Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 141: Applied Trigonometry

Apparently, allergies make you look like Hitler...

The Scene: 31 hours before school is closed for  5 days.
The Mood: Anxious

"What would you ever use trig for?" he asked me morosely, not having any idea about my plans for the following day!
"I have no idea. Maybe we'll figure it out" I replied, having a clear plan for the following day.

**cue steepled fingers and foreshadowing look into the camera**

The Scene: 7 hours before school is closed for 5 days.
The Mood: Barely contained excitement (mostly on the part of the teacher)

My geometry students built clinometers!

During the first class, we used washers, string, straws and protractors to create a device that would measure the angle of inclination or depression from our eyes to an object.  We did a quick introduction on how to operate and properly read the device and how to take the calculations to determine the height of an object that was some distance away.

During the second period, we went into the gym!

Working in pairs, students picked four objects around the room, measured the angle of inclination and recorded it on their data sheets.  Then, once I could get to them, we measured the horizontal distance to the objects and, through the power of mathemagic, were able to find the height of the objects!

I cannot express how well this activity went!  During the introduction, I did an example and measured the height of the ceiling.  I messed up the angle measure twice while the kids watched so I got to talk about the importance of precision and accuracy as well as running multiple trials.  They also got to see my thought process on how I correct my mistakes.

In the gym, they picked a wide variety of objects, not the just obvious ones like the basketball net, the scoreboard and the windows.  They picked points on bleachers, clocks, security cameras, chin-up bars, etc.  They worked hard and well, checking their answers with their partners and engaging in the "does that answer make any sense?" discussion.

I was VERY proud of them and VERY impressed with their work.  After the success we had today, I have confidence that they can handle an activity on parallax, which would be a similar activity, except in the dark...

Now I just need to figure out how to set it up in a way that would effectively demonstrate the proper use.  It will clearly need an intro lesson, but I need to decide how much to reveal before do the activity.

I LOVE hands-on activities, especially in math where students are often unaccustomed to it.

The pre-algebra students took a quiz today.  It was a 4 question, open-ended quiz and they could work with a partner, but each person had to turn in their own work. Even this late in the year, I'm still trying to get them to do more than just calculation.  I haven't given up on them, but I am easing them back towards where I want.

I think that my major short-coming with that class this year has been my desire to move them out of their comfort zones WAY too quickly.  I know they are capable of amazing things, but throwing them in the deep end of the metacognitive pool was probably not the best choice.  A few of them swam, a few flailed about for help, inadvertently slapping their would-be rescuers, and some angrily crossed their arms and sat at the bottom of the pool.

We spent the last week or two in the shallow end and they did very well.  Now, I am slowly trying to walk them into deeper water.

I started the class by helping them to review ANY questions from the chapter that concerned them.  They asked some good ones and we talked again about how to effectively set up fractions using words first.

Period 4/5 (with half of the students missing) worked VERY well in the partner groups.  There were side conversations happening, but they were mostly on task and working quietly.  This was one of the first times this year that I felt they truly cared about doing well.

It was short-lived, but it was a step in the right direction!

Period 8/9 did not do as well.  Three or four students simply refused to stop talking in spite of my repeatedly asking them to.  The behavior of the two pre-algebra classes between yesterday and today seemed to have flip-flopped.

In addition to all of this, I found out this morning that I was nominated for a Bammy Award!  I am deeply honored that someone, let alone several, feel that what I write is good enough for an award.  If you feel so as well, you can vote here.  I would greatly appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 140: Where Have All The Students Gone

We continued our work on trig ratios in geometry.  We had a cool discussion about the roots of words and the benefits of taking Latin if you plan to do any work in math or science.  Today's lesson was primarily to get them familiar and comfortable with using the ratios and the trig tables.  We got to talk about my new favorite topic: the difference between doing calculation and doing math.

"The trig table does the calculation for you, so that you can free up your mind to do the math."

