Monday, August 7, 2017

A4ANYC, MfA, MTBoS Goals & First Day Plans, Google Certification, 100 Problems, Swimming, & Teach180

A fellow teacher friend of mine posted this on Facebook earlier today:

"Oh Pinterest... its that time of year again... time to get my creative juices going!"

Yes, indeed she is right.  Don't get me wrong, I am loving this summer break, but with many teachers in other parts of the country setting up their classrooms and starting up the new school year, it's hard to resist that spark of excitement that comes with a new school year (especially when technically it is still a month away and there is still lots of time for fun summer non-work-related adventures!)  I have been tweeting a lot more this summer, and I have done a lot of work-related things, but there has definitely been a balance between work and life, which is always the goal (now if only I can make that last all year and not just July & August...)

Algebra for All & Math for America
Last week I finished up the Algebra for All Summer Institute, and next week I have one day of professional learning at the Japan Society.  Overall, the 12 sessions at Algebra for All were really good.  We also have five sessions throughout the school year and then we come back together again next summer.  The sessions were a good balance of content and pedagogy, which was a nice split between between being a math student and being a math teacher.  It made me really excited that I will also be starting my first year as a MfA Master Teacher Fellow (I officially signed my Fellowship agreement last week) and I will continue to grow as a math teacher and learner between the five A4A sessions and the 7+ MfA sessions.  Part of the last week of A4A was planning for the first day, week, and month of school.  September has 15 school days, and as of right now I have half of them outlined.  Since we are going away the last two weeks of August, I have this week and next week to get as much planning for September in before we go back after Labor Day.

MTBoS #SundayFunday #PushSend Goals & First Day Plans
Speaking of the first day, the MTBoS is bringing back #SundayFunday.  I did one of their blogging challenges back in January and found it to be very helpful to "force me" to take a step back and write on here each week.  Last week a lot of MTBoS teachers posed about their goals for the 2017 - 18 school year, so here is mine: problem solving.  I want the focus of this upcoming school year to be all about problem solving.  Going into this year, I will (probably) only be teaching 7th & 8th grade Algebra 1, and I feel good about it - I mean last year I somehow managed to juggle teaching 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade Algebra 1, Math Club/ Photography Club, and 6th grade Advisory and all my 8th graders passed the Algebra 1 Regents, so I felt good.  I was inspired by a lot of things at A4A including SVMI's Problem of the Month, the new Illustrative math curriculum, YouCubed's positive math norms, math routines, math talks, and using the mathematical modeling process to explore problems and at the heart of it all is problem solving.  To help support my goal, currently my first seven days of school include: Get it Together problems, intro to our first POM, reviewing the syllabus and positive class norms or Algebraic Habits of Mind, our first math talk,  possibly a three act task, a Week of iMath problem or two, and lastly our formal baseline assessment.  Last year, my students took their baseline on day 4, and this year I moved it back to day 7, especially after reading this article, The Math-Class Paradox.  We won't even look at textbooks until day 8 and I am proud of that.  The nice thing about looping with students is that you already know them and they know you, and since I was their teacher last year, I know what was covered and what wasn't.  My new 8th graders are a full unit ahead of where my 8th graders were last year, and I plan to use that wiggle room that I built in for myself last year as problem solving time this year, so I am excited for the things to come.  I do want to be mindful that saying and doing are two different things, but I am fairly confident going into this year that I can make problem solving in my classes a real priority.

Google Certified Educator Level 2
Last year I decided I wanted to finally be a Google Certified Educator.  I started the Level 1 modules last summer and never got around to finishing them until two weeks ago.  I took the Level 1 certification test and passed.  Then, another teacher in a Facebook group that I am a part of posted about how she dad taken Level 1 and Level 2 back to back and passed, so I decided why not go for Level 2?  As a teacher who has used G Suite for Education for the past six years or so, Level 1 made sense.  Level 2 though introduced me to so many new features that I had never even heard about!  I learned so much, like Google Arts & Culture and Google My Maps, so Friday I went through the modules, and took the certification test and will be going into next year as a Level 2 Google Certified Educator!

