Tagged: #MTBoS

I heard Dr. Danny Martin

IMG_0774-1This may be the most difficult post I have written, but I am committed to writing it, because, as Marian Dingle pointed out to me, the silence she noted after Danny Martin’s talk ‘Taking a Knee in the Mathematics Classroom: Moving from Equity and Discourse to Protest and Refusal”  at NCTM Annual two weeks ago was disturbing.

I heard Dr. Martin speak on Friday, April 27, about 36 hours after the rousing keynote by Dr. Chris Emdin.  I was mentally prepared for the keynote, because I watched his talk at SXSWedu last year, and I’ve read For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood..and the Rest of Y’All Too.  I had read a brief article or two of Dr. Martin’s as well, but his articulate and academic writing, while powerful and moving, didn’t quite compare with the live

emdinnctm

Chris Emdin’s Keynote

‘Pentecostal ‘preaching’ showmanship of Dr. Emdin.  That all changed when I heard him speak.  The subject of his talk – the mathematics education that Black children currently receive versus the mathematics education that they should receive – was both radical and logical.  His language and examples were clear, compelling, and perhaps revolutionary.

I was deeply moved by everything Dr. Martin said, despite the fact that I may have no place in his vision.  And I am not bothered by this (I think).

IMG_3890Dr. Martin’s talk addressed the brilliance of black children that goes unacknowledged, undermined, even attacked in our [mathematics] classrooms, and the violence and dehumanization on so many levels in [mathematics] education, which is rooted in both anti-Blackness and white supremacy.  He asserted repeatedly (and correctly) that efforts at reform and discourses around equity in mathematics education manage to sustain themselves despite their failure to “respond to Black oppression and dehumanization” [quoting his slides] and ultimately preserve the status quo.

And he thus called for Protest and Refusal in the form of a Black Liberatory Mathematics education: ” the framing and practice of mathematics education that allows Black learners to flourish in their humanity and brilliance, unfettered by whiteness, white supremacy, and anti-blackness.”   Dr. Martin outlined a Black Liberatory Mathematics education as follows:

“A Black Liberatory Mathematics education prioritizes liberation over integration and freedom.  This form of mathematics education is skeptical of liberal notions of inclusion and equity, appeals to democracy and citizenship, neoliberal multiculturalism, and refuses all forms of systemic violence against Black learners.  The freedom to participate, integrate, and be included into anti-Black spaces characterized by systemic violence is not freedom.

A Black Liberatory Mathematics education is designed and directed first and foremost by liberation-seeking Black people including parents, caregivers, community members, Black teachers and Black students.”

Dr. Martin pointed out that the fight for civil rights left behind a nation that remains segregated, with multitudes of black children living in poverty, and where life expectancy of African Americans has actually declined.  He is committed thus, to a struggle not for civil rights, but for the “infinitely more important struggle for human rights”, and to an educational system that addresses the needs and brilliance of black children, as defined by their community.

I’m not going to paraphrase (or quote) more of his talk – I recommend you watch it yourself.  It will be time well spent.

What he said resonated so powerfully with me – things I have seen in the schools in which I have worked, what I have read and observed in the media, what I hear people say – our system – the system of which I am a part, the system which gave my own [white] children a wonderful education – does not serve Black children equitably on so many levels.   They are done ‘soft violence’ in terms of curricular tracking and reduced course offerings, and more overt violence in our discipline systems and routine treatment by deans and school security.  So, yes, the answer may be Dr. Martin’s Black Liberatory Mathematics education.  And the system he described – by and for Black people – does not include a role for me.

I knew this as I listened to him, and the inner [white] voice that kept asking, “but what about me?  What can I do? How can I help?” needed to be silenced, and reminded, that this was not for me or about  me.  The first question from the audience at the conclusion of his talk was just that, “What can we do?”  This question was not asked by a white person, interestingly enough.

Dr. Martin said, “Step 0: Hear me.”

So I am hearing, with, as he suggested, open ears and an open heart.  I am reflecting on my piece in this complicated puzzle – an educational system which only serves some people well.  To be honest, I’m not really concerned about my role in his vision, because I know it’s not about me, and I know that the way things are – well –  it stinks for a lot of kids.  I can’t be more articulate than that right now, but I know this to be true in my heart.  Dr. Martin also said – and this continues to echo in my  mind – “There is no road to justice.  Justice is right here, right now.”  (Again my apologies for poor paraphrasing)

I think that well-meaning white educators hearing this talk might feel bewildered, and at a loss with this vision that doesn’t necessarily include them or ‘need their help.’  But I think this is exactly the point.  With a son about to enter school, Dr. Martin spoke about his decreasing level of trust with a system that provides neither democracy nor citizenship for all of its constituents.  I have to honor this hugely intelligent man’s perspective and vision for Black children because he speaks things that I am sadly certain are accurate.