A student, in a fit of confusion and frustration, asked what we would ever use this for.  I almost never get this question in the geometry class, so I did a simple example of a wheelchair ramp and went into depth about the other applications.  I could tell how anxious he was, so I tried to make it as real as possible.

Since this group is pretty great at going along with me in my theoretical journey's in math, I sometimes forget that they need the application to tie the concepts to.

Weather permitting, tomorrow we will be making clinometers and calculating the heights of buildings and trees outside, or in the gym.  I'm pretty pumped about it.

In pre-algebra, 1 student attempted the homework.  Between 2 classes, only one student did what I asked them to do last night.  I don't mean that only one completed the assignment.  Only one student even had anything written in their workbook, let alone brought it to class.

My class has somehow become a spectator sport and I don't know how.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe the word problems were too complicated.

A coat that normally sells for $90 is on sale for 45%. If you have $45, do you have enough to buy the coat? Explain your answer.

After 5 minutes of pulling teeth, I couldn't even get them to tell me how they would start it.

I am struggling deeply with determining if they don't understand, or if they are simply too lazy to make an attempt.  I go back to the concept that if I ask the class for an answer, or a method, or input, I don't get any sort of response.  If I ask a specific student, they certainly seem capable enough, but getting them to take a moment to think about what they're saying is, as I said, like pulling teeth.

They have gotten into the habit as well of setting up fractions by putting down the numbers in random places.  I've been drilling into them that we need to think about, and write down in words, which number represents which concepts.

What I've been asking them to do, as in the example above is to look at 45/100 (for the percent) as (discount amount)/(original amount).  But I'm having tremendous trouble getting them to do it consistently.

They are so anxious to get an answer that they don't seem to care if it's right or not, or even if it makes sense.  The MOST frustrating part is that the entire section that we're covering right now is about finding a reasonable answer.

Period 8/9, while they hadn't completed the assignment, or even attempted it, for homework, did amazingly well with the discussion.  It was NOT pulling teeth with them.  They were eager to do the work and we had some pretty great discussions about places when estimations are useful, such as gas mileage, determining if you have enough money to buy a few items.

As much as period 4/5 got me frustrated today, period 8/9 went swimmingly.  I would rather they had done the work at home, but I'll take active class participation any day of the week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 139: Interruptions

In preparation for an intense 3 days of trigonometry, I worked on a modified version of the Trig Intro from the brilliant Tina Cardone.  We got about 10 minutes into the lesson when they began calling large groups of students to the auditorium to take yearbook pictures for clubs.  Since the majority of my geometry students are in a majority of the clubs, I once again, lost almost an entire day's worth of instruction. 

With the few students who were left, someone made the foolish and excellent mistake of asking "Mr. Aion, what's the deal with Pascal's Triangle?"

As a result, my geometry students, many of whom will be in Algebra 2 next year were treated to a quick tangent (haha!!) on number theory, rabbit reproduction, Sierpinski Triangles and binomial expansion.  As I showed more and more examples, my excitement grew.  I explained to the students that THAT was what I loved about math: not that there was an answer, or that it followed certain rules, or that I can do calculations in my head.  I LOVE the patterns that exist in nature and the multitude of places that the reality of mathematics can be found outside of the classroom.

Once enough students came back from pictures, we were able to get underway with the activity.  I got through enough of it that I asked the students to figure out the relationship between sine, cosine and tangent.  After a minute or two of staring at it, one of the kids came up with the fact that the tangent was the sine divided by the cosine.

So I was able to show them these:

I used to have the idea that I wanted to put up a math comic or joke every week and offer bonus points to whomever could explain why it was funny.  We have talked about how learning can be defined as the ability to ask a question that you couldn't before.  I would add that you've learned something when you can understand a joke that you didn't previously.

The weekend must have been rough on the pre-algebra kids.  They were sluggish and aloof, much more so than usual.  They also got stuck on a problem that I thought was fairly basic and got stuck in a spot where I didn't think they should have.

