Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of an Educator

The #MTBoS challenge asked us to share One Good Thing or A Day in the Life of an Educator.  I am choosing:

Sunday 1/10/16

Interesting that this comes during this week which is going to be about as crazy as my life gets.  I teach 5 classes, 3 different preps.  I am also the Math Dept. Chair in my school, because I was the last one to my finger to my nose....I have been doing it for years and years, and can't seem to get anyone else to do it, even though as Dept. Chair you get one extra prep period every other week.  I mean, who WOULDN'T want this job?

I am choosing Thursday of this week.

  •  4:45 a.m : Alarm smash.  I hit the alarm so it doesn't wake hubby.  Lie in bed and try to remember what day of the week it is!
  • 4;55 a.m.  Crank the wood stove, feed cats, make my sandwich, get dressed, "get pretty" as @mathymeg07 says!
  • 5:45 a.m. Out the door.
  • 6:15 a.m.  Arrive at school.  Turn on my two computers, post the agendas for the day, type up that quick quiz I thought up in the shower.  Dash to the one (yes, one) photo copier in the faculty room, before the science teachers and history teachers get there! :)
  • 7:10 a.m. Look over the teacher dashboard of the two classes that did Match My Line on Teacher Desmos yesterday...figure out who is still having difficulty graphing lines.
  • 7:35 a.m.  Pre-Cal students arrive in class.  Do review games, practice a little of everything we did.  This class was very interrupted this week because of field trips (2).  
  • 9 a.m.   Pre-Cal ends.  I have 1.5 mins to check email before the first kid arrives for the next class.
  • 9:03 a.m. High five my Alg 1 kiddos.  Today we are reviewing graphing lines and playing Match My Line (started yesterday, but didn't get too far.)  For those who finish, we'll try Marble Slides!  Very needy bunch.  Am blessed to have an aide in this class (former student of mine, studying to be a math teacher!)
  • 10:30 a.m.  Class ends.  This is when my lunch time is scheduled!  Mostly I use this 25 mins. to catch up on emails, enter grades, put hwk up on Google Classroom, OR clean up from the first Alg 1 class and get ready for the next one.
  • 10:35 a.m.  Stand at door and high five the next group of Alg 1 students.  Same schedule as the first one, but a smaller class.
  • 12:15 p.m.  Tell the Alg 1 kiddos I love them, but it's time for them to move along to their next class.  Now is my prep.  Correct that Quick Quiz I made for the Alg 1 cherubs (to see how they are doing with lines), get ready for tomorrow, send a few emails about our Credit for Life Fair that we do for our entire senior class in the spring.  Realize I haven't used the rest room since 7 a.m, and leave my room for the first time since 7:15 this morning.  Oh look:  there are ADULTS out here!!  Have quick conversation with a couple of them.
  • 1 p.m.   Oh look!  Here come the bus drivers to have a meeting in the only empty room in the school:  mine.  They said it was ok if I stay and work at my desk.
  • 1:40 p.m.  My second group of Alg 1 students are back in my room for a 45 min. study hall.  I also have seniors here doing a study group for tomorrow's assessment.
  • 2:25 p.m.   School is out.  I dash out the door to be ahead of the buses because I have to get to the local university.
  • 3:10 p.m.   Arrive at the university, Am presenting to a group of 20-25 teachers grades 8-12. Pray that all the technology will work.  Deep doo-doo if it doesn't!
  • 4 p.m.  Sharing the Desmos love to these teachers.  This is the second time we are meeting.  The first time they got to learn how to use Desmos and discovered what it can do.  THIS time we are playing with Teacher Desmos and figuring out how it helps students model mathematics.
  • 7 p.m.  Finish up the seminar, go to the dinner that accompanies this professional development. 
  • 8:10 p.m.  Drag my butt through the door: greet hubbie and dog.  Unpack my stuff, repack my lunchbox for tomorrow.  Cuddle up to the woodstove and exchange "how was your day"s with hubbie. I see that my "mother of the groom" dress finally arrived!  TOO tired to try it on....
  • 8:30 p.m.  Hit the shower, pick out clothes for tomorrow.  Wonder if I actually remembered to print tomorrow's assessment.  Wonder if the million steps I took during the seminar counts toward #FitBos!
  • 9:15 p.m.  Sit down to finish typing up my day.  
  • 9:45 p.m.   Stop pretending to do anything constructive.  Fill the wood stove so it will make it through the night.  Go to bed.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Please Tell Me I Am Not a Horrible Teacher!

