guessing they’re giving us a day off for Memorial Day? Who knows. I’m way behind in posting stuff from our interactive notebooks in Algebra I and I will probably mass-upload those during finals week (hopefully I won’t have many finals to grade!) as well as discuss what’s been good about my first time teaching AFDA.

I spent this weekend in Durham attending job training for my summer job. I’ll be working again this summer for DukeTIP – a residential enrichment program for gifted and talented students. I’m really pumped for this summer because I’ll be doing a sustainability and engineering program, so I’m pretty sure I’ll learn just as much (if not more) than my students!

During our last part of training this morning, we heard a talk about important pieces of leading teams, and one of those pieces was “Maximum Appropriate Involvement in Decision Making”. I immediately  started picking and pulling at how I could adapt this to my teaching practices. The idea is that different things require decisions being made in different ways. There are 5 levels, which you can read more about here if you’re interested, but I’ll list them briefly below:

  • Decide and announce
  • Gather input from individuals and decide
  • Gather input from the team and decide
  • Consensus
  • Delegate with constraints

This makes so much more sense to me than the general ideas of student buy-in and involvement, because I think it’s a little bit more clear cut.

There are certain things that we decide as teachers, or are decided for us by our department, administration, district, or state, and tell our students “this is what we’re doing and why/how we’re doing it.”

There are certain times, often on tests and exit tickets, where we ask for input for students on what they liked/didn’t like/understood/didn’t understand so that we can make future instructional decisions.

There are certain topics that require whole-class discussions, such as class norms or how to seek out extra help, where we take the information provided to us by the class and decide how we want to implement their ideas (or if it’s even feasible to do so!)

There are certain activities that really require buy-in and understanding from each individual in the classroom in order to be successful, so a class discussion has to be held and the whole class needs to agree on what is going to happen and how/why it’s happening.

Then finally, there are times where we can simply tell our students, “This is your responsibility, have this done by a certain time/date within these loose guidelines and you’re good.”

While reflecting on these five levels I realized that I live almost exclusively in the lowest two. I think that part of that is me being a new teacher and still trying to get a handle on classroom management; the “easiest” way to manage a classroom is to tell students everything and expect them to do it. But that’s definitely not the most fun or interesting or helpful for them at times, and it doesn’t produce the best results when it comes to student achievement and appreciation. So this is one of the things I’m going to continue to reflect a lot on over the next few months – how can I push myself (and my students) toward those higher levels of involvement in making decisions within the classroom?

I’ll blog more about the factors to consider when deciding what level is appropriate tomorrow as well as some other things I picked up from this training throughout the month!

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about DukeTIP visit tip.duke.edu