Thursday, July 21, 2016

Keep-Change-Start-Stop

A little reflection to help keep me focused...

KEEP
  •  Setting aside time for me - This year, for the first time ever, I closed my classroom door and used my prep period to actually prep.  It was so refreshing, and so peaceful.  I have always dedicated my prep periods to helping students, but what usually ends up happening is that the period that I offer to provide extra help to students becomes the period that I babysit students that don't want to be in their study hall.  I need to put my needs first a little more.  (Trying to get a measly bathroom break has become a real struggle.)

CHANGE
  • My Attitude! - I'm certain that a vicious cycle was started and perpetuated this past year (in one class period in particular).  My students made me miserable, I was a miserable teacher, I did not create the classroom environment that I usually have, my students were miserable, and round and round we go.  There's a quote (I love my inspirational quotes!) that I found on Pinterest:  "Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our hearts rather than a piece of our minds."  Teaching teenagers, it feels like every little thing needs to be a teachable moment (ie:  "You're teachers/professors won't let you ____________ next year/in college," "If you had done X, Y, and Z, you wouldn't be in this predicament now," "If you cared about your grade from the beginning of the quarter you wouldn't be begging for extra credit now," etc.)  I do it all time, other teachers in my building do it all the time; it is our default setting.  From the student's perspective it must be extremely negative.  I'm certain that they tune us out when we say these things, especially if they are being said out of anger and frustration.  And ultimately, the student needs help, and these comments are dismissive.  I am determined to change my behavior this year.  I will let my actions say these things instead of my mouth.  (ie:  "I'm sorry, but it is too late for you to turn in the assignment," and "We cannot change it now, but what can we do differently next time?")  If any of the above things need to be said (because sometimes they really do), I will save them for a heart-to-heart.
  • Seating Arrangements - I think I'm finally ready to put my desks into groups.  So many teachers advocate for group seating, and newer teachers fear the classroom management repercussions.  My desks are not really conducive to anything other than rows, but you know what?  Students will adjust.  They did just that each time we did a group activity.  I'd rather just keep them in groups all year long to allow for regular collaboration.  (Bonus:  When my desks are arranged in groups, my room feels so much more spacious!)

START
  •  Using Twitter more often - So as I mentioned in a previous post, I am teaching SAT Math Prep for the first time this year.  I literally just threw out a quick question into the MTBoS if anyone had anything to help a newbie SAT Prep teacher.  Ask and you shall receive.  You may even receive a three-part blog post.  I am forever grateful to @MathCurmudgeon, and I am feeling encouraged to use Twitter more often.  I just need to integrate it into my daily routine.
  • Integrating GeoGebra & Desmos into my classroom - Truthfully I have not done so because I have not had the time to learn how to use them.  Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I was a Geometer's Sketchpad loyalist simply because I already know how to use it.  Thanks to a one-hour GeoGebra session at a math conference last spring (given by my favorite college professor), I am no longer intimidated by a new application.  I think GeoGebra is more user friendly, and we all know that being free gives it a huge advantage.  (I also learned this year that the Chrome carts in my school are not difficult to obtain.)  Desmos is something that I need to look into more.  What does it do for Geometry?  At the very least, I would like my students to learn how to graph on it, since we don't have enough graphing calculators for each student to take home.  I am going to spend some time this summer learning more about these applications.  (Perhaps I will consult some MTBoS peeps on Twitter.)

STOP
  • Using interactive notebooks in General Geometry - It just doesn't make sense, and I cannot get the same buy-in that I do from my regents-level Geometry students.  I just finished re-formatting my notes yesterday.  (I will instead provide guided notes, and teach students how to organize a binder.  On the plus side, I will be able to teach them organization skills that are more universally transferable to their other classes.)
  • Letting students use my microwave - They leave a big mess, and it's not worth my time to have to continuously clean the microwave.  Also, I'd like to be rid of the smells that linger.
Overall, I am feeling much more optimistic about this new year.  I just want to keep up my momentum.  I suspect that since this past school year was so dreadful, I was ready to start fresh for the new year right away.  I mean, it was early May, and I was already starting to plan for the next school year. I'm not writing this to complain, but just to affirm that something good came out of something bad.  I am so excited to start the next school year, and I haven't felt this much enthusiasm about a new school year since when I first started teaching.

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