So, step 0: hear him.  You can watch the video of his talk here.

tumblr_p51lvsHndL1qlxdvro1_1280

 

 

Who knew Systems in 3 Variables could be fun?

I’ve been tweeting about various highlights of the start of the school year – wonderful Beyond White Dudes signcomments on name tents, successful ‘stand and talks’, the launching of “Mathematicians Beyond White Dudes”, and the “What is Math?” lesson. The last two in this list, I am convinced, has won me some engagement for which I might have otherwise needed to fight, if indeed those students were willing to become involved at all in my math madness. And I owe debts to Rachel Rosales, Sara Vanderwerf, Annie Perkins, and Brian Palacios for sharing their hard work so that I might improve my practice, and the IMG_2376educational experience of my students, hereinafter occasionally referred to as “the kiddies,” with great affection. I have hesitated to blog about all this, because I am standing on a lot of shoulders, and don’t want to claim someone else’s genius as my own (that, and the fact that my body is screaming from the enforced transition from an 8 am wake-up time, to 5:15 am, or, as appropriately dubbed by my daughter, ass o’clock.

But today I had a success that I am pleased to own. This is a lesson that flopped dismally last year which I was able, with reflection, to fix. In our department, we have debated the value of teaching systems of equations in three variables; we don’t do 3D graphing, or cover the equation of a plane, and opportunities for context are thus lacking. But the Math Overlords in Albany (aka the Board of Regents) have included it in the standards, which by the way, have been recently revised and renamed the Next Generation Learning Standards- but I digress and will only inflict THAT rant on close family and friends.

Whether or not I feel content is appropriately placed in the curriculum, I owe it to my students to prepare them for the gatekeeping exam they will take at the end of my course, and it behooves me to find some way to make the topic intriguing without having the time to address graphing in three dimensions, providing adequate context and background. Last year I came up with the idea of having the kiddies make up number puzzles. I opened the lesson with Task Cards; when students entered the room, each table had a different set of requirements of their card. I made sure my instructions were clear and easy to follow (famous last words, right?). Total flop- the kids had no idea what to do, and looked at me like I was speaking a language that none of them knew. I guess I was. After a little flailing about on my part, we abandoned the activity, and I launched into the very dry task of demonstrating how to solve a system in 3 variables.

Fast forward to Fall 2017. One year more experience, one more year of sharing online, participating in the #DITL (Day in the Life) blogging challenge, and attending high quality professional development at Math for America and being a part of that community. Another attendance at wonderful, inspiring Twitter Math Camp – probably most important of all – surrounded by friends, progressive teaching, and a group of educators dedicated to continual growth for both themselves and their students. A booster shot for my teacher soul, which I was terribly afraid was burning out.

Today, the 6th full day of school, I introduced Visibly Random Groupings in this class.  I waited a week because this class is not in my regular classroom with its lovely tables, and we have to put the desks into groups when we enter.  I’m still trying to work out the logistics in my mind of moving in and out of a classroom for one period, moving the desks, giving out cards for seating…I know there’s a smooth solution that I just haven’t envisioned yet (feel free to make suggestions!).

UntitledI began the lesson with a number puzzle above – it involved three numbers, didn’t necessarily require a system with three variables to solve. The kiddies got busy as soon as they entered the room.  Several did write systems with three variables, and quickly substituted into them.  Jonathan, my super-eager, super bright 9th grader in Algebra 2, asked if  he ‘was allowed’ to solve it with just one variable.  Pretty quickly, students arrived at solutions, and wanted to share them.  We put some work on the board, discussed all the different strategies involved – guess and check, elimination, substitution – everything we had used when reviewing systems with 2 variables for the last two days.

Then I put this task on the board.  I read the directions to them, giving them Untitled2examples of what the result of each step might result be.  I learned last year that it was crucial to the success of this task to be explicit – despite my faith in my students’ abilities, they needed some translation of what I was looking for; this leg up and the experience of the warm-up gave them enough support to begin to play without me telling them exactly what to do.  The room was BUZZING.  The kids debated which numbers to choose.  They debated which variables to use.  IMG_2390They wrote the systems and then tested them. Twice.  And then I gave each group a small whiteboard on which to write their system.  The groups swapped boards, and tried to find solutions.  There were heads together, signaling across the room.  Not a phone in sight.  And I heard lots of great talk – students justifying to one another, arguing with each other.  No one needed my help, so I walked around eavesdropping, and grinning.  There was frustration and struggle, but the IMG_2386kiddies were so motivated to figure things out, that they took that frustration and used it to fuel another attempt.  They took pictures of the whiteboards so they could continue working on them later.  And I could see that the class NOW was truly primed for solving the more difficult systems that they will encounter on the state assessment.  As the end of the period drew near, I presented an example of the type of system we would be working on next week, just to get them thinking.  When the bell rang, several students stayed behind, continuing to work/argue/get excited about solving the systems they had traded with one another.

