It has been a very different beginning for me this year. I walked in on my flex day ready to go and was excited to be back. However, I also got stuck for a couple of days at the worst possible time. I did eventually get past it, but by the time I did, I found that it was an incredibly slow process. I have worked with Power Point before and expected to find some sort of templates to make the setting up process way easier. I left school incredibly frustrated at the end of my flex day because it took me so long to get one lesson into SMART Norebook. I scheduled my kids at day care an extra day and went into work, hoping to get somewhere with the software. I found the Lesson Toolkit and some very basic templates. It got me through planning the lessons for 3 of my 4 classes. I spent a good part of last week working every spare moment I could find to get things set up, including breaking my (unwritten) rule not to work on Saturdays for the first time in my (now) 19 years teaching.
So with Calculus left, I discovered that there are Power Point slides for each chapter - YAY! Could not import the slides into SMART Notebook - BOO! I have been exchanging emails with the SMART Notebook software people since Sunday night trying to get it to work. As it stands right now, I sent three Power Points for them to look at and try to figure out what the issue is. That was yesterday afternoon and I started teaching Chapter One in Calculus yesterday. Fail. Still hoping they have an answer for me soon.
I do have to say our tech guy has been wonderful. He really has been trying to help me as best he can and has been patient in answering questions and getting answers to questions. After my discussion with him after last Tuesday (extreme frustration day), he has arranged a one-on-one session with the lady from Smart Ed (our supplier) for September 13th (first date she had available). He has gotten Math Tools and made sure I got the code asap. Clickers got ordered and are here - although I am not even close to being ready to deal with them. He is working on getting wireless for me (since I am using my notebook) that will work better than the not-so-great wireless that we have at the moment on a trial basis. I am the guinea pig for our school - next year we will have a new school and I will be the only person on staff with any experience. It is allowing him to figure out what our staff will need next year (and before). In the long run, this will help make things easier next year and I am glad I can help.
A New Beginning
So I walked in Tuesday excited and pumped up, yet nervous about the whole SMART Board thing. Day One went pretty well. First period I didn't get to everything I wanted to - forgot about having to get them lockers and that took more time than I anticpated, so in that class I didn't get through the presentation, but in all my other classes (except last period when the principal started 5 minutes early into announcements) I did get through what I thought I would. The kids were a little nervous about the quiz, but by 5th period, some of them had heard the quiz was about me. I had to laugh - my first period (Advanced Algebra kids - top freshmen primarily) didn't read the directions quite right and they thought at first the quiz was about each one of them. So, I had to sound like a 3 year old in my intro of the quiz the rest of the day - "It's about me! Me! Me! Me! Me!" - to make my point. I think the kids liked my prezi and the day went pretty fast. Every other year, I have always had time for the kids to start on their interest inventory/about me page and this year I think that may have happened once. Generally I was happy about Day One.
On Day Two, my Algebra 2 classes did a diagnostic test. My Algebra 2 kids pretty much did what I expected - not a whole lot of work, didn't remember a lot. They did surprise me a little. Many of them knew what I meant about giving the inverse. Most of them did not do the inequalities at all. My Advanced Algebra 2 kids surprised me - mainly in a not good way. Many of them did not show work when directed. All but one kid had no idea what I meant about the inverse. And most of them had no idea on inequalities. A little more start up work with them than I anticipated. In Calculus, we spent the period going back over how to get the correct answers from their Calculus Readiness Test I gave them at Open House to turn in Day One. This group will need a lot of work. I had been warned by their Pre-Calc teacher that they had low skills and I can see he was not exaggerating. This group is going to have a lot of uphill climbing to do.
A Pleasant Surprise
My biggest surprise so far has come from my lower-level freshmen students (Math 1). We started into the lessons on Day Two. We talked a little about SBG and how I was going to assess them on Learning Targets and give them the answers to all the homework problems and only count their scores from tests. I think they thought I was crazy. This is the group I had as 7th graders two years ago. As seventh graders, they were pretty undisciplined and did not do as well as I thought they should have. I had several discipline issues to deal with in this class. Now, granted, there are a few kids who are not in this class now that could change the nature of these classes, but for the most part, the kids I have are not only low, but several are in the troublemaker group from two years ago. So, I wasn't totally sure what to expect from this group. I was really hoping that they had matured
So we had a little chat about grading. That went okay, but when I reflected last night about it, I don't feel like I did a great job of introducing it. I was nervous about how today was going to go. But the lesson went okay. Most everyone was engaged. They
So when they came back today and had it done (almost all of them), I was really impressed. Shocked almost, actually. I was dealing with other things and did not go around and check homework at all. I did not record whether or not they did it. Totallky forgot about it, in fact, because I was still focused in my mind on a) trying to get everything to work right and b) trying to figure out how I was explaining SBG to my other 4 classes and I still had the "not checking homework" bit in my head. Oops. I had wanted to at least note who had done it. The few kids who hadn't done it were apologetic since they didn't quite get where to find the assignment (this was mostly in my 3rd period class where I was giving them the problems as the bell rang). Even more shocking to me was that one of the students who hardly did any homework in 7th grade (and when he did, you were never sure if he really did it or copied it) had not only done the assignment for today, he had done the next assignment listed as well. Granted, he didn't have all the work I wanted (it was order of operations) and we talked today about what he needed to show and why, but it was a huge improvement for him in my eyes. He was helping two other students who were working on the assignment today in class.
The students came back with questions, which I was happy with. Some of the kids I expected to have questions asked them, some were ones I had not thought would have them. We had another good lesson today on Order of Operations and had about 15-20 minutes for them to work on the practice problems. They were mostly working and really following through with showing their work, which I was very pleased with. They asked questions. (Sorry Dan Meyer, I was not less helpful - one thing at a time!) They were talking about math and finding some success. I felt pretty darn good about how my Math I classes went today.
And Everyone Else?
Everyone else got the SBG talk today. After not feeling really great about how it went yesterday with my Math I kids, I reminded myself that I had written some notes of discussion points from Matt Townsley, so I started with the question "What is an A?" as my springboard. Again, still seeing many skeptical faces from my students, but I think as we work through this, they will come around. Lessons went pretty well today with the exception of Calculus where I am still having SMART Notebook issues. The Power Point worked okay, but I was having trouble saving any notes I made on the slides. Fortunately, we were talking about lines and writing equations which are topics they should basically know. When we get to functions, I am going to need to have something a little better. I would say I have the whole long weekend to straighten that out, but if the rest of the weekend goes like last night and tonight, I don't have much time to count on. Hopefully Tuesday I'll have some more time. Oh wait - maybe not since I should be giving quizzes next week already. It doesn't stop....
What About the Other Goals?
Well, I wanted to write notes to my kids in Math 1. I really wanted to have notes on their desks Day One. Didn't happen. Not even close. I started and got 2 notes done. Just didn't have enough time. This may have to get delayed for a while. We'll see. Right now I have to get the SMARTBoard situtation under control as well as SBG. Still really excited about the SBG thing. We'll see how I feel after the first quizzes this week.
Tomorrow, I take my kids to the Canfield Fair to do our annual ride day with their cousins, second cousins, and whatever other kids tag along (long story). Should be about 10 kids in total and a lot of fun for them. I'm going to enjoy the day with my brother and my kids as well as my in-laws. Maybe I'll be able to sneak in a little work tomorrow afternoon. More Fair tomorrow night. Hootenanny on Saturday. More Fair Sunday and Monday. I'm going to enjoy the whole long weekend. Maybe I'll sneak some work in here and there. If you made it this far - I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend, too.