My budding love of teaching, stemming from my larger love of math and learning

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I survived! I survived the first day of school in my third new school. I have no more to write because I am brain dead and I still need to figure out what I am going to do tomorrow. But yes I am alive.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not As Painful

The last three days we have been curriculum mapping in our district; at the start I thought it would be really painful. I was mostly scared of inputing the State Standards. I get dizzy looking at the standards. Up to this year, CO standards were confusing and wordy.

Well things weren't as painful as I thought it would be.

Since math is kind of a textbook driven subject (more on this later), most of what I needed to input into the ATLAS curriculum map was straight from my textbook. First I made a unit for each of the 13 chapters. Second, I used the title of each lesson within each chapter for my content. Then I used the objectives for each lesson as my skills (bold action verb of course). And lastly (the part that was the least painful of the day, but I thought would be the worse) was importing the state standards.

Why was this not painful you ask? Because my textbook company ROCKS!!! Glencoe/McGraw-Hill is AWESOME. They have matched the Colorado state standards for Mathematics (the new ones), which by the way have not even been loaded on the CDE website (go on, I dare you to find them, because if you do you should be in the FBI), to the content in the book. It was so easy to follow the document and choose the appropriate standards in the ATLAS program.

Now a note on the textbook driven statement: I am a teacher and I want to be the best teacher I can be. So this year because I am new to teaching Geometry, I am going to follow the book. I am hoping to revise objectives as I go along, as well as write essential questions and supporting questions.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Actually Won Something...

I never win anything that is by chance! My name never gets drawn out of the hat, I don't win the scratch tickets, I am never the 1 millionth shopper.

This morning our superintendent started off the day by pulling names out of hats for things that she had picked up at a teacher store earlier last week. There were some great things and it was exciting at first seeing all the great things, then I remembered...I don't win things.

Well wasn't I surprised when she said my name...I was SHOCKED actually. I was just starting to say to my neighbor, "my name NEVER gets pulled out of hats".

I was able to pick up the game Spot It!, I ran down the aisle just like on the 'Price is Right' (actually our art teacher was humming the theme song in the row behind me), picked up my prize, and went back to my seat to read the directions. Then my head started to what a great game and I could totally adapt this to content...if I had time.

So when I get time I am going to try to make a content specific game on Spot It! I am not really sure how this is going to happen yet. I am probably going to try to set it up in MS Excel. But I will definitely be sure to post it here when I do.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just like onions: “The more you peel them back, the more you want to cry.”

I make it a point to not really talk politics. I am not a poli sci major, I don't teach gov't and I get my source of political news from Joe, Mika, and Willy (and Luke Russert when I get lucky...just a little crush there ;)) on Morning Joe. I have other things to focus on in my daily life (i.e. Essential Questions, learning targets, engaging classroom activities). But this is one political measure that I will talk about and I will campaign with all my might AGAINST!

If you live in Colorado and are a registered voter (if not GO HERE and register), I urge you to please, please please VOTE NO on Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101.

I am not going to explain each ballot measure here. I will turn you to the Coloradans for Responsible Reform and their website 'Don't Hurt Colorado'. Each measure is explained here, and an explanation of why it would be bad for Colorado is included.

I was aware of these measures prior to this morning, but I didn't realize the impact that they would have on our district if passed. Looking at the cash flow and budget graphs I was scared out of my mind. We have a balanced budget, we have worked on a balanced budget (no thanks to the state changing the fiscal year in 1993), and if these measures are dismissed, we will continue to work on a balanced budget, was the message I got this morning from our superintendent. If these measures pass, we will not have a balanced budget, and there is a possibility that we will have to close our doors because there will be NO money to operate.

Supports of these measures are put it nicely. They run shady campaigns and use the method of "we'll keep quiet and hope voters know nothing about a initiative until they read it on the ballot; ensure that the ballot question characterizes complicated initiatives as little more than tax cuts." The politicians that support these measures are being backed by individuals that will profit from privatized education, which is where education will go if public schools have to close their doors. With 38% (and as high as 89% in some districts) of children in Colorado public schools qualifying for free/reduced lunches, can you imagine what will happen to those children that can't afford to go to school. Might end up looking a little like our health care system.

If these pass they will not only hurt schools, but also small business owners and eventually all members of a community. For example: Prop 101 will actually decrease funding to road services, including snow plowing. Um we live in COLORADO snows here...A LOT. You live on a county road...touch luck, you won't be getting out when that 12 inch storm comes, which means you can't get to work. You think that is going to save you $$$.

There is a lot of information out there on these ballot measures, I urge you to PLEASE be educated when you vote on Nov 2, 2010. Please don't get caught up in the smoke and mirrors of the supports of these measure, because that is just what it is smoke and mirrors. In anything that I have read tonight, I have seen no solutions to the problems, all I have seen is "this will help the state", well HOW will is help the state. There are no hard numbers. If you read new articles, websites, blogs against these measures, numbers and $$ projections are given and it is SCARY!!!!

If you are reading this and you are a registered voter in another state, PLEASE make sure that you are educated on your ballot issues this fall, because I am sure that there are other states out there too that are facing similar issues.

This isn't written very eloquently, but it was written passionately.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Completely OVERWHELMED!!!

I don't even know where to start. With going back to school full time starting Monday, my to do list just keeps getting longer and longer and longer, and what do I decided to do...write this post.

