Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Category: This week (Page 2 of 3)

This Week: Emerging From The [Metaphor for ‘work’]

Ok, so want to hear something weird about this school year.  I’ve been going to school for every day that wasn’t a holiday since the week I got back from my honeymoon (August 15th).  That means I’ve been working for a month when half of that was supposed to be vacation.  For many of the past two weeks of the school year, I haven’t even gotten home before 7, some days I’ve gotten home at 10, and one day after helping my wife’s school we got home at 12:30.  The weirdest thing about that?  I’ve only taught two (two!) classes so far this year.   I have developed an acumen of sorts for putting spreadsheets together, and using those spreadsheets to upload schedules.  Our school has wildly unique schedules for each student, so I have been helping out a lot with that.  Since our school is also running a rolling admissions situation, they are going to let in a group on October 1st, and I am going to pick up my teaching load with that group.

Since this year started, it’s been pretty dark and lonely for me and my spreadsheets, and I don’t think I should wait for it to end so that I can get back to my passions.  For the next two weeks I decided to pick up one class, to help with some of the school overflow so now I can talk about teaching and learning!

What I’m teaching this week

This week I am teaching problem solving for my “Mathematical Thinking” class.  I aim to work on the curriculum that I did last fall.  One thing I am surely going to do is work in more estimation. One question I had today was “How many flourescent light bulbs are there in the school?”  Last friday I asked “If I turned 33 on Sept 1st, when will I be 1/3 of century old?”  I like doing the big problems, but I think I am going to work on having a big discussion as a group about them.

What I’m blogging this week

Something.  I’m going to try to emerge from my excel tabs and write something.  Baby steps.

What I’m thinking this week

This week I’m wondering what is the thing I’m missing.  I always watch basketball players and think “If you just get a 3-point shot” or “If you just get a left-handed layup”, as if a couple hours in the gym would make them an all-star.  Assuming that it’s more or less true, what’s the thing that I’m missing?  I think it’s having productive, amazing, Magdalene-Lampert-esque classroom discussions, but I don’t know exactly how to get into the “gym” and work on that.

Read books?  Moderate other people’s subway conversations?  Do Squats?

This Week: Unpacking, Orientation, and Ice Breakers

This is the week before school starts.  For our school, that means we run a large new student orientation to welcome our school’s crop of 150 or so fall admits.  Running sessions for students a few days before school is actually a nice, low-pressure, way to kickstart the school part of my brain.  Before I worked here, this time of year would usually be spent wondering things like, why I am missing one of the boxes I packed last august, and whether or not I should keep looking for my numberline poster or make a new one.  Any thought about actually teaching would usually be as preced with, and followed by, and interreupted periodically throughout with small moments of curling into a fetal position on the ground along with some light sobbing.  Hopefully not this week.  Once I go through 3 days of welcome activities and role playing school policies, I’ll have shaken the rust off from a summer without being in front of kids, and all that’s left will be to plan out my actual teaching.

What I’m teaching this week

This week I am teaching students about the basics of our school.  These are kids who have been accepted to our school and are goign to be in either my advisory, or the advisory of two other teachers in the school.  This group is not going to be together in it’s entirety for more than just this advisory group, so it is a good chance to try out some new ice breakers.  This week I think I will try to do a “Think, Pair, Share” writing activity about why they are leaving their old school and coming here, but I am open to suggestions.  Have you heard of any good and unique ice breakers?

What I’m blogging this week

This week I want to wrap up talking about the book Mindset.  So far I have talked about what Mindset is about, and strategies for student feedback.  What I haven’t talked about yet is what Mindset means for teachers, as they approach their own teaching.  Given how difficult teaching can be, perhaps a growth mindset can help teachers remain positive about their practice.

This week I will also talk about what one more of my goals for the year, and what I plan on teaching this year (the blogging about these topics may happen whilst in the fetal position).

What I’m thinking this week

Nothing.  It’s probably the last week I can say that, so I’m going to enjoy it.

This Week: Getting Out Of The Hole, Finishing Projects, And Teacher Self-Confidence

You might be thinking, “It seems strange to be figuring out new productivity systems with only 10 teaching days left to go, no?”.  In the past week I’ve been trying to come up with a new strategy to get more productive, and writing about it has led me to adopt some new strategies.  My plan is to come up with a theme for the week, and then base my plan around that.  I can never keep all of the things in my head, and I would find ways to get distracted from doing what’s on my to do list.  After reading some ideas from the slightly overwhelming Getting Results the Agile Way, I’ve modified my current Evernote system.  Each week I try to make a encompassing story for my week, a central theme of what I want to accomplish. For example, this week the story is  “dig myself from out of the hole” I’ve written it down and changed the background image on my phone to match.  Now there are a lot of “to-do’s” associated with this “story”, but I can’t remember all of those.  However when I have a few free moments at school and I see the picture of digging myself out of the hole on my phone I am more likely to go and look up something to free myself from all the backlog when I otherwise would be looking at reddit or something.   I also made a notebook for doing a “Brain Dump“, so I can empty my head at the end of each day.

What I’m teaching this week

This week I plan to get my classes finished with their projects.  I’ve been tweaking projects from previous years to end this year, and I may need to come up with some scaffolding or mini-lessons in response to student’s struggles, and I am going to try harder to give students written feedback along the way.  In the spirit of this week’s theme, I’m going to stick to the due date and make sure I provide a lot of support to get the kids, and myself, out of this “hole”. Because most of the students have big final projects in all of their classes, this time of year is very stressful, so I need to spend a lot of time just letting kids know that I hear their struggle, but that they can still do a project at a high level.

What I’m blogging this week

Keeping with the theme of getting out of the hole, I am going to read more and post a summary.  I have been saying I was going to do it for the past few weeks, and I need to sit down and go through my feed reader.  I may also put up one of the projects that I assigned this year.

