Friday, July 31, 2015

#TMC15 Reflections of a Social Introvert Part 2

So, I had lunch plans on day two...  If you missed day one, that may not make much sense.

It's been six days since I left #tmc15, the first day of school and the first week of school have come and gone...  I missed the first two professional development days and classroom prep time before school started to attend TMC and I cannot stop talking about my experience.  I kind of feel bad, but our district just got a new math coach and she made the mistake of coming into my room after school the other day to introduce herself.  While socially I may feel a bit uncomfortable, when I start to talk about TMC or MTBoS watch out.  After close to an hour she had almost a page of notes, some ideas of people to follow, examples of chats to take part in and blogs to read.  I think she may have left a bit overwhelmed.  And now I find a Blog about MTBoS by @crstn85 via @mathymeg07.  Time to inundate the math coach...

Ok, back to TMC15...

Day 2 and Day 3...

Any hesitations I had during day 1 were gone days 2 and 3.  Life as an introvert...  Put yourself out there and you realize it wasn't that big of a deal to start with.  I had some excellent conversations with Michael Fenton and JJ Martinez during our Desmos morning sessions, learned some intriguing mental math strategies and killed Barbie by having having too many rubber bands for her 50 foot bungee.  The sessions were excellent!!!  I LOVED the 2 hours of the same session for all three days.  It gave me an opportunity to learn some basics, delve a bit deeper the second and then an opportunity to create on the third.  All the while having experts scattered about the room to bounce ideas off of, to get assistance from and once again as ongoing resources once the session is over...

As a newer twitter user people give you some specific people to follow and you begin to see the incredible things they do, things they create and that they SHARE it ALL.  They kind of become rock stars or like elite professional athletes of the math world.  Meeting them makes your heart beat a bit faster and you stumble over your words.  The night I will remember was the BBQ.  I sat down at a table with some of the people from my morning session, never got up until the evening was over and by the time the evening was over every one of the rock stars I was following joined our group at one point in time or another for conversations.  The knowledge, the experience, the desire to better our craft was evident in all of them and evident in all that attended.

Prior to TMC I was much more of a twitter voyeur.  Aside from Monday night #msmathchat I didn't really post.  I entered a couple of conversations and asked a couple of questions (and got quick replys), but that was about it.  I was following people and didn't really make connections.  Now, I feel like I have a core group of go to people and the comfort to put myself out there to both ask for resources and share some new resources.

Upon my return I was asked by my new principal and some fellow teachers how the conference was.  To be honest I have a very difficult time calling it a conference.  It was WAY more than that.  I have been telling people it was the best EXPERIENCE of my career.  A conference you attend sessions, TMC you build relationships and resources to better your craft.

Would I like to attend TMC16?  The short answer to that is ABSOLUTELY.  This experience has motivated my teaching, pushes me in the classroom and has inspired my education of fellow teachers.  I also have to take up Fawn Nguyen from her comment on part one of my TMC reflection for drinks.

Friday, July 24, 2015

#TMC15 Reflections of a Social Introvert Part 1

So day 1 of #TMC15 was incredible.  The topics covered were exceptional, the speakers were excellent, the organization was impecible and it was also personally challenging.  As a teaching professional at my new school where I have been for one year I am a confident person who people come to when they have questions, I am a maker of change within, I push people to go further, I train and, oh ya, I also do my job... which is doing whatever it takes to find ways for my students to learn.  But... I can’t say, “Hey, can I join you for lunch?” to a bunch of teachers I had just been sitting with for two hours in a morning session.  It may sound stupid, but it’s hard... being a social introvert at an conference that, by design, has a social purpose (which it absolutely should).
OK, lets go back to yesterday…

Day 0 I forced myself to go to the Wednesday night social.  I almost didn’t go… I’m not staying at the hotel, so it was more than just walking downstairs.  I drove around the parking lot a couple times to find a place to park, walked into the building and then walked into the Maple Room where the social was being held.  There were three tables of people all focused on what they were doing, so…..I walked out.  Went down the hall, saw the baseball players eating their dinner and told myself to go back in.  I did, then walked out again.  This time I found the bathroom, it was near the end of the hall if you missed it.  Ok, third times a charm right???  I had a plan this time…. Go get a beer and you will at least look like you are in the right place and maybe there will be someone in line you can talk to.  So I did and Glenn thank you for needing a beer too.  Someone to talk to and someone to introduce me to others and things started to roll.  I had a good time, I met some wonderful people, I stuck around for nearly 3 hours and then I was off.  Back to my trailer for a good night’s sleep.  Damit, I forgot my pillow!!!