I’ve been working hard to incorporate engagement strategies and keep the kiddies talking about math to each other.  I’ve seen enough positive action thus far to keep moving forward.  I love the feeling of being so intentional and witnessing the results. Okay – I know the school year is only six full days old, but I’m on the right path.

A postscript that I’m trying not to dwell on: As of this fall, there are two tracks for Algebra 2 in my school: one for students who passed the Geometry Regents, and one for those who did not.  (Students who retake the Geometry Regents and pass it in January can move from one track to the other).  There are reasons for this that make sense and others with which I disagree.  But the issue at hand is that many students were erroneously programmed in Algebra 2, and this is allegedly going to be fixed early next week – which means A LOT of students are going to be reprogrammed.  I am currently teaching 2 sections of Regents Algebra 2 and 2 sections of non-Regents Algebra 2, and all this good work I’ve been doing of introducing my classroom culture and connecting with my students – well, we’re all in for some disruption. Wish me luck in weathering it all.

 

 

Wendy’s Excellent Summer Adventure #TMC17: Post 1

FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF 5 DAYS AND READING A HOST OF #TMC17 RECAPS, I’M GOING TO SPLIT MINE INTO TWO POSTS – THE FEELS AND THE MATHS.  HERE ARE THE FEELS

I’m sitting in Union Station in Washington D.C., waiting for my sister to arrive on the train from New York. I can finally tear myself away from my twitter feed, having just found out that #TMC18 will be in Cleveland. It was hard leaving early, but reading the#TMC17 twitter feed (or rather, watching it fly by at lightning speed) kept the feeling of the conference with me as my train sped along – albeit delayed – from Atlanta to DC.

My head and heart were so full when I left the conference Saturday afternoon, that I was exhausted. I began to make a list of places/people/events/meals so I wouldn’t forget anything when I was ready to write my reflective post, but the list quickly overwhelmed me. So I’ll just do my best to remember.

The backdrop (fortunately or not) for this year’s Twitter Math Camp was an online debate about the hashtag #MTBoS, which is an organically evolved acronym for the Math Twitter Blogosphere. I’m not going to jump into the fray, although it’s been alternately entertaining, infuriating, and painful to watch, but I want to say this: out of what I will not exaggeratedly refer to as desperation for professional connection, I jumped into the fray in 2013. I blogged somewhat timidly, lurked frequently, and was blown away by my first participation in #geomchat – a weekend morning chat for Geometry teachers. My twitter feed (which I had learned to set up thanks to David Wees’s videos to which I can no longer find the link) flew by with comments and questions from like-minded teachers across the country, and most likely from Canada, the UK, and Australia as well. I was speechlessly joyful – I’d found gold.

I went to #TMC13 in Philadelphia not knowing a soul, and I was pretty terrified. What I found was this: a warm and welcoming community, one which I could join or withdraw from as I needed, and one which welcomed me when I returned, without reservation. Over the last five years, I have had weeks (months) where I have had to remove myself from the online chatter, and other times where I have reached out with questions about teaching, content, ethics, and equity, always to find someone willing to talk. I get out of this community what I put into it. And even though I didn’t wear one of Sam Shah’s wonderful “Adorably Shy” buttons at TMC17, I consider myself one of those folk (although not necessarily adorable). Every conference I attend, every talk in which I participate is something of a personal struggle. I learned a long time ago that I am responsible for me (or as Annie says, “You do you”). The #MTBoS in its many forms – chats, blogs, tweets, conference gatherings – is greater than the sum of its parts. I am grateful that it is there for me. But it doesn’t owe me anything.

[That was too long. And I guess I jumped in a wee bit. Couldn’t help myself, and don’t want to delete it.]

Back to #TMC17:

I arrived in Atlanta early on Tuesday, and after picking up my rental car, went in search of coffee (always). Trusty Google Maps sent me to Octane Coffee, which happened to be on the grounds of the Woodruff Arts Center, and even more fortuitously, across a sculpture-strewn garden path from the High Art Museum, currently featuring an exhibit of 250 Andy Warhol prints. The coffee was great, too.

After feasting myself on art, I checked into the lovely hotel, settled in, and met Mary, Sandra, Jennifer and Anna for an excursion to what can only be described as the best aquarium I have ever visited. (This is no small statement from someone from New York, where we are convinced that the best of anything is only a subway ride away.) Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of Heather Kohn, a large group of tweeps were visiting the aquarium, and our ooh’s and aah’s were no less enthusiastic than the many children

visiting. We ate dinner at the surprisingly healthy cafe at the aquarium, and returned to the hotel to find #TMC17 participants filling up the multiple gathering spaces around the hotel lobby. The reunion began.