What I’m thinking this week

Is there some correlation between teaching and low self-confidence?  As a starting teacher it always felt like there was something I could improve,  but always focusing on improvement means I’m always focusing on the things I do wrong.    The idea of constantly being flawed led me to walk out from most classes looking at the things that went wrong or were not well done. Often I would even fret over things that were out of my control, like how I handled the fire drill.  As I got more experience I kept this negative focus on my work as a teacher.  Much like Mal in the movie inception, I could never really view my successes in the classroom as real (I even struggled to not write “successes”).  Perhaps the hole I need to get out of is the mental one.

I could probably write a much longer blog post about this.  Are there other people who feel this way?

This Week: Runaway Dogs, Project Launches, And Traffic Spikes

This week I am coming off a weekend where I got VERY LITTLE done on the blogging end.  My school had a planning retreat and spent a lot of time working through the school’s vision and values, and how those should guide our response to the challenges we face.  As we were ready to leave we faced a more immediate and unexpected challenge when a teacher’s jack russell terrier ran into the neighborhoods behind the retreat center and nine of us had to go traversing through this suburb looking for little Bruce.

It was quite an ordeal, and also an exercise in the collective nature of hope.  In the 2-3 hours of searching there was a point in which each person sort of said some form of “We’ve done all we can,” or at least thought it.  However, one other person kept thinking of one more thing we can do. “Maybe we can ask the neighbors?”  “Maybe we can hang up signs?”  “Maybe we can drive down past the forest?”  When one of us had a little hope, we all got a little more hope, and that gave us the energy to throw ourselves into each new task in hopes of finding Bruce.

Eventually we received the text that Bruce was found.  He ran into a giant forest and ended up covered in grass stains and ticks 2 miles away from where our retreat was.  I keep thinking of this story because fixing what needs to be fixed in education seems like an enormous task.  And perhaps thinking of enormous solutions isn’t the answer.  Perhaps what we need are lots of little infusions of hope coming from a community of people all around the world.  The MathTwitterBlogosphere seems to be just this, and I am honored to be a part of it.

What I’m teaching this week:

This week I am going to take my equations and patterns class and start working on the first third of their project.  This Carnival Project was actually 1 piece before, but I am breaking into 3 so that I can give them feedback one piece at a time.  I am going to collect the first game on Wednesday and then help the students by Friday.  In Banking and Investment I need to start the project which means a class about using functions to model the behavior of certain markets.  Hopefully the markets from the “Dunshire Abbey” game will provide the data if we can push through getting the kids to work on it.

What I’m blogging this week:

The Coast2Coast group is off and running and we are going to try and do a bunch of posts together around our teaching context.  I plan to have a post about City-As-School and all of the things we do here.  To really portray my school realistically, I am going to have to write a lot, and probably talk a little with my principal.

I also want to do a lot of reading of the other #MTBoS30 blogs so I can get another Around The Blogosphere up before Memorial day.

What I’m thinking this week:

Right now I’m thinking about this giant spike of traffic I got yesterday when @ddmeyer made this tweet, and @mythagon, @wahedebug, @k8nowak, of other people followed up with other positive comments.


I really appreciate all of the positive comments, and I am glad that so many people have found things that they like here.  That said, I’m now noticing all these things that I need to fix, like this sentence from Beware of the Awesome Lesson

I tried to squeeze a whole separate exploration with a big meaty context inside of one the kids were already infested in.

Umm, that was supposed to say  ‘invested’.  So it looks like I have to go read through and double check my posts to make sure they all make sense…

19/33 #MTBoS

This Week: Assessing, Exploring #MTBoS30, and Ending Multi-Tasking

This week is going to be interesting because when it ends, we’ll be at be the halfway points of both this cycle, and of this 30 blog post challenge. Halfway points in life are kind of getting halfway through a movie, you know that the most memorable part of the story lay ahead. Unlike a movie, it is unclear whether or not the this is a feel-good film, or a horror story, or a comedy.  I like the way my movie’s are going, but I think there is a lot of undue stress which makes it hard to think about the big picture.

What I’m teaching this week:

This week I need to figure out where kids are at, so the big story is assessing kids’ thinking.  At this point the kids know about basic probability, but we have been experimenting with Expected value, and also the law of large numbers.  We’ve payed Deal or NoDeal, as well as asking all the kids to flip a bunch of coins which are really unfortunate for her.  My big goal is to figure out how to get kids to demonstrate their thinking around those concepts, and then suck that thinking out of their heads somehow.

I also need to figure out how to get them the most immediate feedback I can given the constraints.  I might use a poweroint slide that has an instant check button or something similar.


What I’m blogging this week:

Last week I learned about a number of blogs because they filled out my #MTBoS30 roll call sheet.  I plan to go to the respondents blogs to read and comment on them.  From the few I read on Sunday, I realized that I have a lot to learn, both about the lay of the land in the blogosphere and about teaching well.  I keep getting humbled by the work and the thoughtful discussion of all the teachers I’ve seen who were really impressive.  I am very aware that I have a lot to learn, and I am going to document that learning on this blog.


What I’m thinking this week:

I can’t get over how little I accomplish when I am at school.  I stayed at school to 9:00 again, doing all these menial thoughtless tasks that I spent the last week putting off.  Why?  Well, I’m crazy, and I think the answer might be multitasking.  After school hours, when there are no kids, or staff needs, or fresh emergencies to deal with, it ends up allowing me to apply singular focus.  Similarly, during the school day, there are so many different things to deal with that I can never really apply the singular focus I need to get things done.  Perhaps I should restructure my day…


Check out this infographic about Multi-Tasking

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