I read somewhere, and I apologize I forgot who blogged it (I don’t have internet connection as I write this), that when coming to #TMC15 I should have a goal in mind.  Of course learning new this and that or how to do that and this better will obviously be on the agenda, but my goal was/is to meet and build resources.  Yes I pull lessons from @mr_stadel, @robertkaplinsky, @ddmeyer, @Jstevens009 and @fawnpnguyen to name a few, I have even had some breif twitter corresondence with some of them, but meeting people who want to move the education of our kids forward, creating that introduction and hopefully open a working dialog is what I view as mhy biggest goal of Twitter Math Camp.

So, social introvert goal for day 2…  Have plans with people for lunch before leaving campus.  Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem being by myself, I often prefer it, but you can’t build relationships with people by yourself.

So what am I trying to say.  Partially it is a pep talk for myself for tomorrow, partially it is for anyone else who relates to this and partially for anyone who may read this about 8 months from now that are considering going to #TMC16.  Make your goal(s) and definitely GO!!!  It is a rare opportunity you get to be in the same room with so many rock star teachers, but being able to build connections with them that could possibly span your career is what it is all about.  Everyone is here to help better the education of our kids, no one is being forced and there are a couple hundred people who are taking time out of their summer to learn.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Good, The Bad and A Moment

Image result for good and bad pictures

It's been a pretty tough couple of weeks.  It is testing season.  State testing happened the last two weeks and that is always a balance of the happy you are going to do great and the is this over yet.  I love seeing kids step up and really do the best they can and then am disappointed in seeing perfectly capable students not put forth any effort.  This was the first official year of the "new" test.  All online, adaptive and new types of scores.  Who knows what the future will hold for these scores, these kids and these tests.  Only time will tell.

During #msmathchat this week we talked about keeping kids motivated and productive during testing season.  It has been tough, but it kind of amazes me how well they power through.

Some things for me to remember:

  • Testing season starts too early for us
    • The state window for 3-8 this year was 12 weeks starting after 66% of the school year.
    • We finished testing with 4 weeks left in school
    • We finished the prescribed curriculum before testing and it felt WAY too fast.
  • Let's consider moving testing back 3 weeks
    • Slow down the curriculum
    • Add in more activities, 3acts, hands on
    • We have the time, why not using
There definitely was a stand out moment from today.  We have been using @mr_stadel's Estimation 180  since the beginning of the year.  Students have gradually become better with their estimations and their explanations.  Today took the cake.  The task was to decide the value of money to create the image of a dollar sing using quarters (See Task).  We have been doing these tasks as table groups and a random student from each group will tell their estimate and their rationale.  One group really wowed me today.  Their estimation was close ($25), but their rationale was excellent.  They were able to justify each and every quarter they believed would make the figure.  I will sometimes prompt them for more information, but not this time.  They were on fire!!!  I literally sat back in my chair and just enjoyed the moment.  Most all of them love estimation, some are better at it than others, some try harder than others, but today had a moment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Who's on First

Ok first things first...  In my last post I noted a little nervousness about being classified a "temporary" teacher and not yet knowing if my job was actually mine for next year.  Well I heard today that I am on for another year.  Relieved.

Tonight we were watching the SF Giants game and my daughter kept asking "Who's on first?"  Well being the annoying parents we are, we definitely had to torture her a little bit.  Ok, quite a bit...  If you don't know what I am talking about check out the Abbott and Costello Who's on First routine.  I will guarantee you will be entertained.

Of course about half way through I got to thinking... That's how the kids who are struggling must feel.  They think they understand what is going on, but really don't.  We try to explain it again, they think they understand, they have that ah ha moment only to be let down when they find out they really don't get it...

Why is this important???  It is testing season...  The year feels like it is beginning to wrap up (but it's not)...  It just put back in my head that we need to make every effort to find that thing that helps each student "get it"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Trying to keep spirits high by looking back

This is a tough time of the year for me.  As you may have read previously I stepped out of a vice principal roll of about 5 years back into the classroom.  I love being back.  The tough part is that I was in a charter school and am now in a district school.  This really isn't that big of a deal except I had to come in as a temporary teacher.  Meaning no guaranteed job for the next year.  Will I have a job next year?  I am about 98% sure that the answer is yes, but until that day happens there is that unnecessary stress that sits in the back of your mind.  What if...What if...What if...  I hate what ifs when they have to do with my family.

