Well, I’m not gone yet, just very very busy.
I also think I’ll start adding new things, especially during the school year. For example, here’s something I would like to do more of . . . Scenes from the School.
Scene from last night’s school dance.
Mr. Cates, our music teacher on the mic: Okay, here’s a classic to dance to!
(Starts playing “Eye of the Tiger)
(My 5th grade Students start running over to me)
Students: You need to dance to this, it’s a classic!!!
Me: Wait, I have to dance to this because “it’s a classic?” So when you think “classic” you immediately think of me?!
Me: Is this because I’m old?
(Students start laughing)
I’ll exit stage left now.
Okay, so consistency has never been something I’ve done on this site for, well, a consistent period of time. But that doesn’t mean I give up on it!
Anyway, here’s a few new photos to keep you interested (at least I hope) in the site. I may, or may not be doing something more with photography soon. I’m also still going to use this site to talk education as well, especially here in Nevada . . . and especially in light of all the recent news that has been happening. News like “rankings” and Bills for spending more on education and the like.
Again, I’m on Instagram if you’d like to see more or on 500px. Again, I may just keep this blog for education and general information while I may start another primarily for photography. We’ll see though!
So on Mondays, I figured to keep the post to some educational items, especially if I can reflect on some of the goals I set for last week. Just to recap:
1) Become a visual math teacher!
2) More concepts, less procedural!
3) Patience and Consistency
I will say that today, during the Math period, I definitely addressed the idea of “conceptual” and “procedural.” However, I believe I’ll continue doing that throughout the course of the school year.
I’ll also say that today was rather fun. I was working off of 3 – 4 hours of sleep so maybe that had something to do with my desperate and wandering style today. One student even asked “Mr. D, are you talking to yourself?” Anyway, this was, perhaps, the best the class has been since we started school. I enjoyed myself immensely in the classroom today and it definitely rubbed off on the kiddos as well.
I think for this week, especially during the Math period, I’ll continue with the conceptual and procedural discussion with the students.
Or force myself to sleep only 3 – 4 hours a day. That’s sure to work out better . . .
One place I’m finding myself going to more and more is illustrativemathematics.org. If you’re looking for a decent Common Core (still don’t know what to think about the Common Core sometimes. I’ll save this for a later post) resource for Math, I definitely like this one.
Today marks the start of Fall Break, a one-week “recovery” after starting the school year at the beginning of August. This also marks my 8th year of teaching, which is somewhat surprising to me considering I almost quit two weeks into my first assignment.
How the times have changed.
Just thinking about all the sweeping changes that have been made in education since the beginning of my career, I’m thinking about how much teachers have been doing in the classroom. Just going online will bring you to several infographics, like this one or perhaps this one:
Okay, so that last one isn’t an infographic. Just something I thought funny (though teaching “like a Ninja Turtle” would’ve been better).
Anyway, I’m still going to be working for a little over the break (always catching up to that pesky grading thing) but it’s also a time to reflect. I’ve definitely changed in the 8 years I’ve been teaching and I have gotten better. But there’s always that little voice inside that whispers ever so harshly “you can do better.”
With this year, we have a new emphasis on Math since the school didn’t make as much growth with our student populations as we would’ve liked. It also allows me the opportunity to get better at a few practices that I’m definitely going to change once we resume the school year next week. Here are a few things I’m resolving to get better at once we start-up again:
1) Become a visual math teacher!
I’ve been told that I’ve got high expectations for my students when it comes to anything I do in the classroom, but sometimes, when I teach, I’m not doing everything I can for *all* the students in my classroom. For years, I’ve been trying to shift my instructional practices to incorporate more “visual” learning, since manipulatives are hard to come by (at least for everyone in the classroom).
2) More concepts, less procedural!
I think I need to teach the students more conceptually than I have in the past (not that I wasn’t to an extent). What I mean by this is to reach deeper in terms of the math we’re actually learning and to be more accurate and precise as to why we’re doing certain things within specific algorithms. I know there have been some really public complaints about the Common Core curriculum, especially with Math, but I can understand the thought process behind it. Honestly, I’m still not too sure about Common Core (especially the creation behind and all the debates behind it) but it is challenging to me and what is life without a few challenges?
3) Patience and Consistency
These two ideas have been better, at least in terms of the application within the classroom. Still, I do have so much more to do when it comes to patience and consistency. I feel that sometimes my frustrations (whether it’s an inattentive student, other issues that take instructional time, etc.) do spill over into my teaching and demeanor. I can feel the “flow” of the classroom become stagnant when that happens and I become a rather mediocre teacher when it does. I have to be better. Whether it’s using my own calming exercises, taking a step back to recover, or just allowing the class a simple brain-break, I need to be patient with the outcomes.
I’m also going to resolve to post more 🙂
Things are progressing in the classroom, albeit at a “slow and steady” pace. For the most part, this week has been a vast improvement in terms of focus and behavior, even though they’ve got a long journey ahead to meet with the expectation I have of them.
Still, I was able to laugh, joke, smile, and teach “with a flow” for this week (for the most part). That, my friends, is a definite victory.
It also brought up a few questions. It made me think whether starting earlier threw everyone for a loop, teachers and students alike, especially being the first year that we’ve started at the beginning of August instead of at the end. I’m not sure if we could quantify this with hard data, but as far anecdotal evidence, the behaviors did seem to pick up a bit during those first three weeks (I certainly noticed an uptick for the first few weeks!).