From that point on, #TMC17 became camp in the best sense of the word – the opportunity to be with friends, learning, playing, and dining.  Every different workshop, activity and meal found me in the midst of even more people I knew or wanted to get to know.  Reunions with people I hadn’t seen since Philadelphia, tweeps I had never met in person, and new colleagues/tweeps/friends.  Here’s a secret: I was seized by ambivalence the week before I left for Atlanta.  Traveling overnight by train, rooming with someoneturtle group new, running a workshop, maybe I just wasn’t ENTHUSIASTIC ENOUGH for the TMC lovefest.  But from the moment I connected with my aquarium buds in the lobby of the hotel until I dropped my final riders off on Saturday afternoon, I felt embraced and accepted – whoever or whatever I am – it’s ENOUGH.  And that seems to be the overriding message – one that I hear loud and clear even though sadly I was not able to stay for Lisa Henry’s closing remarks.

It strikes me that at this point in my life such insecurity is silly, and maybe even unbecoming.  Old habits and feelings die very hard – sometimes you are still THAT kid.  But my experience in Atlanta this summer is something I will treasure, because I rejoice in being found wrong.

w

#DITL 3/21/17: March is raging like a lion for me

tumblr_on6rc0ytb11qlxdvro1_1280

geobarnett.com

Slow start this morning due to spring allergies, right on time with the early warm weather.  But by time I’m at school, my homeostasis seems to return.  I take the exam I am about to administer to my Algebra 2 classes one more time, making sure that answers are reasonable, and that all the big ideas included have been thoroughly covered and reviewed.  I look for and find a lovely extra-credit question which really gets at the structure of logarithms. Untitled 3 It took me a couple of tries to puzzle out the solution to this problem; I would love it if a few of my students figured it out.

 

10:43 A.M.

Three periods of testing; I managed to look at the multiple choice questions from two of the classes, and haven’t come across a paper yet with all 10 correct, which gives me pause.  Was there something I missed in either teaching or reviewing?  After I am done grading, I’ll have to go back and look at where most of the errors occurred.  Parent-Teacher conferences are on Thursday evening and Friday (it’s Tuesday now), and it would be optimal to have the exams graded by then.  A bit of a Herculean effort, but I’m going to go for it.  But right now, I have to do a little prep for Geometry this afternoon – print Agendas for the tables, and review the lesson for questioning strategies.

11:35 A.M.

No working printers to be found, so the agenda is put on the board.  I am really enjoying my geometry classes this term; I am channeling my inner ‘pirate’ and exuding enthusiasm for triangles like nobody’s business (not a stretch for me, in truth – just ask my fellow quilters about the ad hoc lesson on special right triangles I gave at our mini-retreat last

2000px-Euler_diagram_of_triangle_types.svg

ALL triangles are special!

weekend.  I convinced them all that the 30˚-60˚-90˚ triangle was, in fact, a Platonic Ideal.)  The students, for the most part, respond with equal enthusiasm, if not 100% comprehension.  The engagement, however, is wonderful – I’ve even gotten the oh-so-cool-math-is-for-losers Abdullah to put away his cell phone to complete the Daily Quiz (a formative assessment currently dubbed by the students “The Biggie Triggie”).  I spend a lot of time backtracking while observing student difficulties during this activity.  What I have noticed is that each new idea they learn gets folded into what they learned the previous day – which is good, except when the distinctions between which ideas apply to which problems is blurred.  For example, we began by identifying trigonometric ratios on all types of right triangles and using them to find missing sides before I introduced special right triangles.  (I love telling the kids that sin 30˚ = 1/2 is the most important thing they will learn all year.  Their Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus teachers will thank me.)  But when we go back to solving problems with non-special right triangles (if such things even exist – aren’t ALL right triangles special?!?), many children are labeling sides with the 1-√3 -2 ratios.  As this type of misunderstanding surfaces, I jump into mini-mini lessons in which I attempt to clarify the previously taught ideas in a different way – hopefully one which will illuminate that which I failed to convey the first time taught.

 

Today we are working on word problems solved with trigonometry, after unplanned but clearly necessary The Biggie Triggie mini-lesson.  If the students understand how the trigonometric ratios work, however, the word problems shouldn’t present much of a problem (at least the starter problems) – the triangles in these problems (ladders against walls, kite strings, hills being climbed) are pretty easy to spot and sketch.  Despite student antipathy for word problems, I manage to convince these two lovely classes that these are the word problems that will end their fear, because they can and will SUCCEED.  It works.  Amazing.  I’m so lucky to have these kids this term, and at the end of the day.  I always finish happily – extolling the virtues of the mighty triangle.

1:45 P.M.

My paperwork for the day is done, and I go through tomorrow’s lessons to make sure that I have everything ready – my day starts at 7:10 A.M., and surprises at that hour can be very unpleasant.  Tomorrow’s lesson in Algebra 2 – Introduction to Summation – is not my favorite one; it’s highly procedural.  But after several weeks of exponential functions and logarithms, the routine problems will provide a respite (and confidence booster) for many of the students.  In Geometry, we’ll be working on problems involving angles of elevation and depression.  I’ve got a nice introduction to this topic (and if you are the source of this introduction, thank you – but I don’t remember where I found this resource), one which gets the kids up and looking around.  More geometry fun!