Latoya gave 35% of her allowance to her sister and 25% to her brother.  She was left with $12.  How much does Latoya get for her allowance?

Even as I type this, I hate the problem.  There are MUCH better ways to deal with percent and no one thinks about giving their allowance away in percentages...

In any event, period 4/5 could get to the point where they knew she had given away 60% of her allowance.  What they COULDN'T get to, even after several minutes of directed questions, was how to relate the 60% that she gave away with the $12 that were left.

I have gotten much better at the kinds of questions that I ask, making sure that they direct student thinking instead of simply asking for an answer.  Even so, I couldn't find the right question to ask that would get a kid to say anything like "She has 40% of her allowance left, so 40% of something is $12."

Since I moved the pre-algebra classes back into rows, their attention to task has been much improved.  In contrast, the attention in geometry has gotten worse.  I think the groups were very beneficial to them, but the layout of my room doesn't really allow me to switch desks around every period.  Perhaps we'll try it when we get back from Easter break.

The pre-algebra kids managed to retain much of what we talked about last week in terms of doing certain percentages in their heads and I was really proud of them for it.  They are all bright enough, but retention of material something that we need to work on.

For the most part, it was a pretty good day.  I'm still tired though.  I need to sleep more and eat more fruits and vegetables...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Letter From a Reader

I got the following the email from one of my readers.  This person wanted to talk to me about their first year as a classroom teachers and the struggles that they went through.  The story tugged at my heart and helped me to remember that teachers are never alone in our struggles.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in, there is someone else out there who is facing similar trials.

I have removed identifiers from the email, but otherwise have copied it here.

Sorry this took a while to write. It's finally here.

It is your daily reflect that I admire. I have always felt introspection/reflection is what has allowed me to grow to become a teacher, and from there grow to become a better teacher little by little. When I shared your blog earlier today afterI discovered it, I likened it to how photographers do 360 photo-a-day blog projects to rekindle their creativity. It's not everyday that someone can be so honest about themselves--even more so in a public way--it takes a lot of bravery and the willpower of someone who genuinely wants to improve. Needless to say, I was inspired.

Onto my story--earlier this year, I had been hired for my first full-time teaching position to teach all subjects to 8th graders. I had a self-contained class of 35 students who stayed with me all day as I taught them all topics like elementary school classrooms do. I had everything you could wish for in your dream school: an enormous classroom maybe the size of 2 regular classes, a copier machine outside my “door” (I had no door), cabinets full of card-stock to use for printing at will, etc.

I liked 8th grade because I got to teach US history and algebra--and most importantly, leadership. Having the oldest students in the school meant I could give them a sense of responsibility as role-models for all the others. That was my classroom management strategy: inspire leadership and students will manage themselves. That went hand in hand with just having a well-planned lesson would keep everyone engaged in learning. With so much riding in my favor, like fully stocked supplies, I thought nothing could ruin the experience.

Yet it was before I taught students anything, or even had an icebreaker with them did things already begin to sour. My school had a tradition of having a day where students could meet their teachers before the first day of school. Each teacher had a booth where they had goodies to give out as they spoke with each prospective student. It was only after the event that I learned from my fellow 8th grade teacher that students wanted to move out of my classroom--or rather, it was their parents who made the call. They complained that they did not want to have a first year teacher for their children.

It didn't bother me too much since it turned out that many parents wanted to move their children into my class since I made a pretty good impression to many. The big idea is that parents wanted to have control over these decisions, yet in doing so, it undermined the authority of the school and furthermore, it painted a picture of me as ineffective and novice.

My administrators blocked all requests to move and my students got along with me for the first week or two. I had break-throughs in getting kids excited about physical science. Yet more parents continued to make requests to get their child out of my class. I sat in on a meeting with one of them. They cited things like how their child learned best with competition and rewards and how he was more of a bodily kinesthetic learner. I was able to cite many examples of how active we were in reviewing integers with physical movement, yet could not agree with them on using competition and rewards since that was like suggesting to me how I should teach. I solved this “PR” mess by inviting the parents to stay after the meeting to observe my teaching. All went well and I didn't hear anymore complaints from those parents.

