Archive for August, 2011

Week One

Has it really only been one full week of school?  It sure feels like it’s been longer.  Not that it’s a bad thing – but it just feels like I’ve been in school for more than 1 week.  At our school, kids have 2 weeks to switch classes and move around schedules.  I also have been teaching a lot of procedures, so I haven’t fully introduced SBG yet.  I have given out some information, but next week is when I plan on really spending some time on it.

My 7th grade math class is going pretty well for the most part.  Since I haven’t taught math OR junior high before, this was the one class I was a bit worried about this year.  It seems to be a review for most kids so far, everyone is doing very well.  When I present a lesson, I involve them in the “action” – we’ve done a couple of hands on activities and I try to call on a range of kids.  I take them through my “thought process” when we do example problems, and I make sure they get plenty of “story problems”.  They do pretty well for the most part.  We are working a lot on classroom expectations – I have heard that other teachers have had to spend a bit more time in this area with this particular class.  The good thing is, they listen – at least to me – and try to do better.  It is just going to take some practice, and I have to remember to be specific about my expectations each day so that they remember.

Chemistry is going through the Mass and Change lab from the modeling curriculum.  It is taking a bit longer than I would like – it looks like it will have taken 5 days when all is said and done.  However, I think this will be good for them in the long run – they seem to be building a good, solid foundation.  I look forward to the whiteboard session after the lab.  We’ve only had one session so far – and one class was already asking questions.  That’s a big change from last year, and a welcome one.  We’ll see what happens next week.

Earth Science and Physics are both working on cardboard boats.  One of our teachers manages the pool in a nearby town, and they keep it open for us to have cardboard boat races.  We compete with another school.  It is a lot of fun, and the kids look forward to it.  I use it to teach my Earth kids measurement.  This is the first year that Physics students are participating.  This particular class was the one class that didn’t get to make boats as freshmen, so they really wanted to participate – they begged last year, and I decided that it could be a good idea.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Here are a couple of pictures of boat work – they just started the actual building yesterday/today, so there’s not  a lot of visible progress yet.  They have a good start though!



What have I gotten myself into?

Let me say right up front:  I’m not a blogger.  I don’t play one on TV.  I don’t think of myself as witty, or clever – so if that is what you are looking for, you might want to just keep looking.  If you’re looking to read about a teacher in the Middle of Nowhere, looking to improve her skills, well, then you’re in the right place.

I am a teacher.  Up until this summer, I thought I was a pretty darned good one.  Back when I was a student teacher, I was named “Student Teacher of the Year.”  I easily found a job where my students and my administration loved me.  When I had to move to a new district the next year (couldn’t keep up with the commute), I brought with me glowing recommendations.  In fact, I interviewed for 3 different schools in that new district and was offered all 3 jobs…the day I interviewed.  I went on to be named New Teacher of the Year in that district – and with a student population of over 30,000 (not sure how many teachers), that’s saying something.  When we moved to Kansas, I brought more glowing recommendations with me.  I don’t say this to “toot my own horn”…but to show why I thought I was a pretty good teacher.

When I got to Kansas, I worked with a teacher that introduced me to Modeling Instruction.  In some ways, it was not so different from what I was used to.  I already did many of the same labs – and I often used activities to introduce a new topic.  I was also known as the teacher who “answered questions with other questions.”  But in other ways, it was very different.  The worksheets – oh the worksheets.  They were short and sweet, and I was used to assigning homework.  There isn’t much lecture in modeling, and I was used to PowerPoint presentations at least twice a week.  With modeling, the “learning” comes through the discussion that occurs during whiteboard presentations.  That was probably the scariest part for me!  Not sure why – I guess I didn’t feel as “in control.”  Anyway, this teacher told me to take a Modeling workshop, so I signed up for one in Chemistry.  I fell in love.  It didn’t work perfectly in my classroom – but I knew it was something I needed to invest more time in.  So this summer I signed up to take 2 more modeling classes; one in Physical Science, and another in Physics.  One of my friends at the Physics workshop (she also took chem with me last summer) found me on Google+.  In her circles, she had contacts that I recognized from NSTA listservs…and these people had blog posts!  In fact, this friend had a blog as well.  So I started reading…and reading…and reading.  And I found out that I really am not the great teacher I thought I was.  I’m not terrible, or anything like that…but I after reading about Pseudoteaching at Frank’s blog, I decided that the description really fit me.  I also decided that I need to make some more changes.

One of the big changes I will be making this year is in my grading system.  While perusing these blogs, I read about Standards Based Grading (SBG), and it seemed to fit right in with everything else I have been learning.  In fact, I have so many ideas floating in my head that I’m a little nervous that school starts on THURSDAY!  I have too many changes to make!  But that’s part of why I am starting this blog.  Hopefully I can work through all of these ideas and get some feedback.  So your homework is to tell me what blogs are MUST READS.  You can toot your own horn, it’s okay.  Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can get my brain to slow down enough to put together some coherent blog posts on a few of my ideas.

PS…the Language Arts teacher at my school is going to try SBG this year as well, so if you know of any blogs I can pass on to her, she’d probably appreciate it.  Right now she’s reading all those Physics and Science blogs I found…

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