#100Problems in 100 Days 
Still loving Brilliant.org's 100 Day Summer Challenge!  I appreciate being a math learner.  Something I have noticed about myself is that sometimes (very much like my students) I know how to get an answer, but I don't know how to "show my work" or justify my solution.  I will be working through a problem, come up with a solution, but not necessarily be able to explain that solution or show my process in a way that would make sense to another person - I mean, it makes sense to me, but I doubt it would be fully clear to someone else.  The math teacher in me says to "show my work and make it clear", but the student in me (sometimes) says "if it makes sense to me, and I know it's right, why do I have to?"  It has made me mindful when working with my students that doing math takes work, not just in content, but in practice.  Learning something new has been a pretty powerful experience.

Learning to Swim
Speaking of learning something new, earlier this summer, when I made my Summer 2017 Goals, one of them was to learn how to swim.  Yes, I really didn't know, and decided that this would be the summer to change that.  So I signed up for four one-on-one classes at my local pool, and could definitely could see progress, but I still wasn't fully there, so I signed up for a month-long membership at my local pool, and have been going on my own as often as I can.  I am definitely not ready for the Olympics, but I can happily (and proudly) say now that I can do several laps on my own, even in the deep end.  Like the 100 Problems in 100 Days, this whole experience has really made me aware of what it takes to learn something new, specifically that I needed the support, encouragement, and feedback of a teacher and time to actually practice on my own.  I had to take an active role in the learning process.  I needed the guidance of a teacher who supported me and then I needed to get in the pool on my own and practice, practice, practice.  Also, I was actually in the pool, with my teacher for each of our sessions together.  Learning math, like learning to swim requires supportive, encouraging teachers who can give useful feedback while you are actually doing math.  I would not have made as much progress as I have if I had a teacher who demonstrated for me how to swim and then expected me copy her.  I also would not have made as much progress if I hadn't actually continued to practice swimming on my own.  There are just so many parallels between learning math and learning how to swim and I am grateful that this experience has put me in the learner seat.  If you had asked me two months ago, if I enjoyed swimming, I would have said "not really" because I didn't know how and there was no way I was going into the deep end of the pool, but turns out, I really do enjoy it.  I enjoy seeing how far I have come, building on my skills, and having something to work towards.  My goal is to be mindful of this experience of learning something new all school year and allow my classroom to be the "pool" - where we are *doing* meaningful problem solving, and I am supporting my students, each at their own level, encouraging them, giving them the feedback they need to push their own learning, and at the end of the day, having fun.

#Teach180
Lastly, one of my favorite math bloggers, does something called #Teach180 which is a challenge to post one picture from your classroom each day in order to inspire and learn from others.  It is a no pressure challenge, but I like the accountability, since blogging everyday is unlikely, but tweeting is doable.  I am excited to see where this goes and to see what others are doing.  Making my twitter account professional and public last year really was one of the best forms of professional learning I have done.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Algebra for All, Google Certification, 100 Day Challenge & MfA

Here we are, in the thick of summer break (even though the past two days have felt more like Fall).  As we approach the half way point of summer break, I wanted to take some time to reflect on Algebra for All, and my own mathematical learning, so here it goes...

Algebra for All
Last week we wrapped up week 1 of Algebra for All.  Some of my big takeaways were how can I be strategic during the summarize part of my lessons, using the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Mathematical Discussions.  I am confident in my ability to anticipate, monitor, and connect student work, but need to be more strategic in the selecting and sequencing.  Although I have gotten better and selecting which student work I want my classes to share and discuss, there are still times I simply open up my summary to any student that wants to share.  So a goal of mine next year is to be more mindful of that.  I also want to incorporate more Three Act Tasks into my classes.  

