So, I’m also not really a math teacher this year…

I’m taking a year off from teaching the high schoolers to work with the teachers.  I’m really excited to visit different schools, students, and contexts as I support Boston Teacher Residency Graduates.  For the past week, I’ve been working with people to get their classrooms up and running.  I’ve been giving the same advice a lot, so I thought I’d consolidate it.

1) Keep it simple.  Better to do fewer things more in depth/well than be scattered.  If you have shortened periods, don’t try to cram things in.  As my boss put it, students will remember the “how” more than the “what.”

2) Don’t forget the “how”!  Especially at the beginning of the year, it’s important to outline expectations for how things get done.  Make sure you know how you want everything done and can explain it concisely.

3) What’s the purpose?  Backwards plan even “Unit 0.”  Know exactly why you are doing each activity.  Tell students why and how what they’re doing connects to the course.

4) Be positive and enforce your expectations.  Do it.  From Minute 0.

Happy first day of school, BPS teachers!


Big dreams, small victories

I hope this isn’t horrible to say, but I have found I most enjoy March-August as a teacher. At that point, I know the kiddos and they know me. We can be more relaxed and genuine as we move towards the end of the year. And I can dream big about next year. Seriously big, every year.

I documented much of those dreams here over the past 6 months. And now, at the beginning of the school year, a few of those things are coming into fruition (and many others aren’t).

Small victories, September 2013

– Seniors are problem solving. I’m doing very little; they are doing more than I am. I do occasionally help more than I should, but having students present holds them accountable (or at least makes apparent the times they haven’t fully understood).  Side note: the concepts students get stuck on are fascinating. Two seniors were estimating the amount of M&Ms in a family sized bag. They googled the weight of the bag and the weight of a single M&M and wanted to divide. But the bag weight was in pounds and the M&M weight in grams. They did not see the problem until they divided.

– We are having circle time on Mondays and I am using that time to teach students about various topics that I hope will help them become better students and people. So far, we’ve just talked about Growth Mindset, but this routine is working and I look forward to more topics. And students seem to mostly understand growth mindset and have come down (mostly) on the side of growth > fixed.

– Freshmen are also problem solving. We started a year-long project (students choose from many systems of equations problems and solve them in multiple ways). Students have chosen their own method to solve the first few problems. They analyzed a pattern without any direction from me (besides to find Figure 10 and then the generalization). I’m so. excited. to start the pattern unit for real and to see what they can do/figure out with all the linear (and nonlinear!) problems.

– This week, we are going to have the Algebra students grade themselves on the first unit and provide evidence and reasoning for their self-assessment. As a teacher who wants to foster students’ self-motivation and who probably cares less than she should about side-conversation during worktime and bathroom trips, I hope this kind of activity will help students become better scholars through reflection rather than force.

So. Baby steps in a hopefully good direction.