Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kinesthetic Number Line

Friday (end of 6th week) went badly. A week ago I had decided to create a number line in masking tape on my floor. It was going to be for students who still struggle with negative numbers so that we could incorporate "kinesthetic learniing". Then I started thinking that I could use my number line for a whole-class activity. I have been thinking continuously about my model number line and about how I wanted to use the visual image of rotating about zero to represent finding the opposite. I decided that if I could get the students to stand on the number line, I might be able to find some way to discover that 'rotation' visually. I decided to make it a day's activity but as usual, I did not plan enough. I went home and made the following notes:

34 students max
1) Get in order on the number line
2) Add 3 to your number
3) Get back in order on the number line
4) Add -2 to your number
5) Find someone with the opposite number (unorganized)
6) Find someone where your sum is ___9____A
7) Find someone where your difference is ____7__B___ - stand in order
8) Find someone that has the same absolute value as you
9) Find someone where the absolute value of your difference is ___11_C______
10) Find two other people so the absolute value of your sum is ___14______D
11) Get back in order on the number line
12) Find your opposite (while touching elbows on the number line) – end of activity
Unfortunately, then I decided to sleep and finish it in the morning. I ended up getting to the school with nothing more than those notes. On the way to school, I decided to split the class into two groups- one with a maximum of 16 students and the other with a maximum of 18. (Digression- in each period, the 16 students at the front of the room behaved better and had a better attitude despite the projector shining in their eyes. I'm not sure if that's because they were a smaller group or perhaps because of the psychosocial associations with the front of the classroom.) I ended up making index cards frantically as the students entered the room. I couldn't find the masking tape, so one of the groups had only an imaginary line (no pun intended) and the postive and negative signs on the ends were made of duct tape (which had the added feature of being well-nigh invisible against the carpeting).

This lesson was pretty much a failure in every class. First hour started late because I was finishing the index cards and typing the prompts frantically from the laptop to PowerPoint. I realized that if I wanted each student to have an opposite (for the final activity), then they could not also be asked to "add up" to arbitrary (non-zero) numbers.

1st hr:
didn't have cards ready
no ppt
forgot ppt shines on front kids
touching elbows bettter than linking
students not used to moving around
refused to find partners without help
make sure students don't leave with your cards

2nd hr
class started late bc I was remaking missing cards
don'tbe in bad mood (makes moving punishment instead of pseudo-fun)
don't give students only option of linking elbows (they hate)
if lights go out 1/2 way and stay out, don't expect to finish
if you want to keep some students after class to write down names for nonparticipation. They crowd toward you threateningly
if going to piss students off, make sure they don't take your cards, tear them into little pieces, and strew them down the hallway down the building.

3rd hr
class started lte bc was remaking stolen/torn/strewn cards
lights still off (don't do activity in dark)
make sure students do not lean against post-9/11 'panic button'
DO choose a random 100 problem assignment, telling students option between weekend hw and this in-class activity wo homework

left too late to get lunch, so went to cafeyuckiya to get cheese pizza (only veggietarian item on menu)
it turns out no Pizza Hut today, only 'pizza boats' made from french bread
took that and onion rings back to teacher's lounge, where I discovered pepperoni (of the insidious Darth Cube style in pizza (communist plot!), so gave to other (unsuspecting) teacher.
resorted to lunch of giant kit-kat and pepsi to different teacher's room to cry and commiserate on the human... err... teacher condition

5th circle:
class started late (shamefully, I didn't spend my lunch hour re-making cards that the students had taken
used same ploy of 'options' with added bribe of '25 minutes free time at end of class' for students - worked amazingly well, should do EVERY day!

6th circle prep
called district math specialist, told her (incomplete) list of problems: ie, students hate me, not that am behind...
wandered around school, dreading 7th hour

7th circle
tried to remake cards, so (once again) class did not start on time, kids wouldn't listen, 10 mins free timea t end

good stuff: kid have me half of his flaming chee-toes

after school:
went to older teacher's room and cried
she told me to bring in my flash drive so whe could five me docs and progs to help
power in bldg fails three times this hour, twice in middle of transfer of files to flash drive...

went home, had epiphany (to go to bed, but humbly)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Way to Calm Down

On the Sunday before school started R and I went to the Meeting (the Quaker equivalent of a church) that I have been regularly attending for 8 years, though I’ve let it slide when I’m stressed out (and, therefore, need it the most). The Meeting I attend is “unprogrammed” which means that it follows the original Quaker practice of having silent worship where everyone sits quietly in contemplative worship and people stand to give witness if they feel moved to. Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, is now a diverse group and some have moved to more “church-y” worship services and continued evangelical theology, but my Meeting is on the other end – a very liberal, open meeting with no minister, no sermons, and complete equality and responsibility on the part of every member.

