Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Author: Carl Oliver (Page 2 of 35)

Be more vulnerable, be more honest, and be ok with being less perfect. #MTBoSBlogust

#MTBoSBlogaust? Let’s DO this!

Why? A bunch of reasons, but we can start with 3. Be more vulneraable, be more honest, and be less perfect.

#1 Get in the arena. The “arena” metaphor comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s Man In The Arena speech, which I recently read in Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. My take away from that book is that people who want to do great things, and who want to be leaders, must to make themselves vulnerable. After my 3rd year of being an administrator I began to feel like I am becoming a leader in name only, so I need to get used to being more vulnerable. In so doing, I will also be helping to build a culture of vulnerability which was highlighted in another book The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyne. What that means is putting ideas out there that are not fully formed, that need to get figured out, and maybe a little risky. I’ll seek out feedback, and not hide from it. I’ll make mistakes and move past it. None of these benefits will happen if I avoid vulnerability and stay on Reddit or youtube or whatever

#2 Get this blog in order. I’m not just talking about brushing off my wordpress skills and adding a new theme or some other fanciness. After giving a talk at TMC urging people to #PushSend, I tried to make a concerted effort to blog more, and ended up blogging less. Why? Aside from having a new baby to feed, bathe, and play with, there was some confusion. See, I have a job of being an assistant principal, but this is a blog about teaching and learning. I only teach 3 or maybe 2 or maybe 0 days a week, and I don’t have nearly as much time to do exciting stuff in the math world. Or maybe I might, but those ideas aren’t as polished as my previous ideas tested against a full teaching load, more on that later. The other question is where do I write about my assistant principal stuff? All these things that I am actively working on in the AP world end up with no real home because I don’t think they should fit on this blog. Or at least that was the case in the past. For this month I’ll try to be honest about what I’m trying to do to grow proessionally. That means I’ll put everything on here, including my spreadsheets and my staff meeting plans, and then decide later if I want to keep doing this or make some kind of admin blog.

#3 Stop with all the perfectionism. #PushSend was very a pep talk for fringe members of the #MTBoS, but really, it was to be a kick in my own butt. I get freaked out whenever I have to click the big blue button, even though I know the benefits as well as anyone. The problem is that a reasoned, data-supported argument about pushing the button does little to sway the part of the brain in charge of the second guessing and the avoidance. The amygdala, a brain structure that represents the evolutionary state of maybe a lizard or a chicken, can takeover when things are scary and shutting off the process of higher functioning parts of the brain. This always leads me to double and triple check my posts before I send them out, or to doubt and re-write things, only to leave the post in ‘Drafts’. My amygdala is confusing the the blue button with an oncoming predator, and triggering me with the fight, flight, or freeze response. By pre-committing to post every day, I will hopefully interrupt that response, as now the stress comes from NOT posting. I am also going to shut down the idea that everything I write will be perfect, because I know nothing will get posted that way.

 

Clog: A Couple Stories from presentation week.

Story 1: learning through presenting

The first presentation of the day was a student presenting a math project about Misleading Graphs. This student clearly had no fear about this process. Earlier in the year he got on stage for the mental health panel and had also signed up to have 4 panels in one day. His confidence was as high as his substance as he was able to describe multiple types of misleading graphs and the news sources that keep making them. Even on the best presentations we have to keep asking questions that push the student. It is pretty rare when a student demonstrates total mastery over the math, the context, and the strategies the used. In this case, he didn’t really understand all the features he used on google sheets, and one graph that he made stepped over the line of being ‘misleading’ to just being incorrect. Presentations are great places to talk about wrong answers because you can really walk through the student about why it would be wrong, and correct any misconceptions on the spot.  Sometimes even the teachers have misconceptions. That’s a great thing about presentations is that there is space to really root out any misconceptions.

Story 2: a kid comes in and says “my teacher is in the hospital, so they sent me to you to approve my independent project.” Independent projects have become a thing of the past thanks to me and the rest of the team. We’ve asked that projects that to be presented to only come class projects to avoid getting things that aren’t on a high school level. However, someone gave him a green light but couldn’t finally approve the work that the student did, so I had to step in and help him finish. The paper was titled “Old Testatement.” I was worried.

His paper was actually super interesting! He asked two questions. Could Adam and Eve have populated the Earth in the 6000 years since being cast out of the garden of Eden, and could the the earth have been covered by flood of Noah’s ark (which we learned was originally told in the Epic of Gilgamesh) have actually covered the Earth? It was brilliant! He made an exponential model to describe the growth of human population from Adam and Eve’s 44 kids, and used the volume formula to find out that the earth would have required 3 times the amount currently in the oceans to be as high as it was described in the book.