To Do (no particular order because I don't know where to start:
1) Finish setting up room (post bell schedules, make tardy sign sheets,
2) Finish writing syllabus (3 all slightly different), write supply lists for students
3) Get ready for 3 days of curriculum mapping (objectives, essential questions, etc.)
4) Read Student/Staff Handbook
5) Write/Prepare materials for first couple lessons
6)Decide on how my 3 classes will be set up
7)Plan first two days of school...i.e. intros, class explanations, handing out books, etc.
8)Print class rosters with column for book numbers

And lots and lots and lots more stuff that I can't even think of right now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inception...Not the Movie, but What We Do As Teachers

When I saw this movie, I wasn't really expecting to go to it that night. It is not usually the type of movie that I would spend $9.50 for a ticket and $9.00 (well half of this) for a Hot Date combo (never actually shared with a HOT DATE).

The night I went was the night before I left for a 3-day Colorado River trip. My mind was filled with: Did I remember all my gear? Am I going to make it through the rapids rowing on my own for the first time (I was super super super nervous)? Is it going to rain, because I didn't bring my tent? And, Do I have enough adult beverages to sustain me for 3-days, on the river, through the desert, with the sun beating down on me?

So, within 30 minutes of pulling into my friends place for the night, we were planning on walking out the door to go to the movies. Like I said, not usually what I would have spent money on...I would have picked 'Despicable Me'. But my friend M. Payne loves movies, and 'Inception' was right up his alley.

Walking out of the movie theater the only thing I was thinking was "Wow, who was the 'genius' that combined 'The Matrix', 'Vanilla Sky', and 'Ocean's Eleven' into 1 film and thought it would be good." I think it goes without saying it didn't instantly become my favorite movie and and I didn't give another thought to it, didn't applying any of it to my live, and get my sights on my 3-day river trip.

BUT then I read Tom D's post on 'Inception', and again he has BLOWN ME AWAY. I would NEVER had linked this movie to what I inspire to doing with my teaching. I am not even going to try to repeat or throw my spin on what his thoughts are because I am still processing it all. He has given me more to think about going into this school year. What we do as teachers is INCEPTION! If you are teacher, and plenty of my friends out there are, please read Tom's post on Inception. I can only hope that one day I can be settled in my curriculum and can start thinking about teaching the way that he does. Thanks again Mr. D!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where do I buy the fireworks?

So as I sit here and try to write out some lesson plans I am wondering to myself, WHY BOTHER? Everything you need to know is right in the book: Definitions to vocab words, examples, guided practice problems, even the problems that you should assign from homework.

So why am I spending so much time on lessons? Because I have decided that the book is boring. It is how you and I were taught math. Who wants to sit there and be lectured. Even asking the kids questions can get boring. Now I understand that every lesson can have the "bangs and whistles" but a little excitement...and not just for the kids. I get bored too!! And I LOVE LOVE LOVE math.

I use a lesson template with 5 sections from Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith:
Intro: Whet the students appetites
Direct Instruction: Direct the learning/Facilitate, without necessarily lecturing
Guided Practice: Provide opportunities for students to work with new material/ideas Independent Practice: Encourage student autonomy
Closure: Emphasize key Points

I try to bring in parts from the 5-E Instruction Model (A frame-work for Inquiry Based Instruction):
Engage: Gain Attention
Explore: Facilitate students' thinking
Explain: Help students to create meaning
Elaborate: Apply and extend learning
Evaluate: assess student learning/gain feedback

The 5-E Model is more appropriate for science learning, but why shouldn't it be used in the math classroom. I mean, math can be inquiry based, right? So I use a combination of both...or at least I try.

Where I get caught is with the Intro/Engage. When I taught science it was really easy to have a cool Intro/Engage or it is sometimes called a Hook. I get stalled out when trying to think about initial engagement, and then I am not focused on the rest of the lesson. Which is usually too bad, because I spend so much time on trying to think about at great hook, and then I don't put what needs to be put into the independent practice/elaborate. And that's when I should be really good because I am the engineer, I have used most of this math in a real-world situation.

So my goal for this year: Write a great total lesson plan, and not worry about the "Fireworks" hook; I am going to focus on fun in other parts of the lesson. I think that is all for now.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Swear I am NOT a Horder

Or at least I don't think I am. My mother might beg to differ after moving many many boxes just over a month ago.

Now let me explain why I "might" be a horder: I still have all my grad school books, binders (I graduated from grad school in Dec 2003), as well as many many teaching resources I have collected over the last 2 years. I have this need to have resources around. I think it comes from not having the confidence that I won't actually be able to recall it when necessary. But anything that is in those grad school books is now readily available online. There really isn't any need to have the binders full of notes and assignments. Except...I think that one day I will create AMAZING lesson plans from those assignments...if I am ever in a job long enough that I could revise my curriculum to bring in more real-world applications.

I started thinking about this as I moved about 10 boxes into my new classroom this afternoon. I wondered...what's in all these binders (None of these binders actually being grad school binders).

So MAYBE I am a Level 1 Horder. But I did spend sometime yesterday condensing the binders from my 7th grade lessons into one 2-inch binder. I only kept the things that I did not have electronically. I also pulled out three binders from my first year of teaching as well as my teaching program portfolio. I am almost positive that have most of this stuff electronically as well. So my plan tomorrow is to head to school with my external hard drive in tow and clean out those binders too, keeping only those things that I DO NOT have electronically (checking the hard drive prior to throwing anything out), and hoping that somewhere in the building there is a scanner that I can easily scan that stuff too. So I am working towards whittling down.

So does this make me a horder? I don't know. Hopefully by this time next week, I can feel differently.