Tuesday 27 August 2013

Day -7

I start school in a week.  (I'm going with the first day being day 0 since we have shortened classes and much mayhem.)  Three of my own children started school today, leaving me home with only my 4-year old who will only go to school on Thursday this week (staggered start).  As a result, I am trying to be productive and do some of what I had all summer to do, yet didn't.

Our grade 9 academic math course begins with polynomials and exponent laws.  Ugh.  Students struggle with this unit above all others and it is what we hit them with first.   I had thought of changing the order but since taking Jo Boaler's "How to Learn Math" course, I think the problem lies in HOW we are teaching it.  We need to work with patterns instead of having students simplify abstract expressions by remembering (or not) rules.  What worked for many of us, does not work for so many of them.  Attempting to work this in while keeping peace with my co-workers is challenging.  We all teach the same thing on the same day using the same lesson.  This can be a fantastic model if teachers are on the same page and truly working collaboratively...

I started by creating an activity sheet for kids to work through five linear patterns involving only positive quantities and five linear patterns that use positive and negative objects.

I stole most of these from Fawn Nguyen's Visual Patterns site. Thanks to Fawn's brilliant post on Pattern Posters for Algebra I, I have a better framework for what I am doing.  I will start by working through a pattern with them (this is straight from Fawn - have I mentioned how much I love her?).  

Or maybe two.  You see, I am still not sure what I'm doing.  By that I mean that not having done this particular activity in this course before, I'm not sure how it will play out.  What patterns they will find. Whether they will differ from each other's and mine.  What I will need to ask to get kids to persevere or get on the right track.  How long it will take.  I am fine with not knowing how it will go - I know where I want them to get and have a good idea of how to help them get there.  However, I find it very difficult to just give this "lesson" to other teachers who may or may not buy in.  I feel like I need some kind of narrative to go with it, but I don't have my own yet.  Add to that the fact that the time will have to be "shared" with review from grade 8 (order of operations, working with fractions and integers) makes me feel overwhelmed.  I would like to take the time to do this properly and I believe in doing that, the review will happen naturally.  But I know that will not fly with some of my colleagues so I have to try to make it all work together.  And I need to have this sorted out by tomorrow (!) as others need to photocopy.  So any advice you can give would be great!

Thursday 1 August 2013

It's Not Easy Being Us

Being a connected educator is hard!  It takes time and dedication and time and organization and time and willingness to learn and share and time.  Attempting to stay on top of twitter feeds and blog posts is nearly impossible while teaching full time and having some kind of life outside school.  However, it is, for me, the only way to be a teacher.  I want to learn and get better at what I do.  I love to teach.  I love to see that spark in the kids' eyes when they "get it".  I love seeing the satisfaction a kid feels when they have struggled through a problem and finally understand.  I love seeing kids have fun in class and hearing them talk about it afterwards.  I love having a positive influence on their lives.  But I know I don't always.  I know I have done things "the wrong way" a lot.  Which is why the MTBoS is so important to me.  I want to continue improving.  Had I not been deeply into Twitter I would not have known about Twitter Math Camp, which is the most valuable PD I have ever had.  I would not have known about Jo Boaler's "How to Learn Math" course from which I have learned a tremendous amount.  I would not have found all those 3-act math tasks, great ideas from Fawn or my favourite classroom game from Nathan.  I would not have heard about so many great teaching books that will help me continue to learn more and get better.  I would not have been exposed to people who think differently than I do and make me think deeply.

None of this could have happened for me if I hadn't committed to Twitter.  It is akin to a relationship in that if you don't invest any time in it, you aren't really going to get much out of it. There are times when I cannot get on Twitter.  Days may go by when I am swamped with school stuff and kid stuff and just have to let it go.  But Feedly keeps on collecting blog posts for me to read so that I hopefully won't miss anything great.  And the great thing about Twitter is that you can just jump right back in.

My colleagues at school, like many of yours, brush off any mention of Twitter.  They don't understand its value.  They say they don't have time.  I make time.  My kids are into Jiu-Jitsu so I am at the dojo five days a week.  I mark tests there.  I catch up on Twitter there.  I read blog posts there.  I write blog posts there.  I get to school very early every day to get work done.  My life is such that I have to be efficient with my time.  My house may not be clean (ever) but my children are (mostly) happy, always well fed :) and loved and my students always get the best I can give.  Being the best I can be is a moving target though - there's always something else that comes along to challenge me.  And I accept that challenge!

In the title I wrote that it's not easy being "us".  I really believe that despite geographic separation, we, the MTBoS, are connected in our love for learning and becoming better teachers.  We support each other and genuinely care.  What more could I ask for?