Then my principal started visiting my classroom every day for observation. I’m very comfortable with visitors, and he offered good feedback that he liked what he saw. It was around this time, a few weeks into school that my students impression of me started to change. They didn't stand in straight lines (we walk students back to class), they took longer to recognize my attention cues, and they would pass around notes in class. My vice-principal suggested that I should take some time from instruction to do more icebreakers, just to get to know them more. This seemed out of place since given the timing. She gave me some questionnaires to use for gathering information I could integrate into lessons. I thought to myself, that there are some things that I could change about myself to make learning happen.

Yet spending that time on those activities pushed some other subjects off my planning. My students would talk to the students in the other 8th grade classroom and learn that we were “behind.” This inevitably spread to the parents who, again, took action to complain. This vicious cycle looks like this: parents had low expectations of me -> they complain -> I implement changes -> unintended consequences -> students start to have low expectations -> respect is lost -> classroom management is a nightmare.

In one incident, a boy had taken a red ribbon from Red Ribbon Week and put it in his hair. I asked him to remove it because it was distracting to those around him. He responded by asking why it's not okay. I repeated that it was distracting. It went in circles like this similar to one of your blog posts in a back-and-forth you had with a girl in your class. It was a mistake to go back and forth on such a ludicrous issue that should have been a simple situation. It just reinforced the defiance. I felt so angry at being disrespected, having an argument with a student. Then slowing down, I realized kids keep asking the same question because they just disagree with your reason. Only when I brought up that the ribbon symbolized something important and that much time had been wasted in the moment did he then remove it. The easy way out would have been to send him up to the principal right away, but I felt I “lost” no matter what.

In another incident, some girls were caught passing around notes in my classroom. I had a small conference with them after class, and before I uttered a word, the girl in question said “why are you singling me out?” as if I was the culprit and that she was the victim. I was reminded of an incident like this in your blog when it seems like students don't understand how harmful they can be to the learning time of other students. She proceeded to tell me that “other students were passing notes too,” and did not give away names. I was not happy with this and so I told her I would notify her parents. Unfortunately for me, the apple did not fall too far from the tree as her mom defended her daughter, asking, “you do know that you have students texting in your classroom?” I learned later that her mom was very vocal in a ring of daily emails between parents that nitpicked on everything that happened in class.

I started to feel that students didn't like me, that when parents complained, it started to bother me. I tried to take action to get on everyone's good side. I reorganized my classroom, got new furniture, set up classroom stations, even going so far as to seat more friends beside one another (that was a huge mistake). My principal explained that I was what he would call a “people-pleaser” since he was one too. A people-pleaser is someone who teaches or works best when everyone gets along or when everyone likes you. It really started getting to me that I could not manage my classroom because students had lost their respect for me. I had exhausted everything I felt I could do to please them.

That's how I burned out.

When I read your blog about the things you do in class, it seems like you, too, might be somewhat of a people-pleaser--which is not necessarily a bad thing. You've got fun cartoons on your white boards, you try new ways of learning/teaching, etc. I visited my university supervisor and shared all this with her and she said it was a cultural phenomenon. Depending on where you live and work, some places give more respect to the teacher, and others “worship” children. I happened to be working in a place that placed children on pedestals--such that it made me feel like if something was wrong, that it was a problem with me and that I had to change myself to fix it. By being too much of a people-pleaser with all my actions, it subverted my own self-respect. So not only did parents and students not have respect, but I too was contributing to my own demise by giving in to them.

