Mission #7 – A Day in the Life

So my missions are a little out of order….I do intend to go back and post about some of the other missions, but I wanted to get this one down in blog form before I forget the details.  I LOVED reading all of the “A Day in the Life” entries the last time around!  Here’s a day in my life:

5:45  Alarm goes off – normally there’s a fair amount of swatting and snoozing, but Jack (the 9th grader) has a Latin convention this weekend.  The three projects that have consumed our lives for the past week need transportation to school so no time for lazing about this morning as transportation details have not yet been ironed out.

7:00  The hubster (hereafter known as The Saint) agrees to take 9th grader and projects to school.  Flurry of activity:  make lunches, find oldest son’s Rescue Squad shirt (it doesn’t look that wrinkled, does it??), move some $$ into the two older student’s debit card accounts to cover gas expenses (they both commute to Virginia Commonwealth University).  After taking the husky out for a short walk, finally get underway for school.  I’m thankful to get to school a little early as during my most productive mental time (the shower) I’ve decided to make a last minute change to the lesson plan for 1st block today.  

COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE.  Judy at WaWa is my best friend.

8:15-8:30  Run out to do hall duty after running quick copies for the aforementioned change in plans.

8:30-10:00 1st period:  I teach 8th grade Algebra and currently we are exploring graphs, slope, intercepts, etc.  1st block is an honors group, and their homework last night was to read a section in the text and watch a two minute clip on you-tube about how to solve an equation graphically.  Then they were to use Desmos to graph an equation and post a screen shot of their graph on Edmodo.  This was definitely not as easy as something like, “p. 100 #1-21 odd” but still, it was not something that I felt would be too difficult for the students to do.  It’s a fairly easy topic, and in addition to the youtube video I also made an EduCreations clip showing how to use Desmos to find a solution.  

In between waking up the household and jumping in the shower, I had checked to see how many students had submitted screen shots of their graphs, and only an appalling 30% had made the effort.  Anticipating a flurry of excuses, I created a quick entrance ticket asking students about the assignment.  Since they had the option of reading the material in the book and then drawing the graph manually and turning that in, there really was no excuse for not doing SOMETHING even if they had computer/internet issues at home.  The last question on the entrance ticket had a problem based on the content, and about half of the students got it right.  

We’ve all been here.  What do you do?  Half of the students did what they needed to do and are ready to move forward.  The other half did not and now you find yourself at the crossroads of “Screw them they should have done it!” and “this will be on the End of Course test and your students need to know it!”  I fire up Desmos.com and have some volunteers show other students how to solve the equations using a graph and looking for the x-intercept.  At this point during the discussion many of the students say they were able to get to this point but did not know how to do a screen shot to post their graph.  I am floored.  These students are the Queens of Instagram and the Kings of Snapchat, but do not know how to take a screen shot, and were not overly resourceful in figuring it out.  This actually turns out to be a GREAT lesson as we segue into all of the different ways students could have captured a screen image to post on Edmodo.  Man 8th graders can be creative when they want to be.

From here students graph y=3x, y=3x -4 and y = -1/3x + 3 on graph paper.  They graph and then compare with a partner.  Discussions are great as I hear them talking about slope being positive and negative, and how the y-intercepts and x-intercepts are different, and a few talk about parallel lines.  A few more volunteers come up and graph the equations using Desmos and we project the results.  Students can clearly see how the two graphs with the same slope are parallel and when I ask for other equations that are parallel they generate things like y=3x + 6,000 and y=3x – 1,000,000.  We talk about how the graph y = -1/3x + 3 is different and all agree the slope is negative.   Someone asks if the lines are perpendicular and we talk about opposites and reciprocals and products being 1.  Students create their own rules about the slopes of parallel and perpendicular lines.  Desmos definitely plays a key role in developing the concept.

Next up is a discussion about domain and range building on their prior knowledge of functions.  I already have a worksheet that has various graphs on it, and I use the FANTASTIC post-it note strategy shared by @mathycathy on her blog http://tinyurl.com/domainrangepostitnotes.  Students use their post-it notes and shade in domain and range with colored pencils.  Then we use Desmos to graph functions and limit the domain and range.  The combination of these two strategies is just so effective – this used to be something students really struggled with, and now it just clicks 🙂

While kids are working with a partner on a domain and range activity, I think about the homework from last night and realize I could have so easily labeled the lack of completion as a lack of work ethic when in reality, they were not prepared to complete the assignment.  All of the students in 1st block have Internet at home, and I’m pretty sure most have computers that are newer than mine.  Over half have smartphones with data packages, but this does not mean they necessarily know how to do things like take a screen shot.  Apparently, they also haven’t developed the resource skills needed to figure out how to do things they don’t know how to do.  I make a mental note to use http://lmgtfy.com/.and make one for googling how to make a screen shot.

