Welcome to #DITLife, winter edition, Kodiak style! Have you had any snow days in your district? Not us. Well, technically there was one around 2009 or so, but not since then. So I head out of the house by 6:30 AM to start my car in the winter weather and start my day at Kodiak Middle School.
6:40 AM. I’ve been getting to school early in the morning this year. Today I start off with some administrative tasks: updating my daily expectations, warm up, listing today’s lunch, sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils (not a typo – it feels endless!) Our 6th grade team has gone through thousands of pencils this year. We finally found a system that (sort of) works. We “tag” our pencils with duct tape and we each have bins where students can return them after borrowing them during class. Math has tie-dye duct tape, language arts has yellow, etc. It’s not a foolproof system, but we have had several students return pencils that were accidentally taken and found in other classrooms. Hey, we’re in Alaska here. We’re hunters and trackers – even with our school supplies!
I then make some copies of tonight’s homework assignment: completing a table and turning it into a graph. I give two homework assignments per week: a Monday assignment is due on Wednesday and a Wednesday assignment is due Friday. I’ve gone back and forth among a variety of types of homework: ixl practice, learning reflections, spiral review, etc. What kind of homework do you assign and why?
7:30 A colleague stops by with a difference of opinion. I love my colleagues and the fact that we can have great, open dialogue and respect each other even when we see things differently!
7:45 I spend a few minutes working on a spreadsheet.This week, four different colleagues and I all came up with a similar idea pretty simultaneously. We need a better way to track student progress on our standards based grading system. So several of us came up with a template for a spreadsheet/clipboard/folder/chart with student names and standards. Does anyone use anything similar?
8:00 Finally first period arrives! We are working on creating and interpreting tables and graphs. We have just done the jumping jack experiment in the CMP 6th grade curriculum. A student raises her hand shortly after we get started. “I have something to give you; can I go to my locker?” When she returns, she stands by the door and motions for me to come to the door. I walk to her and she hands me a 12 pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups! I want to cry and instead keep it together, most likely until tonight. With no rhyme or reason, she just gave me chocolate on a Monday morning. I love middle school. You are amazing, “B”!
Students made graphs in groups and are now looking for any patterns they see as well as looking for places where the jumping jack rate increased or decreased. How is that visible on the graph? We have a hundreds chart as a rewards chart (an idea from the CHAMPS program, which is amazing.) I’ve been thinking about what I am looking for in my classroom, so I post a list of square-worthy behaviors. This process also holds me accountable for holding high expectations for classroom behavior and culture to lead to a climate which fosters a rich understanding of mathematics. The kids will definitely call me on it if someone asks a thought-provoking question or we start a math debate and I forget to give them a square!
10:05 Third period is normally my prep, but today is reserved for a peer observation. The math department has engaged in peer observations for the past few years. I think it has helped build collegiality and has helped strengthen us. Today I am visiting an 8th grade classroom, my students from two years ago! It is great to see them again, though I try to be unobtrusive in the back of the room to not disrupt the lesson. We get to debrief tomorrow morning before school. Each teacher is observing another teacher during her prep once a week during the next few weeks and meeting to debrief afterward.
11:00 Back to class, then a short lunch break before meeting with our tutorial group. We have a half hour tutorial group that rotates every 2 weeks. My group is working on division, and they are doing an incredible job!! Teachers can request students for tutorial if they are struggling in a concept, or students can pick a free choice topic if they are not assigned to a section by a teacher.
1:00 Afternoon classes run slightly differently, as two of my classes are with a co-teacher, a model which our district has been espousing. I am incredibly lucky as my co-teacher is an amazing teacher and an amazing person. I will have to do a blog post sometime just about co-teaching, as I cannot do it justice in a few sentences here. It’s a powerful model and one that I’m grateful our principal, Jethro Jones, has established at KMS.
3:45 End of the day! But not really, as I stay at school to straighten my room and get set up for tomorrow, as I have a 7:30 AM meeting. I send out a quick update on Remind.com to let parents know what we are currently working on. Our team uses this regularly and it’s a GREAT app for parent communication. I highly recommend it and would love to help you out if you want to try it!
5:30 Dinner with the family and some down time. Just when I think I’m done with school, I suddenly remember that it’s almost 7:00 and it’s time for. .
I join my state’s twitter chat to talk about technology tools. Several great ideas come up for math. I have always wanted to do a #mysteryskype but as a math teacher. I had no idea there was #mysterynumber! Who wants to try this with my 6th graders? Please join your state’s edchat if you haven’t already! Or join ours! Monday nights 7PM AK time, which is 11 PM for insomniac East Coasters. The fabulous Kate Muelling and I will host in March to discuss math concepts.
Thanks for reading, everyone!