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Showing posts from 2009

Professional Goals

On my way to an evaluation team meeting today (I want to write more about that...but don't feel I can confidentially...one bad thing about being myself online and not having a blog pseudonym), I had a bit of a heart to heart with my boss (principal).

You might think, "on the way" isn't very long...but picture 100+ outdoor stairs from the school building to the admin building where the meeting was being held...lol.

Anyway, he was asking me how things were going, if I could believe that the year is already almost halfway over, and how time has flown in the 1.5ish years I've been in VA. He also mentioned that I have 30 more years to go before retiring. After that comment, he asked about my professional goals: When you're getting ready to retire, what do you hope to have accomplished/done?

At first, I didn't know how to respond. I'm not much for long-term planning. I'm lucky to know and have decided that I indeed will be staying in VA for at least one…

Thanksgiving Observations

Over my week-long Thanksgiving Break, I spent 1 1/2 days doing observations of other math classrooms. A bit of background: my major in college was Special Education - Deaf Education with minors in math and english. Basically, though, I was treated as an Elementary Education major, with the addition of some ASL classes. All of my observations and practicums, as well as my internship placements, were in elementary classrooms. I *did* observe in a public middle school program for d/hh students at one point, but other than that, all of my exposure was to elementary teaching methods.

Tune into now, my 2nd year as a high school math teacher. I realized that the only high school math teachers I have ever observed were my own, and that was long enough ago that I don't remember specifics about what they did (let alone, while I was in high school I didn't really think I would ever be a high school math teacher...I started college majoring in music education with a minor in math thinking…

Humbling

I'd forgotten how humbling it is to make something and then send it to another person for feedback. As I was making my derivatives test yesterday, Sam mentioned that he would like to see it to compare with his. As I was writing the test, I was adding specific questions to target certain skills, but I also became highly aware that someone whose teaching I highly respect would be looking at this test very soon. It made me nervous! I'm in the very early stage of my career so I feel like I don't have anything to offer these teachers who have been at it for years. I become self-conscious.  But I sent it anyway, despite my insecurities, and hopefully he'll have some feedback on how it could be better. *smile*

Thanks for making me strive to be a better teacher.

Running headfirst into a brick wall...

...is what it felt like in my Algebra 1 class on Thursday. We had been making major progress Monday and Tuesday looking at function machines, finding outputs when given inputs and a rule, finding a rule and predicting outputs when given several input-output pairs. Then Wednesday we didn't have class because of standardized testing being done at school (Stanford Achievement Test-10...it has Deaf/Hard of Hearing norms so we use it every year to see how our students are improving with respect to their same aged d/hh peers). Thursday it was as if Monday and Tuesday had never happened.

While one student was trying to figure out the rule (2-step) for the table he had completed, two other students were struggling trying to complete the table. I had felt confident after Monday and Tuesday because this year I was actually talking about the functions and talking about the rates of change of the input and output, how they were related to the equation, how they related to each other, etc. (si…

Catapults and Algebra 2

In a previous post, I talked about how I used Sean Sweeney's catapult lesson in Calculus. I also used it in Algebra 2, as an enrichment project for two students while the rest of the class was gone for a sports event. I also talked here about how I introduced the project without actually being there.

Unfortunately, time for the actual project was cut short by an assembly that ran long. From what I could gather from sub notes and the notes that the students left, they enjoyed it. Unfortunately, with the short amount of time that Algebra 2 gets (and it keeps getting cut shorter when the kids leave early for sports games!!), they never finished it. It might be something I resurrect once the pressure of the SOL test is finished. There is just so much material to cover and I want to be able to take the time to actually *teach* the material instead of just showing it to them last minute.

Maybe it'll work better next year...?

p.s. this post was started on October 13th...it's now …

On Catapults and Calculus

I stole Mr. Sweeney's catapult project and tweaked it (more like, added to it) for Calculus class.

It was fun! We not only calculated the equation of the parabolic motion of the projectile, but at the end we talked about how fast it was going using the limit definition of the derivative at different points during its flight. It was a really great discovery point of how the velocity is zero at the maximum height. We were also able to then talk about why that "makes sense".

The next goal was for my calculus student to help my Algebra 2 students with the project while I was at a conference...stay tuned to hear how that went!

(I started writing this post 1 1/2 weeks ago...and the other one has been started, too...just waiting for some TIME to finish up!)

Discouraged

Last week was a definite high. Things were going great! My observation went well, I was excited for the projects that I was leaving for while I was going to be out, and the substitute teacher that was scheduled to cover for me knew the language *and* the math! It was all looking good!

I arrived back at school to find my plans weren't completely followed. I know this is not unusual, but in preparing I thought I was ready for everything that could happen and that I had thought of everything...organized, etc. I guess not.

My Algebra 1 class that was solving 2-step equations like crazy on Wednesday bombed a quiz that they took on Friday (which they were supposed to take Thursday...but that's another story entirely). I felt like I needed to start from scratch again, and that everything from the week before was lost.

I had no Algebra 1 class today, so no chance to redeem. Tomorrow is a new day, though. We're going to correct the quizzes and then move on. We can't be solving …

Encouraged, Again

Last Monday I was feeling overwhelmed. I go through these phases when I plan ahead, get a few days worth of lessons/notes put together, and then I get through one day and realize I'm not really ready for the next day at all because things didn't go the way I planned. These phases often leave me frustrated and irritated that I spent time up front that seems to be wasted. In the long run the time spent is not wasted, but it's still frustrating to *think* you're ahead and then *realize* that you're just as far behind as you normally are, despite the extra time you put in.

