First Week Reflection: Pinch Me

So we’re two days in to the new year, and I can’t quite believe it. Not just the time (although the first days always feel significantly longer than they are), but also the place where I work. The kids are crazy, in the best way possible. They come in, they get seated, they’re polite and pretty considerate. I ask them to stop talking and they do. I give them a fun math puzzle and they all work together to complete it, and they’re all respectful about it. This week I’ve had a general idea for how I want things to run, but I didn’t script it out or have a hard-core lesson plan or anything, and the classes went off without a hitch. The veteran teachers keep assuring me that this isn’t going to last, but even if they slip a bit this is still so much better than what I dealt with last year. 

A couple things of note:

* My school doesn’t do posters. Like, at all. I asked “Oh, do we put up like procedure posters?” and they were like “no, we just decorate around our desks.” What is this insanity? On the one hand, I’m glad I don’t have to stress about bulletin boards, but on the other I’d like to put up some posters.  All the classes are so spread out I’m not sure how it will work just yet, but I may sneak some in. 

* We also only have one bell at the end of the period, so it’s kind of teacher discretion about lateness. I try to roughly gauge 3 minutes after the bell and then work from there. My goal this year is to be a real hard-ass about lateness, so I have to start guilting these kids into just being on time. 

* I’m also intent on being a hardass about uniforms and pencils. Here’s a question for my readers: How do y’all feel about the pencil/pen debate? Personally I think all math work should be done in pencil, but does that also apply to notes? I always took notes in pencil but I could see how it would be annoying for some kids and get all smudgy. But if I let them use pen for notes, won’t that just lead to homework being done in pen?

* I’m really punting on this Notebook thing this year. I really, really liked the idea of interactive notebooks. While I will never be a foldable kind of guy, I was really drawn to the idea of having kids treat their notebooks with a degree of reverence. And I think if I did it right, I could really create that sense for the kids. The tricky part is that it’s not something our school has in place at all, so I’d have to take a stand on my own. I think for this year I’m going to pick my battles in other places and just strongly suggest taking care of their notebook. 

* Having dedicated co-planners is amazing. I was more or less completely planned for Monday by the time I left on Friday. I have stuff to work on tonight, but if I get super frustrated with it I can stop and come back to it tomorrow and still be mostly ahead of the game. And I get to bounce ideas off of them and have them talk through things with me. It’s so cool and awesome and most importantly it helps me keep some sense of self. 

* I still hate the summer. I feel like being a hot sweaty mess kind of undermines my authority around the kids. But all the other teachers are just as gross. My home-base has AC so all the teachers have taken to hanging out in there when we don’t have class.  The only downside being that the AC tends to spit and leak. But I teach in the front of the room, so it doesn’t hit me. 

* I’m starting Friday Letters this year, and even though I presented it very poorly I already got one! Now I’m trying to figure out what kind of mailbox to get. Do I just use a paper box, or do I spend the $10 on a plastic mailbox? I kind of like the idea of a real mailbox that I can then decorate and that won’t get messed up so easily by kids moving it around. 

So those are the big things. I should get back to planning a bit. Our plans for this week are as follows:

Algebra 2/Trig: We’re doing an “Intro to Functions” unit, where basically we go over terms like function, relation, domain, and range,  The idea is to set-up what we’re doing in Algebra II ahead of time, similar to what Glenn does. I’m really excited to set-up the whole value of functions and the whole point of domain and range, especially since I didn’t think I really understood it myself until recently.  This unit will only last this week, and we’ll jump right into quadratics next week.

Algebra/Geometry: We’re starting with a problem solving unit, focused on how we approach new and confusing problems. At first my co-planner was hesitant to start with this, but after seeing how the kids approach some of the problems I think it will be really necessary. Tomorrow is a general introduction to confusing problems, and then we’ll spend three days each focused on a different strategy, and a final wrap-up on Friday. Then we jump into Statistics next week. This course is going to have a weird structure but I think it has potential to be really awesome 


4 thoughts on “First Week Reflection: Pinch Me

  1. 1) Posters – “doesn’t do” or actively discourages/prohibits them? A few good posters can be helpful, I think. As an example, my HS chemistry teacher (one of my favorites of all time) had a poster on the wall with a silly but easily memorized nonsense jingle on the wall that made it really easy to keep straight the usual valence states of common cations. Now for sure using the Periodic table to understand those is important, but we all gotta start somewhere, right? It was so useful that *I* used it and taught it to both of my daughters when I was helping them with HS chemistry, and my younger daughter used it when *she* TA’d a general chemistry section in college. I’ll never forget his name, either – Mr Nomer, because of his stock class day one joke. “i was afraid to get married at first, because if I had any daughters they’d be a Miss Nomer!” 🙂 Little wonder I later majored in Chemistry in college!

    2) Lateness – being a hard ass about that, especially at first, is entirely reasonable. Punctuality never goers out of style, and neither of you can afford lost class time.

    3) Pen/Pencil. Honestly, as a non teacher, who cares what they use?. I never, ever took notes in pencil. Too messy/smudgy, pencils make holes in your pockets, too hard to keep sharp, etc. Having said that, I think using pencil for math problems is wise and certainly did it in school, but if pen works for someone, is it worth making an issue of? Like parenting, when teaching I’d suggest that you choose your fights wisely! 🙂 (PS – I never use a pencil now days for that, or just about anything else)

    Otherwise, I’m happy for you that things are off to such a fine start!

  2. I stand firmly on the pen side of the pen/pencil debate for a couple of reasons.
    1 – Erasing takes time and wipes out clues about the thought process of my students. I want my students to know I value process at least as much as I value final results.
    2 – Pencil sharpeners are noisy and annoying.
    3 – Pencils are smudgy as you pointed out.

  3. I also started doing Friday Letters. I love it! I can’t wait to read and respond to them this weekend. I just used an old shoe box and had my student aide cover it and decorate it for the mail box.

    Good luck this year 🙂

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