Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Exhausted, but Excited

At 3:30 when the bell rang today... I was exhausted.  I was also pleased with the day's lesson.  My district is new to C-SCOPE.  I heard lots of horror stories but decided to go into it with an open mind.  I knew if I didn't there was no way it was going to work.  I'm so excited to say that so far, I love it.  It's a lot more prep work than I'm used to and a lot different way of teaching math concepts, but I can already see some of the purpose in their sequence and in their activities.

I saw lightbulbs going off like crazy today.  I heard so many OH!!!s.  I LOVE that.  My kids were working non-stop from start to finish... no time to get in trouble.  I LOVE that.  Several made comments that my class was a lot of work and several others made comments about how much they liked math so far.  I LOVE that. 

First thing we did-  Fraction strip ruler activity!  This really helped the kids visualize fractions and make connections to measurement.  They also could visualize the equivalent fractions that we discussed yesterday :)

Then we made vocabulary foldables... each flap lifts up to a definition and example.  I have a lot of LEP students and have had to force myself to put more emphasis on vocabulary... its not something I worked on enough last year.  I forget that math is a different language for my kids.  

Mixed numbers and improper fractions!  The top two doors open to definitions and the bottom open to algorithms for converting.  Before teaching algorithms I gave the kids lots of pictures until they could explain what was happening on their own.   We'll see tomorrow how well it stuck :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day

Even though I was ridiculously nervous (even more than last year, why is that?), my first day was wonderful!  I seem to have an awesome group of kids and think we all got off on the right foot!

During open house, I ask most of my students how they feel about math.  One student told me it was not her thing, and I told her that I was confident that the next time I asked that question her answer would be different.  My third block is in my class for an hour, goes to lunch, and returns to my class for 30 minutes.... as I was walking this class to lunch she told me she already liked math so much more.  :)  Hoping my (nerdy) enthusiasm will rub off on others too! :)

I briefly went over procedures, gave a quick room tour, gave the kids a quick "about me" quiz that I called My Life in Numbers, and then they completed a pyramid activity with get to know you information.  Timing was perfect and everything went so much smoother than last year!

Two of my girls from last year came by to see after school and shared how different junior high is.  Love seeing/hearing from my kiddos and felt amazing that they thought to come say hi! 

I'm crazy stressed since we are using a new curriculum this year and I'm unsure about timing, etc.  Definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I suppose all will work out...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Exactly where I need to be...

I never would have pictured myself teaching in Brenham, TX but cannot explain how grateful I am that it is where I am.  I work with the most amazing teachers and administrators.  We are not perfect, but preparing for open house tonight, I saw how dedicated each and every one of us is to making Brenham Middle School the best we possibly can for our kids.

Our theme this year is "Oh, the places you will go!" by Dr. Suess.  We've made videos, we've decorated the hallways and our classrooms.  We met our kids tonight during open house.  We are ready for Monday!

Math department met today and we are changing EVERYTHING!  I'm so excited to work with such an awesome team that is embracing change.  We are all stepping away from what has been done in the past and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone to meet the needs of our students.  We will undoubtedly make mistakes but I'm confident that as a team we will recover and continue to move in the right direction. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Overwhelmed and Excited

A coworker sent me an email earlier today suggesting I participate in a live foldables conference.  The conference was through the Global Math Department and the presenter was Julie Ruelbach.

I am so amazed by technology and being able to connect with math teachers from so many different places to be able to share ideas and resources.  For 45 minutes of sitting on my couch with computer in lap, I came away with so many ideas for foldables and interactive notebooks!  I see so much worth in being a part of this huge community of educators online, but at the same time, I'm overwhelmed and not sure where to start.  I'm blogging, obviously, but not really connecting with any other bloggers, and not sure that what I have to say is important...  I have a twitter, but again, not sure whether I should be retweeting, producing my own content, or what... I'm determined to figure this all out though. :)

Regardless, I'm so excited about this year.  There are so many changes happening-  new curriculum, new laptop, new discipline procedures, new rooms, new teams, new schedule.  I can't wait to jump in head first and make year two even better than my first!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Advice from 6th Graders

During the last week of school, I asked my kids to write down their advice to the students who would be in my class the following year.  I encouraged them to be honest and got a glimpse into how they really felt about a few things.  Here's what they came up with--

Things to look forward to in sixth grade-
More freedom
Various fieldtrips
Teachers (a few named me, others listed our social studies teacher who is awesome)
Christmas Store
Pi Day (my favorite!!)
STAAR Carnival

Things you need to know about Ms.Stephens - 
Don't talk when she is talking
Give her respect and she will give it to you
She knows what she's doing
Don't make her mad- it ruins her day  (Oops, apparently I show my feelings a bit too easily)
She wants to listen
She wants you to work hard
Be police
She's strict
She's nice
She teaches math
She likes the Aggies
Don't sleep
She doesn't take fooling around
She has fun, but if you take advantage, she won't
Don't be loud
She's not boring
Don't pass notes- she reads them
Don't make her repeat herself (Oops again, I want them to feel like they can ask for clarification)
Helps you
Gives lots of chances (too many?)