FullSizeRender 4I’m ready to leave (the upside to arriving before 7 A.M.!) school.  On my way out, I stop in the restroom, and run into the Video Production teacher.  We’re both at the end of our day, and fairly relaxed, so we begin chatting – the first social chat I can recall having with her.  She is mentoring two former students of mine who have been making short films (I was recently interviewed by them for their latest effort on the results and repercussions of 2016 election), who apparently have told her we need to be friends.  Great!  I need allies at school!  She makes me a gift of a button she is marketing, and our friendship is started.

4:30 P.M.

I have two private students this afternoon, an 8th grader taking Algebra 1, and a 9th grade Geometry student.  My tutoring schedule becomes heavy in the spring – with state tests and Regents beginning to loom – extending the work day 2-3 hours several times each week.  Besides the financial reward, I really enjoy working one-on-one with students.  It gives me the opportunity to provide the specific customized help that I aspire to in the classroom, without the 34 student/45 minutes constraint. And I also get deeper insight into where misconceptions happen, something I can definitely use in school.  And I can see what other teachers are doing – it’s always eye-opening to see how different classrooms and schools can approach the same courses and standards.

7 P.M.

Finally – home, dinner, and a little mindless television to grade exams by.  I manage to get through about half of the tests this evening, and the results, while not stellar, are better than I expected on what is usually one of the more difficult topics in the course.  I am encouraged; maybe I’m getting good at this…(famous last words…)

REFLECTION

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal? 

I am completing this post several days after it was due, so I have some information that I did not have at the end of this day – namely that in the 3rd class that took the Algebra 2 exam, I discovered evidence of cheating by several students.  So clearly my proctoring was not vigilant enough, and the consequences of this I am still dealing with 5 days later.  On a positive note, my efforts to rejuvenate the Geometry classes are successful thus far, and I am committed to maintaining the highly charged (positively) atmosphere in the classroom.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

I am looking forward to learning Python – I am preparing (and being trained) to teach an Introductory Computer Science course next year.  The pilot course is only being offered to students in our ‘non-gifted’ track, which is wonderful – it is high time for those students to be offered a new opportunity.  And I may be teaching some of my Geometry students, who I am growing more fond of every day.

Big challenges.  I lost my first cousin this month after a brief and ravaging illness, and I am terribly sad.  I’ve had trouble dipping into the online community since the Untitledinauguration, and this has shut me down a little more.  There’s a time for everything, and this is a time for me to be with my thoughts.  But motivation is hard some days.  Thank goodness for the kids – they always distract me.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

It’s kind of funny to think of a friendship beginning in a public school bathroom, but it was nice to connect with someone new and quite different from me (ostensibly, anyway).  Ms. B – the video production teacher – has always struck me as an artiste, dresses very bohemian, and always seems to be floating around happily.  But our few minutes of chatting made her much more real to me, and it turns out that we have more in common than I had suspected.  I’m looking forward to learning more about her.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

I continue to work on better relationships with my students, on seeing them more clearly, and trying to think the best of them first and always.  Without any specifics to offer, I think that I am doing a good job of this and feel a lot of good will in my classroom.  And progress has been made in the name of equity and awareness in my school, although I can’t take all the credit – our newly formed Social Justice Club will be holding its first meeting next week.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

Let me tell you about my wonderful cousin, Amy Pollack.  She was a middle school ESL teacher who was completely devoted to her students and school community – she retired two years ago and continued to work two days/week at her school.  The outpouring of love and gratitude from students on her FaceBook page after her death reminded me of the same sentiments expressed by my mother’s students.  Amy also gave back to her local community by working at the Putnam Valley Food Pantry, very often acting as translator for families in need.  She loved to dance (famous for leading the Electric Slide at every family event), and to laugh, and we spent every Passover together for as long as I can remember.  I will miss her.10509525_935067653173905_7530723527773813431_n

A Day in the Life: School during Vacation

Even though it’s vacation I’m headed into town on a rush hour train for 3 days of computer science training . I’m excited to learn something new, and the prospect of teaching something new.  And the bonus: I’ll be getting paid for these days (and given lunch!).  Giving up three days of this last break before a big solid chunk of spring term- you can’t buy time.  I thought a lot about that when I signed up.  Learning how to code has been a goal of mine for a long, LONG time, and despite the numerous freely available resources, I have yet to make any progress.  So this structured (and paid) training seems the best way to go.  And I’ll get to hang out with some colleagues from school.  I could use a little bonding time with my local math teachers.