This week I have my senior Pre-Cal students for only four and a half days.  And on one of those days, a third of the students will be on a field trip.

I teach at a Vocational-Technical high school which means I see my students every other week.  Because of the way state testing happens in the spring, administration has to get very creative to make sure the right set of students is in their academic cycle at the right time, and sometimes we have some cycles that are longer than 5 days, and some that are shorter.  It's complicated.

What this means for my seniors is that the last time I saw them was on Dec 18, 2015.  They are coming back to me on Jan. 11, 2016.  And I have them for just 4.5 days. And some of them will missing one of those days because of the field trip!

Here is my dilemma:  I just do NOT have time to have them derive the formulas I need them to have. We are already way behind because of short cycles (holidays) in the fall.  So I am going to just give them the formulas.  Or maybe just show a power point where the work fades in and out.....if I have time to make such a thing.

Just tell me I am not a horrible teacher for doing this......

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Favorite: 2 things

At Twitter Math Camp, one of the BEST times of the day is when people share "My Favorite".  This can be something very simple (a new app or a way to organize) or something earth shattering (high fiving students EVERY DAY in order to help "bond" with students!)

So here is my favorite way of differentiating a quiz.  I have a PreCal class with 17 students.  Because of scheduling issues, I have to teach both the Honors class and the College Prep class at the same time.  All this while also having 3 other courses to teach and be Math Dept. Chair.  When I can cut corners, I do.

We are doing Law of Sines, Law of Cosines (including the ambiguous case), and the area formulas. I knew this was tough for the students and we had to get it all done in 4 days, testing on the 5th, because then they go to their shops for five days (vocational-technical school).

Here are their tests.  The one on the left is the Honors version.  The one on the right is the CP version.

Yes, they are exactly alike.  The Honors has one token, good for 1 question:  they may ask one clarifying question.  The CP version has 2 tokens, good for 2 clarifying questions.   

The End.

P.S.  This is something I shared at TMC15:  Just a way of organizing whiteboards so students can get right to it and I don't have to hand out boards, markers, and wipey cloths.  I hang them on the desks with velcro.  Markers and cloths are wrapped up and put inside.  A little velro button keeps the side closed, so markers etc don't fall out (too much!).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Graphing Linear Functions

Each year I hope that my Algebra 1 students will come to me already knowing how to graph lines.  I KNOW they get taught this in middle school, but for some reason, they just cannot hang on to this.  Worse than coming to me in Algebra 1 and not being able to graph a line, is when I see them in Algebra 2, and they are still fumbling with it!

Well, I refuse.  I have decided that students have to be able to do THREE things to be able to say they passed my Algebra 1 class:

1.  They have to be able to solve "ugly" problems and that includes clearing fractions.

2.  They have to be able to graph a line.  In any and all forms.  Without help.  On demand.  And that includes y = 4 and x = -2.

3.  They have to be able to multiply polynomials using the box method.

To this end, I have been creating and searching for lovely "ugly" problems.  If you have some, please send it to me at  and I will add it to the collection and post it on Twitter!

I have also been doing Number Talks and encouraging students to multiply large numbers using the area model (aka "box method").  This is in preparation for multiplying polynomials, and hopefully factoring them as well!

As for linear functions, I have been doing lots with Fawn's Visual Patterns and other linear activities like Stacking Cups, but sometimes I just have to make them graph the equations.  To make it a little more palatable I am making a game.

Next week, when my Algebra kiddos come back to me, they will find 24 equation cards, a couple of dice, their individual white boards, some colored cubes, and a game board that looks like this:

Game play is simple:

  • No more than 4 in a group.
  • 1st player:  Turn over one of the cards.
  • Graph the given equation.
  • Show the graphed equation to the other members of the group.  If no one challenges you, then you are good to go. Roll the dice and go that many spaces.
  • If someone challenges you, they have to explain what they think you did incorrectly, and re-graph the equation.
  • Whoever gets the equation graphed correctly gets to roll the dice and go that many spaces.
  • In the event no one knows how to graph the line, or the group cannot agree on how to graph the line, they may go (as a group: everyone needs to see what it looks like) to one of the 4 computers in the room and use Desmos.  In this case, no one gets to roll, but it could be a good strategy since there may be multiple cards of that type in the deck.
  • Move to the next player.
Game is over when all cards have been used OR someone makes it to the top.  If no one makes it to the top, the person furthest along wins.

I don't want this to take the whole period, and I will give them graphing lines homework to see if this helped at all.  Fingers crossed!