2017 – 2018 #Goals

I know that you’re not supposed to take on too many things, so I just have three goals for this year. Just three.

  1. Be better at using effective, evaluative feedback. It’s the chapter I’m reading from Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson. It was the chapter I needed to focus on based on my self-assessment and I know that it’s important and that I’m not great at it. I haven’t made an action plan yet (haven’t finished the chapter yet) but once I do I’ll blog it out. If you have suggestions for how to give effective feedback please let me know!
  2. Actually have discussions about the daily warm-ups. I think this will be easier to do if I have them all created ahead of time, so here is the PowerPoint with the year’s warm-ups. They follow a pattern but it’s not the same one each day of the week – I have two classes that will be every other day all year and two other classes that will be every day for a semester, so I felt like this would be the best way for me to be prepared. I can also have slips of paper printed for each type of warm-up and leave them in the classroom for students to use whenever they pop back up (or they’ll respond on Canvas).
  3. I’ve seen this blogged before but I don’t remember by who (I think it’s been multiple people). I want to be more conscious about how I help students, so when students are seated in groups and I see a hand raised for a question, I will go to the table to help but ask someone else at that table what the question is. Ideally this will create some forced collaboration (and/or some forced research either in their notes or online) that will eventually get them used to asking others for help. It seems to work well for other teachers so I hope I can get myself to stick to it!

There are a lot of other things I’m probably going to try but won’t beat myself up over if they don’t pan out or if I stop because it’s too much work. I’m teaching ProbStats and building another cross-curricular PBL course as a teach it this year (hopefully more will be done up front but we’ll see…) so I know there’s still a lot of content I have to re-learn and figure out how to best teach!

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Fall 2016 Teacher Report Card

Matt Vaudrey (@MrVaudrey and http://mrvaudrey.com/) has been using his version of a Teacher Report Card for a few years now, and I have been using a different one for the last couple of years but decided to give his version a go in January as a part of our end-of-course reflection.

My co-teacher and I only used this for Physics by Design, our project-based and blended learning pilot class. The responses given were for both of us, which may create some biased data; it would be interesting to receive this data individually because I’m not sure what (if anything) would be different! We also only received 25 responses out of 48 students and I’m not sure how that affected the end results.

Each response prompt begins with “My teachers…” and a rating of 1 means “strongly disagree” while a rating of 5 means “strongly agree”. Below you’ll see question-by-question results and my thoughts on each. Overall I’m much happier about these results than I was at the end of last year’s and I’ve got thoughts about that at the end.

  • respect each student. respect-each-student

This is good to see. I wonder what the six students who responded with either “disagree” or “unsure” believe that respecting each student looks like and if we did anything in particular to them that may have made them feel as though we didn’t respect them.

  • try to see the students’ point of view. see-the-students-point-of-view

What I found interesting here is that there are 3 more students who responded negatively to this than to the previous prompt, which again makes me wonder what our students feel a teacher should say/do to respect students. We did not do many of the typical first week activities because they had a week-long “bootcamp” the week before school but maybe we should have included more so that we could try to be on the same page a little more.

  • explain the math/physics concepts clearly. explain-physics-concepts-clearly

This is one where I wish we would’ve split it; I did the majority of math instruction while my co-teacher did most of the physics instruction. Did they believe one of us did a better job than the other? Also, we started off the year with much more direct instruction while our last unit was by far the most online-content heavy. Did that shift in teaching and learning style effect the responses to this prompt or would students have responded similarly in October?

  • use language that we can understand. use-language-that-we-understand

Why are the responses to this prompt mostly agree/strongly agree compared to the last prompt? What is the difference, in our students’ eyes, between explaining concepts clearly and using language that they can understand?

  • do a good job of treating all students equally. do-a-good-job-of-treating-students-equally

I am happy that our results are anonymous but I really want to know who put they strongly disagree with this statement and why.

  • seem to enjoy teaching. seem-to-enjoy-teaching

Well these are much better results than the results I got at the end of last year, and I think you could definitely see that if you walked into my classrooms to compare them. There were definitely still bad days (and weeks, if we’re being honest) but overall the first semester of this year was so much more enjoyable than the second semester of last year. Exponentially so. Spending half of my day all year long with the same students, who are freshmen/sophomores/juniors in Algebra 1, does not make me enjoy teaching.

  • show interest in students’ lives. show-an-interest-in-students-lives

I know I didn’t do as good of a job of this compared to my first two years of teaching. This year I have gone to significantly fewer sporting events and concerts but I tried to at least know what school activities each student was involved in.

