Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Letting kids know what they’re getting into…

So tomorrow during registration, I’m going to show students this slideshow that explains a little about the norms in my class. Given that my kids come with all sorts of ideas of what a math class is and may get frustrated, or think that they don’t have to participate. Hopefuly his should help them know what they are getting into so they are coming in with the right mindset. I had wanted to shoot a video of me walking through the forest and talking about the mathematics kids can find in the trees, but a google presentation is all I have time for, so google presentation it is!

Let me know if I am missing anything or it can be improved at all.

Shaking off the dust

I’ve been an absentee owner of this blog to start the 2016. If this blog was a house, dust would be everywhere, the shutters would be hanging loose and the weeds would be out of control. To be fair, I did start the January Blogging Initiative, and my “Drafts” section has two of the posts which have only gathered a light coating of dust. Talking about teaching and learning has been pretty absent here, but that is going to change tangibly, for a number of reasons.

The number one reason things will change on this blog is that I’m going to be teaching math! As an AP, I am lucky to get to teach even one class, and so far this year that has been Exploring Computer Science. ECS has been a lot of fun. Watching kids’ eyes light up as they make an HTML page or a scratch animation is pretty nice, but it’s nothing like seeing a student connect mathematical concepts in their head. As my students leave to college, a well-crafted math experience could be more valuable than the computing in my opinion. Let’s hope that I can craft that math class into the experience my students need.

A very interesting math class has been rolling around in my head since around thanksgiving. After sitting on the sidelines and watching teachers roll out lots of new techniques in there lesson I have collected a number of ideas for teaching. I also read Jo Boaler’s new book along with a number of other posts and articles. The time away from teaching has also given me time to reflect on a number of things from previous classes that I want to do in a different way. With all of these ideas swirling around in my head, writing about them well ensure that they can get into a tangible form well before the period starts.

The big thing is, it’s time to try harder. After honestly taking a step back from the digital world after the birth of Julianne, and from starting this new job, I think it is time I hold myself accountable towards what I plan to do. I have been writing a lot at home and work about other things, but I haven’t written about my teaching. The act of putting my ideas on paper has proved to refine my thinking in ways that I might not get otherwise. Also filling a role where my growth as a teacher is not a high priority, it is important that I make it a priority to write about it so I can ensure that I am thinking thoroughly about each lesson.

Late to the Party – Kicking off the 2016 Blogging Initiaitve

I’m late to the party by a week for the 2016 blogging initiative, but here’s my post nonetheless. After looking at how my 2015 ended, it feels strange just sitting at my computer and writing once more. Participating in this will be a good chance for me to get back in touch with my forlorn teacher-blogger side, and pave the way for the different way in which I’ll have to write for 2016 and beyond.

Looking back at 2015

Just how did my 2015 end? Here’s an image from “Your site in 2015“, a colorful summary of my blog posts generated by WordPress. It shows a grid representing the days of the year and green squares to show that one or two posts were made on that day. Looking at it I immediately noticed and wondered a couple things.

Posting Patterns2

What I first noticed was that the left hand side of the grid has more green squares. It’s like looking down on earth from space and comparing an urban area and a desert. Well, the dearth of posts has a lot to do with what happened on two dates, whose squares are sloppily circled with Microsoft Paint. The first circle was May 31st the birth of my daughter, Julianne, and the second circle August 31st, my first day as an Assistant Principal. Both things require a great deal of effort, and mental energy, things that I also needed for blogging.

I still wondered about why I stopped blogging. On one hand, taking care of Julianne and learning a new job is time consuming, so I physically couldn’t write because I was doing other stuff. On the other hand, I wasn’t teaching math, and I wasn’t even a teacher, so even if I could write, I might not come up with relevant things to say. Technically I was teaching a computer science class, but it just wasn’t the same. (Starting in February I am going to be teaching a math class, which you’ll hear more about in upcoming blog posts!)

Blogging was important to me, and I did try to keep it up. Over the summer I did lot of personal with 750 words, and on another blog focused on developing systems. Despite all these efforts I haven’t been able to get into a regular system of writing, I still think I have some relevant things to say here, and I miss blogging and reading blogs. After thinking about it for perhaps a few more days than I should have, it seems like time I get back on the blog again.

Kicking Off the Blog

I, Carl Oliver, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom (and office) up and share my thoughts with other teachers (and administrators). I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th! click here!

MTBoS Blogging Initiative

Airport Thoughts after #NCTMRegionals MLPS

It’s quite unsettling flying back to NYC,  less than 24 hours after another major world city faced an unimaginably horrific terrorist attack. I’ve found that in the darkness behind the worst acts of humanity is always outmatched by the brilliance of humanity’s acts of compassion. My thoughts, and surely the thoughts of everyone leaving the Minneapolis conference center, are with the people in Paris. 

