Saturday, March 14, 2015

Houston, we have BREAKTHROUGH!!

I am full of guilt. For not keeping up with every detail that needs to be taken care of in my classroom: lesson plans that don't seem complete; papers not graded, recorded and put into the computer for the students (and their parents) to view; unwritten lessons using the laptops; websites not found that would reinforce concepts; not helping my colleagues who are struggling to try more things; not having learned enough technological stuff that would enhance my teaching; and the list goes on.  It's definitely not from a lack of trying.  After school everyday, I often stay at work until 7:00, or 8:00, or 9:00 or later.  I've even gotten home later than my husband who gets off work at 10:30.  And my eating/exercise habits SUCK!  Just ask my 21-year old who tries to get me to focus on proper nutrition (sometimes the Physical Education major he is getting is a curse to me!).

Since I haven't documented what has been happening the past few months, I should probably mention why I have been absent from my blogging.  I had a section of my AP Calculus classes closed and I was "handed" a section of Integrated Math 2.  So let's tally up the schedule: 2 sections (now much fuller) of AP Calc, 2 sections of AP Statistics and 1 section of Integrated 2.  I was NOT HAPPY. Especially because the change happened literally overnight. I was told at 7:55 am that it would occur the NEXT day and I didn't even have a teacher's edition.  ( I could go on here for quite awhile, but that is not the point of this blog entry).  I'll save it for another entry.

It's been 7 weeks since this change.  Reminder that I have a classroom set up for flipped classes.  270 degrees of whiteboards and groups of 4 all around.  This was a HUGE change for sophomores and I had to wonder in the beginning if I was going to have to change the desk arrangement EVERY DAY in order to get them to focus, not talk, not be distracted and be able to do math.  Well, writing on the whiteboards is a huge charm to them.  They ask "can we do this on the whiteboards?" frequently and I try to utilize them as much as possible.  But I haven't gotten to the full flip mostly because I DON'T HAVE TIME to do anymore. Flipping the other 2 AP classes has used up all the time I have for making videos on a regular basis.  So I use Doceri on my iPad, a projector and pre-printed notes (that I give to the students--colored paper only so they can't lose them) and we complete some things together.  I did manage to write 4 computer-based lessons on circles and parabolas (with focus and directrix) that seemed to work quite well.  I was really pleased with how they went.  Geogebra has been AMAZING to work with and Desmos was useful as well.  Convincing my colleagues to give the laptops a chance was another "challenge accepted" and I was pleased that several have broken through that barrier and found some success! A few have come to me and asked if I could help them write lessons for their classes using the laptops (Houston, we have BREAKTHROUGH!).   But that's not the intent of this post either.

While I still consider that I have a LOT more to accomplish for all the classes and with my colleagues, what I have been the most excited about lately is the success that I am seeing happening in the Integrated 2 class.  It has been a MAJOR STRUGGLE for me!  I haven't taught 15 year olds in 3 years and when I had it 3 years ago, we had a textbook that I had never taught from, so I was starting fresh with lesson plans.  Due to common core, the material we have now is different again and definitely not "polished" enough to meet my standards.  So I have to create a lot of content for my classroom.  Additionally, working with younger, less motivated (than AP students) and definitely less mature students is a challenge that I have forgotten about.  My appreciation goes out to my colleagues who teach 5 sections of this daily.  I don't know if I have the stamina anymore.  But it's happening!  I have noticed a change this past week.  I have students coming in for help AND the biggest surprise was when a few students were using the beginning of class time (while announcements were playing) to study TOGETHER (not asking me questions, but working with each other) before their test!! (Houston, we have BREAKTHROUGH!!)  It is finally starting to work! They are learning how to rely on each other and ask questions of each other and help each other. We seem to be having more fun in class together.  They have figured out that I am working WITH them, not AGAINST them!  I won't say that it is perfect.  I have a few in there who are still resistant, but most of them now have "buy in".  Seven weeks to get there was a little rough, but I feel like the outcome is worth it.  So much so that I chose to write that class on my "what I want to teach next year" list.  I think I can make it something really fabulous with more time to prepare (I know I can't pull it off with 24 hour notice).  I am also hopeful that I will be able to get my colleagues to do more with technology so we can share with each other instead of me doing all the work.

Houston, we have BREAKTHROUGH!!  And I am looking forward to version 2.0!