  • make me feel important. make-me-feel-important

This question intrigued me the most because, reflecting on my high school experience, this wasn’t something I feel as though I thought about. In fact, one of my best and favorite teachers occasionally called me out for being dumb and/or full of myself (she did this with everyone; I chose to take her classes for three straight years). So maybe I didn’t need that but some students do. Or maybe I didn’t think I needed it but my life would’ve been altered in some way if I felt my teachers made me feel important. I’m not sure.

  • keep the class under control without being too tough. keep-the-class-under-control-without-being-too-tough

No disagreement here. I’m only in my third year so classroom management isn’t my strong suit, but that was compounded by the nature of this course. I ended up writing multiple referrals on the first day of the same class this semester so I think I may have swung a little too far in the opposite direction. We’re working on it.

  • answer questions completely. answer-questions-completely

I don’t always want to answer questions completely, especially in this more exploratory course, so I’m glad to see that most students agreed but I’m not broken up that we had a couple of who disagreed to varying degrees.

  • praise good work. praise-good-work

This makes me happy. I think it’s very easy, especially when your classroom management is lacking, to only focus on negative behaviors and students who aren’t doing work well. I am glad most students seem to have thought that we praised good work enough and I hope we can keep that up.

  • encourage me to be responsible. encourage-me-to-be-responsible

Oy vey, this is one of the hardest things about teaching freshmen. Suddenly they’re not forced to carry around a planner and they don’t have to have a locker and they get a personal school laptop/charger and calculator and it’s like all of the good work the middle school teachers did goes out the window. These results are encouraging but I know somehow we can do better.

Matt had two other prompts that I found interesting. These were fill in the blank and I’ve included a sample of student responses for each.

  • Sometimes the teacher _____, but not always.
    • gets frustrated
    • is nice
    • is crazy
    • didn’t understand what we were saying
    • does a good job of integrating online and face-to-face learning
    • has too many students to help at the same time
    • says bad words
  • Sometimes the teacher lets the class _____, but not always.
    • socialize
    • work outside in the hallway
    • choose who to work with
    • get loud

Overall I think this was a much more concise survey than I was giving to students previously and I appreciated the specific fill-in-the-blank responses at the end. There were a few responses to both that didn’t make sense, so that makes me wonder if those students created some misrepresentation in the previous ratings as well. The world will never know.

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.

SMART Goals

This week we started our functions unit in Algebra I, and we spent the week discussing what a function is, how we can tell if something is a function, evaluating functions, and translating between and comparing multiple representations of functions. My students overall have ROCKED it. Completely crushed it. I had to find new materials for two days because they were way ahead of last year’s students on this topic.

I made a comment during lunch about this and one of the other teachers mentioned that functions was the 8th grade math SMART goal for last year. It made so much sense! They had focused more on functions last year, so they remembered and understood more than the previous year’s students. I’m hoping that the confidence many of them had from this past week, as well as the discussions about their answers, will continue into this week’s topics of domain and range, intercepts, and inverse functions. Only time will tell.

Time to try this blogging thing out.

My profile says I’m “fresh out of college” but that’s technically not true. I’m currently in my second year of teaching after graduating from Robert Morris University in 2014. I “joined” the #mtbos on twitter in 2013 and frequent blogs such as Kate Nowak’s Function of Time and Sarah Hagan’s Math = Love. After one year in the classroom, I feel like I’m ready to give blogging a shot myself.

So now,  to introduce myself. My name is Rose Roberts, and I am a math teacher. I currently teach at Warhill High School (Go Lions!) in Williamsburg, VA. I grew up in Adrian, MI (Go Maples!) and went to college at RMU (Go Colonials!). Our school has a block schedule right now, meaning I teach 3 out of 4 blocks each day and the math classes are seen on both A and B days. Last year I taught two sections of year-long Algebra I with a collaborating teacher, and semester-long Geometry. I’m currently teaching the same things this year, but next semester I’ll be switching from semester-long Geometry to Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis (AFDA, an optional precursor to Algebra II).

My biggest goals this year are:

  • have increased classroom management
  • involve students more in goal-setting and keeping track of their grades and achievement levels
  • expand concept-based grading from semester-long Geometry to AFDA (haven’t implemented it in year-long Algebra I yet, but that will be a goal next year if I am teaching it again)
  • have a higher Algebra I pass rate
  • blog once a week

As a end-note, we’re one month in to school and some of the new things I’m implementing are really trying my patience (and sometimes the patience of my students) but I have faith that by June it will all work out.