I just wanted to put this out there, but I want to thank @jdmahlstedt.  He was a teacher that was hired at my previous school.  When he started he was green and developed himself into an excellent teacher pretty much on his own.  I loved what he was doing with his kids, they loved going to his class and he made learning fun for them (and from what I can tell still is).  Before I left we sat down and talked math: people, influences, twitter, TMC and blogs.  This is exactly what I needed.  My focuses had been spread over the years as an admin and I knew I needed to get current.  I spent the summer reading, planning, trying to figure out where to fit things in.  There have definitely been some huge ups and at the same time some definite downs.  Both have been excellent learning experiences.

That being said my school is loosing two of our three administrators to retirement and I have had several people asking me to apply.  While this is flattering I feel like the classroom is where I am supposed to be.  There is definitely the need for change to happen, there always is wherever you go.  I will just need to find some different avenues in order to do so.  I'm looking forward to what is to come...

It's Sunday night, one week until state testing starts.  Aren't we all looking forward to them???

Friday, April 3, 2015

NBA Desmos Scatter Plots

This is my first ever blog.  My main purpose is to help me document the things I am doing in class to be able to make them bigger and better each year.  Decide whether they should be repeated or if they should be tossed.

Rebuilding an Empire.... The name is because this is my first year back in the classroom in about six years.  I had the opportunity to be promoted at my previous school to VP.  While it was a great school and we had some great years it was time to get back into the classroom because 1) I felt that my expertise was better suited for the classroom 2) I feel much more fulfilled in front of students 3) My time with my family has exponentially increased due to the lack of an hour commute, which makes all of us much happier. 4) I get to take my son to school with me every day and next year my daughter.

Today was my first day using Desmos in class.  I have been trying to work it in, but to be honest I don't have that much experience with it, so I have to do my homework with it as well.

I chose to have student look up statistics from players on NBA teams, but I was rather specific on what they were to look up (FGA/FGM).  Students were able to follow the directions easily, really had no problems creating their graph with the scatter plot template and with extremely basic instructions were able to adjust their Trend Line to relatively appropriate positions.  They then saved their graphs and turned them in through Google Classroom. Here's an example.

I would say we had basic success.  Students were able to complete the assignment successfully, but I think my being specific on what data to use I don't think my students really gained too much from it.  Yes they understand what the scatter plot looks like and we have begun Trend Lines, but that's about it.

Next time...

Buy in....Must have more buy in...
Consider using the lesson by Dan Meyer about celebrity ages. It will provide more back and forth banter.  Students will be challenged to see who can be the closest, their scatter plots will all appear different and they can provide for additional conversation on why the Trend Lines look so different.

Mine was a good exercise for completion, but needs to be stepped up for next time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Barbie Zip Line

I did this activity with my Math 8 class a few weeks ago.  I loved the activity and even though some of the kids tried to play like they weren't really interested when it was their turn you could see the interest.  Sorry, mistake number 1 and 2.  No pictures and no video.

We had first gone over Pythagorean Theorem.  They understood how to use it, how to solve for different lengths and we had talked about some practical uses.  Next year I would like to try teaching Pythagorean Theorem by using Barbie Zip Line instead of using it to support what we have learned.  There is definitely the discovery portion which is extremely valuable.

Day one was calculating three different zip lines.  One where Barbie would die, one where she would be bored and one that she would have the most fun and come back for more.  They were able to create all three, but the challenge was what really is fun and what would severely injure or kill Barbie.  These were often very similar looking and were based on student opinion.  What to do....

We had two block days for the activity.  Day one was doing the math and then doing "test runs" in the classroom with a 7 foot ladder.  Day two were some recalculations based on a new height of 14 feet.  Day two was a bit of a let down.  I had them doing some additional calculations, entering information gathered into a spreadsheet and running Barbie down the line, but still something was missing.

After some time to reflect and a request to share my experience with @jstevens009 I feel like I have an idea of what is missing.  There is no right or wrong in Barbie Zip Line.  We really don't know if she would survive each trip down.  There is no competition, no conflict and no best.

So how do I build that in.  Some thoughts.... Bigger zip line to start.... Accelerometer to see how many g's Barbie incurs when she arrives at the plaform (round plate weights).  This will give us an idea of whether or not she would be ok, injured, severely injured or dead.  Also timing each of the trips down the zip line to see who can provide the best survivable ride.  Winner gets a dum-dum...

There's an app for that.  You can download an accelerometer for the iPhone.  Do I really want to send my iPhone down a zip line a couple dozen times?  Is there a better option?  Otter Box...  Time to do some homework on accelerometers....