Monthly Archives: August 2012

If only…

My Hemmingway-esque first day speech was all set and I thought I was ready for the vainglorious teenagers to push through my classroom door.  And then I felt the first of several many meltdowns come about.

How in the world do you get through the first week of school without having at least one ten meltdowns?   I know NEXT year will be better because I won’t have to figure out the school, start my classroom from scratch (management, layout and design), figure out a brand new curriculum, AND get to know my students.

Unfortunately, my college semester last fall didn’t start until several weeks AFTER the school for my student teaching placement started.  We were encouraged to go to the school to help our cooperating teacher set up and begin the school year, but I was taking two summer courses and working and, quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered.  I wish I realized then that this was SO important!  At least I would’ve had some sort of idea as to what to expect when setting up my own classroom for the first time.

I mean, in all my training and in all my textbooks they talked about how crucial the first day and first week of school are in setting up the tone and expectations in your classroom- I get that.  I did need to tweak several things by the end of the first week: posting explicit instructions for some of my procedures and rearranging desks (unfortunately, groups of four did NOT work, so I’ll try pairs next week).

I must say I also wasn’t prepared for the gazillion emails containing uber-important information from administration, with very little information as to what actually needed to be done.  The emails were definitely written for the veteran teachers, not the ones who were new to the school.  I wish I had more school-specific training, so that I wasn’t freaking out that every little thing that needed to get done had to get done IMMEDIATELY.  Don’t get me wrong, the administration at my school seems great; the Principal and Assistant Principal are very avuncular, and the other Assistant Principal seems very nice (I haven’t had too much interaction with her yet).  I know they are incredibly busy trying to get the school year off to a great start, just as the rest of us are.

I also wish someone would have told me that I would feel like I was a crazy person for awhile.  I think my husband thinks I’m insane, although he is very supportive just as he had been while I was in school full-time.  I also feel my students think I’m peculiar; I can’t tell you how many times they looked at me as if I just asked them to take the square root of okra.

Nevertheless, I HAVE to push through.  I keep telling myself that things will start being routine and I’ll be able to handle all of the insanity sooner or later.  Any advice all of you inspiring veteran teachers have for me is more than welcome and I promise my next post will be full of inspiration, as well.



At 7:05am Monday morning 25ish 9th graders will grace me with their presence and will forever be known as “My First Class Ever.”  The nightmares haven’t started—yet.  You know the ones: students tying up the teacher and dancing on desks.  But I’m sure they’ll make their way into my subconscious over the weekend.

My goal for the first week of school?  Survival.

Last Friday I was informed I was teaching Informal Geometry and nearly died.  I hate Geometry would prefer not to teach Geometry.  I finally wrapped my head around the whole thing and then, BAM!  Monday morning they switched me to Agile Mind Algebra.  OK, so Algebra is wonderful, but what is this Agile Mind business?

I wasn’t formally introduced to Agile Mind until today during training.  I was thinking I was going to be handcuffed to my computer all weekend exploring the Agile Mind site.  (The whole curriculum is online- no textbooks!)  Not so much.  They’re performing maintenance on the site this weekend.  (Cue in panic attack.)

Luckily, I was able to print out a lot of stuff today and had the opportunity to navigate the site.  I would have still liked more time, but, really, what can I do.  I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person (aka I’m anal), so I’m still anxious about trying to teach this brand new (to me and the district) curriculum on Monday.

To top things off, my classroom is still not completely set up.  I’m thinking I will do the essentials over the next few days and then just make changes as the school year progresses.  I really just don’t like this unprepared feeling.  Ask my husband- I think he’s ready to kill me.  (At least he has already made the determination that he will not be seeing much of me this weekend.)

Toys in Math Class?!

I was student teaching in an Intensive Algebra I class and was trying to think of a hands-on activity to reinforce the concept of the unions and intersections of sets.  It dawned on me that ANYTHING could make up a set, so I wandered into my favorite place- the dollar store!  I found some cool little toys; little green army men, bouncy balls, googly eyes, red and black checkers.  I decided to add paper clips just to get another item thrown into the mix.  I separated all of the items and put them into plastic baggies.  I made enough baggies for each group of students.

