Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another diary entry...
Leadership… the ship… the captain… the journey…

Any successful journey requires a well-built ship and a skilled captain at the helm. An educational journey is no different than a voyage sailed on the high seas.

An ocean crossing requires a ship worthy of the voyage, sound, safe, and comfortable, equipped with the necessary supplies and tools to keep the crew well for the trip.

The vessel for education is the building, the actual physical locale in which we educate students. While in theory, the building cannot make education successful, nor keep it from being so, the physical realm sets the tone for the students. When school buildings feel warm and welcoming, kid-friendly and clean, bright and colorful, upon entering students immediately feel they are important. Contrast this with a sterile, old, smelly, dirty building where little effort is put forth to make the building inviting, those same students know, in a deep almost primal way, they are not what is important here.

The building, the school, the vessel, must also be equipped to make the journey here a safe one. The supplies are simple really – paper, pencil, computers, art supplies, text books, manipulatives… the tools and supplies to keep the crew well for the trip.

A ship, even a well-built ship, stocked with all necessities, set to sail the ocean without a competent captain, will likely have problems completing their journey without incidence. A school without a capable leader will encounter similar problems.

However, defining proficiency in a school administrator is much more complex a task than having a ship’s captain prove his skill.

Exactly what makes an administrator a good leader? For that matter, what makes any leader a good one? Webster’s defines leader as a guiding head. Guide is defined as point out way for, or direct the course of. By that logic, a leader would be the guiding force who directs the way of those under his leadership.

Thinking of Webster’s definition, a school administrator should be the guiding force in the school. He should be the very core of what the school is all about. The administrator should have the ability to lead his staff through good times, helping them appreciate their successes, finding ways to celebrate. And also, perhaps even more importantly, this leader, this administrator must have the capacity to rally his troops in times of adversity.

I have worked for a few different administrators. Some were great leaders. Other were leaders. Still others sat behind the desk with the nameplate proclaiming their “leader role”.

As I think back through what are the defining traits among these individuals I was destined to serve under, most assuredly, I don’t think of the ones I did not admire. Rather in my mind, those strong truly great leaders are the ones I focus on.

True leaders seek and grasp those they feel “fit” their vision. A wise man told me once: it is not always about hiring the person with the best qualifications but rather the “right person” for the job. Truly great leaders have this ability to see their own vision, and see those who fill their needs. They can help those in their flock reach and fulfill their own personal potentials. They surround themselves with positive people who work together towards the common goal, who all have the same map, for the same journey.

True leaders, truly great leaders, true captains of ships, are not intimidated by their crew members who are innovative and find solutions they themselves overlooked. They smile, and say, “Gosh… wish I’d thought of that!” and congratulate the discoverer.

My own experiences parallel these qualities of great leaders. I was hired by a superintendent and principal who overlooked the fact I was not the most experienced person applying for the job, overlooked the fact I was nervous and insecure at my interview, and saw the fit I was with their school. They hired me, and helped me grow, encouraged me in my pursuits, gently guiding, giving constructive criticism and positive reinforcement along the way. They had the courage to give me a chance.

My principal now, another individual, is also what I think of when I think true leader. No matter what harebrained idea I come up with, he is willing to listen, support me in my efforts, and offer guidance when my ship is headed for the rocky shoreline. I feel appreciated for my efforts, acknowledged for my accomplishments, and sustained in my day to day needs for making my job go easily and successfully.

A leader is one who leads by example, one who makes those following his path feel secure, confident, competent, and ready to tackle the journey’s path, wherever it may lead.

A ship…a school…
A captain… a principal…
A voyage across the sea… a child’s education…a teacher’s career…
A great captain… a great leader…
A successful journey…

From a TLN diary entry....
When I tell people I teach 7th grade, often I get the same response, “Oh my gosh! How can you do THAT? Don’t they drive you crazy? That’s such a tough age.”

I just smile and tell them I love my 7th graders. Why do I love them? Some days, I wonder that myself. But then I stop and look back at the fun times we have been through and I have to smile again, realizing I would not be anywhere else. The unpredictable nature of my students, their zeal for life and learning, their laughter and tears, all serve to make my job the best one on earth.

I think back to Bobby, the infamous “got his head stuck in his locker” boy. It was right after student lunch, and a crowd of students was gathering loudly by the lockers. Thinking FIGHT, I pushed into the middle of the crowd. As I neared the center of the mass of humanity, I realized there was laughter, not the typical taunts of a fight. As I finally got through all the bodies to the source of entertainment, here I found Bobby, with his rather large head wedged in the locker on that little shelf at the top.

The young man was trying fervently to remove his head, banging it repeatedly, trying to pull out, but finding himself in a Chinese finger trap situation, with his ears keeping him from being successful in his escape. The sharp edge of the metal locker was cutting into his neck, a bit deeper with every backwards thrust. And all the while, Bobby was yelling, “HELP ME! Get my head out of here! SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!”

I tried to calm him, but the sound of my voice only served to make him bang harder, which only served to make me start to laugh with the crowd. (Granted, this is not the appropriate TEACHER response but the sight of this huge kid, head stuck in the locker, was like something out of a movie!) So here we are, Bobby head banging in his locker, me laughing trying to find a solution, and the crowd growing, and getting louder.

Finally a bit of sanity escaped its hiding place in my head long enough to tell me, “TAKE A BOOK OFF THE SHELF.” So I reached in under Bobby’s head, grabbing his thick literature book, and tried to pull it out, thinking this would give him enough room to make his escape. But the book did not want to leave the locker where it was safe from completing classwork and homework assignments. So I was forced to pull the book repeatedly, each time hitting Bobby in the chest with it and him yelling each time, “OWWW!!! STOP!! THAT HURTS!! HELP ME!!” Eventually I won the fight with the book, wedging it past Bobby’s chest, which immediately freed his head.

With Bobby safely removed from the locker, the crowd dispersed to class, and I had to ask the teacher question of the young man, “Bobby, why’d you put your head in the locker?”

“To sniff the moldy orange in the back.” A response only a middle schooler could give, and one only a true middle school teacher could understand the logic of.

I think about Jessie, the “MY DOOR” girl. I have Jessie for math right after lunch. As students come back upstairs from the cafeteria, I meet them at the door, standing leaned against my classroom door, chatting with them as they come in. I came a bit late from somewhere one day, and there stood Jessie, in my spot on MY DOOR. She emphatically informed me that it was HER DOOR and she was not moving.

I let her stand there, wondering to myself why this normally quiet studious child suddenly had attached herself to my door. Now, what I thought was a one day oddity, has turned into a phenomenon all its own. Not only does Jessie commander my door after lunch each day, whenever she sees me, whether in the school hallway, in the gym in the middle of her playing a basketball game, or at the grocery store, she yells, “MY DOOR!”

Why she needs MY DOOR every day after lunch, I will never understand, but to Jessie, it is some strange 7th grade ritual, important in her mind. It is a bit disconcerting to her basketball coach, the elderly ladies in the grocery store, and other students, but by my calculation, in the whole scheme of life, Jessie yelling “MY DOOR!” is just one of those things we much accept, like the sun shining in the day, and the moon in the sky at night.

I think about Jerry, the cool 7th grade boy who graced my class with wit and charm every day last year, a bright young man, caring, compassionate, just an absolute model student in most every way for me (unfortunately, the rest of the day, he frequented the office and the detention room). Things were no different the day I came to school with laryngitis. Jerry took over for me, without my even asking, telling students what they needed to know and do all class period, starting by reading the day’s assignment off the board getting students started working. He had me and my routine perfected, right down to “PICK UP YOUR CHAIRS” and “Mrs. George says to have a great weekend,” at the end of class.

This becoming my voice evolved then into a year long ritual for Jerry, where at the beginning of each class period, he’d show up at my door to yell down the hall, “LAST CALL FOR MATH CLASS!” to round up my crew. Without bells and with inaccurate clocks, it is difficult for students to know when class is starting, so Jerry devised this system to get them there on time. IT WORKED!! As soon as he yelled, my crew all scurried to class, leaving other teachers standing in amazement, as once again, my door was the first to close. Jerry then went to his class, having taken care of me. He was proud of his role and his responsibility.