This week we started our first round of electives.  Yesterday and today I had Routines for Building an Algebraic Learning Culture for Struggling Learners with Metamorphisis TLC, and tomorrow and Thursday I have Conceptual Approaches to Algebra in Secondary Mathematics with Bill Jacob.  Next week I have my last two electives, Problem Solving with SVMI and Developing the Habits of Algebraic Thinking and Problem Solving with CUNY Collaborative.  My big takeaways from my first elective is how can I promote mathematical habits of mind and the CCSS MP through math thinking routines?  I already use a notice/wonder routine with my students, so I would like to continue to use that.  I love the "What could the question be?" routine, where you present students with an image or scenario without a question, and they have to come up with what the question could be.  I love this idea and cannot wait to bring this routine into my classes next year.  We also explored the "Which one doesn't belong?" routine, which I enjoyed and think I may even use it on day one in September.  All of these made me think of how can I support my students in making their thinking visible and how can I support their understanding of mathematical structure?  Overall I reflected on the constructivist-transmissionist spectrum and where do I fall, and more importantly, do my actions in my classroom, align with my beliefs?

Google Certification
Finally finished all the units in the Google Educator Level 1 training and signed up to take the certification exam within the next seven days.  After wanting to get certified for the last year, I hope I will finally be able to cross this off my to-do list.

100 Day Challenge
I am finally all caught up in Brilliant.org's 100 Day Summer Challenge and I am still loving it!

MfA 
Lastly, it is kind of important for me to be able to post this this week.  One year ago tomorrow, I found out I didn't get into Math for America and I was super bummed about it.  Looking back, it really put a damper on my whole summer.  I think it's important to recognize that (temporary) failure.  It's nice to be able to look back at that experience and see how far I've come, getting into MfA this year and growing both as a math teacher and math student.  Man, does it feel good.     

Monday, July 17, 2017

Algebra for All, 100 Problems in 100 Days and Edgy Summer Reading

Algebra for All
Today was the first day of the Algebra for All Summer Professional Learning.  I am excited to be a part of the second cohort of math teachers in NYC who are committed to improving math instruction.  The goal of this institute is to have every student complete algebra no later than then end of 9th grade and to provide every 8th grade student access to an algebra 1 class.  As a middle school math teacher, who teaches 8th grade Algebra 1, this is a core part of my teaching life.  The institute consists of twelve days during the summer, five days during the next school year, and five days next summer, and focuses not just on pedagogy, but our own content knowledge.

Today we explored the Handshake Problem and Border Problem, both of which I have used with my students this past year.  Part of this first week will also involve a book study of 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, which I've been wanting to read, and goes nicely with the other book I am reading this summer, Fostering Algebraic Thinking.  In fact, we even discussed Driscoll's Algebraic Habits of Mind.  Jo Boaler's work on the importance of visual mathematics also came up today.

100 Problems in 100 Days
This summer I am also doing Brilliant.org's 100 Day Challenge.  I started last week, and am up to day 35.  I am really enjoying spending some time to work through these problems.  I especially enjoyed working through day 3, day 28day 32 and day 34.  Exploring these problems is allowing me to challenge my own mathematical thinking, and be comfortable with my own disequilibrium.  Some of them have been fun, and some have gotten me frustrated, but I am grateful for the opportunity to do math as a practitioner, and not just the teacher.  Exploring these problems has also made me think of the importance of doing math problems, just for fun.  When I am choosing problems for my students to explore, it is always with a content goal in mind, for example, we would explore the handshake problem during our unit on quadratics because it can be represented by a quadratic function.  There is a specific goal I have in mind... a specific place I want my students to get to.  But does it have to be that way?  Why can't we just explore a problem because it's fun and interesting and not a traditional problem from on exam?  Don't get me wrong, as teachers we have limited time and resources and we must be purposeful with what we bring into our classes, but exploring problems like these just for the sake of stretching our mathematical brains and problem solving and thinking logically and having fun (dare I say it... without a specific, content-driven learning objective on the board) has a tremendous value.  A part of me of me is both terrified and beyond thrilled to try this next year.  How awesome would that be?