At least now, things are starting to fall into place, and we’re not even close to implementing everything we usually do in Room 55. It’s with that thought that I know this class will get there. Once everything is in place, I have no doubt the school year is going to fly and those students will find a way to excel. That’s always the hope at least.
So, some positives:
- I always like the little victories. Maybe it’s because I’m getting used to the students or maybe I just forced myself to look for those “positives,” but I saw more of those “little victories” this week than I had in the prior three. I saw students take it upon themselves (no prompting from me) to help a classmate in math. I saw another student hold a tether ball until everyone was clear of the playground, just to make sure no one would get in trouble. I saw students who didn’t seem engaged with prior lessons, give an honest effort to stay with the class as we learned. In our class, we call those “Level 5” behaviors (yes, based on Kohlberg but mainly taken from Rafe Esquith).
- This, in turn, led me back to how I usually teach, which to me, is having a chance to be myself. Not just a teacher, but being me. I feel I can make a connection when I’m honestly expressing who I am, when I can spout off random jokes about observations I’ve made, mainly about myself and all self-deprecating, but nonetheless, very fun.
- Today I felt that first pang of emotion when thinking about my class. It’s that “pang” that motivates you to work harder for your students. I definitely felt that today, after this week.
Obviously, we’ve still got work to do, but now, the fire is definitely back. It’s just a matter of keeping the fire now . . .
Now. . . don’t think I would leave this post without adding a video. I’m switching this up a bit and publishing one of my favorite Scrubs clips 🙂
Thought I’d open up with this video. I just finished Tennant’s run as Dr. Who and find myself rather sentimental at the moment. I’ll definitely miss Tennant’s Doctor, all elongated and elastic, both in body and in thought. I am, however, looking forward to Matt Smith’s version, though as I said before, I’ve already had a taste of what he brings in “Vincent and the Doctor.”
Anyway, it’s been a rough week at work.
No, that’s actually inaccurate. There were two days, out of the five, where I felt the class start to come together. However, most of the time, I’ve found myself sighing and raising my voice more often than actually teaching and “finding the fun” within the flow of the day.
We’re three weeks in and I still feel as if I haven’t made any true progress with the classroom, both academically and as a community. Here and there, I’ll see a ray of light, but more often than not, something comes along and does a proper job of snuffing it out. Whether it’s an inconsiderate action or a lack of effort, those little things seem to pile on and gain a momentum of their own. I find my patience is growing short, ready to be lit on a moment’s notice lately . . . and I absolutely hate it.
But, I have to move on.
And in order to solve these issues of the classroom . . . I need to start with myself again.
This weekend (a three-day weekend, just at the right time) will be a time for reflection. I have to look to myself if I’m to ever get this classroom where I think it can be. That hope still burns for the students of the class and I’m sure it’ll never waver, but arriving at the location I’d like to be may take some time. I’ve also understood one essential component in order for me to make this work.
I have to be better.
I have to be better in the way I carry myself. I have to be better with my emotions. I have to be better with how I’m setting up each and every student in that classroom. I have to be a better person.
I have to be better.
I’ll take this weekend to figure out the logistics and the strategies involved. I’m definitely a believer of choice and fate and it’s no coincidence that this weekend is here and that I’ve got to take some time for myself.
That is why I’ve got the video at the front of this post. When I get back to work, I feel as if it’s my time to say . . .
Sometimes I ask myself . . .
. . . what’s more important?
This applies to a lot of things in life. Obviously, it shouldn’t be taken as concrete life advice, especially from someone like myself, but I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately.
You see, building a classroom culture or climate is always a struggle. For myself, I think I’ve lucked out more often than not through the years. I’ve been blessed by having a few great classrooms, especially in terms of the “community” we try to build. It’s always great to walk into a classroom and just have it feel “right,” knowing that whatever you’re going to teach that day is going to flow and do so beautifully.
Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time.
You’ll have your “rough” days, where it feels like an invisible wall that conveniently places itself right in front of you, teasing and frustrating you to no end. For some reason, it made me think of this scene today:
(Yes, it does worry me a little that I’m at the end of the second week and already compare the experience to “hitting the wall.”)
You’ll have those days where it often feels “wrong,” especially when it comes to the actual content, knowing that some of the students aren’t getting your best. Honestly, that’s one of the worst feelings to experience.
This year, so far, we’ve had more “rough” days than good.
As I said before, this class is taking longer to adapt to the vision I always try to create for the classroom. I know they’re still on their way. Honestly speaking, this is perhaps the longest I’ve had a class not get to that “level” that I always seek for ourselves. Am I disappointed by this? Frustrated? Driven to the point of buying a new bottle of Scotch?
Yes, yes, and no. Well . . . I’ll just buy the Scotch anyway just because I enjoy it!
Anyway, despite the frustration, despite the lack of “speed” in which I hoped they would pick up the classroom climate, there are always the small victories, the tiny shifts of momentum that gain a positive force. I saw students slowly pick up the ideas I talk about constantly in the classroom, the idea of consideration to others, to help our fellow students when they need the help.
They’re getting there. I just have to be patient. I have to believe this class will build itself into something more than even they thought possible. As I said above about the video, it does worry me (just a little) that I’m already thinking I’ve hit a wall.
But I also realize, I know I’m going to keep on going. Just like Simon Pegg’s character in the video.
So what’s more important?
That I keep on going with the vision I have in mind. I’m sure I’ll adapt it as we go along, but the idea of consideration and community, I need to keep that as an important factors as I keep “building” this class.
In the meantime, I just have to learn to relish the small victories. It’ll be enough to keep me going . . .