Spring Break 2017
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey
Its finally spring break! We’ve made it, folks. I’m staying home over break to catch up on some long neglected chores and personal projects (like this blog that I haven’t written in since 2016… ). I’ve been on a teaching high since I got back from the finalist event for the Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship (KSTF), where I went with Jazmin Castanon. KSTF was a blast and I loved getting to interact with other up and coming math and science teachers who were just as passionate as I am, but who maybe have a more stable teaching environment. It was a chance to discuss best practices in the classroom as well as changes that we could champion in our school overall.
MNTHS math team talking about project failures
Since Ms. Castanon and I have gotten back, our department has been thinking ahead to the 2017-2018 school year and the initiatives we want to set up. Firstly, we are excited to plan a math relay through all math subjects to tackle a big gap that our students have as freshmen through seniors with understanding fractions. The idea so far is to have algebra I do some low level manipulation, like converting a decimal to fraction, and then pass along their findings to algebra II teams who must do some other manipulation to the fraction, like multiplying and adding integers to it. We’re excited to use this to not only fill in gaps from middle school, but also to require students from different grade levels to interact. Ideally, student groups would have to find their lateral partners outside of the classroom, helping build community and personal agency.
We’re also excited to try things to streamline our own planning and classroom logistics next year. The MNTHS math department will be making a big push to get a common lunch, planning period, and hallway (in that order.) Hopefully we can get all three, but even just a common lunch would help leaps and bounds. We hired a new algebra I teacher this year and we have been able to give her so little support. The rest of the department shares a lunch and we spend it by going over projects and activities we are planning to run, getting feedback, and sometimes just venting about how overwhelmed we are. The common planning period would be a god send, but if we don’t get it Ms. Castanon and I want to set up a rotation of monthly classroom observations so we can still observe and write up notes to support each other. This year has been stressful and time has always been lacking, but it feels like we are stunting our personal growth as teachers by not being in each other’s classroom and we feel that a schedule will help encourage it.
The smallest of small things that we are working on to improve our professional life deals with agendas. Agendas were a sore point for us at the beginning of the year because we already have digital agendas that the students look at, and it felt like a waste of time (the math department chair timed it over the course of a week and it’s about a 5 minute waste of time per day. That means we waste 15 hours over the year on posting paper agendas.) Our idea to deal with this? Get the district’s old iPads that they don’t use! We will display our agendas in the window and have a class officer in each period set the agenda to the right day. I know, it’s small. But we were so excited when we came up with the plan.
All of this is coming from a conference high from the KSTF finalist meeting. I realllllllly want to attend more conferences and ride this feeling all year. It cost so. Much. Money. I’m not sure how people maintain it. This year will be the first that I get to go to NCTM because my principal is AWESOME. I fully expect to maintain this feeling for the rest of the year, but how can I do this for next year? I don’t think conferences are the way to go because they cost so much money. I’ve been keeping up with the #MTBoS, but it hasn’t been enough. I need to surround myself with excited teachers who are all striving for best practices in their very different schools. I know UTeach Nation is looking to put together quarterly meetings, and I expect that to help, but I don’t know if it will be enough.
KSTF Math Finalists
Overall, I’ve felt like I’ve gotten so much better this year, but my workload has also gotten so much harder. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the new algebra I teacher starting out with this year. It’s exhausting for me and I feel like I’ve got a handle on my geometry prep. I’m so excited for next year and starting things off better.
May the force be with you, always.
Ps. Got a question, comment, or concern? Shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you in the next year or so.