This year, with bells, my students come to class like cattle listening to the dinner bell. I sure do miss that yell….

You see, teaching middle schoolers is all about unpredictability. You just never know what will make them sparkle, what will make them feel safe and secure, what will make their day. You just know that they will ALWAYS make your day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

We have really been using the laptops lately in math class. We are in Variables and Patterns in CMP and my kids can whip off a spreadsheet and graph in such an amazingly short time. I feel we are spending more time analyzing the graphs, getting deeper in their understanding of the why's and what's than ever before.

Of course, there are always a few who totally baffle me as to how to MOTIVATE them to do anything.... but overall the participation of this group is amazing.

Where will we head next in math.... I am really struggling with the Grade Level Content Expectations and making progress through them and still incorporating the computer component. I feel what we are doing, we are doing extraordinarily well, but we will NEVER get to it all this year. My pacing is so off.... I am struggling with finding ways to use the computers meaningfully as we get into other units. I want them to be used, daily if possible...

EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS... We are making plans to attend our first hockey game - I will send home permission slips tomorrow with 7th graders. They are SOOO excited. We can only take the first 40 so I think we will get enough without a problem.

Tech kids here soon... the second group is so much EASIERto deal with than the first was :-) thank you LORD!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Math... for 7th graders... ah... the joy of laptops :-) My kids are getting so great at using Excel to make graphs and they are INTERPRETING them well also. I could not be more pleased with their progress, except for those few students who simply will not work... I am at the end of my ropes with several. They fiddle around, waste time... won't work without me right there... and the worst part of that is they do seem to be ABLE to do the work, they understand what is going on, but they just will not/cannot work independently....the same old struggle, every year... just new faces behind the problem...

the following is from a TLN conversation:

Helping Students Keep Pace with a Changing World
Bill posed this question to TLN members:
Have you ever thought about the idea that 'the world is changing -- schools are not?' What are some things that we could do right now to bring schools up to pace with the changing world?
For Cossondra, a math and technology teacher, the answer is "teaching students creative problem-solving."
* * * * *
My big thing for changing schools to keep up the pace with the changing world: TECHNOLOGY -- using computers to teach curriculum through inquiry. Too often we give our students assignments with one right answer, one possible solution, and expect/demand they all produce the same end result.
If you worked for an advertising agency, and all groups produced the same proposal, how impressed would your client be?
If you are an architect, and all your building designs look exactly like everyone else's, how long will you be successful?
Employers want employees who can work and think independently and creatively to solve problems, create solutions, make good decisions. Yet today’s education system (read "state/standardized testing") pushes us to produce cookie cutter duplicates, all standing straight in a row, with the same pasted-on smile, all facing the same direction, all saying the exact same answer in the same exact monotone voice, filling in the same circle with the same pencil at the same pace.
We need to break that mold and teach our students to think for themselves -- to be creative, productive, responsible contributing members of a larger society. We need to be able to be flexible in our curriculum and our pedagogy. We need to teach kids to do things that cannot be measured on a standardized test.
Is this our fault as teachers/educators?? Not necessarily -- we are often bound by higher powers which we have little or no control over. But we need to make our voices heard.

Friday, October 29, 2004

CRAZY day in 7th grade :-) We started out in the cafeteria with a Survivor challenge between homerooms. What fun... the kids rotated through 7 stations with a variety of challenges. They were absolutely awesome. Behavior was extraordinary. Today is the high school football game - first in playoffs, complete with pep assembly. Also, elementary Halloween parade. Since all schools are in same building... we were wired today. I let my math classes make banners for the football game. I knew very little would be accomplished anyway :-( and we have not had a free day all year - so this was a "structured" free day. They could play online math games I chose or make banners. It was about a 50/50 split in each class. The banners are beautiful, hanging in gym for pep assembly, each carefully labeled FROM 7th GRADE :-)

Things have been going well - we just stepped out of our Data Unit to review decimals. The basic skills these kids are missing is just amazing and terrifying. They are great problem solvers, but they cannot add, subtract, order decimals, don't know place value.... so we spent the past week hitting the high points, and for the most part, I'd say it was beneficial. The predicatable ones still cannot round decimals.... or even find the millions place... I really struggle with what to so with some of them... partof itis low skill level for some of them... others attendance.... others simply do not to work... they don't participate in class, even when we are doing something online, interactive - they do not want to make any attempt to DO IT. It is frustrating and saddening... No child left behind... right.....

The interactive mean, mode, median lab online we started yesterday was fun. The kids could really SEE what changing 1 piece of data did to the mean, median, mode... Even I came away with a stronger understanding of the relationship between these 3 measures:-) Monday will they be able to do it on their own??? is time for my 6th graders so I must go...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

We started Come Fly With Me last week. WOW!! I overestimated their ability to simply measure with a 150 cm measuring tape. One minute I am amazed at my students' abilities to comprehend impressive tasks, and then suddenly, I am shocked into the reality of 7th gradedness again. Each group of 4-6 students had at least 3 measuring tapes. I demonstrated briefly in the classroom how to work together to measure accurately and efficiently but still some groups really struggled. It seems such an easy task in my mind, still... But we had fun!! Their airplanes were amazing. I wish we could have also measured the altitude some of them attained!! Absolutely amazing flights.... tomorrow, the "paperwork" part as they find their individual means, groups means, and ultimately class means. Then the reflection component. I am glad this was built into Brenda's plan since that is one thing I am really trying to focus on - the writing in math part. This was the lowest part for my kids on the MEAP last year so I want ot bring those scores up with this group when they are tested next year.

My pesky little 6th grade tech kids - yikes... they are still driving me nuts but they are kind of growing on me I must admit. I let them play online games Friday and they had a blast. I took digital pics and made a quick slide show so they could watch themselves. THey were thrilled. The one little girl who drives me absolutley crazy - when I dismissed them, she came back into the room because she forgot to give me a about a rush of guilt...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

My math grades for the first marking period are done - I always analyze the overal grade distribution. This time 52% of my kids earned A's - what does this mean? I hate grades - I wish we could just teach for the sake of teaching, and kids could jsut learn for the sake of learning. Do I grade too easy? DoI demand mastery so that most students achieve and therefore get A's? I had 3 E's and in all honesty, that bothers me WAY more than half the kids getting A's. Why can't I reach those 3? Will their efforts increase over the course of the year? I have talked to the parents of 2 of them, with little success or satisfaction. The other boy lives with grandma but I can never get anyone to answer their phone - I have sent home letters indicating I need to speak with them, but noone calls back... :-(

Our cereal box project is wrapping up - I have been so impressed with how fast most students picked up on using spreadsheets. They are no where near proficient yet, of course, but they ae becoming independent problem solvers and using Excel to create most awesome work. TOmorrow I will discuss at greater detail their final product, a newspaper article. We will see how they can analyze and make conclusions.

Then onto COME FLY WITH ME :-)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

This week marks the end of the first marking period. I feel like we have accomplished so much, but have not made a dent in what we need to do this year. With the laptops here, I have adjusted lessons so we are using those every day in math class. I cannot say we are doing anything even closely related the NTeQ lessons yet, but just trying to get kids comfortable enough with the technology that they will be able to do some things on their own. For most, this project were are working on now was the first experience they have had with Excel. I have been so amazed at how quickly they pick up on creating formulas.

This cereal box project, while very skill oriented, is so disjointed I am not sure I will be able to bring it all together to a successful ending. While trying to cover enough different formulas for them to experience, I think I have brought in tooooo much info and overwhelmed them with things to accomplish. But they are doing great - I think maybe I worry too much sometimes.

Next we are doing Brenda Dyck's Come Fly With Me tellecollaborative project. The kids will love that, and so will I. After that?? I am not decided yet. Maybe surveys? I know they will really balk when I make them make circle graphs by hand.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I can't believe it!! 3 weeks of school are done already. We've accomplished great things already, but so much more to do:-)

The laptops are here - finally ready to go. When I got here this morning, MY Cart with my 30 beautiful babies was waiting for me. They worked wonderfully so far - I am not sure how we will keep them powered all day every day - it is almost impossible to get the cords in and out. Even my Discourse works:-)

The kids are still awesome - we are writing algebriac equations - they are catching on so quickly this year.Even the difficult patterns, it seems they just "get them" right away.