I had received anonymous hate mail. My principal was not around to investigate and administrators from above him started visiting the schools, asking, “have you seen what they have been saying about our school on” subtly communicating that I was the cause of it all. In trying to find out who was the sender, I started being suspicious of my students. It made me feel uneasy that I had to find out who hated me that much--that I too might not like my students. Then inside me, I started to hate teaching: I set up such a great learning environment, why don't they like it, and why don't they learn? How could my first job teaching be so malignant?

I phoned in a day-off just like you mention in your latest post. I thought taking one day off work would help me get myself together. Then I took another. It still wasn't enough, so I took one more. On that last day, I scheduled to meet with one of my administrators. At the time, I was distraught, telling him to “please find a good teacher for them” as I had lost confidence in my own ability to teach. I submitted my letter of resignation thereafter.

Since then, I went back to substitute teaching, which is where I originally fell in love with teaching and others discovered my talent. It has helped me regain my confidence and, most importantly, my love for students and teaching. Gone are the days of suspecting students of hate mail and being the gossip of bitter parents. I have concluded that somewhere out there is a school that can really appreciate the thoughtfulness I bring to the classroom. Resilience in the face of all those pressures is important, but you need to know your limits and how to uphold your dignity.

When you said you were feeling ineffective and helpless, that's like how I was when I thought I had done everything I could, yet it wasn't reciprocated or appreciated. I don't have much in terms of wisdom or advice, but I want to let you know that our stories might take different paths, but they seem to have that similarity. I guess, if I do have anything to share, it would be to take steps that make it so you like teaching, and that you're happy. For me that was taking a few days off and ultimately resigning. That might not be for everyone.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 138: Newton's Laws and Mental Percentages

We are about to delve into trig (my favorite topic) in geometry, so instead of starting a new section, I decided to hold off until Monday.  Instead, we covered a few questions about special right triangles and watched another episode of Cosmos.  Several students quietly asked some very insightful questions about the mathematics of Newton's Laws of Planetary Motion.

In pre-algebra, I continued my plan to keep the lights low, and side conversations to a minimum.  The students were a little bit more boisterous, but got back on task when I needed them to.

In period 4/5, we had an extended conversation about lottery winnings and whether it made sense to take your winnings as a lump sum or as an annuity payment.  Several students felt they would be willing to take a lower value of winnings to have a guaranteed check every year, in case something happened.  Others felt they would rather it all because they it would be worth more if they invested it.  The discussion was very interesting.

We moved from lottery winnings to the banking system, interest and how banks make money.  In the examples I used, I had the banks paying 1% interest to depositors and charging 10% interest to the borrowers.

Using nice round numbers, I was able to help them boost their confidence and spend more time on math rather than calculation.  In both classes, we did a ton of verbal practice with me calling out questions and kids rushing to answer them.

"What is 10% of 230?"
"What is 25% of 12?"

I made sure to emphasize that the purpose was not to force them to do all of this in their heads but to let their heads do the work so they can think about other things.  There were several who claimed they would rather set up proportions and do it that way.  Who am I to tell them they can't be less efficient if they want...

In period 8/9, we had a discussion about the reasonableness of an answer.  I demonstrated the value of that using Google Earth.  I asked the students to pick a city that they couldn't find on a map.  They picked Indianapolis.

Me: "Great. What DO you know about where it is?"
S: "It's in Indiana."
Me: "So would it be reasonable for me zoom in on France?"
S: "No, because it's in the United States, so zoom in there."
Me: "Now what?"
S: "Now zoom in on Indiana (which was labeled.)"

We did several of these types of examples with me picking Crimea and Toronto.

Me: "So, how does this help us?"
S: "It helps us to narrow down the space to look."

And then there was a fight outside of my classroom.  One teacher was sent to the hospital after suffering an asthma attack and one of the girls was sent back to class.

It's the weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 137: Analyzing A Change

Since we have missed 2 days of geometry this week, I decided that we needed to cover some content to catch up, so we delved into special right triangles.  We had an excellent discussion in which we derived the rules for 45-45-90's and 30-60-90's, starting with Pythagorean Theorem.  After we calculated the sides on several, I asked if anyone was able to identify a pattern.