The Rebellious Teacher's Edgy Summer Reading List for 2017
Speaking of being rebellious, a colleague of mine posted this list a couple of weeks ago, and since I am always looking for a good book to read (and ways to incorporate social justice into my curriculum), I decided to check it out.  Turns out I had just finished Homegoing, so I decided to read The Hate U Give.  I loved both, and both hit on some petty big, and important issues about race and identity.  I think my next summer read will be lighter, but will try to also squeeze in The Handmaid's Tale before the end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MfA, Student Surveys, Summer Math PL & the 100 Day Summer Challenge

I can't believe that it is already July 11th!  Where has the summer been going?  Even though we are on summer break till the day after Labor Day, one of my goals was to keep writing on here (I only blogger three times last summer) so here I am with my first post of summer break 2017:

Math for America
After packing and cleaning up my classroom for the year and saying goodbye to students for the summer, I got some pretty awesome news... I am a Math for America Master Teacher!  Yes, after applying and not getting in last year, I applied again this year, and earned a Master Teacher Fellowship, which I was super happy about.  Even better, the Living Environment teacher at my school also got in, so now our school is lucky enough to have not one, but two MfA Master Teachers, which means great things will happen over the next four years!  Too bad it happened after we had said goodbye to students because I had shared my experience applying to MfA the past two years with them.  I already signed up for orientation in September, and cannot wait to take in all the new learning and experiences to come from other MfA Master Teachers!  I worked hard for this, and man does it feel good to have finally earned this.  One thing I am a little jealous of is that since I just got in, I am missing out on the first MfA Summer Think going on this week. I have been following along on Twitter, and even though I can't participate this summer, seeing everything going on only makes me more proud thatI am finally a part of this amazing group of STEM educators!

EOY Student Surveys
Before the school year ended, my students took their EOY surveys for me.  Unfortunately only 81% of my students responded, but I did get responses from all five classes I taught this year.  I hope to spend some time in my next post really reflecting on what they said and how I can improve for next year.

Summer Math Professional Learning 
I had the first of three math PLs that I am going to this summer yesterday, on Enhancing the Math Classroom: Using Authentic Tasks to Support Conceptual Understanding (6 - 12) and next week starts Algebra for All for 12 days, which I couldn't go to last year because I was getting my Gifted Certification at Hunter College.  I was inspired to start the next year with a Dan Meyer 3 Act Task.  I did at least one with my 7th graders last year, and a couple with my 8th graders.  I think it will be a rich way to kick off the new school year.

I also signed up for The Art of Origami in Your Math & ELA Classroom at the Japan Society next month, which sounds fun.  I also hope to participate in the CAMI summer book club, which starts today.  We are reading Fostering Algebraic Thinking: A Guide for Teachers, Grades 6 - 10 by Mark Driscoll.  Lastly, I want to continue (and hopefully finish) becoming a Google Certified Educator this summer.  It was another one of those things that I started last summer, but never followed through.

100 Day Summer Challenge
Finally, this summer  Brilliant.org is hosting the 100 Day Summer Challenge, and even though I am slow to start (I was still teaching until June 28th), I finally got into this week, and I am loving it!  Every day from June 1st - September 8th they post a math problem or puzzle.  Like, I said I am behind, but currently up to day 5 and am on a 4 day streak.  I love this idea and wonder how I can do something like this in my classroom?  I already use the Math Counts Problem of the Week in my class, but find that it's always the same students who try it and would love to get more invested.  Since I am 36 days behind where they currently are, I am going to try and do at least 5 a day, which would bring me up to date by next week (yes, I had to do some math there).  I really do think that a essential part of being a good math teacher, is always being a math learner, and this challenge (as well as my MfA presentation last month) force me to push my own mathematical thinking, which is pretty neat.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Glows and Grows from Year 10 and Goals for Next School Year

Here we are at last, the last "week" of school ("week" being actually only 1.5 days since we are off today and our last day is Wednesday). What a year it has been!  Busy for sure, but we made it.