They are also excited about the computers - we will step back and get them out Wednesday and learn about some basics like getting them out and back in cart, Give Me 5, guilty if you click out, those things. As far as using them in class, really using them, maybe I will get into it next week when we start our cereal box project. I want to get through some of the CMP Variables and Patterns box before we move on too far from it.

FTl - WOW! The training in Shepherd last week was just simply wonderful. So much fun... we were a powerful group even if I am bragging about us. I re-met lots of folks from June, and met many new people - still by and large an amazingly positive group of folks. What a great way to network and share new ideas...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

WOW! If today is a true indicator of things to come, this group will do well with graphs. We went over vocabulary words, and they really seem to be picking up on the big ideas, even dependent and independent variables, which are always so tough for 7th graders to keep straight. Tomorrow we head outside to collect data in our jumping jacks experiment, so they are all excited.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The first week of school went by so quickly I am still waiting to catch my breath. Things went well, all in all. This group of students seems like a pretty capable and willing group overall. We did basically procedures and rules, a few getting to know you kinds of things. Friday students partnered up to complete a short "The Three Little Pigs Come to Math Class" activity that allowed me to informally assess their basic math skills. I was impressed by the problem solving abilities of many of these kids. Listening to them talk it out with a partner how to solve problems always is fun for me.

My 6th grade tech class - yikes... If I can just get them where we can consistently log in and open a document or the internet by the end of next week, I will be impressed. One has to wonder what exactly do they do in elementary computer classes???

Next week, in math we are starting graphs, patterns, algebra. I am excited to see how well this group can do :-)

Friday, August 20, 2004

I survived the 3 days of FTL training at the ISD :-) Day one was OK, lots of technical difficulties but overall it went fairly well, although I was shocked at the lack of technology skills among the lead teachers there. Day two went well enough except there were too many participants for Tammy and I alone to facilitate. It was pretty much a zoo! Day three went so smoothly it was amazing. I felt like it was a huge success. I suppose practice does make perfect but I was amazed at how that group just seemed so much more receptive in general than the Wednesday group.

Now onto the next phase, training downstate... eeeeekkkkk.... we meet (the 6 of us reps to finalize the planningon Sep 3, then on the 15th, we do the REAL thing. I know things will go well - the "6" are all wonderful, invigorated SuperCoaches who seem enthusiastic and willing to do above and beyond to make this program successful so I feel confident we will be awesome...right???

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I feel like the world is spinning tooooo quickly and I am about to fly off into outer space!! School is quickly approaching - 1 more full week to go - my room is almost all set but then yesterday when I was there I realized my requisition was in, which is a good thing, but now to put it all away in my clean, oh so clean cupboards!

FTL training at the ISD started yesterday - easy day for me - I was just a "facilitator" with Tammy & Robin up on board for most of everything - lots of tech problems but there were only 6 there for the training and it went OK for the most part. I do feel overwhelmed at how little some of the lead teachers know about computers/technology in general. They are to be the experts in their district, but some of them have such limited skills. Today I was up for my middle school lesson, which went well, I felt. We will see again tomorrow since it looks as if Scott will be gone, so I will fill his slot by replicating my lesson for the high school teachers. I plan to spend a bit more time thinking/talking through the NTeQ model. I really don't think we are giving teachers nearly enough info to be successful in integrating technology. We are trying to cram so much into the time we have we are not really covering anything adequately. And the irony of that comment, WE FINISHED EARLY TODAY!! We ran short yesterday so we pushed and rushed today only to find ourselves done early :-)

I feel a bit initimidated that I am not more knowledgeable about the programs, especially Discourse, but we've not had much opportunity to play with it ourselves, and it is one of those things, much like PowerSchool/PowerGrade, where until you actually do it yourself, you will not be able to understand all the little ins/outs of the program.

Big shock in our district - Kristi resigned.... she is probably the BEST teacher at TAS....was, the best.... how will they ever replace her?? and more selfishly, who will replace her as lead teacher??

Good luck to me tomorrow.. and Pat if you read this... it was great to have you here today. Thanks for driving all the way here from Bessemer... I hope we can work it out so you can train closer to home in the future!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

My presentation for next week's FTL training is finally finished, I think!! Yes, I changed it AGAIN! I reverted to an M& M lesson, much like the one we did in Lansing, but we will be making circle graphs instead of bar graphs, since that is the 7th grade expectation. My powerpoint is not anything dramatic, but it will have to do.

I've been trying to get in touch with the lead teachers from the Eastern UP to get them registered. GRRRR.... it is so hard to get in touch with people in the summertime! Still, I think we will have a good turn out, and it will be worthwhile for those teachers. I really feel the biggest responsibilty we as Super Coaches have is to get folks fired up about this program.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Another FTL meeting yesterday - drove all the way to Lansing for 2 hours, but those 2 hours were powerpacked. We fine tuned the presentations we will giving for lead teachers.

I am just so pumped up about this whole program, still...

I've been working on a lesson to present at our ISD training coming up in a couple of weeks and I've created 3 total lessons but I think I've finally decided to stick with the original plan we are using at the lead teacher training, the M&M lesson. I think it will work well mainly because most people are already somewhat familiar with using this lesson so they will see the relevance, and ease of integrating technology into existing lessons. It's not so much that I am unsure of presenting, as I want to make sure what I do makes a lasting impression on those teachers, and gets them fired up about the potential of the FTL program, so they in turn can get the others in their buildings fired up.

One concern... a teacher from another district said his union is boycotting the entire FTL program - they don't have a contract for the upcoming school year, and are not going to take on any new anything... that scares me - we are also without contract and historically are reluctant to take on new things... especially without additional compensation. I guess if that is what happens, I will have to say, bring it on... I'll take all those new computers... and enjoy them!!
Let's just hope it does not get to that point..

To ISD tomorrow to work on presentation...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Freedom to Learn... Freedom to Learn... my mind is spinning again. After being at the ISD Tuesday, working on Discourse & ClassServer I feel panicky!! I am neither confident nor competent here, and I am going to TRAIN other teachers?? YIKES!!

The possibilites continue to amaze me - I sat here yesterday working on a lesson plan for a 7th grade social studies standard on advertising. I need a lesson to share at the upcoming training. But... now I have another idea - I want to focus on mean, mode, median, something we hit fairly heavily in 7th grade math, even though it is now not one of our standards according to the new grade level expectations... but I think I will use this topic instead - so back to the drawing board!! I want the students to use Excel to find their means, use a PowerPoint to show their understanding,  and I want to use Discourse during the lesson, and maybe a review lesson from ConnectedTech.. ambitious?? Maybe but I am pumped again...

What a great opportunity for professional development and networking this is going to be... I feel rejuvenated seeing folks from across the state who feel a commitment to quality education. I just need to make sure I can convey this enthusiam to my colleagues and get our district on board and make this integration of technology a reality. I know I am opening myself up for a huge time commitment but somehow that does not scare me. I want to do this - I feel it is worthwhile and necessary...


Monday, June 28, 2004

I survived the Freedom to Learn week... It was actually quite an interesting experience, for a variety of reasons. The whole laptop thing is exciting, no doubt. I am curious to see how our school actually utilizes them - will each student actually have access to a computer all day during school? at home? will we share a set per grade as was discussed before? The possibilities seem so endless if I could actually know my kids would always have their computers available in math class.

The NTeQ model training is certainly a useful tool for integrating technology into the curriculum, but I am not certain we will be able to "sell" most teachers on the time-intensive-ness of this approach. I hope I keep my own enthusiam long enough to get lots of lessons in place for next year - ready made - to use in class. I know it is like anything else - the more you do it, the easier it becomes so maybe once I get through a couple of lessons independently, I will find my own way to get things set up without so much paperwork.