So at the end of Meeting, it is a tradition (oops, Quakers aren’t supposed to have traditions) for us to go around the room (the chairs are set up in a double rectangle around the room facing inward) and say our names as well as any other announcements. Halfway through worship R nudged me and made me exchange seats with him, and I didn’t understand why until the announcements reached him. He was now first, so he first told everyone how nervous I was about beginning school and how I needed a lot of encouragement and support. He then said “Also, with apologies to Louis Armstrong…” and began proposing to me! Even though I had been calling him my fiance to people at school with his permission (because I felt “boyfriend” sounded too young to say to my students) we were not yet technically engaged, though we talked about getting married all the time. I had told him I wanted a memorable proposal, and it was! He sang my favorite song, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and changed some of the words to reflect our own private little jokes, ending with “Will you marry me?” I said yes, everyone clapped, and the rest of the day we spent celebrating instead of hyperventilating! So if someone you love is worrying about starting a new career, here’s my suggestion: propose. With song.

The Prep Week

Well the first day of school came and all my good intentions to blog about this experience went out the window. Its not the same thing, but I want to take the time to write down what I can remember of these past five weeks, not for others as much as for myself when I read this at the beginning of next year.

After 3 days of teacher induction, we had Monday off and then Tuesday-Thursday was teacher prep week. Lots of meetings, some worthwhile, lots of speeches, lots of awards, lots of “Let’s make this the best year ever!!!!!!!!!!!!” Is it sad that I kind of enjoy these pep rallies? I cringe at pep rallies for a specific person or cause because I see emotion being manipulated for a certain goal, but there’s really no downside to “the best year ever!!!!!” It’s both positive enough and vague enough to be harmless.

Being slightly OCD, I spent my teacher prep week cleaning my room instead of preparing materials. To be fair, the room was pretty dirty – layers of dust that were thick enough to reach the furry stage when they look like they could be petted. I cleaned off every surface on both desks, the computer, the main cabinet, and the filing cabinet – inside and outside. I also had some fun “discovering” the supplies left behind by the previous teacher that I could hoard, squirrel-like, for when my yearly alloted supply ran out – whiteboards, markers, filing supplies, etc. And, I pushed the desks and computer around back and forth several times before deciding where to put everything, which was quite a bit of exercse.

I also got 3 posters made for my room: A Class Rules poster, a poster describing what all work should look like, and a poster with a saying I came up with this summer that I still haven’t put up :-/ I’ll upload pics soon. I took them to the librarian and asked for them to come back soon, and she was very nice about it.

Oh yes – and this week was also interrupted by car troubles. My parents had just helped me to find and buy a new (used) car. It tore my heart to give up my 1994 Toyota Corolla [with 120,000 miles, broken door handles, broken power locks, broken power windows, leaking power steering fluid, no roof covering other than foam which drifted down if you touched the ceiling, a broken taillight, a plastic right-hand side view mirror, and a missing headlights switch – such character!] but it wasn’t reliable enough for the 54 mile round-trip commute. So Gunther was parked and put on sale and we bought Gunter 2.0, a 2000 Toyota Corolla. Promptly after we paid the cost, the dealership packed up and disappeared without transferring the title, so I had to skip Friday morning meetings to sit at the MVD and file a title complaint. The next day the dealer called promising to work everything out but now he’s disappeared again, so my car is still not legally mine and under a temporary license only, as of September 7th. When I returned to school on Saturday I found that the instructional specialist had talked to the principal about letting teachers into their classes Saturday and he had, after asking the teachers, agreed to let us in until 2pm. So I also spent Saturday at the school, cleaning and putting up what few posters I had, until 2:30 when maintenance frog-marched me out.

My the end of this week was also complicated by the fact that R (my fiance) and I were house-sitting for a couple we regularly do this for, taking care of two cats and one very needy dog. Usually I love having a house to ourselves but this week was very stressful knowing I couldn’t have easy access to all my “stuff” at home. I didn’t want to stay at home alone since the rest of my family including the dog was vacationing at Rocky Point and I knew going home after my first few days to an empty house was NOT a good idea. So after throwing, frankly, a temper tantrum about R double-booking his time again, I calmed down and we moved a large part of my belongings into the house. It is actually less than half the distance to my school than my house so that helped my nerves about being perpetually late.

So that was my teacher prep week – lots of cleaning, lots of moving, and lots of MVD sitting.