Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Post TMC14 Planning

I know, I know.  I'm supposed to write a reflection on my #TMC14 experience, but I think everyone has done a good job of recapping what the experience was like.  I wasn't involved in any of Malke or Elizabeth's sessions or post-session activities so my time in Jenks was more defined by Glenn and Jonathan's Algebra 2 sessions, Chris Luz' discourse sessions, and Megan's introduction to NRich.  But as always, I left #TMC14 with a million different thoughts swirling through my head of how I want to change, improve, grow, revolutionize what I do.  I go to TMC partly for the practical on-the-ground ideas that I can implement, and partly for the feeling of teacher revival that helps propel me through the year.

But taking all of those feelings of revival and condensing them into some sort of workable and reasonable plan is where I'm at right now so I'm not sure how much anyone will get from reading this.  It is more my attempt to put my swirling thoughts into a written plan of some sort.  This year is going to involve a lot on my shoulders...which I love...but since it isn't in my nature to phone it in, I'm going to have a very difficult time living up to my own expectations for myself.  I have just decided that I am going to think of Summer and her 6 preps any time I am feeling overwhelmed.

So, in an attempt to avoid rambling, I'm going to list what is on my plate this year and try to concisely elucidate my goals in each area:

  • MATH 1 (One section)
    • Daily Openers:  We have created a schedule for openers similar to the one discussed by Lisa.  I modified hers a bit but ours will include:  Estimation 180, Discussing Math Mistakes, Visual Patterns, Math Talks, and some Skill Review. I'm not sure how I feel about such a patchwork approach but I want to incorporate a little of all of that into our class and I'm not sure how to do so other than through openers without significantly cutting into the time we want to use for specific unit objectives so this is a start.  I'm sure that we may need to revise this plan at some point. 
    • Interactive Notebooks:  I've been wanting to try these for several years so I'm very excited to have a partner okay with diving in this year.  We plan to include a folder in the back similar to the one that Jonathan showed us at #tmc14 but we are going to use it to hold the Daily Opener sheet we've created.  I've already picked up six colors of duct tape to use on edges and bought 20 notebooks for kids who don't bring one, though I'm sure we will need more.  
    • Desmos/Mathalicious:  We have been plugging some key lessons into the 6 unit structure of the course to include as many engaging interactive lessons as we can.  I know that we will be doing the Central Park lesson during our first unit and Function Carnival during Unit 2.  I'd like to have the kids complete some linear art graphs and plan to use this to prepare them for that a bit when we cover domain and range.  We need to decide on which Mathalicious lesson we want to use in the first month but I know that we want to get our feets wet quickly with one and see our students' response.  I used one lesson last year and am eager to try more but this will be the first time for my partner.  I'm excited about it.
    • Debate/Argumentation:  I know that both my partner and I want to encourage more debate and conversation in our class.  I don't think we have a formal plan for how this will look yet but I've been reading through some stuff and playing around with a lot of the ideas from Chris Luz' session (and what I gleaned from the Webinar last year), as well as some of what I'm reading regarding Talking Points.  I think this is something we will keep as a focus weekly when we are planning together.
  • MATH 2 (One section) - I'm still in talks with my partner for this class to see what he is comfortable incorporating.  He teaches 5 sections of the class and he is only with me for one so I try to keep that in mind and allow him to dictate the direction of the class more.  What I would like to see is:
    • More Desmos:  This is one area where he has felt comfortable delving into a bit.  I definitely want to see both Desman and Penny Circle be a part of the course this year.  I also want to do more stuff like I did with my conceptual class last year where I give them a parabola to try to match and let them explore with the sliders before explicitly teaching the way the various forms of the equation work.  Using the ability to insert images may make this even more interesting
    • Math Forum POWs/nRich Problems:  I'm involved with the online EnCompass group this week so I'm getting a much better feel for the POWs and how easy the are to navigate.  This particular partner enjoys complex problem solving and logic activities but worries about them cutting into instruction time too much.  He is revising our class website and made mention of assigning optional extra credit there.  This may be an inroad for some of what I'd like to see with some more open-ended problem solving tasks, though it may not give the kids the structure and support they need to get comfortable with these types of problems.  The Smarter-Balance test means that admin is going to be wanting to see more writing about our thinking...which is a direction I've believed in wholeheartedly for years...so I think it may the push we need to move in this direction.  
  • MATH 3 (Three sections) - This is a brand new course so we will be navigating our way through it this year.  We also have some new resources to use (Walch) so I think we have a good bit to start from with their Problem-Based Lessons.  In addition, we plan to incorporate:
    • Math Journals:  My partner cut composition books in half and decorated them so they are ready to go.  I've been looking up generic math prompts but I think most of our prompts will be generated through class discussions and activities as we go.  I believe my partner wants them writing at least once per week.