Meeting other teachers is always great too. Knowing that those attending this week-long summer training must also be committed to excellent educational practices is exciting. SO often at conferences, it seems most people are there to get out of school, and are not really interested in learning anything new. Not at SuperCoach training... what an enthusiastic crew... at least overall... of course our Eastern Upper Peninsula crew was, oh, hmmm... enthusiastic does not even begin to describe it - what a great group of people to work with - I am excited at the possibilities looming ahead.

Maria... the Spanish teacher who is being sent back to Canada - how can that be?? You can tell she is such an incredible teacher, the way she talks about her students, and her classes - she really truly cares about them.
Robin.... well, we go way back and we are trying to work out a plan to teach her 6th grade social studies class with my 6th grade tech class so we can have students working on projects for both classes. What an ultimate integration of curriculum!
Michelle...always so professional, so gee... I don't know, mature, and all knowing, and knowledgeable about so many things - she is perfect to be in her position! I can't wait to work more with her as a colleague rather than having her be more in the role of trainer as in the past.
Scott... he must be a great science teacher - I can tell... he too just exudes that sense of caring and compassion for all that he does..
Shannon... well, hmm... interesting person, but not sure what to think about him yet - he seems to be dedicated to the success of this program but I hope he will be able to relate to the lead teachers we are training, being himself so far removed from the teaching situation.

so all in all.... a long tough week of training but I think the payoffs will be incredible... purple supercoaches RULE!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

This week I am in Lansing at the Freedom to Learn Super Coach training. So far, we have learned about the new laptops -COOL!! and been introduced to this NTeQ lesson planning - hmm... good ideas but time consuming to actually use.

My biggest concern at this point is the actual use of the laptops we will be getting. The intent of the program is to actually integrate tech into the curriculum. Will teachers actually do this or will our valuable resource continue to be used as primarily word processors and games, entertainment?

just short thoughts - in training session now...

Saturday, June 12, 2004

It is official --- the school year is over. Wednesday was the last day - I guess it is one of those "double-sided" swords - because a big part of me is simply relieved to be done. It has been a long frustrating year and there's a good chunk of these students I am glad to see move on to 8th grade.

But as with every year, there are those I will be sad to see go. In particular, Jake who was gone for the last few days for another stupid incident... what he did was wrong, at least from what I heard of it, but that does not mean that I did not miss the little fart while we were doing all that fun end of the year stuff. I still cannot figure him out - he has such great potential to be something POSITIVE... what does he so consistently choose otherwise??? and I'll miss Blake who was so sweet, and tried so hard to please, always, and Kim who went from a grumpy snotty young lady to the funniest, kindest, most enjoyable girl with attitude, and Lauren, who always makes me laugh, and Laury who also went through a dramatic attitude improvement over the course of the year, and Derek, who rises to meet every expectation, and Kassandra, and Marie, and Dave, who got the "PIGGY LOCKER" award, and Morgan, and Katelyn, and Courtney and Caitlin, the twins, and Jessica & Jennifer, the twins, and Warren, and Jeremy,who I can't start class without, and Joe, and Dale,who's come so far, and the other Jessica, and Miranda, and Mariah, and Amber and Jamie, who always makes me laugh, and Toni & Tony, and Brendon, and Char, and tardy Jessie, and Devin, and Tuffy, and John, who works so hard always, and even Travis, and gosh, I guess Dan who drove me nuts all year, and Micheal, and of course, Colleen & Alyson who are both such amazing young ladies, and Cindy, who never fails so smile, and I could go on and on... so I guess in looking back, there are more I will wish I had again, than the other way around....

GOod stuff this year - track meet math project - lots of fun, and they really seemed to do well with the ratios and percents this way - I will have to tuck this in my memory to do again. I love using the computer lab more - it will be great to have a class set of laptops available next year - the kids seem to respond to anything more positively when the computers are involved. It will be interesting to see if this holds true when we are able to use them daily.

This computer training I am going to - to be a Freedom to Learn Super Coach (doesn't that just sound so superhero - ish) will hopefully be just the thing we need to get our entire tech program back on track. I am excited to find out how other schools are using technology and how it can be better integrated across the curriculum. It seems much of our lab time is spent with kids creating a PowerPoint over and over... or typing another story or report - we need to be more innovative with technology and find ways to make its use more meaningful, relevant,and interesting. I think I personally some great gains here this year with the webquests we did, using for actual lessons, and utilizing my links pages at more. Not letting the kids search on their own may not give them that experience but so often it is a waste of time - giving them links allowed class time to be used so much more efficiently.

Not teaching social studies I will not miss - for the most part that always seemed to take a back burner to math, and I felt I did not do my class justice in what we were covering, at least the passion about the topics part... I know that learned some good stuff, and it was overall positive, but, yikes, when the teacher is not fired up, how can the kids be??? Next year teaching tech for 6th grade will be odd because I will be learning an entire new group of kids I won't have in class, but it should be easy to plan for, teach and evaluate/assess what they have learned.

that is all for now... I will think more about individual lessons another day and get this blog set for next year...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I left here in a hurry yesterday, tired of spending my holiday at school, humbled by those parent notes I'd read, depressed at the amount of rain pouring into my classroom through the leaky roof/window, and OH HEAVENS...when I came in this morning I almost had a heart attack!! The mess was absolutely overwhleming! Don't get me wrong. I WISH I was a "clean desk" person but the clutter always wins over but I was absolutely appalled that I'd left such a huge mess. And, then, when I realized another teacher had been in here to drop some things off..embarassment... What was I thinking??

Wouldn't it be great if our classrooms just miraculously cleaned themselves, all those books and boxes, and miscellaneous stuff just found their way into the cupboards?? In orderly fashion of course, in contrast to the way my usually gets packed away...shoved quickly into the largest available spot with the door closed in wait for the unsuspecting person who accidentally opens it to a avalanche of exploding STUFF...No, not an avalanche, a volcano!! The sheer force alone... It is terrifying...

Monday, May 31, 2004

As I sit here on Memorial Day afternoon, listening to the rain leak through my roof and window, I must admit I am a bit melancholy. I came in to clean my room, since we have but a week and half of school left for the year. I was doing so well until I came across the Million words assignment for parents from this year and last. Reading those words from all those parents about how special their children are to them... wow... I feel so honored to be here, to touch their lives every day. What a humbling moment to think of all the times I've been less than patient, less than caring... As a teacher, we must always realize that every child, not matter how irritating, is someone else's child, and that parent feels about their child the same way I do about my own 2. They are the most important parts of my life, and such is it with all this I teach every day...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Okay... I officially throw in the towel.... my last math class, 5th hour, tried to do the activity with presorted blocks in bags. Imagine my confusion when they predicted Bag #1, which should have had 4 blue, 4 red blocks, was predicted to have yellows, and greens!! Undoubtedly, some little charmer 2nd hour decided to shuffle blocks from bag to bag. I am so angry, so mad, so hurt, so... disappointed... the time it took to sort all that stuff for that activity, to find the crayons, markers, colored pencils in the mess they left from the last project.I took time to get stuff ready for them to have a fun something to do rather than worksheets and this is the appreciation I get. I feel like giving worksheets for the rest of the year, all day every day....but then I am punishing the all for the sins of the one/few... the dilemma...
We started probability today - the weather is being uncooperative for outside stuff. 1st hour went so well with combinations and permutations - drawing ice cream cones, drawing blocks from bags... they had fun, and so did I. THEN..2nd hour..grrrrr...I swear on my grandmother's grave, there are a couple in there who just want to be difficult no matter what we do. They won't listen to instructions, follow instructions, raise their hands to speak... no matter what. By the end of the hour I was close to screaming or crying...

and then social studies where I again have the "guiltiest" of the 2nd hour crew again.. when he could not even make it through me takign attendance and passing out the map activites without disrupting twice, I gave up and sent him to detention for the class period and through AR where I have him again. It was as if a HUGE weight had been lifted. The others got right to work, settled in, and even when some finished early, they amused themselves appropriately. Can I just send him away for the rest of the year????? I am out of patience, out of desire to be patient...especially with him, and a few others.