untitledThe workshop is being held in a space called Breather (the wifi password is peaceandquiet).  We introduce ourselves on Padlet and with name tags (color-coded to reflect our level of expertise; I am beginner’s blue).  The participants are seated at two long tables. and it seems that there are less than 25 people here, surprisingly. For a city-
\wide initiative, I thought the class would be larger. The teachers come from almost every subject area – math, science, social studies, special education, and even a school librarian (who, by the way, is a killer Kahoot player!), and we have two administrators in our group.  A word about the special educator – she is an angel in disguise (although her name is Angelina, perhaps not so disguised); a brief conversation about her program this year (8th grade Algebra, 6th grade Math, self-contained general education (all core subjects) with students from 6th through 8th grade), and her focus on providing more tools for her students floored me.  I feel like I am pushing the edge of my capabilities when I have more than two preps.  I’ve always been a huge fan of special education teachers, and would like to pay some homage to another enormously generous human being.

A lot of the morning was spent orienting us to the course that we will be teaching, clarifying what computer science is, what coding is, and how computer science evidences itself in our lives now.  At the time, it felt a bit annoying to use two to three hours processing information that could have been presented in a fraction of the time, but with fullsizerender-1the vantage point of 24 hours past [as I write this], I realize that the facilitator was modeling the start of the course for our students.  There was a great deal of collegiality despite different levels of expertise among the students in the class.  We are all (I think) here to learn something new on our vacation, something designed to provide broader access to technology and computer science to all of our students.  So there is, I think, some common purpose.

After lunch, we finally had the opportunity to dig in to the lessons and begin learning Python.  I am thrilled by how straightforward it seems, although the exercises we did were, of course, elementary.  I find the logic and need for syntax familiar and clear, and I can see a path for myself for studying.  The course comes complete with lessons, quizzes, imgrespractices, and assessments, as well as moderated teacher and student forums for support.  I can easily see teaching the class with a modicum of modification – really,  the addition of enrichment resources, and a daily classroom structure.  I left the class eager to learn more.

I then headed over to the Math for America offices to meet with Jose Vilson.  We will be co-facilitating the Racially Relevant Pedagogy Professional Learning Team for one more semester, and needed to map out the agenda for the four sessions.  The opportunity to work with Jose has been wonderful, for all of the obvious reasons, but even more because I’ve grown through the experience.  Rising to the occasion of facilitating this PLT and tweetrunning the single session larger event forced me to push my own envelope – in a direction I have always wanted to go but couldn’t quite get to on my own. I’m thankful for his good humored patience with me, and for the ways in which our styles of working complement one another. I’m ready to continue the work beyond the PLT, and the clarity of my awareness has developed in large part as a result of our collaboration.

 

I finally got home at 6 pm and began doing some of the legwork for the first PLT meeting, which is next Tuesday. Part of that task was downloading a Key & Peele video, The Substitute, But a foray on to the Key & Peele YouTube channel resulted in me watching video after video, and laughing more than I have in weeks. I highly recommend you do the same. Here’s my personal fave:

 

Reflection

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

Since today wasn’t a teaching day, I didn’t really have any minute-to-minute decisions to make. In the workshop, I did my best to participate in a way that I would appreciate as a teacher, and to stay on task even when the direct instruction got a little looooong.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

Even though I would love a longer vacation, I am looking forward to digging in to the meat of the semester when we return. I was out sick the two days before the break, and was unhappy to break the momentum that had been building up in my classes this term.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

I am attending this computer science workshop with two other math teachers from my school. My office is in a different part of the building than the main math office, it has been nice to spend some time with them. In particular, I have had the opportunity to reconnect a bit with a teacher (who has become the school programmer, a huge job in a school of 4,000 students) with whom I was quite close. Our paths have diverged, but we still enjoy each other’s company. That’s been a bonus of this week.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  

My goal has been to ‘see’ my students and develop better relationships with them. My work with Jose, and on my own, has been progressing; I am working with two other teachers to help form a social justice club at school, and continue to educate myself [and those around me] in undoing racism.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

My proposal to run a morning session with Danielle Reycer and Jasmine Walker at Twitter Math Camp 2017 was accepted! Our planning has begun, and I am registered to go! Atlanta, here I come‼

The Longest Day of the Year – #DITL December 21, 2016

tumblr_oh117ctlce1qlxdvro1_1280

geobarnett.com


6:18 a.m.  – On the Bus

img_9793Yikes- Day in the life on the longest darkest day of the year!  Despite a restless night with a kitten whose loud purring is adorable when you’re NOT trying to sleep, I’m full of energy (well, that may be somewhat of an exaggeration at 6:24 am) this morning.  Yesterday was a banner day- the piece about me in Chalkbeat (see previous post) and a meeting of the MfA Racially Relevant Pedagogy PLT with incredible flow and connection. Feeling blessed, lapsed Jew that I am.

