Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What I Learned as the #StartOver teacher

It's been so long since I last blogged about my #StartOver classes. Since the last time I wrote, I went to NCTM. I was so grateful the conference was held in San Diego since that is pretty much the reason my district decided it was a good use of funds to send a few teachers from each of the sites for this event. I have learned many things but the one thing I wanted to implement right away in my classroom was giving students roles to play when working in groups. I got the strategy from ClaireVerti in her 30-minute burst session.

Her strategy calls for students working in groups of four. The role of two students are to talk about the math problem. The third student's role is to ask clarifying questions. The fourth student's role is to look at sentence starters and count how many times those phrases are used.

My technology TOSA Deatra asks me if I am doing station rotations on the day I decide to try this strategy and lets me know that she wants to spotlight it in her Teacher Tuesday Newsletter. My heart sank since station rotations are the best thing that ever happened to my teaching life and I would do anything to share the impact on all students with my friends at my site. But that wasn't what I was doing that day. I told her that I am trying a different strategy, one where students are assigned different roles for group work and if she wants to come and observe that, I would be happy to have her.

She came over, sat for almost the whole period and took some pictures. I hated myself by the end of the period.

I mean, my lesson didn't go as planned at all!

Typical of this class, I thought.  Of course my students are not participating and of all the groups Deatra can sit at, she decided to sit with the group that is the worst in the whole class! Deatra probably thinks I should quit teaching as of today!

When the students left the room, I was already defensive. Before Deatra opened her mouth, I started telling her that the low participation rate is typical of this class, and in case she didn't notice, there were some groups where students were working collaboratively together. It's just that she couldn't see them because she was so involved with watching the group she was sitting in. Also, these kids, they don't really care about school and they are failing all their classes, not just mine and that's why they didn't do any work. And and....

When she had a moment, she started to speak in her calm voice. She said, "Princess, I don't think so. I think the students were trying. They just didn't really understand what was expected of them." She of course also mentioned all the great things that I did during the presentation. Deatra would never provide constructive feedback without any positive feedback.

But even then, for some reason, I felt more anger. I wasn't sure if I was angry at Deatra, at my students or myself.

I can't remember what I said or did after her comment. But I do remember acknowledging this:

The Princess with the beautiful heart who volunteered to take over the two #StartOver classes was gone. The daily grind of dealing with behavior issues and lack of support from EVERYONE turned me into the miserable, finger-pointing teacher that I despise.

I didn't blog. I didn't talk to anyone in fear that others will think of me like I do of me. I stopped calling parents. I didn't interact with my fellow friends when I attended conferences. I was in deep thought for many weeks. I started going indoor rock climbing almost everyday, even if it was for 30 minutes. I started thinking about what qualities make a good teacher. I wondered what kind of system would work best for the students I have in my #StartOver classes.

This is what I learned.

1. A good teacher is someone who DOESN'T get discouraged when results are not visible.
2. A good teacher continues to use effective strategies even if it looks like the strategies don't work.
3. A good teacher continues to look at how much the students, parents, coworkers and administrators are trying to support the teacher despite their circumstances.
4. A good teacher doesn't blame herself for lack of result.
5. A good teacher is a vulnerable teacher who invites other teachers to come into her classroom and asks for objective feedback on what the STUDENTS are doing, and accepts the input.
6. A good teacher shares her knowledge and experience of teaching a difficult class and supports other teachers like herself.
7. A class made up ONLY of students who need extensive support does not work.

This incident on this day way back last semester is the reason I asked Deatra to do a session on Being Brave and Persistent in the classroom with me. Because for the first time I understood (really late in my career) that there is no such thing as a bad teacher, just a defeated one, and we need to support each other. Finally, isn't it great to have a friend like Deatra who instead of agreeing with me to make me feel better, tells me that my negative perspective of my students are wrong?

Supporting each other as educators and taking action to relieve the mental trauma teachers go through has always been Deatra's project. I happened to benefit from her belief and thought more teachers might want to know that we are all the same. And we can only get better if we work together.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Good Teaching Conference #StartOver Day 40-44

I found something.