I am calmer now, and still, I cannot fathom a way I could have created another ending to the situation. I jsut have to remember - tomorrow: clean slate, clean slate, clean slate... can I do it???

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Yipee... the track meet projects are all turned in and graded!! And, I must say overall they were done well. The majority of mistakes were not mathematical in nature, but rather they did not follow directions correctly (well, duh!!). OF course, some just did not bother. Even with 4 days in class, Paul had only one section on his poster. grrr.... and then he said it was because he didn't have enough time. grrr...some of the illustrations were awesome. One tape measure actually works, antoher group has 3-D figures. Yes I know - that is not the MATH part, but it is so invigorating to see them actually take the time to make the extra effort to turn in a project that looks professionally done.

The scuttlebutt about next year's schedule continues to wreak havoc. So far it looks as if I will still be 7th grade math but who knows what electives... going to a 7 hour day I know there will be something else piled on. And who knows what will change in the meantime...It is the not knowing that riles everyone so much..

Today... Bird's Eye View in math - so fun to watch them erase, and think, and argue, and erase, and think and argue..We will go outside if there is ever another day without rain, to measure the perimeter of the school property.I am worried about taking this crew out - they are just so impulsive, so untrustworthy, so reluctant to accept responsibility when they do make bad choices...and then we will finish the year with some probability stuff - real basic - colored blocks in bags, dice...maybe some card games, SKUNK - so at least they are exposed to some of the BIG ideas.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

As the school year winds down (9 full days, 3 halves!!!), I find myself spending more time reflecting, and less time planning. Somewhat of a relief timewise, but looking back at the things we have done in math, I feel somewhat reluctant to call the year "successful" overall. In some ways, with some topics, I feel I reached a majority of my students, at least having them more a level higher in their understanding of the topics we have covered. But on the other hand, I feel too often I have lost a chunk of them, partly due to their not being ready to learn that particular topic, due to lack of background primarily,but also other factors. I have felt impatient with them this year, as a whole. Frustrated... the discipline issues have really worn me thin. I feel almost punitive in my lesson plans for I know the consequences of lessons with less structure, with outside activities, with group work...

And then I think of the "good" kids - those who have been short-changed this year with the "worksheet addiction" routine I too often found myself slipping into.

It's not all been bad though... our "track meet" has been going well overall - after 2 days outside collecting data, most of the projects are coming along well. With me not being there Friday though, I fear what went on- the note from the sub said several had to go to computer lab...hmm... that worries me... what were they doing in there??? They had 1 laptop per group which should have been adequate to finish their charts/graphs/etc.. There are 2 posters left in the classroom - one seems close to being complete, with accurate info, clorful illustrations, etc.. the other - it is primarily a recreation of the data collected outide with little acutal computation of ratios, percents, etc... no real use of the data, and it looks as if they think it is "finished"... did they read the directions? did they look back to see that everything is done??

I don't know - I am leaning more and more towards a tracked math program... and that scares me - I have always, and still am, an advocate for inclusion. But I know next year's group may be an entirely more focusable group to work with so I think I will let that decision rest on the back burner.. I do know I want a textbook! CMP is just not cutting it with the new grade level expectations for the standards and I am tired of reinventing the wheel with each new topic we study.

9 more days in math class.... 9 more chances to touch their inner mathematical souls... is it too late?? Have I done my best with this group this year? What would I do differently had I known then what I know now?? Things to think about this cold and rainy May Sunday afternoon..

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I went with 2 other teachers to a conference yesterday - How to Deal with Difficult Non-Compliant Students. Pretty good stuff - Spencer Henry through the Bureau of Education and Research. Nothing NEW really, but a great pick-me-up refresher - would be a wonderful in-service for the week before school when you are all inspired and pumped for a new year. I came away with the same old feeling: I do some things so well, and others, BOY! do I need to work on my techniques - practice those strategies for dealing with these guys until they are AUTOMATIC.

It was great to come back and find my crew had behaved spendidly for the sub!

Later this week, I am braving the outdoors with them - we will hold a mini-track meet so we can collect some data. 4 events - a short run (70m or so) - 20 free throws - how many shots can you make in 5 minutes - bean bag toss. I tried to come up with something for everyone - I let them sign up for events today - they HAVE to be in at least 1 but no more than 2. We will collect data as they compete - the times for the run will be great for ordering decimals. The free throws will become ratios and percentages. The beanbag toss: measuring distances and converting from English to metric system and vice versa. The timed shoots - hmmm... ratios again? Not sure yet what we will do with that. THe kids are pumped! Hopefully all goes well, especially the weather - today was 45 and rainy drizzly - please let it warm up and be sunny!! And me with total laryngitis...

Sunday, April 25, 2004

After grading the fraction quizzes from Friday, I just want to cry... the majority were absolutely HORRIBLE. I'd swear those students had not been in class the past few weeks had I not seen them there with my own eyes. But ah... the success of Kim... 109 %!! I was happier than she was I do believe. But she was one of those 6 who stayed after to study Thursday, and it really made a difference for her. And there are a handful not finished. Several others got decent grades, and I have to remind myself that of those 12 on Independent Study, there would have been at least 10 A's there.

Now onto other stuff - we will hit upon scientific notation, decimal place value and value - and Denise gave a great idea yesterday - we are going to go outside and shoot baskets - then we will look at the ratio/percent of basket shots and made!! Some will love that. But some, alas, will be turds... of the one young lady who NEVER can lighten up and enjoy life. Last week, I had a student beg to work with a partner. At the beginning of year, I almost always allowed partners/groups for most everything. But lately, I admit, I've been a grouch. WHen the young man begged, I said on one condition:place your hand on your heart, and hold up the other and repeat after me. Then I went thru a ridiculous litany of I promise work WITH my partner, not copy from my partner. I promise to speak only in a quiet voice to my partner and not YELL across to the room to others, and so forth. EVERY student all day, until this one young lady last hour, who refused to participate. WHAT A GRUMP...and then on Thursday's math starter - I wrote - In your journal, 5 tiimes write: I promise to study for my fraction quiz tonight. Again, same thing - she wrote that she was sorry to inform me she could not write that because she doees not lie and she was not going to study. I wrote back (rather catty I know...) that I was sorry to inform her that would not get credit for her entry...

But I chaperoned Fun Night Friday and that was a blast - I have to remind myself to make time to enjoy them so I do not lose my grip with reality and sink into this ever-widening abyss of darkness I feel somedays. We laughed, we danced, we sang to the live (albeit it horrid) band of high schoolers. I came away rejuvenated...

Connie is nearing the end of her class at NMU - she is such a nervous wreck. I remember those days and do not envy her. She will be fine - she is just toooo enabling - too kind hearted - too gullible with those little "help me"s the kids want to throw her way. I like to think I was that soft-hearted at some point but I think I was always more of a realist - no pencil - hmm... too bad... forgot your stuff in your locker again... too bad... did not copy examples from board... too bad.... Don't get me wrong - I don't expect them to be perfect - just actually attempt to be successful on occasion!!

ahh... Sunday evening... another week ahead - with 6 1/2 to go before summer!! WE CAN DO THIS!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

When I sit down to reflect, the thoughts are so jumbled I find myself overwhlemed by the actual direction I want my written thoughts to take. It seems during the day I feel so frustrated and disappointed in the 7th graders this year - they seem overall, mostly unmotivated, even lazy... but then at home, looking back over my day, I remember the good stuff - the perks... the smiles... I guess that is what keeps me going even when I feel the math I am teaching just is not adequately meeting the needs of my classes.

We have been working on fractions for the past few weeks. ICK! There are still a few in each class that have no concept that 4/8 is equal to 1/2. And in the meantime, the rest of us have moved onto adding and subtracting and muliplying and dividing the little buggers - oh I know... differentiation... sure... I do have one small group, a few from each class, who are working from the CMP Comparing & Scaling book on their own. But it is so mind-boggling to try to juggle lessons for several groups within the classroom. I am stretched tooooo thin with special ed students in each class, dicipline problems of the major variety that keep students from my class day after day... Jake is suspended again...gosh.. I miss him.... but it seems he is harassing some other little guy... I don't know... some times I just feel like I wish I could shake them... for not doing their assignments, for being mean to each other, for doing those dumb things 7th graders are known for... and then other times, I think they just need a huge hug....