I then asked them, if I were given side lengths of 4 times the square root of two and a hypotenuse length of 8, how could I draw the triangle without a protractor to measure the angle.  We had a great discussion about creating smaller right triangles of side length 4 and using the hypotenuse of those to make the legs of the new triangle.

I was very pleased with how they worked together, bouncing ideas off of each other to develop a theory.  What I said a few days ago about having them trust me is, I think, very accurate.  They ask clarifying questions that might be considered risky in other classes.  They put out there what they understand and what they don't in an effort to make the amount of the former grow and the latter shrink.

It takes a ton of courage for anyone to ask for help or to admit weakness, let alone a 13-year-old.

In pre-algebra, we had a discussion about depreciation and the value of being the first owner of a car, or pair of shoes, or anything.

Me: "You go to the store and they're selling a brand new pair of Jordan's for $180.  Right next to it, is exactly the same pair for $140.  What question do you have?"
S: "Why is the one less?"
Me: "That's a good question! When you ask, the salesperson tells you that the $140 pair was worn once and returned.  Looking at them, you can't tell the difference. Which one do you buy?"
S: "You gotta buy the new ones?"
Me: "Why?"
S: "Those are used shoes.  Even if they look new, you'll know that they aren't and that they weren't yours first."
Me: "And that feeling is worth $40 to you?"
S: "Absolutely. They have to be your shoes."

It was an interesting discussion and helped me to understand my students a little bit more.  In my mind, I would rather save the money, but I look at shoes as shoes and not as a status symbol.  I think it's enlightening to be reminded that I frequently have very different priorities than my students.

They were VERY engaged in the discussion, but as soon as I asked them to produce something, about half shut off.  This is very typical of what I've seen.  They are interested in the discussion, but then...

The biggest challenge that I have had consistently with my 8th grade students in this year, as well as previous years, is transitioning them from talking to doing.  Either that, or I need a MUCH better way of assessing knowledge verbally.

Period 8/9 had an amazing discussion along the same lines, but I think it was more effective in helping them to understand the concept of percents.

I proposed two scenarios.

In the first, they went into Best Buy and saw two identical TV's.  One was labeled $300 while the other is labeled "Used!"  We went around and discussed how much the used TV would have to cost for the students to choose that over the new one.  How much would you have to save in order to give up the idea of being the first owner?

After some discussion, we came to a consensus that it would take a savings of $50 to get them to buy the used TV.

In the second scenario, they went to the dealership to buy a MiniCooper with a sticker price of $16,000.  At the dealership, they also found an identical Mini labeled "Used."  I asked them if they would buy the used Mini for a price of $15,950.  They very adamantly said they would not.

Me: "Why not? You just said you would buy a used TV to save $50. Why wouldn't you buy a used car to save $50? $50 is $50!"
S: "Yeah, but with the car, $50 is nothing!"
Me: "Isn't $50 the same $50 no matter where it is?"
S: "Yeah, but on the car, it doesn't really mean anything because the car costs so much more."

After a bit of coaxing and directed questions, I finally got someone to say the word percentage.

It turns out, the $50 was 16.6% of the TV's price and only 0.3125% of the car's price.  This lead to a longer discussion about marketing strategies and why it's important to understand the math behind advertising.

Overall, another great day!  A student with whom I had a very combative interaction yesterday was on amazing behavior today.  At the end of class, she said "Man! Today went by so fast! Were we really here for an hour and a half?"

We had a brief conversation about how this is how I WANT the classroom to be.  When she asked why it wasn't, I just looked her in the eye and waited.

"It's cause I'm too loud, right?"

I smiled and thanked her for joining our learning environment today.

So I have changed the look and feel of my classroom.  It is now much more like it was last year.  The students are back in rows, although the sit in pairs in those rows.  I've also been keeping the lights off.  I used to keep the lights off because I couldn't see my projector with them on, but now I keep them off because it conveys a sense of calm.

