Sunday, March 18, 2018

#MTBoSBlog18 - Spring Break

Spring Break is finally here..  YAY!

I have a pretty lengthy to-do list for this break.  Yesterday, I had planned to kick off spring break with some yard work, but all that I managed to get done was to buy a new bird feeder and a new rake.... and veg on the couch with a good book :)

This spring break is one that I've looked forward to for a few weeks because life has been CRAZY!

Back in mid-February, I stepped down as the building rep for our teacher association because I've finally learned to take things off my plate that don't make me happy.  I am teaching classes I adore and being the building rep meant meetings that I didn't enjoy.

Little did I know that two weeks later, issues in my state would come to a head and the world as I knew it would be upside down.  In two weeks, our legislature has a legal deadline to have a budget in place.  If they don't, our public schools have vowed to shut down.  This terrifies me because our state legislature has disregarded this April 1st deadline for years with no penalty and this year, the penalty will result in a statewide shutdown of our schools.

To be honest, I don't want to be at our state capital instead of with my students.  I don't want to lose valuable instructional time with one month before AP exams.  I don't want my students to be on an extended break with little supervision. 

But, I also don't want my students to continue to have underfunded classrooms.  My students deserve a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.  My students deserve to have smaller class sizes so they can form lasting bonds with their teachers.  My students deserve to feel safe at school.  My students deserve to have textbooks and supplies.  My students deserve all of this and so much more.

In the face of this crisis, our teachers have stepped up.  Plans are in place to feed over 4000 kids in our district on free & reduced lunches.  Plans are in place to find temporary work for our classified (hourly) staff.  So many plans are in place that I honestly hope and pray that we don't have to use.

This week, I will try to enjoy my break, to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and let go of the stressors of the past few weeks.  But the countdown clock is ticking and that scares the heck out of me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Highs and Lows

Wow!  This has been a roller-coaster of a week!  We have one more week until spring break and I am *so* ready for it!  I need the break of non-school stuff to get my back patio set back up so I can enjoy the spring weather.  I've wanted to blog all week, but to be honest, I didn't know if I could adequately express my thoughts.  The teachers in my state are planning a walk-out on April 2 to protest educational funding and that has been on all of our minds this week.  I don't want to walk-out, but my district has done all they can do to protect the classrooms and the classroom teachers have done all they can do to protect the students, so ultimately, it is up to our state legislature to figure out a way to fix the situation we are in.  Year after year, we slip further behind, we lose more and more quality teachers to other students, our class sizes continue to grow while our resources continue to shrink.  But until April 2, I will continue to teach my students, to share my love of learning with them, and rejoice in each educational victory we have.

Whew - that ended up a longer rant than I meant for it to!  Sorry! :)

And on that note, let's move on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Email of the Week:
Last week was our school's enrollment conferences for next year's enrollment.  During the course of those conferences, I was pulled over to visit with a family about AP Stat.  I didn't think much about it until Sunday night when I received an email from a former student from 17 years ago!  My former student was related to this family and while I hadn't heard from him since he graduated high school, he wanted to reach out to thank me for being a positive influence in his life.  I immediately remembered him, but I was completely humbled by his kind words as I was so young and inexperienced back then and have often wished I could go back and share what I know now with those students.  It means the world to me that he took the time to email me.  <3 p="">

My Favorite Activity of the Week:
Last week's Geometry lessons were frustrating.  I didn't feel like we were getting very far and to be honest, I'm still not sure if I used my time wisely. To follow up our Geogebra exploration, I gave my students a copy of the trig table and asked them to compared the 10 degree, 20 degree, etc line with their exploration.  We then formalized the rules with a foldable and spent several days working on just setting up and solving equations.  Yesterday, I introduced angles of elevation / depression and related application problems.  I took a worksheet that I had from 10 years ago and turned it into a question stack for today's Geometry lesson.  I have never felt so unneeded!  They were working together, rocking right along and rarely needed my assistance.  It was such a great end to the week!  One group even got into an argument today on whether one of the problems was realistic, including some really awesome discussions about gravity, physics, momentum, and possible scenarios that could have led to the problem.  :)

My Favorite Student Response of the Week:
I love the honesty of my students!  We've been working with the trig ratios in Geometry and before we moved on to applications, I asked my students to self-assess their competence with setting up and solving the equations.  I used the Marzano scale and most students rated themselves as a 2-3, which was fairly accurate based on my observations while they were whiteboarding.  But this student's response was one of my favorites:
"3.5 because I think that this is very easy and I could explain it to others if I had to but I don't want to."
How cute is that? :)

My Favorite Assignment of the Week
We are smack dab in the middle of inference in AP Stat.  On Monday, our lesson was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  This is one of my favorite topics to teach, which is super surprising given my first impression of them!  I was asked to teach AP Stat one week before school started in August 2000.  AP Stat was a fairly new AP subject (1997 was the first exam year), there were VERY minimal resources available, only one textbook had been released that aligned with the AP syllabus, and the teacher community was rather small.  Because of the timing, I wasn't able to attend a summer institute, but back then, our region hosted a few 2-day conferences throughout the year.  My first 2-day conference was in late October and one of the sessions was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  I had never heard of them, so I was hoping to learn enough to take back to my students.  However, that session was my breaking point.  I was young and inexperienced and honestly, I didn't yet know what I didn't know.  As the presenter started speaking, I felt the frustration building up because I just couldn't differentiate between the concepts.  I was so confused and overwhelmed.  Here I am, in a PD session, surrounded by other teachers, and all I could do was cry.  Literally - tears streaming down my face because I just didn't get it.  One of the handouts in that session was to have students create their own scenario and describe the errors and power and to this day, I love that assignment.  I've tweaked it over the years, but every time I teach this lesson, it brings me back to how I felt that day.   My weekend plans include grading their scenarios and it's one of the most enjoyable grading days I have all year.  The creativity of my students blows me away!

My Favorite Reminder of the Week:
At our monthly faculty meeting, during the "Teaching & Learning" segment, our site (and district) teacher of the year shared an activity she had learned in a Brain Based Learning workshop.  While the activity was kind of fun, my main take-away was the title... "Do just ONE thing to make a difference". 

Do you realize how powerful one little change can be?  One little change, such as "High Five Fridays" made a huge difference in my classroom culture and attitude.  Little changes like Multiple Choice Mondays made a huge difference in my AP test scores.  Sometimes the classroom can be overwhelming - there's so much to be done!!!  But, one little change can make a huge difference.  What if each month, we committed to making just one little change?  Over the course of the year, that's 10 changes that can add up to a HUGE difference!!

Happy Friday!!