Sunday, April 04, 2004

WOW!!! What a wonderful field trip.... I got to go with our 8th graders to Detroit - about 400 miles each way... on charter buses (well... they were not really great but it was so much nicer than a school bus).

We left Wednesday am about 9, and headed to Oden, about 2 hours south of here, to tour the new Oden Fish Hatchery. Awesomely cool! Most of the kids really enjoyed it - of course some were "bored" or simply cold. Then we boarded the buses again and headed on our way. We got to the Radisson Suites in Farmington Hills where we were met with open arms, organized keys, room assignments, a hospitality room... it was wonderful. Then we went to the Hometown Buffet for dinner where we all ate tons of food. Turner ate 3 pieces of cheesecake after polishing off several plates of real food! Then to Canton to the Skate Station 2 for a few more hours of fun. Back to motel where I thought they'd never go to sleep.

The girls in the room above us got up at 5 so Nancy & I got up and headed down with a big crew to wait in lobby for breakfast at 6:30. Yummy!! Then off to Detroit Science Center with the SolarMax Imax, digital planetarium presentation about Mars, electric light show, lunch.... exhibits... lots to see and do - the glass elevator was horrible - the kids and I rode and rode, and I screamed and screamed. The SOlarMax was greater than you can even imagine. WOW! The Mars one... good... but most kids, and adults feel asleep - mostly from lack of it the night before, granted... then to Pontiac, to Great Lakes Crossings to eat at Rainforest Cafe - what a ripoff - pizza and salad for about 14 bucks a person!! too much for what we got but the kids enjoyed the ambiance. Then about 1/2 stayed at mall for video games and such, while Nancy, Dennis and I took the rest back to motel to pool, and play cards and jus thang out. Nancy and I fell asleep early - must have been about midnight.

We had left a wakeup for 7 but alas Cory woke us at 6:15 wondering why we weren't up. So up we got and ate and went to African American Museum. Hmmmm.... not impressed - under construction - renovations.... they split us into 2 groups and the kids could not hear... the hammers and saws in the other rooms were too loud, the guide talked to low... very boring.... not much to see anyway. THen to Burger King in Farmington Hills for lunch where they had assured us they could feed all hundred of us in about 1/2 hours. NO WAY!! What a mess.. tiny BK in first place... first 3 orders came out quickly and correct.... after that, nothing but disaster.

THen to new Holocaust Memorial Center which will open to general public APril 20. WHat a wonderful experience. They even had a survivor talk to us - the kids were absolutely moved, as was I - tears in many eyes....

all in all - trip of a lifetime... bus broke down on way home,.... oh.... I could go on and on.... I am so thankful I got to go!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Ah... spring break - not that it seems that way as I look out into the back yard full of snow - still 20 inches on the ground, and no sign of melting in sight - alas, spring break it 'tis!

As I caught up on some email readings today, and saw the lamentings of others who are slacking on their blogs, I thought to myself.... "Self, you MUST blog today, TODAY I SAY!! TODAY!" so blog I shall...

Reflection... it is so important to success, in whatever area of life, but especially true it seems in teaching - reflection on things done well, things done not so well, and things left undone.

The integer unit is over - for better or worse - sometimes it is best to take the message from above with a break in time of a week to move onto something new. I must confess, overall, I was impressed with my crew and what they ultimately got out of all this. When asked a question like "when dividing a postive # by a negative #, what sign will the quotient have" - many falter.. but when given higher level, "word problems" if you will, they really amaze me.

Friday we watched the video "The Making of the Big Mac" about the construction of the Mackinac Bridge - I show it because it is so close to home, and the amazing magnitude of this project just simply astounds me. The engineering and the math that were required, the fortitude of those people who were dedicated to the project - WOW! Usually students watch, because they must, with little enthusiasm. This year however, I had 3 students who had grandparents or great-grandparents, who worked building the bridge so enthusiasm was high. There was even conversation, and involvement from the crowd as we watched. Overall a wonderful experience :-)

Tomorrow, we meet for social studies curriculum - yuck.... I love the first part of American history - the ancient peoples, the explorers, the colonial period, but I feel we are just glazing through this year. My social studies class is so secondary to my three math classes in its importance and the fact we all three are teaching the same thing the same way, the same day.... I feel uninspired and unenthused and I fear this has worn off on my class. THey are going through the motions but are they really learning about these peoples and this time period? I fear not... I want them to feel the strong desire to strangle Columbus, DeSoto and others, to feel the fear and excitement of the settlers, understand the dismay of the natives as they were mistreated... I want them to absorb history, not read about it and outline it, and memorize it for the test. And that is what it has been lately...tomorrow I must be creative and suggest innovative lessons for the upcoming chapters!!

ah.... reflection... tis what makes us strong...

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

and another note... a lesson in be careful what you say... 1st hour Jessie, ah... my Jessie, was busily working on her science homework. I pointed out that this was math class, and I'd hate to have to shred work from another class. She put it away, for a few minutes, and then, it came back out... so we marched to the office and Jessie fed those lovely science papers into the shredder.... and her words of dismay haunt me,"It is like killing your own child!" love and logic??? I 'm not sure... maybe logic, but I didn't feel very loving :-(
The good news first!! Since my last blog, I gave the quiz on integers. WOW!! I guess I underestimated the learning that was occuring because the students did well, mostly A's on the quiz, which is just unheard of with this group I have this year. Only 1 student "failed" with a 59%. This young man, I am thrilled he learned almsot 60% of the material!! He has been homeschooled before this year and struggles so much with almost everything we do. This grade is awesome for him!

Parent teacher conferences are Thursday, and I am excited to be going. While the math grades last marking period were somewhat low in math, grades right now are at an all-time high! While I know that grades are not the only indicator of student learning, and in fact, often not much of an indicator... it is reassuring to parents to see "high marks". I wish we could do away with grades altogether, and just teach for the sake of teaching, with students learning for want of more knowlege. Idealistic? Maybe... but I do think grades are a waste of teacher time.

I was gone last Wed, Thur, & Fri to MAMSE. Great conference. My session was OK - the room was set up for 36 people, which would have been a tight fit in itself, but there were at least 50 folks in there! We could not move about, which really limited the activities we could do. I had planned to have the people up and about actually participating in some of the activities but that was not in the cards. Still, I felt they got some useful info, and I got lots of positive feedback, which really was a boost.

Other MAMSE sessions were great - I got lots of good ideas about Survivor that we can use for 7th grade camp. Other fav's were Are you Thriving or Surviving? which was a pick-me-up, and another on math about strategies to help struggling students succeed. My best idea from there was to have students actually have math 2 hours, with the extra hour being a more hands-on approach, reinforcing the day's lesson, giving them the opportunity to get more help with topics they are struggling with, and work on basic skills.

We have spent 2 days in my class brushing up on multiplication facts - a shame in a 7th grade class - but I felt before we tried to multiply negative numbers, students needed to be able to recall the facts. I think next year we will spend a day a week or so on facts. Without fairly competent recall of these, so much of what we do is more difficult. Seeing patterns, algebraic equations, integers, etc..

Another positive - my kids were great for my sub when I was gone, what a pleasant change from last time :-) only 1 young man was a problem, and he is now suspended for a different offense. Jake was gone all 3 days :-( I didn't ask why but my guess is mom kept him home to keep him out of trouble. A commendable attempt but I think he needs to accept responsibilty for his actions...