One of my colleagues came to observe my class yesterday.  He made a ton of notes about the atmosphere, the environment and my movements and interactions with the students.  It was fascinating to see what he saw in terms of the ways that I spoke with students and where I was, physically, in the room.

Doubly interesting was how, if he had come last week, he would have seen something MUCH different.  By having the students in rows facing the board, I am very limited in where I can be and still interact with them and the board.  He also noted that the few negative interactions that I had were primarily with male students.  I attribute this to the fact that the primary disruptions (both female students) were no in the room, but it is something to think about.

It was the kind of observation that I've been craving since day one and I am deeply grateful to him for taking time out of his day to do it.  I hope that I'll get the chance to sit and have a longer discussion with him.  I need to make a conscious effort to listen to his feedback and not try to justify my actions.  I know that he came in because I put out a cry for help and his only interest is helping me to become a better teacher.  I trust him implicitly, but I know that my first response will be "Yeah, but this is why..."

I'll need to keep a rein on that if I want to learn anything, which I desperately do.

In totally unrelated news, one of our teachers went out on maternity leave.  The sub they hired to fill the spot quit before our teacher left.  The sub they got to replace her quit after 2 days.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 136: PSSA Day 5

These are the tests that neveeeer eeeeeend! Yes, they go on and on MYYY FRIIIEEEEEEND!  **Everybody sing with me!**
Some people started taking them, not knowing really why! And they'll continue taking them until everyone cries!
**insert joke about puppets, proctoring and proctology**
After my near melt-down yesterday, I thought long and hard about solutions.  I had some great conversations with some amazing people on Twitter that helped me to clarify my goals and ways that I can achieve those goals.  I spoke with my principal about specific students and my plans for them and she supported my choices.

I am desperate to not make decisions out of anger this year, so having the night to think it over, I've made some choices that I think will be educationally beneficial to my pre-algebra students.

I put the room back in rows and assigned seats.  The choice to go back to rows was a difficult one because I don't feel it's the best way for students to learn, but until the behavior gets under control, no one is learning anyway.

It was...


The lesson for pre-algebra was VERY basic. (What is 30% of 50?)  I kept the lights off, and started with a basic question.

"You go into a store to buy a $30 shirt.  When you get there, you find that it's on sale for 20% off.  How much are you going to pay for it?"

We had a good discussion about what 20% off actually means and if, depending on how you think about it, would it make more sense to find the new price first, or find the amount of the discount and then subtract from the original.

We spent some time as a group going over setting up proportions and I kept reminding them that this is what we've been doing for a few months now.  90% of the students were engaged. Whose who didn't have their books were writing things of pieces of paper.  As I called on random students to give me answers, others yelled out to show that they knew it too.

They were arguing over who got to answer and were asking good clarifying questions.  It was as though it was a completely different class.  I wonder if they read my blog yesterday...

After we did several problems as a group, I gave them a short break and then an individual assignment that we would go over at the end of the period.  Most of them worked very well on it and I made sure to shower praise for their efforts.

In period 8/9, I had to remove three students in the first 5 minutes.  After that, I had an almost identical experience to period 4/5.  Students were engaged and participating.  They weren't afraid to answer questions when they were unsure.  They were willing to take risks by volunteering and were disappointed when someone answered before they did.

In both classes, the atmosphere was positive, supportive, energetic and happy.

This is the point where every teacher reading this will say, out loud, "Well DUH!"

The removal of one or two students will completely change the dynamics of a class.

A part of me is trying to be upset about having a day of direct instruction, but I'm going to push that away and bask in the glow of an amazing day!

Middle school students are fickle.  I'll happily take it though.  Today gave me hope and renewed some of my energy.

Today was a great day!

And then I got interviewed by a reporter at the New York Times.  I'd better go to bed now before I jinx everything!
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