Another good thing today: I didn’t forget my phone and materials for after-work commitments (like I did yesterday).  I am good to go.

And three days until break.  Not going anywhere, and not too many plans – just reading , quilting, restoring.  Can. Not. Wait.

But there’s three days of math to do as well. In Algebra 2, we’ll be looking at modeling with quadratic functions, and in my Discrete Math classes, art created with geometric transformations and modular arithmetic will take us through the end of the week.  As I  am typing this on the bus, I decide to look for a Desmos activity when I get to school to introduce the quadratic modeling topic, postponing the worksheet (exploratory though it is) until tomorrow. I received an email yesterday telling me that a two day topic previously included in our pacing calendar has been removed, buying me two days of breathing room and time to let the kiddies play math a little.  An early holiday gift.

6:55 a.m. – Arrival at school 

A search of Desmos yields two activities I’m going to use, with a third option in my back pocket.  I decide to start with Build A Bigger Field as an introduction to modeling, followed img_9794by a Modeling Card Sort to suggest the use of different models for different situations (not all students may finish both activities, but that’s okay).  And I think I will assign everyone’s fave, Will It Hit the Hoop? for homework.  Plenty of time for debrief andimg_9795 worksheet explorations tomorrow.  The students will be turning in their Illustrated Task Projects today; maybe I can post a few while observing their progress on the iPads.  I love lessons like this.  The kids are engaged, talking about math, and I can…watch. It’s a beautiful thing – thanks yet again, Desmos! The time is 7:28 am; and with 32 minutes to first bell, it’s time to set up.

9:57 4th Period Prep

The Algebra 2 classes during Periods 2 and 3 went fairly well; the students enjoyed working their way through the activities, although many of them struggled without success, particularly, in response to this question: screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-10-52-11-amto my surprise (I need to stop being surprised by stuff like this).  This is when the fabulous Pause button came in handy; I stopped the class and we discussed the relationship of area and perimeter, and how to express the dimensions of a rectangle if the perimeter is untitledknown.  The big idea that the vertex of the downward facing parabola will represent the maximum value of the function in a real world context was clear (or appeared to be) by the end of the class.  Tomorrow, the students will on some problems involving projectile motion; I’m hoping thatBuild A Bigger Field laid some solid groundwork.  I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?
During my prep, I was visited by one of my favorite students, Saidul.  He is a recent immigrant from Bangladesh, lightning sharp with an impish sense of humor.  When he transferred to our school a year and a half ago from another high school where he was not succeeding, our wonderful Assistant Principal of Foreign Language realized that he had a high school (through 10th grade) diploma from his home country , and that only his poor English skills (which rapidly improved under the tutelage of our excellent ESL teachers) were hindering his progress.  He was in my late afternoon Geometry class last spring, a rambunctious group, packed with ELLs and IEP students.  These kids must have loved myclass, because attendance was high throughout the term, as img_9802were their spirits, cameradarie, and high jinks.  Saidul earned highest marks – I did my best to keep him challenged – and helped his friends whose English skills were not so well developed with their Geometry.  He was a godsend in this sense; there were boys I could not help given the size and behavior of the class, and Saidul taught them.  This term he is in Algebra 2 with a teacher who takes many shortcuts in his lessons and is known for giving high grades.  But Saidul is a math nerd at heart, and wants to understand the big ideas behind what is learning.  So he visits me frequently, and we both enjoy our lessons immensely.  I’m always glad this high-spirited and intelligent student has crossed my path.
Today, he came in for some assistance with evaluating expressions with rational exponents – using a calculator.  His teacher has told the class that they will be having a quiz, and can ONLY use a calculator.  WHAT?? I taught him how to enter the expressions with the appropriate parentheses to insure the correct order of operations, shaking my head all the while. Despite his confusion with his teacher’s direction, he wants to do well.  So we worked, despite being mystified.

2:27 p.m. School day is over

In my Discrete Math classes, we began the clock art projects – perfect for the last three days before break.  I love this project because it involves math in an accessible and non-threatening way, and the products are so striking.  The students were busy working out how to reflect simple shapes without a coordinate grid, and then perfecting their designs.  In the middle of class, I received a visit from a student I didn’t recognize.  She handed me an envelope and said, “My sister wanted me to give you this.”img_9803
The young woman who wrote this, now a student studying math and adolescent education at Oswego State College, was my student seven years ago.  Teaching her was a bright spot during some extremely difficult days at my previous school; she learned everything quickly, always sought challenge work, and kept the most amazing notebook I have ever seen (she actually gave it to me!).  I don’t teach so that students will come back and thank me, but boy, when they do, well, it makes everything worthwhile.  I can’t wait to see Teresa in her own classroom.
The Desmos exploration in the third Algebra 2 class was less successful in than the other two classes; the students could not seem to grasp the relationship between the lengths of the sides and the area when graphed as a parabola, nor did they understand (most of them, anyway) that the square would yield the biggest area.  The class as a whole did not seem to take the activity very seriously, and I wonder how I can make them more accountable for digging a little deeper with their thinking without holding a grade over their heads.  This is a goal for me – how to insert myself into the process just enough to keep them focused on bigger ideas.