Anyway, that's how I was feeling Monday. And Tuesday I was supposed to get observed for the first time this school year. "Great," I was thinking, "just great." I had a less-than-stellar lesson planned, introducing graphing one-variable inequalities and solving one-step inqualities. Not something normally covered in Alg1 (it's a middle school concept), but that's what m…

Really excited for this week!

I'm getting really excited for this week. Plans include catapults with Calculus and Algebra 2, complete with video instructions (really hoping that technology is my friend this week) and peer mentoring.

The goal for catapults is to work through the project in Calculus on Monday and Tuesday. We'll be taking it a bit more in depth than Mr. Sweeney's Algebra 2 project, talking about velocity and position relating to the initial discussions of derivatives. Then, on Thursday, Algebra 2 student will make a catapult from my model, and begin his investigation. Friday, Calculus student will join Algebra 2 student to help with the "math" of the project. All this will happen without me being there, which is why we need video directions!

I'm really excited for this, and the excitement easily turns into anxiety and thinking of all the ways it could completely bomb and blow up in my face when I return. But, it's worth a shot, right? Two-thirds of my Alg2 class is going…

GSP meets Algebra 1

I was pleasantly surprised when my ITRT (read: tech person) at school emailed and said she found out we had a lab license for Geometer's Sketchpad (GSP). Last summer I took an online course from KeyPress to learn how to use GSP and more specifically, how it can be used in Algebra classes. I was very excited to learn more about this software and to be given examples of how it can apply to the concepts we teach in Algebra classes.

Earlier in the year, I used GSP to demonstrate adding and subtracting integers. I was using it as a demonstration tool at first, projected on my SMARTBoard. One problem I found using it that way, was that the sketch itself was too small for the students to see, and I ended up having one student sit at my computer and do the manipulating. I tried to make it work, and to let students take turns doing the manipulating, but it just didn't work the way I wanted it to. It was good, however, introducing the basic concept of what I was trying to develop: addin…

Becoming more Human

Wednesday I gave a test in Calculus. It was covering limits at a point, at infinity, one-sided limits, continuity, etc., even some free fall questions leading into our next unit on differentiation. The day before the test, I was nervous that the test was not going to go well. Review, things that should have been easy, was like pulling teeth. I was starting to doubt myself and my teaching.

During the test, I was looking through some stuff in my classroom and I happened upon my limits test from when I was in high school. I got a B+, and there was a calculator and no-calculator portion. I instantly thought, "Arg! I should've made a no-calculator portion!" Instead of dwelling on that, though, I just looked it over and found my mistakes...very interesting ones. Since the class finished the test with time to spare, I decided to show my test, and look at my mistakes. Looking at the problems I answered incorrectly, I asked the student to decide where I went wrong and what the an…

Encouraged

Calc class today:

Limits review...he was actually on it! Material that I thought was going way over his head last week was processed and we had some really good conversations about different types of problems. Great questions were asked, showing that he's actually thinking about what he's doing and why, too. (There are, of course, still some trouble areas like knowing when to factor/rationalize and what numbers will "help" in the simplification process, but it's a process, right?).

Then, we did some free fall problems, applying limits and previewing derivatives. It was so great to actually apply what we've been talking about to a real situation and make it mean something. Here's the problem we spent time looking at, and some of the humor that came out of it...

A construction worker is working on a building that is 1000 feet tall. (side note, we took a tangent to see how many stories that would be, because 1000 ft is just an strange number to envision). Supp…

Panic Mode

Last week was the official Mid-Quarter marker for my school. This meant that mid-quarter grades were due, as well as updates on all IEP goal progress. It made for a busy week for all at school, learning a new grading program (I <3 PowerTeacher) and keeping up with *all* of the IEPs. (For those of you that don't know, every student I teach has an IEP...though not all have math-specific goals).

At the mention of Mid-Quarter, my heart started fluttering a little. It means that the school year is 1/8 finished. It also means that my semester-long Algebra 2 class is 1/4 finished. When I was looking at the state Standards of Learning for that class (there are 20) and thinking about what my students know and are able to do at this point, I entered what we will call "Panic Mode".

Algebra 2 is a tough course. There is so much to cover that is built upon Algebra 1 skills, more indepth and some entirely new concepts. I'm trying to remediate skills from Algebra 1, and cover ne…

Planning and Time Management

I've been a bit frazzled lately. I feel like I'm constantly running around at school and I don't have time to get my head on straight. When I sit down to work on planning the next day's lessons, or creating materials, I get sidetracked by other things that I *know* must be done while I am at school. I then leave the rest of the planning and creating for time over the weekend or at home. I'm not really liking that strategy.

I know that, as a teacher, it is almost innate within me to bring work home and to think about work when I am not actually working. I seriously think it's in our genes or something. What I don't like, though, is that I feel ineffective in the time I do have at school. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to manage planning time more effectively? How to use resources available online and from textbooks to develop lessons without feeling like you're recreating the wheel every time you make notes for a new topic?

I'm at the begin…

Hello!

Well, I've entered the math 'blog-o-sphere."  Don't set your expectations too high ("the best math teacher blog EVER"?  not quite). My goal is to post at least once/week...but I'm not exactly sure how it's all going to work out. Be patient with me and if I get quiet, feel free to bug me on twitter or in comments. *smile*