After discussing what the words “union” and “intersection” mean in real life and asking for examples of these things (union of people in marriage, intersection of roads, and several others the students came up with), we applied those definitions to sets.  I then passed out the baggies and Venn diagrams to each group.

 I displayed different sets, asked different questions and had the groups use the toys manipulatives to figure out the unions and intersections.  I will say that using bouncy balls is not recommended!  I guess they are just TOO fun!  The kids loved being able to play with toys in math class and were actually eagerly awaiting the next question to be displayed on the SmartBoard.

I searched the internet for the pictures to put into the SmartBoard.

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If I had a million dollars…

During my final teaching internship, I taught one section of 8th grade Gifted Math/Algebra I.  These guys may have been my favorite class, even if they were the chattiest.  I also noticed they were VERY competitive.

I had to do an introductory exponential growth and decay lesson with them and remembered reading about a problem involving a guy walking into the classroom and offering either one million dollars or starting with one cent and doubling the money every day for 30 days to do a job.

*Cue in google.

I honestly do not remember where I found this problem, so I apologize for not giving credit.  However, this lesson (one that was very inquiry-based) worked out fantastic with this group of students.  (It’s based on the Conceptual Change Model, a model I learned about in my fantastic Math Methods course.)

I started with displaying the scenario on the SmartBoard:

You’re sitting in math class when in walks some rich and flashy guy and he has a job offer for you.  He doesn’t give too many details, hints about the possibility of danger.  He’s going to need you for 30 days, and you’ll have to miss school. (Won’t that just be awful?)  But do you ever sit up at the next thing he says.

You’ll have your choice of two payment options:

One cent that day, two cents on the next day, and double your salary every day thereafter for the thirty days; or

Exactly $1,000,000. (That’s one million dollars!)

I had the students write down which payment option they would prefer and why.  It’s important to only give them a minute to do this, otherwise many students will begin doing calculations.  I wanted them to commit to an answer prior to actually figuring it out mathematically.  They were then told to get into groups and share their thoughts.  One student from each group would then (anonymously) share the predictions.

Now is the time when I wanted them to figure out which payment option would be the most profitable.  I handed each group a partially filled out table and simply told them to figure it out in their groups. 😉

As they worked in their groups, I walked around to check on their progress, make sure they were on task, etc.  This class (as I mentioned earlier) was very competitive, so everyone was feverishly doubling the money in the right hand column.  When I heard complaints about it taking too long, I asked if there was an equation that would help them move things along faster.  When they heard this, all the groups started trying to figure out an equation.

I honestly do not recall how many groups figured out that it was 2^x, but I know it was well more than one group. Time was running away from us, so I didn’t get to have each group come up to explain their process in solving it (boo!). So, we moved on to discuss the results and what the graph of 2^x would look like, what the domain and range were, whether the graph of x^2 would increase faster or slower, etc. We then discussed what -2^x would look like and compared linear, quadratic and exponential functions.

All in all, it turned out to be a great lesson and students really seemed to have grasped the concept of exponential functions.

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So, what in the world am I teaching?!

I was lucky.  I went to a teacher recruitment fair less than a month after graduating and was offered a job during my second interview!  At the time, the principal told me I would be teaching intensive Algebra I- yes!   This was SO up my alley and I immediately began planning (in my head) all the wonderful things I would do in that class before even leaving the building.

Notice I said “at the time”– Well, I went to the high school for a tour a couple of weeks later and it turned out they weren’t sure what I would be teaching.  Drat.

The kids in my district start school on August 20th, so time is a ticking.  I should also mention that I am an incredibly anal organized person and I would have had an entire quarter’s worth of lesson plans done by the time my New Teacher Orientation commenced this coming Thursday.  I have decided not to enter panic-mode, but I am a little anxious about the whole thing.

From my school tour I also learned that they do not have SmartBoards!  I was terribly disheartened and discouraged (and, frankly, freaking out!) until I figured out that I can insert my SmartBoard lessons into Mimio with very little manipulation!  At least all of my pre-service lesson plans weren’t for naught. 🙂

So, now I’m wondering if 2 weeks will be enough time to get my classroom, brain and lessons organized.  I have heard the time just prior to school starting is incredibly stressful- I just hope I’m up for it!

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