Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another small victory????

Yesterday, we spent our class time talking about graphing rational functions. This is a fairly advanced topic in Algebra 2, so I planned to spend some time on it. As usual, I had students fill out their self assessment paper before they left class. After school, I browsed them to see how the students thought they did. As I suspected, they weren't very confident in the learning, so I wanted to do another check at the beginning of class.

After our usual fraction warm-up, I put a graphing rational equation problem on the board. I gave them roughly 10 minutes to complete. The students worked diligently for most of the time, but I could sense their struggle (which I suspected and wanted to validate). I collected the papers to give the students feedback. On one girls paper, I saw some work plus this comment, "I'm sorry I don't get this".....

This tore me. I was pleased that the student didn't want to let me down, wanted to do well. However, I wondered what message I have been sending. I always want my room to be a safe environment. Students should feel safe asking questions etc. I really hope that I didn't create a fear of failure with my students..

My response to her comment hopefully made my point. "We're learning, it's okay not to get it yet!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guest appearance: With Students in Mind

I had the great opportunity to have a guest appearance on the Podcast: With Students in Mind co-hosted by Russ Goerend and Matt Townsley.  I had a great time and wanted to create a link to the podcast from the blog!

With Students in mind episode #4

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflections on the 1:1 conference, where's math fit in?

First I want to take a second to thank the CASTLE group for putting on a great day! Scott Mcleod, Jamie Fasth, Nick Sauers, and John Nash; I much appreciate the efforts you put into the day.

It was a great day for two reasons.

1: I thoroughly  enjoyed connecting with so many people who I've "known" via twitter: Deron Durflinger, Mike Sansone, John Carver, Jeff Dicks, Evan Abbey, Brad Fox and many others.

2: The conversations and presentations really got me thinking. (This was almost as important as number 1.) There were two conversations in particular that I'd like to focus on.

The first conversation happened during one of the "un-conference" sessions that went on in one of the rooms. The leaders decided to leave a room open for discussions and spur of the moment topics. Russ Goerend and Matt Townsley led a session that got some great conversations going about we're 1:1, now what. What more can I do as a teacher, how do my students learn better with the computer in their hand? There were a couple of teachers who taught in 1:1 schools who struggled being forced into using the Macbook with their students. They didn't see the power it could bring to their classroom. To me, this showed a failure in two areas.

1: The school leadership at this school didn't go a good enough job of showing, helping and leading this teacher forward in their thinking.

2: The teacher had wall of sorts built, i.e. didn't want the technology or was afraid the students would know more about the machine then they would.

This saddened me as there were many teachers walking around who would jump at the chance to implement the changes these computers could have in their students learning!

Conversation number two that really sparked my interest was with Kim Carey and Deron Durflinger, both from Van Meter Schools. Deron had been wanting for Kim and I to connect and really work with some math stuff in their 1:1 setting. As we met, our conversation went to the difficulties she was having really utilizing the computer in the math curriculum. I've been struggling with this for quite some time. Now, I don't teach in a 1:1 school, but I've been reflecting on what that would look. I know about the Geometry tools that are available, but I want something more. How does a Pre-Algebra classroom really use a computer in all their activities?

If you have some great ideas, please share away!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reflections on the grading conversation

First, I want to thank all the visitors and contributors in the grading conversation. I was overwhelmed with the responses. Obviously, I hit a chord with many of you. I want to spend a few minutes adding my few cents.

I see grading as a necessity in our current education system. Now, before I start an uproar from shaggyhill or others, I want to reiterate in our current system of total education. For our students to get into college and qualify for a majority of financial aid students need a good GPA.

Secondly, I do see a major distortion in what grades mean from school to school, or even classroom to classroom within a school. I'm utilizing standards based grading in my classroom, while other teachers in my school and even in my department grade on points or other methods. Our current education system allows teachers to have significant control of how they assess and grade students in their classroom. As a teacher, I enjoy that freedom and would struggle working in a district that would really restrict my choices in that sense.

Do I dislike other methods of grading? No, I can see the perspective of grading student work for points, using accountability as an emphasis in the classroom and grading. My personal perspective has changed over the last couple of years. I believe that grades (if we must have them) should reflect what a student knows. When I report to parents, I want an easy way to show them what their child knows and doesn't. Standards-based grading does that for me. It may not be the choice of many others, but I see the purpose and believe it works best for my teaching style and how my classroom operates.

I'll be interested to see how education changes over the next few years. I sense a change a coming, but I'm not sure when it will happen.