Many of the illustrated task projects are great; it is clear that a lot of students went the extra mile with graphic design, and my classroom is looking mathematically festive.  I was touched by the [very bad] math jokes students put on their mini-posters.

During 8th period, the Instructional Cabinet (of which I am a member) met.  This is a group of teachers and administrators charged with improving instruction school-wide through focused efforts; this fall, the entire school has been working through mini-inquiry cycles.  The principal attended this meeting, and greeted me with an acknowledgment of the interview in Chalkbeat, which started off like this: “When I first saw the headline Midwood Teacher…., I thought, ‘Oh sh*#!?#t, what did she say?'”.  My fearless leader – ‘nuf said.  I was asked to sit on this committee by my Assistant Principal, a woman who I admire and who always has my back, so I said yes.  But I’m not feeling like it’s a place where I can be effective, probably because of the traditional (and somewhat limited) vision of the school leadership.  Another reason I think the meetings feel frustrating to me is that there is a subtext among all the APs that I can’t translate.  It’s a learning experience, anyway.

Time to leave school – I’ve got 2 (actually 3 – a pair of twins!) private students this afternoon.

8:08 p.m. Home at Last

My private tutoring this afternoon was quite odd.  I have begun working with an eighth grader who, according to his mother, has a math phobia.  This is not what I have observed in the few weeks we have been meeting, but he does seem very disorganized and exhausted when we meet.  He has a fraternal twin brother who has worked with us for test preparation purposes, which was the ostensible purpose for today’s 90 minute session.  The boys have the same math teacher but are in different classes, but unfortunately, the twin (my not-regular student) had his exam today, while his brother has his exam tomorrow.  They arrived at the coffee bar where I  meet with students, purchased a snack, and came to sit down.  At first my student was moderately upbeat (he’s a low energy kid), and grinned as he wolfed down the two brownies he bought.  He then proceeded to crash, and working with him became painfully difficult.  His brother good-naturedly did the problems we were reviewing, and my student was hugely apologetic, but it was frustrating, to say the least.  I don’t like not earning my hourly fee.
Despite requests, I haven’t seen a textbook or organized notebook for this child, although I’ve asked the parent.  She has told me how forgetful he is.  But I know after today’s experience, that I need to have a discussion with her about whether this is the right fit.  I’m happy to work with this boy, but I am uncomfortable if I am not doing my job.
My final act of work for the day was a session with a ninth grader, a bright and extremely conscientious student I have been working with on and off for three years.  She is studying Geometry, and has a very rigorous teacher, which gives me the opportunity to talk at length about my first mathematical love.  We have a definite patter, this girl and I, and the hour flew by.  We even stayed an extra 5 minutes because I just HAD to talk to her about perpendicular bisectors and circumcenters.  My geometry folk will understand – those conversations just don’t happen frequently enough!  ; )
There isn’t too much of the evening left for me – with a 5:30 wake up time, my goal (usually not achieved) is to be in bed by 10 pm.  I’ve got to wrap this gift for my student monitor, custom-made by my daughter, and maybe I’ll go through a few homework papers.  But maybe I won’t – like my mother used to tell me about doing the laundry, they’ll still be there waiting for me in the morning.

img_9799

Reflection

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

I was happy with my decision to go for a more student-centered exploratory activity in Algebra 2, although I think the decisions I made in the moments of class as far as directing or guiding student work could have been better, making the lesson more effective.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

I am looking forward to seeing the Discrete Math projects; I know that many students will be able to relax their math performance anxiety and have fun with the assignment.

The challenge I am facing as a teacher at the moment is structuring the end of the term in Algebra 2.  I am concerned that there are holes in the content I have taught because of our choppy shift to the Common Core standards.  I won’t have the same kids in the spring for the most part, and I want to make sure I have sent them off to other teachers well prepared.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

As I described in the post, I had a wonderful meeting with Saidul today.  I love that he trusts me to teach him ‘the right way’, and that he seeks me out to deepen his understanding.  He’s so bright and interested, and I hope he keeps going with his education.  As a recent immigrant, he may have some rough times ahead.  I worry.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

I think my connections with students are strong, and the steps I am continually taking to see them, really see them, help.  There are still students who have pushed me to the edge of caring with their attitudes, even though I know some of the extreme behavior is a cry for attention and help.  But still, I think I am making progress towards my goal.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

The article in Chalkbeat, and the reaction from colleagues and friends has been overwhelmingly wonderful and warming, and something I sorely needed this month.  There have been personal and medical trials, and the waves of love remind me of what is important.  I’m a lucky gal.