Monthly Archives: September 2010

My first full week was amazing!

My 7th and 8th graders are a bit tougher sells than the elementary schoolers in the TFA weekly newsletter stories, but I already love them to death. I feel like I’m slowly building up great buy-in from these kids. The investment and management components seem so closely correlated to me, and I’m feel successful in a way I never did with my summer school students during Institute.
 
The students are also enjoying the lessons, and the reflective writing I’ve had them do has really impressed me. Teaching the same lesson multiple times in a row is another big difference from Institute. For me, it lets me see progress in an easily measurable way. (It’s so good that I would seriously suggest changing Institute to 2 lessons taught 2x a week rather than 4 taught 1x. It would also relieve some of the lesson plan load, which for me felt like it received a bit too much of my attention. The time spent lesson planning ate into sleep, which hurt my delivery for sure the next day.) I find that with repetition my lessons get tighter, the delivery gets better, the kids are more engaged and on-task. Fortunately–and fortuitously?–my classes rotate throughout the week so each one gets me at my best at some point.
 
Learning the names of 105 students is no small task, either! I’ve got the difficult students and the advanced students–sometimes one in the same–but those quiet, well-behaved middle ones blend together. “Aliyah? Wait, Alyssa?” I need to take more lunch duties so I can rehearse with the senior teachers.
 
Missing piece: classroom jobs. I need to put something together with job descriptions and applications. I think I have enough buy-in that the kids would want to interview. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

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Survey Says…

I’ve only had them a day and a half, and I already love my students. They have such personalities, they’re eager to do the right thing, and I have been impressed with their fledgling awareness. The first homework assignment was a student survey with 26 questions designed to provide a picture of my students’ homes, families, interests, desires, and perceptions of themselves and school. Here are some anonymous responses that are especially telling:

(note: student responses are transcribed as precisely as possible)
Q: School would be better if…
A: I was smart!
A: the water fountain was kool-aid
A: it was purple
A: we was not sharing a school
A: students could teach the class
A: we had no metal detectors
I don’t know that I can do much about most of those, but my seating chart is grouped heterogeneously…
 
Q: When I grow up, I want to be a/an…
A: model or judge
A: dancer or doctor
A: singer or a lawyer
A: policemen / basketball
Goes to show there are some dichotomies students don’t subscribe to!
Q: If I had three wishes, I would wish for …
A: to have all games, 1 billion dollars, & a family
A: my brothers to still live, have unlimited wishes, ma dad to have better job!
A: to be rich and have a great husband and 3 kids.
A: to be rich, have own army, have own town
A: easier puberty for girls, everyone not to steal, cheat, lye or fight and get money easier.
A: 1. help in school 2. money 3. candy
A: study or swim saftley with a shark go to Spain have good life.
A: Life to be more easier, to not have school, and for Love to not exist!
A: my cousin back, the new iPod 4g, and a dog
A: fairy godmother, castle, wings
A: money, more money, my own shoe company
Hilarious, heart-breaking, head-scratching…
The most common responses involved a big house, lots of money, and more wishes.
Q: What is one thing every teacher should know about you?
A: Ima Libra so I am psycho so when Im mad don’t mind me.
A: I am a math GENIUS and this year I want to be challenged.
A: That I dont like to participate
A: I like to cheer people up ^=D
A: I’m sneaky
A: I would the best student if you make the lesson interesting
A: that I try hard
A: I’m lazy
If you wondered why I can’t help but love these kids…
Q: What is one thing you would like to know about me?
A: why did you become a math teacher?
A: how you discipline students
A: are you a fun person?
A: was 8th grade easy for you?
A: do you get frustrated quickly?
A: what do you like to do?
A: what is your greatest accomplishment?
A: why did we have to do this sevrvy?
A: are you famous?
A: what should I know about you?
A: Everything about you
A: Where you come from
A: what is your 1st name?
A: what kind of student was he in school?
I’m planning to give each student who asked a question of me a hand-written response. I think investment is just another word for rapport. And routines & rapport are my main focus for the first week and a half. Plus some interesting math puzzles!
 
The responses from this survey were above and beyond what I expected. I want to do another student survey for winter break. I’m already planning the questions! Submit any suggestions in the comments.

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Barclay and the Technicolor Poster

Today I went down to Barclay (Teacher) Supply Store in Brooklyn to pick up some odds and ends for the classroom. Tomorrow is the first day of school, and I still don’t have student trackers up on the wall. Wendy Kopp would lose her mind if she found out. How will I get the students invested in their academic success if they don’t have a public tracking system with glittery stickers?

(Side note: think what you will, even too-cool-for-middle-school students will go to unbelievable lengths for the sticker that they publicly dismiss as childish.)
So I ventured into Brooklyn and found myself descending into the bowels of Barclay, a basement warehouse of pens, pencils, tape, paper, folders, post-its, workbooks, and more. But the unbelievable assortment of posters they carried blew me away. From elementary to high school, science to social studies, secular to Jesus-themed, they had a poster for just about everyone.
Except, it seems, me. I quite liked many of the posters my peers had made during summer school with facts about rocks or how to write a good essay. These posters were handmade, drawn on giant sheets of chart paper, and colored with fat-tipped markers. They were clean, bright, and clearly summarized their key points.
The posters in the store, perhaps with the exception of the elementary school ones, did not. Written by someone who long ago forgot what it’s like to learn something, the abominations I saw looked as though a rainbow had thrown up on them. When did white space become a bad thing? It’s like Debussy says about music: “Music is the silence between the notes.” These posters were so busy that even if I wanted to gather information from them, I would be constantly distracted by pictures of rulers or happy faces or apples. A few really dated posters had pictures of a computer with a CRT monitor and 3.5″ floppy disks. For a brief second I was tempted to deck out my classroom with an 80s theme just to see what the kids would do, but then I came to my senses.
I searched and searched for posters I would feel good to hang in my classroom. I went through PEMDAS & how to solve word problems (ironically, too wordy). I looked at measurement conversions and the quadratic formula. Finally I found a set of 4 that describe big ideas in mathematics: the concept of 0, the Pythagorean Theorem, pi, and the Sieve of Eratosthenes. Perfect! They fulfill all my criteria for a good poster:
– Interesting content
– Presented well (layout and conceptually)
– Good use of color & white space
– Large enough to see from a distance
and, finally
– Good font choice
For anyone who has not questioned a business’s font selection or wonders what the difference is between serif and sans serif… well, I have one recommendation.
Watch Helvetica. It will forever change the way you look at printed text. Seriously.

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