The ingenuity and the curiosity on display wasn’t the best part. He actually became a different math learner during his presentation. He was vocal about how much he hated math class, and this disdain was what led his teacher to go along with this independent project idea.  He presented with three other kids, and offered to go first because  he felt his project was the “least worthy.” But when he finished the kids sitting next to him said he did such a good job that they didn’t know how to follow it. We also commented on how well he answered questions and explored his original problem. He left the room with his back straight and his head held high.

It was a great example of independent thinking and what is possible when kids are pursuing their own questions. Now the policy around independent projects seems like it should be reconsidered. Or, we should have more opportunities for kids to do modelling tasks where they pursue questions as opposed to doing it just because. Having a ‘mythbusters’ class where the kids try to model some historical story or other event could be really interesting. Kids could also try and compete with each other and come up with the best model possible.

What are they thinking? Sharpen your analysis of student thinking with rich tasks and video – #NCTMAnnual 2018

Thanks to everyone who came to our session. Below are our slides. If you want more information, including some videos, that can help you use this with other teachers, let me know!

Big thanks to Liz Garvey-Clark (@GarveyLiz) who did literally everthing

Clog: Oh, This Is Much Better

After a morning flash of insight, I spent way too much time on this Linear Regression Desmos Activity. It seemed like too cool of an idea to not do, although I’m sure it could be better. be For 4 weeks I’ve followed the IM 8th grade unit on data associations with my Algebra class, but I didn’t really have a cool way to talk about what linear regression is, or have a way to teach the kids how to use the regression features in Desmos. In retrospect, I could have sailed into the #MTBoS and found what other people are doing around regression, but I sort of burned my boats when I started making this thing. I trudged on in making this thing until 8 minutes before class, when I realized I needed make copies, and get upstairs. In all the work on the activity and the copies I didn’t get a chance to get the laptop key. We couldn’t use computers!

So I was up in the front of class, trying to keep my kids engaged while Jayla went to find the teacher who last had the laptop key (he was in the bathroom). “Alright guys, let’s review what we’ve been doing the last few days.” Doing a little mini-lesson at the board seemed like a good way to kill time. “How many people know what kind association this might be?” I said to the class while gesturing towards a hastily drawn scatterplot. Students looked back at me with silence and agony. It was clear they were not engaged, maybe because they knew the computers were coming. Their body language screamed that they were not invested in doing any part of this whole lecture thing. Then I thought to myself, “Teaching like this SUCKS.”

Over the past cycle I have been working on teaching with IM. Those materials have a lot more interaction, and realy prioritize the student voice. Kids were getting used to debating about which terms should be used, and agreeing on what is the right answer. There was a smooth flow to those classes while this little mini-lesson felt spreading the last of the natural peanut butter jar. The previous cycle I worked with a co-teacher who really pushed me to have more interactive lessons, with videos for the lectures, so I really haven’t done any kind of lecturing in a while. It really blows.

It set an awful tone for the Desmos Activity, which required a little bit of me in the driver seat since the activity was unclear in some parts. After the Desmos I had the last few lessons from the IM unit. The kids did a card sort, and used the card sort to learn about frequency tables and made some stacked bar charts. Everything felt kind of normal again.

Well kinda… I still need to fix that Desmos Activity, let me know if you have any feedback!

Grading, Assessments, and Hot Pockets

So you’re at a PD, a really awesome one at that. Everybody is quietly thinking about the prompt “What is assessment?” Your neighbors are writing things like “Assessment is knowing where kids are, where they need to go, and what you should do next.” These poetic statements allude to many parts of a real-time data gathering and analyzing process . Diagnostic assessment, summative assessment, formative assessment are all critical pieces of information that end up letting the teacher know what they need to maximize student growth and learning. The information gained from assessment become the ingredients that “Chef Teacher” can use to create any number of delicious stews, or salads, or souffles.

The facilitator tells everyone to stop writing and to stand up and share with someone new. After 15 awkward seconds of trying to lock eyes with someone, you find a partner across the room. After shaking hands you read your poetic statement with a serious flourish. Your partner responds with the following:

Assessment is how you give kids grades.

You wonder for a second if their table was given the same task. This statement describes a calculation chore that happens at the middle and the end of each term. Grades are what you show to parents and administrators if they want to know how the kids are doing. Assessment is a process that ensures that you have the information at any given point to be able to make the grade, but also to do so much more. Assessment can help you make decisions in the moment, tweak tomorrow’s lesson, or even alter your unit structure. Your assessments can tease out which students understand what you taught today and which ones are relying on the trick they learned last year. Viewing assessment as only a tool for finding grades is like “Chef Teacher” going to the kitchen, by passing all the groceries, and microwaving a Hot Pocket.

You rack your brain for how to begin a conversation about Grading, Assessments,…and Hot Pockets, when your partner cracks a smile. Turns out he was messing with you. He didn’t really believe that Assessment is solely for producing grades, but lots of teachers out there do. How would you describe all the things that assessment could be to someone who thinks it is only for getting the numbers to put on the report card?

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