Snow is melting - we are down to about 22 inches on the ground - after the 70 weather at MAMSE in Monroe last week it is a bit depressing looking out the window, but I know spring is on the way.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Well... I wish I could say integers are going better but in reality, things are much the same. I truly wish my math classes were tracked. If I had those top 25 kids all together, we could soar. Then my middle group would plod their way through slowly but steadily. And last... the group who really does not place much importance in much of anything we say or do. I wonder if I had just those 25 together, could I somehow reach them? By moving at a slower pace, could they then keep up? It is so easy to blame them.. blame their lack of homework, their lack of attention to the lesson - but in truth, I know that somehow I am responsible for their not learning the material but I am truly at a loss as to what to do. In years past, I have had the few who seem to not care but it was an obvious few, a very small minority. This year, it seems to be almost half.

The discipline problems with some of the chronics are wearing me thin also. I've always prided myself on being the kind of teacher that kids behave for because I relate to them, understand their age, try to make learning fun... give them opportunities to work with each other, be active, learn new things... but there are these boys this year who, as the language arts teacher said, have the impression THEY are in charge. Just when it seems I am making gains with one, another surfaces to replace him. Or worse, a group of them gangs together - spitwads, rude comments, bullying behaviors - I am just frustrated and at the end of my ropes. After sending 7 to detention yesterday, I have to admit today was better - but I HATE sending them to detention during class - they need to be in my class LEARNING.

ahh.... but tomorrow is Friday... and then next week will be a nightmare... with school Monday, in-service Tuesday - and me gone to MAMSE the rest of the week. Then I can maybe get things back on track - with PTC that week, and hopefully an opportunity to talk to more of the parents I never seem to get in contact with. After the report cards go home with so many D's and E's... I fear my table may be a popular one at conferences.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

After my last math unit, which overall...was a disaster... I was excited to be starting integers. Positive and negative numbers are easy to relate to real life - not really tough conceptually.... I thought AHHHH.... well.... until last Thursday when we started it anyway. But the kids ...OK ME! I have to find a way to break them out of their bad habits of not paying attention, not completing homework, not turning in classwork. I can not remember a group EVER who was this difficult to get motivated in these areas.

We had a 3 day weekend with yesterday being President's Day - from Friday they had a really short worksheet on positive & negative - mostly giving the opposite of a number (the opposite of -9 is 9) really tough stuff, and they had time in class to get started. I got maybe 2/3 of the assignments turned in, and of those, at least 1/2 dozen were not completed. 3 days off from school to complete this maybe 10 minute assignment.... part of me says - I give up - no more homework - but then the other part says WAIT JUST A MINUTE!!! It is called RESPONSIBILITY!!

I just do not have the answers, and I am frustrated to the point of tears.... I don't want to fail half my students in math class... but is that what it will take to wake some of them up from their hibernation pattern?

I try to make class interesting and fun... we took a few notes on terms today but I mixed that with a "human timeline" and time at the board to make up Math Mania scores.... a little competition sort of... but still, there were those who were zoned entirely out - the one young man, whose timeline number was 744.... the largest number of them all, who had placed himself in the negative teens instead of at the largest section of timeline... because he "didn't know where to go" !!! GRRRRR............ if you are in 7th grade, and cannot figure out that 744 is LARGER than 0, or 1 or 76, or 100, is there any point in me trying to teach you to add and subtract positive & negative #'s??

And the young lady who has a D in math because as she told Dad... she "doesn't get it" - this child who lives across the road from the school... who could easily come get extra help before or after school.... but has only once... before the last quiz.... during class today, she was busy writing on her paper... doing her homework during class while I was still doing large group instruction.... when I called on her, she rudely commented under her breath, "I know how to do all this!" GRRRR........

and the ones who are absent so often....
and the ones who were horrid for my sub on Friday....
and those who think school is only for socializing...
and those that I love....
and those that are sad....
and those that try so hard....
and those that have grown so much...
and those who have learned to accept responsibility for their actions....
and those who don't have anyone who loves them at home....
and those with abusive parents...
and those in foster care...
and those who come in the morning with a hug and a "GOOD MORNING MRS. GEORGE!!!" and a smile.....

FOR THEM ALL.... tomorrow is another day... and I shall perservere... and find a way... to reach them and teach them.....

Monday, February 02, 2004

It was a Monday - that much is definitive! After spending time working on finding perimeters and areas for the last couple of weeks (after trying the CMP book Filling & Wrapping with is all about surface area and volume but too tough for the majority of my students so we stepped back and did basic perimeter and area..) today we had a "mini'lab" with centimeter cubes. Students needed to use cm cubes to create rectangular prisms - for example - the first direction was to create a rect prism with 8 cubes that was 8 cm long. THen they had to record the dimensions (length, width, and heigth) in a pre-made table. THey had to also record the volume (which they could get one of 2 ways - count cubes - easiest obviously... or mulitply lxwxh) and then figure surface area by counting squares on all 6 sides of their prism. This we did together - the entire 8 cube prism - they then needed to create another 8 cube rect prism with different dimensions, then a 10 , then all the possible 12's, a 20, recording for each the dimensions, volume, and surface area. A few questions to answer - how do you know you have found all possibilities? How does surface area change as volume increases? then, the GIANT LEAP!!! Without cubes, find all possibilites for 36 cubes and answer some questions.

WOW!!! I don't know - sometimes I think I expect too much - other times, I think the students just simply do not want to do anything at all complicated. They refuse to attempt to do things on their own. THey want to be walked through everything step by step... You would have thought they'd never found areas before - never counted cubes before...

Something that was supposed to be fun and lead them into insightful reflection and discovery ended up being just frustrating for most...but my take... as we did the 8 cube together... quite a few simply zoned out - they refuse to even count the cubes... much less attempt to find the area of a side...GRRRR!!! and then there was Cody who struggles so with EVERYTHING.... working away... doing great all alone excpet an occasional check from me to make sure he was still headed in the right direction.

Some of them simply are not concerned about LEARNING - they want the grade, and want that grade to be an A... not work for the A at all.... simply be shown the easy road to it....

tomorrow- we go back into CMP - they will hate that even more.... life is a 7th grade math anyway...

social studies- we talked at what is means to be a person of virtue - what would you do if you found $5 but there was no way to find its owner... $20 that belonged to the old lady ahead of you in line at the store - $20 that belonged to the young well-dressed guy ahead of you in line - how all that related to working in the 7th grade store - very interesting insights here!!

Friday, January 30, 2004

Today was one of those "ah - ha" moments in my life, and I guess in teaching as well. I realized, and now, bear with me, because this just sounds foolish!.... I am an adult, a teacher, and a pretty darned good one at that. Recently we hired a new special ed teacher to fill the half time position that has been floated thru by several subs this year (what a mess!) She is working on her LD endorsment, and is also the parent of one of my students. I have to admit that I was somewhat nervous abotu having her in my classroom one hour of the day. I am hmmm... shall we say a wee bit unconventional. THis lady, is very nice, but very proper - wears a dress all the time, has her hair rolled just perfectly, prim and proper in every sense of the words. Her daughter is an amazing over-achieving perfectionist, a teacher's dream. I was afraid this teacher would think me just toooo bizarro world to relate to me, so I was somewhat hesitant when the special ed director for our district asked me to be her mentor and supervisor for her while she finishes her degree and teaches at the same time.

Still I agreed to do the mentoring and supervising..

It has gone well! She has been here for 2 weeks and it has been a hellish ride at best for her with MEAP (state-wide assessment) week, snow days, challenging students, you name it.... But today, as I gave my kids their first "FREE DAY" all year, they were playing board games, and she and I talked - she asked tons of questions about kids, parents, teaching, etc... I tried to answer the best I could, with an almost apologetic "But don't ever feel you have to take my advice - I know I tend to be a bit uconventional." And she then complimented me - how wonderful I am :-) and then told me I need to observe her teach - we discussed me observing her Guided Study class but she would rather teach a math class one day - I suggested a week or a unit but she insists on one day, because she does not want to deprive them a "veteran teacher".

I don't know - I guess it really is not that big of a deal... but I just suddenly felt old and mature and responsible!! and she proceeded to tell me the things I do well... I think I need her as much as she needs me!