10:00-11:30  2nd block is an 8th grade Algebra class that is non-honors.  In scheduling terms, it is a class of “on-level” students.  In reality, it is comprised of students who are not identified as special ed, but are not as strong in math (this particular class does have some special ed students, others who are English Language learners and some that have never passed a standardized math test).  Second block is just getting to slope and y-intercept, so our lesson today focuses on slope.  We make a HOY-VUX foldable (horizontal, zero slope, y= and vertical, undefined slope and x=) and then play around with Desmos to see how varying slope impacts the steepness of the graph.  Students explore choosing different points on a line to calculate slope and discover using any two points on the same line will result in the same slope.  For homework, students will use the “School 21” app in Edmodo to practice slope.

11:30-12:30 I have a technology planning block next where I help teachers and students with technology issues.  Today I help a student who is new to the school get logged in and join all of his class groups in Edmodo.  Then I meet with a district Integrator and a member of our Admin team.  Next year our district is implementing 1:1 with Chromebooks, so we are trying to determine ways to best prepare the staff with training and resources.  Lots of work to do here.

12:50  Three students come in during lunch for some extra support.  One needs help organizing a binder, one needs to make up a quiz and one needs to use a computer.  Worried about the student I was expecting who did NOT show.

1:30  Team meeting.  We have a team field trip on Monday so lots of discussion about the trip:  Who has been Epipen trained?  Are students with serious allergies in a group with Epipen trained teachers?  Bus drivers have had an increase in wages – was enough money budgeted to cover this increase?  We have a new student who just started today and his ticket can be covered by one of the students who will not be attending because of the Latin convention (and honestly at this point I zoned out a bit wondering if all of those families had their houses consumed by Latin projects as ours was. . . ). 

2:15  Our department chair had heart surgery earlier this month, so I am serving as interim department chair and have a meeting this afternoon.  Our district math person asked if I would present some technology resources with the other department chairs, so I’m sharing Desmos.com and some of my experiences at Twitter Math Camp.  Since our district blocks Twitter, I leave school to stop at Barnes & Noble so I can pull a couple of screen shots from Twitter to share with the math department.

2:45 Go to department chair meeting at one of our high schools

3:30  Department chair meeting covers a variety of topics with a lot of focus on the year end standardized tests.  I share Desmos with the other department chairs – only one teacher (out of 23) has seen Desmos.  Many seemed impressed and I think several will play around with it, but it’s clear many are not interested.  I go on to talk about Twitter Math Camp, and how it was just a phenomenal professional development opportunity. I talk about how it’s like your PLC but better because there are so many people contributing and sharing resources.  I show them @samjshah’s Virtual File Cabinet and @aanthonya’s contributions to the Algebra portion of the math wiki.  I also talk about Twitter Math Chats and the Global Math Department.  While some of the other teachers maintain eye contact, again it’s like they are just not interested in anything else that will consume their time and effort.  Our fearless district math leaders asks if anyone is interested in additional professional development to learn more about these resources, and only one teacher raises her hand.  She comes up after the meeting and I show her an overview of Desmos and how I use Twitter.  Feeling a little defeated, I take solace in the fact one teacher might be on board.  Maybe it’s because we are all just so weary of the emphasis on standardized testing that we do not have any energy left to learn something new.  I don’t know.  However, I do know every middle school student will have a Chromebook next year, and I’m very, very, VERY thankful for the resources my tweeps share with me on a daily basis..

5:30  Head home from the meeting and stop at the store to pick up a few groceries.

6:30  Cook dinner and visit with the family a bit.

7:30  Head to the movies with DD & DS.  Even though I have a ton of grading to do, Catching Fire is showing as an early release at 8:00 before it opens tomorrow.  It really is all about balance.  You have to balance personal and professional time (and you KNOW the nights you have the most work to do will be the same night your child is sick, or has a Latin project, or wants to attend a movie premier).  You also have to work to balance the demands of the teaching profession.  Right now there is a serious conflict between balancing the pressures of standardized testing with the philosophy of teaching the whole child.  Being able to take a screen shot is not in any of our state standards, but I spent a fair amount of time today teaching students how to do it, and tomorrow we will go to the computer lab and practice that skill.  Then I’ll hone my balancing skills a little further by figuring out how I’m going to cover all I need to cover while losing a day of instruction because of the field trip on Monday. . . but first, I’m going to balance in that personal time and enjoy Catching Fire with my own two students 🙂

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About merryfwilliams

High school math teacher and mom of 3 amazing kids. I have a high maintenance husky and am adding a knitting obsession to the juggling routine. @merryfwilliams on Twitter
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