Make sure you always-
Do homework (This was a big deal this year, but we are changing homework policy)
Follow directions
Be kind- to teachers, friends, everyone
Eat breakfast
Brush your teeth (This made me laugh)
Bring Supplies
Show respect
do your best
Have fun at the right times
Pay attention
Simplify (Yes!!! haha)
Remember Aunt Sally
Be correct  (Without them putting their names, I know exactly which of my GT boys wrote this)
Stay organized
Show your work

Make sure you never- 
Talk back
Get Zapped (Awesome program my school does to encourage students to turn in work!)
Run in hallway
Cheat on tests
Chew gum
Text in class
Glue paper to desk (Because yes, this happened)
Eat in class without a pass
Forget ID
Goof off during a serious class learning time
Break stuff
Touch girls
Lie, cheat, steal

I miss my kids!  They'll always be my first group and be special to me, but I can't wait to meet my new group and they deserve the very best too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Remember the Why

Throughout my first year, I heard lots of these type of questions from other teachers (and my parents and friends and boyfriend)-
  • Why do you get here so early?
  • Why do you stay so late?
  • Why do you care so much?
  • Why are you trying so hard?
This was really discouraging.  Why wouldn't I be doing those things?  Why shouldn't I care so much?  But as the year went on, I started to let these questions get to me.  Why was I staying so late?  Why was I trying so hard?  February seemed like the longest month ever, and I was worn out.  Were all of my efforts really making a difference or was I killing myself for nothing?

Towards the end of the year as I was getting my room ready for testing, I took down all of the pictures my students had drawn me throughout the year that I'd hung up around my desk.  I put all of these drawings and notes in slipcovers and kept them all in a binder on my shelf.  Students noticed me doing this, and continued to bring me letters and drawings asking if I would put them in the binder too.  On the last day of school, I got to add many more to the binder.  When several of my kids cried telling me bye that day, I came full circle back to my why. 

Going into this year, I know there will be days that I'm in "just get through today" mode and others that I'm the passionate, positive teacher I want to be.  For those less motivated days, I've created a folder on my desktop with things to remind me of my why-  essays I wrote during college, answers to application questions, youtube videos, TED talks, blog posts, etc.

Does anyone else have these days?  What do you do to remind yourself of your "why"?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stuck in the Middle

Yesterday I ran into Wal-mart for a few things and was bombarded by school supplies, which means... its almost that time!  I'm 33 days away from the first day of school!  This will be my second year teaching sixth grade math in Brenham, Texas.  Throughout my first year, my brother told me several times I should be blogging-  he wanted to be able to read about the ridiculous things that were said or done in my classroom.  I always meant to start a  blog, and never seemed to make time.  I assured myself there was no way I would forget a single thing about my first year while it was happening... oops.

My first year was certainly a roller coaster, but by no means the disastrous event I've heard from others.  My administration is supportive and awesome and the teachers on my campus would do anything to help.  I'm a very lucky girl :) The biggest struggle I faced my first year was coming to terms with the reality of finally being in the classroom.   I've always dreamed of teaching (minus the brief period when pediatrician was the goal).   My four years at Texas A&M only increased my passion.  I just knew I was going to the best teacher ever.  I was going to change the lives of my students.  I was going to care about them more than any other teacher would.  I would teach them to love themselves, learning, and mathematics (or at least respect it).  I was going to listen to them and love them and teach them about respect, hard work, motivation, generosity, courage, etc.

I'm not so confident that I drastically changed anyone's life for the better this past year.  I do know that I cared about them an insane amount and that they got my best. 

I spent much of my first year feeling stuck.  I came out of school with so many ideas that I couldn't wait to try and so much passion I couldn't wait to share.  And then I was handed binders.  Of worksheets.  Numbered 1-100 or something like that.  I tried to implement as many of the strategies I'd learned, but needed to stay on schedule with the other sixth grade math teachers and didn't want to offend anyone by doing things differently.  I wanted to assign independent projects to my GT students, but was told the parents wouldn't be happy, so I tried to fit it into class time, and it just wasn't as successful as I wanted or expected.  I wanted my students to sit into groups and work together, but the first 4 teachers that walked into my room during in-service week made comments that groups were a dangerous idea...  I did it anyway.  It worked wonderfully.  I was constantly pulled between what I wanted to do, what I felt was the right thing to do, and what others were doing.  I respected their experience and valued their opinions but felt strongly about my own ideas too.  I struggled to have authentic conversations with students, instead feeling rushed to teach each standard in time for the STAAR test.  And I hated seeing myself do things I promised I never would-  Did I really just say "because I said so?" and did I really just write a referral for THAT and did I really yell at my class because they didn't line up quietly?  I was stuck between my idealistic view of who I would be as a teacher and who I really am as one. I read articles and blogs discussing the failure of our education system... and I'm stuck between agreeing and arguing or defending.