My faith in humanity happens to be at a local maximum after the #NCTMregional in Minneapolis, which hit me with a fire hose of hugs, math, and possibility for 3 days. I feel like I’m still dripping with excitement after spending the time volunteering with the program committee, giving my first ever NCTM talk, and helping out at the MTBoS booth. It seems unlikely that I’ll be able to squeeze all of the cool stuff that happened into a blog post, but it seems like it’d be fun to try. So here goes!

Program committee-ing

My work on the program committee began a year or so go, and so was one of the longest projects that I ever took part in. Robert Kaplinsky wrote an article that summed up the initial meeting. Following that planning, meeting we did our best to recruit a really solid group of speakers that could provide an interesting array of talks. Surprisingly, I only see talks in snippets, as my role as program committee kept me running from room to room during the sessions. It was slightly frustrating to miss talks that are mere feet away, but it was great to help the event run smoothly. 

During the event my role was to monitor every talk happening along one hallway of the center. For each talk I would greet the presenter, thank them for coming, help get them set up, and watch to see if the room would hit capacity. When rooms hit capacity, that meant telling people they couldn’t view it, even if “it’s the only other K-12,” and  “the other one I wanted is closed,” and “I can just stand in the back, no one will notice!” Later on I would stop by each session to count their participants.  This is where I could sit down to enjoy a little of the session, but then I’d have to come back to each room to ensure they don’t go long, when the next presenter should be setting up (assuming the next presenter actually shows up). 

Volunteering as a program committee member let me peer behind the curtain and learn how these conferences function. Planning for these took place many years ago, and by the time the conference started, the NCTM event planners already had the difficult work finished. Signs for all of the talks were organized by room before they left NCTM’s Virginia headquarters. Being so throughly planning meant they were free to quickly respond to MTBoS emergencies, and made it so the program committee could focus solely on the presentation content. It made me think about how many logistical things I should try to relive from the shoulders of my staff and students.

Were I to do it again, I would have tried to see all of the people who I invited to talk. It might have been nice to provide a little personal hello, but with all the running around I didn’t have time. I especially want to thank everybody on my Strand who may not have been able to show up for whatever reason, but was still there in spirit:David Wees, Megan Schmidt, Justin Aion, Bowen Kerins, Rafranz Davis, Christopher Danielson, Justin Lanier, Chris Hunter, and anyone else who I may be temporarily forgetting, thank you all!

Delivering a session

Funny story. So Megan and I are getting ready for our talk. There are already about 6 or so people there while we do some last minute powerpoint-ing. All of a sudden Matt Larson president elect walks in through the back door. He doesn’t sit down, instead he walks right up to us and says “Hi Carl, Hi Megan!” I was thinking “oh my gosh, he knows our names! He thinks we’re special delicate flowers!” (Yes, I know our names were in the program book, the sign outside, and lanyards around our neck, but don’t rain on my pararde). He said he was going to watch but wanted us to know he would be leaving early. Hopefully I didn’t appear visibly shaken when we got started.

The talk went great, but was largely a blur. I know that the participants totally got into our statistics activities, and we had good conversation about the data as well. Here are the slides and the handout that we prepared.

Helping at the MTBoS Booth
I was helping set up the booth when it hit me. The NCTM was changing fast. It was less than a year ago that this booth was just an blog post, but the conference staff was speaking about it as a if it was going to be a fixture. Only a few months ago it was running off of Tina’s phone, and now they provided complimentary Wi-Fi and electricity which costs other vendors hundreds of dollars. It’s a small but clear sign that the NCTM is listening, and that more ideas may be brought to life in the near future. Don’t worry about things getting high-brow too soon. While the booth has corporate sponsorship, it still had the shower curtain from my hotel room serving as a projector screen.

The booth still provided was a super interactive time with activities from @mathonastick in addition to others. Visitors could play with the pattern machine, tiling turtles, and some of Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180 activities.  I wasn’t able to get down there for a whole shift, but I did get to sneak them leftover snacks from the NCTM break room. I could hang out for a little while and chat with whoever, including a teacher whose school has a “Trap Team.” It also got to hangout at the Math Forum booth/NCTM booth and chat with them, and contribute to the giant business card menger sponge.

This trip was exactly what I needed to help me get this fall started and I was lucky to have the chance to help NCTM (Thanks Fred!). Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below…

The problem with problems for #probchat

Each Sunday night I have been hosting #probchat, a chat about teaching with non-routine problems. This weekly twitter conversation has been a great learning experience for me, even on night’s like tonight when there isn’t always a good turn out (thanks a lot, #superbloodmoon). Since the chat is empty tonight, let’s take a minute to take some time to reflect on where it’s been, and where it’s going.

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