It is not that I am insecure - I truly feel I touch my students and help them learn and be successful... but her comments and insecurity about teaching around me was such a boost to my ego!

and for those who may read this and don't know me... I am such a goof ball most of the time - like my 7th graders.... I don't think of myself as in a leadership role, so when these moments happen... it is like a big surprise! Like the day our superintendent told me he thought I was "principal material". I just still feel like I am learning to teach, learning to lead... learning to learn. How can I be the ROLE MODEL?? or is that the key?? We are all, always learning and growing? hmm...

and yesterday... another beautiful moment - as I was grading math quizzes on finding perimeters and areas.... a note on the top of one, "I love you Mrs. George" with a heart with an arrow thru it... and that alone would make my heart melt, but the student who wrote it... Chris - 2nd year in 7th grade... nothing but trouble last year and most of the first 2 marking periods this year - broke into 7th grade store at least twice last year... always in trouble and school - dealing with court system - on probation - doing community service .... and he ACED THE TEST TOO!!! 93% absolutely awesome!!! I think he turned in more work to me this past week than he did all year last year (SERIOUSLY!!!) what a remarkable change - sometimes, we do make a difference.... and I wrote a note back - I love you too Chris :-)

good days.... good stuff... I do love my job, I really do!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I've got this kid.... don't so many of the thoughts of teachers start this way??? He is with me 3 hours in a row each day and is usually pretty good. He tends to be a bit sarcastic and likes to show off, but not really overly rude, disruptive, mean, or anything. He LOVES to work in the 7th grade store. It is like "his territory". He is very responsible about cleaning, ordering, tidying things up, almost possessive about it.

But... he can be a real BUTT for other people, like most any other adult in the school - other teachers, the principal, subs, lunch ladies, anyone and everyone. THe problem - he got in trouble again today - was pretty much from all accounts, terrorizing the entire front lobby before school today. Little kids, slapping, cursing, picking up, harrasing, just being a general all-around jerk to everyone.

How can I tap into this relatively good relationship he has with me, to help him be better behaved other places without making it seem like I am condoning his behaviors? I am appalled that he'd act this way, but I want him to know that I do still care about him. My gosh... truth be known: he is one of my favorite kids this year. How can I turn this into a positive spin?

grrr....grrr.... note the lower case.... low grumbly growl this time :-(

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I am so excited for so many reasons!!!

#1 - I may get to go on the 8th grade trip in March - they are headed to Detroit which must be 7 hours on a bus.... but they are short a chaperone and I just love those kids, and know them well, and was the initiater for the 1st 8th grade trip 3 years ago.... the principal said he couldn't see why not...

#2 - We are getting a spec ed teacher for the 7th graders. It's been so screwy all year... with a part time sub for their Guided Study and another teacher in and out of classrooms. Those kids have really gotten the shaft. Now, this lady, very nice lady... will be in my room for math, then go to language arts with the kids, and then have them in Guided Study for 45 minutes. What an absolute gift!! She is working on her LD certification right now, but will be the perfect fit. She and I talked a long time this afternoon, and it jsut seems so right!

#3 - MAMSE is in March and my presentation proposal was accepted... I planned to spend Christmas break getting organized but I just have not gotten the old mindset set... but I am excited at the opportunity. It will be quite an experience... Hands on Math for active middle schoolers... that is just my thing!!

now... the bad.... today, tomorrow, and Friday are half days.... so.... we have alternate schedule - first I talked to my homeroom about camp - they were so excited... then we tried to do the "Fallout Shelter" problem - the one where you have a list of 10 people, World War III, decided which 6 go into shelter... my group... GRRRRR!!! they just WOULD NOT listen to each other - blurting out - rude comments.... we had to stop.... I am so frustrated with their behaviors. The language arts teacher and I were talking after that... she is also at her wits end with several of our lovelies. It is like they are so stuck in their rut of behaviors... how to break the cycle?? They really are not BAD kids... they just seem so unable to control their impulses.

cold tonight - weather man just said 15 to 25 below.... BRRRR!!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Today was octahedron day. WOW! For so many of the kids, making these 3-D models is a breeze. For others, it is pure torture.

This one little guy 5th hour had made 3 octahedrons before others had even finished the drawing of their #1 model.

The flipside.... one guy spent the entire hour erasing, because even with my step by step instructions and guidance, he was lost. Granted, part of the "lost" is his inability to focus himself. I moved him to my desk so I could record homework grades in the computer next to him while helping him. But unless I actually drew the lines, they were wrong! It is frustrating.... for me and him...

He cannot follow simple directions... spends half the time looking, watching and listening to the others in the low-functioning.... struggles reading.... not special ed.... has been referred for testing but when??? and then what??? He is not in math when the spec ed teacher is in my classroom. She is in there very little anyway, but at least if he was there when she is, he could get some extra help.

Social studies was interesting - I conducted a little "experiment". We had a short section to read out of the social studies book. Nine students chose to go next door to read alone. I allowed 3 partner groups to read in hall. THe other half of the class stayed in the classroom, either reading with a partner or alone. After a reasonable amount of time, I divided them into the hall group, next door group, alone in classroom group, and partner in classrooms and quizzed them as a group on the section. THe "next door-alone" crew did better overall, closely followed by the hall group. Of course, other factors influenced the outcome. The groups I chose for the hall were quieter more trustworthy students I knew could read out there without neing distrated by the activity. The loners next door were even the more studious quiet types. Still - it was interesting.

Friday we take our first online test!! I made it at teacher.web - the questions are all true/false or multiple choice and very easy. I must admit, with the first time using this testing method, I was more worried about the actual setup than the validity of the questions. It should be a learning experience for the kids, but a needed one with the MEAP going to online version in near future. If we are successful Friday (and all 3 social studies classes are taking it... not just mine..) I will attempt this method again, with better questions. The appeal of it grading the questions is a real plus for all 3 of us teachers, I must say.Students will also have essays to answer but we opted to have them separate - my class will have option to type in Word, or write longhand, whichever they prefer.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Success!! OK - for today:

In math class we made tetrahedral pyramids. What fun! For the most part, the students did great with using their compasses to make arcs and create equilateral triangles. The biggest obstacle to success for all of them: inability, or unwillingness, to follow to directions! I don't know what the solution is - they want their hands held every step of the way, no matter what we do. It is like they are so afraid of failure they are unwilling to attempt anything independently.

But on the upside, as I babysat them through the process, they were successful, and made comments like, "This is the funnest thing we've done all year!" "COOL!" "Hey! Look at mine!!"

Another "I love my job" genuine day....
Hmm... I cannot get yesterday's blog to post so this is a test!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

So much for the goal of catching up on the blog over break! Two weeks off school... 4 days of that spent at school... 2 working with the other 7th grade teachers on social studies curriculum - the other 2 doing my stuff, although I spend so much time on social studies it really does not seem worthwhile. I only teach 1 section of SS, and 3 of math and the SS work is split up between the 3 teachers.... so why do I end up spending so much time prepping for that class???

One thing really worthwhile from one of our SS days - we talked a lot about 7th grade camp. Planning for some new classes/adaptations of old ones - to make them more aligned to our curriculum. For example: the outdoor cooking class has traditionally been done with students cooking over a campfire, making some tasty treat like orange cake or baked apples. We want to continue this class - it is a favorite with the kids and worthwhile... but we want to try cookiing something like the colonial people would have cooked - perhaps vegetable soup and johnny cakes. We also talked about a tie-dye class using natural foods to make the dyes - "tie-dye the colonial way". We also talked about potential kids who will not be able to go. Unfortunately our intial list is of 22 students. WOW!! That is of about 90 total. Of course, many of those will end up going, but at this point, we have legitimate concerns about them for various reasons: attitude, attendance, tardies, out & out meaness... this is an interesting group we have this year.

Math this first week after break should be fun for me and the kids. We are making 3-D polygons - cubes, tetrahedral pyramids, square pyramids, dodecahedrons, octahedrons, etc.. I hope students come away with several skills - able to accurately create 3-D models, draw various shapes given directions, draw bisectors, apply their measuring lengths and angles skills to a new situation, explore sides, vertices, edges of various models. I also plan for them to do some journaling about the actual making of these models - the process, what they learn...

It's a new year... let's pray it is a good one!