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.