    • Math Modeling:  The fourth (of four) units in this class is entirely focused on math modeling and I am very excited about it.  This is a slower paced version of the Math 3 course offered at our school so we will be skimming the surface of math modeling.  These kids haven't seen the Penny Circle so I'd like us to use it as an introduction to modeling type activities.  I've been looking at other examples of math modeling prompts to use when we get to this section of the course.  Some of the most advanced students at our school participate in Moody's Mega Challenge so I'd like to approach these as a entry level version of what they do there.  I'm nervous about it because I've never taught this way but it is probably what I'm most excited about and I'm uber-grateful for Glenn's examples in the morning sessions to help build my confidence.
  • RETEACH - This class was created last year as a sort of structured study hall but it didn't quite work the way we wanted it to.  We are trying to improve on it this year, but I have a unique situation in that my Reteach has to include some very specific things including some use of text to speech software, some social skills training, some reading strategies, and some specific work on executive functioning skills.  The class will be small, approximately 10 students and will come from every grade level.  I am still working on how this will look in my head.
  • DEPARTMENT HEAD - My principal has given my department a 3-office suite this year to create a teacher/student resource center.  I've been working a little bit to get the physical space set up but the bigger issue will be the shift in school culture that it would allow it to be a workable and utilized space this year.  I'm not sure where to begin with that.  I've been asking around for some readings on changing school culture but I know that I will meet with resistance in the very pockets that I fear need the most assistance.  I want to empower my department to be resources throughout the school for others so that special education is not just seen as a revolving door of ever changing paper pushers but as the experts in pedagogical strategies to use with hard to reach kids.  I think at this point I"m considering two options for how to start that shift:
    • SPED Department PLCs:  Last year, our school had built in weekly PLC time.  We often participated in those meetings with content area department but got together once per month for a Department PLC.  When only meeting once a month, however, it is easy to get focused on housekeeping issues rather than growth.  I want more for us than that.  This year, whatever built in PLC time will exist will be minimal but we do have a central location for handling most of the housekeeping stuff so meetings that do occur will be able to focus on growth.  I'm thinking of a twice per month after school meeting for our department.  I am well aware that most will choose to not attend since I can't offer stipends, but I'm totally okay with that.  I'll start with where the interest/passion is and let it spread from there.
    • Content Area PLCs:  I know our admin will find some way to create PLC time for the departments.  There has always been a heavy SPED involvement with the Math and English PLCs but very little with Science and Social Studies.  I'd like to see that change by having either myself or another member of my department attend those PLCs occasionally as a liason to get a gauge of their concerns and offer resources as needed.  I need to find out how they will be scheduling those and what interest exist within my department in volunteering.
    • Student Resource Center:  Our principal is providing several laptops to use in the room.  Many of our SPED teachers will be meeting with their Reteach groups in the room, but I'd like all of our SPED students to be able to access resources when needed.  This may prove a bit tricky as the schedule does not have the center staffed every period currently (I believe).  I do know that I am going to start during the opening weeks by meeting with all of the Freshmen on my caseload to introduce them to the space and show them how to access some assistive technology such as Natural Reader.  I have always wanted our students to be more familiar with such technology because I see our teachers reading orally to entire classes as a way to meet the needs of our LD students and I fear that it is detrimental in the long run to the literacy of our student body.  
    • Teacher Resource Center:  I am trying to compile resources that allow us to provide teachers with intervention strategies as needed.  I also spoke with our principals about having the referral packets for the SAT process available in the room to minimize the amount of running around teachers have to do to navigate that process if they choose to use it (very few do).  They previously had to access such information from principals directly.  I'm not sure yet how to make this space functional and helpful but I'm excited about the possibilities.
  • EXTRACURRICULAR -  Last year, I organized a Volunteer Fair where outside organizations came in to let our student body know about opportunities to volunteer in the community. I'll be doing that again in January this year and am nervous about weather issues.  I also want to add a small refreshment thing after the fair for those who participate.  That sort of thing is very outside of my wheelhouse so I'm nervous about it, but I keep pushing.
  • ALPHA DELTA KAPPA - I assumed the presidency of the local chapter of my teaching sorority and has turned out to be a lot more than I was really prepared for.  In addition to create the monthly newsletter and chairing those meetings, we are looking at the following projects which I will be responsible for overseeing:
    • October - We give free books away to our community through a booth setup at a local weekend festival.  
    • October - We are hosting the six other chapters in our region for a district level lunch.  This is already proving to be overwhelming for me since, as I mentioned before, this sort of thing is outside of my wheelhouse.
    • November/December - Organize treat baskets sent to our previous scholarship winners for exams.
    • Spring 2015 - Relay for Life, Special Olympics, Final Exam treat baskets, and organizing a Saturday Science Carnival for our local Elementary schools (a huge undertaking for the first time)
Wow...when I put it all down there.  I think I need a serious nap!