Saturday, September 14, 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 2

     My first full week as a teacher is under my belt and I am feeling really happy to be getting into a routine (both in the classroom and in my personal life). Things are progressing like I expected, more-or-less, and I've managed to work around some of the obstacles that can be thrown at teachers like:
- New students joining the class late
- Fire drills
- Broken photocopiers
- Tech break-downs, etc

     All-in-all things have been going really well and it is hard to express just how rewarding this job can be. I feel blessed to have such a great group of students to work with! I am very excited to see how the year continues to play out. This week, two things that I am very proud of are:

1 ) Meeting One of Our School Goals in Our First Week
- One of our school goals this year is for teachers to plan at least 10
  grade mentoring activities throughout the year. On Friday, my Grade 8
  class partnered up with our Kindergarten class to complete a collaborative
  art project, introduce them to the school, and make them feel comfortable
  at "S-School".
- This project was a big success and I am so proud of my students for being
  so caring and patient with our new Kindergarten class! It was so awesome
  to see them walking down the hallway showing off their completed art
  work and feeling more comfortable at school.
- I cannot take credit for this idea though, as it was the Kindergarten
  teacher who approached me about the project, but either way, I am very
  happy that I was a part of meeting one of our goals so quickly!

2 ) Getting Involved in Extra-Curriculars
- I was always nervous about the interview question, "What extra-curricular
  activities do you want to be involved in?" because I know that there is always
  such a high need to people who can help out with school sports. My issue,
  I never played one school sport, ever, and I don't even know the rules of most
  common sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc).
- Luckily, I was able to sign-on to co-supervise our school's student council with
  another teacher, which is right up my alley! I was involved in my high school's
  student council when I was a student and I continued with student council for
  5 of my 6 years at university as well. We have a great group of students in
  student council this year and I am really looking forward to helping them
  create events for our school.
- Additionally, I also signed on as a PD rep for our school. Our division has a PD
  Chair who organizes PD opportunities in our division and my job is simply to
  make sure our staff know about these options! This job is actually super simple
  and I am a big fan of always learning more about this profession so it seemed
  like a good fit for me. The first PD I advertised? Save Your Sanity: Proactive
  Strategies For Children With Challenging Behaviours.

     One thing that I want to work on, however, is engaging my Grade 10 Essential Math class. This class is mandatory in our division and covers practical math skills that people would use in their day-to-day lives. This includes things like Personal Finance, Consumer Decisions, Measurement, etc. While I can see the benefit of learning this information, many of my students who are on track for post-secondary options are more interested in taking pre-calculus and feel like this class is a waste of their time. My remaining students seem to have a learned-helplessness when it comes to math, or are not interested in attending class in general.
engaging students in math, 2 stars and a wish

     So far I am struggling with trying to find that balance in order to engage everyone effectively. We complete activating strategies everyday to get them thinking mathematically, I let them work in groups if they like, I use examples from their own lives in the questions, I let them develop their own questions, I move between large and small-group instruction and yet I can still only get about 13 of my 26 students to participate. For example, on Friday it took us 50 minutes to correct 3 questions because I couldn't get any response from students at all. I've met with each of them and asked what they would like to see and my biggest response was simply, "I don't like math". What can I do?

Week 1 Wish Update

     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on communication with parents. Our school does not do any Open House activities so I really wanted to take the time to introduce myself to parents so that they first time we talk isn't Parent-Teacher in November. I am still working towards this goal but am nowhere near to achieving it yet. I've only found time to make phone calls home to my 19 families in Grade 7, which means that I still have over 50 to go! It is slow-going but this is important to me, so I am determined to make time to complete this goal.


  1. Your comments about your math students resonate deeply with me. From my first year of teaching, I was handed the classes with "at risk" students, typically the consumer/essential mathematics students were labeled that way. I also had a mix of those "told" to be in the class (by school requirements, by parent expectations, by counselor recommendations, you name it). The attitudes were similar - "I don't like math", "I don't want to be here".

    Emphasizing that I would do my best to help them, while also emphasizing that effort on their part would ensure success (a la Carol Dweck's "Mindset" of recent years), the two biggest things that I did were:
    1. establish and maintain relationship with students;
    2. find meaningful math connections to topics/things/people they cared about.

    I didn't always have success with #2, because sometimes there just wasn't a connection. It was #1 that helped the most. From what I know of you through Twitter and blogging, I know you're working on both of these things.

    I'd add one more item to the list for you on a personal note:
    3. Maintain work/life balance.

    Searching to meet all the needs of students through #1 and #2 can become exhausting, so you need to take care of yourself ... first!

    Have a wonderful year! Take time at the end of each day to reflect on what was *good*! :-)

    1. Tanis,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and comment. One on hand, it helps a lot to know that it is not just my students that feel this way. On the other hand, however, it makes me sad to know that so many students feel this negative while in class.

      I will continue to work towards making learning more relevant and meaningful for my students, in addition to building relationships. I know that both of these take time so I will have to wait to see how it all turns out :)

      So far, I feel like I am finding balance. Living on a farm lends itself naturally to providing lots of distractions that aren't school-related! I will keep your tip in mind though and ensure that I keep myself healthy/happy as well.

      Thank you again for your comments and support!!