Wednesday will mark the end of my tenth year as a teacher, which kind of blows my mind because I can still very clearly remember counting down the hours until I was no longer a first year teacher, and now fast forward a decade, and here I am.  I had my EOY meeting with my AP this past week and I thought it would be fitting to share my own glows and grows from this past year, and my goals for the upcoming school year:

Glows:

  • I survived planning, teaching and assessing 5 classes across three different grades, not to mention planning and running an advisory, and an elective class
  • 100% of my 8th graders passed the Algebra 1 Regents exam and the mean score was an 87.  I had these students last year in 7th grade too, and I was proud to see them graduate this past week... they will definitely be missed.
  • Facilitating one of the challenges at the STEM Family Fun Night at the NY Hall of Science last month was a lot of fun and something I am looking forward to continuing in the future
  • I enjoyed mentoring a new teacher (and a half) this past year (see Grows below)
  • I included more Mathalicious, MAP, and Desmos work in my curriculum this year across all three grades
  • I followed through with my assessment schedule this year, starting with a Baseline, three Interim Assessments, and an End of Year exam, in all three grades, all with exams I created using released 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Algebra 1 Regents questions (see Grows below).  Although we haven't gotten the state test scores back yet, I know all my 8th grades did well on their Regents exam. 
  • I participated in the Spring 2017 NYC Teaching Lab Demonstration Cycle and am considering applying for the Teaching Lab Fellowship
  • I shared at the Chancellor's Conference on Designing Instruction to Challenge Students in January 
Grows:
  • I was consistently behind in grading, giving student feedback, and updating my bulletin boards this year
  • I feel like I did not do a good enough job supporting my lowest level students in class this year.  I taught both the 6th and 7th grade ICT classes this year (with a co-teacher) and it was challenging to support my lowest students during our regular class time.  This is not something that is exclusive to teaching at a G&T school, but it was definitely a challenge for me to give every student what they need (including my time and attention that they all deserve)
  •   Although I enjoyed mentoring a new teacher this year (and then another new teacher half way through the year) it was hard spreading out my time equally, especially when we only had opportunities after school to do so.  Trying to keep up with my own planning and grading and then making the time to support my mentees was a challenge.  Also, both of my mentees were not math teachers, so although I could share with them my own experience, content-wise, I'm sure I wasn't as helpful as I could have been.
  • Our elective schedule was fuzzy this year at my school.  We were supposed to have smaller cycles, but ended up having one long first session, and then one short cycle at the end.  I did the National Math Club for my first cycle, and then Photography for my second, and with everything else I was planning for, these (as well as advisory) were never a main priority since they were not everyday classes.  Although we did reach the Gold Level in Math Club again, we didn't participate in any math competitions this year (last year we went to two) and didn't participate in the St. Jude's Math-a-thon.  In advisory, we also didn't do a service learning project this year and student-led conferences were only OK.  Although I did the best I could, I know I could have been doing more in each of these. 
  • I didn't do as much cross-curricular collaboration this year as I would have liked
  • Even though I followed through with an assessment cycle, I don't think I used the data from it as effectively as I could have
  •  I only went on one trip this past year, and it was only with my 7th & 8th graders, to see Hidden Figures through a DOE promotion
Goals for Next School Year:
  • To continue my 100% Algebra 1 Regents passing rate, with a higher mean score, or at to at least have no score lower than an 80
  • To use data more effectively, by using Student Profile, EOY Student Survey data, and possibly SchoolNet.  I am also thinking about adding another interim assessment into my assessment calendar.
  • To give my students more effective and timely feedback on their work
  • Better curriculum planning and homework, especially focusing on the the Common Core Math Shifts - focus, coherence, and rigor
  • Use Math for America Professional Development Resources to support our small professional learning team
  • This summer I will join the Algebra for All initiative, and I hope to be able to bring things back into my classroom
  • Be more strategic and thoughtful in planning with my grading system to make sure that I plan for equal opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning
  • Possibly find outside teachers to collaborate with on projects
  • Embed more inquiry problem solving into my curriculum using Illustrative and NRICH tasks.  I also hope to have my students participate in Global Math Week in October and the Global Math Challenge in November.
  • Lastly (for now) I would like to continue to work on becoming a Google Certified Educator, which is something I started doing last year, but didn't follow though