It's called the Good Teaching Conference. It's hosted by the California Teacher's Association(CTA).
For years I have been following conferences where they teach you about utilizing tech tools in the classroom like GAFE Summits and CUE conferences. But our district has been a 1:1 device school for... I honestly don't know for how long. My first presentation at a GAFE summit was in 2015, so Perris Union High School District must have been a 1:1 device school since 2013 at the latest.

The cool thing about tech conferences is that the attendees are excited to learn about utilizing technology in the classroom. And even if they are not, they work in a district where the devices are available for the students and the district is forcing teachers to learn, so the participants might complain here and there, but they end up participating. Presenters get excited because participation rates are high during sessions and participants get excited because sessions exude high energy, kindness and a spirit of collaboration.

But after a while, you learn that there are so many apps and online tools that basically do the same thing. It's just a matter of cost and ease of use. And the more conferences you go to, you realize you can't really keep up with all the things that pop up and gets left behind for whatever reason.

With that realization, you learn that tech tools are cool, but there needs to be a purpose for everything. Since more and more districts are becoming 1:1 device districts, more stakeholders are realizing that sessions geared only towards utilizing apps is not productive. These days, all you have to do is drop the name of an app and teachers can figure things out from there. If you want to emphasize social emotional states of students, you would have to find an app that would help with that in order to present at these conferences, unless I'm misinformed.

What I liked about the Good Teaching Conference was that although I saw savvy technology using educators here and there, half the sessions I went into didn't even require participants to have a device because that was not the main focus. The main focus was on "Good Teaching". Apparently, teachers have to be physically and emotionally healthy to support struggling students. So there was a session on that. When dealing with behavior issues, we need to understand first what the child is trying to accomplish or avoid, so there was a session on that. To make sure our students do a better job on the CAASPP in math performance tasks, teachers have to first understand how the assessment is scored. Then teachers need to think about different ways to instruct our children. So there was a session on that.

I am a CUE Rockstar. I don't know what that means to anyone else in the world, but to me, that means that I value students creating something using technology to display their learning. Here is a link that explains the SAMR model. And that is all amazing and great. I also have to admit that today in 2019, the well known names in education out there are not the ones pushing the use of this or that app but the ones who solve problems in our classrooms using technology. But I was busy trying to keep up with all the apps and extensions that I didn't really have time to think about the most important things. Like why I suddenly have days when I feel unmotivated to go to work. Like why my students are behaving the way they do. Like why I keep thinking students who can't add or multiply cannot learn higher level math. Like why I think some parents don't care. Like why I think my ideas in the classroom are better than other teacher's ideas.

It was refreshing. The conference was really refreshing. Because it was a mix of everything. Like the real world should be.

I wanted to attend a session that explains the brain of a child and how it relates to behavior and learning. But I didn't have room in my schedule. That's ok. I'll catch it somewhere else. Now I'm off so I can apply what I learned.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Direct Instruction for One Week and the Result #StartOverDay 30-39

Wow. Two weeks went by fast.

Students are in the process of registering for classes for next year. Juniors are already done. Counselors are working with Sophomores right now. If I want to grow the computer science pathway at my site, I have to recruit.

Unlike last year, my principal gave me his blessing and even gave me $500 to help with the recruiting process. I reached out to a printing company for flyers on why taking AP classes are good for you, and a bunch of posters for computer science that I found from the website. My principal also paid for a substitute for one day so I can visit Advanced 10th grade English classes and Algebra 2 and higher classes to do a presentation on the computer science pathway at Perris High.

This meant that every moment of my free time had to be spent scouring for information for my presentation. Students at my site often do not know what computer science is. Since the moment Computer Science was offered at my site three years ago, there were consistently only one section of AP Computer Science Principles and one section of Computer Science Discoveries. Some students have seen their friends go through pains to create animations that don't even look beautiful and other students have seen their friends write so many lines of codes to make a game that is not sophisticated nor exciting. Even the students in computer science classes do not really understand what they can do with the skills they have acquired or how computer science is used in the real world. Thanks to and a few other sites geared for counselors, I was able to create a presentation that focused on the need of minority members and girls to take a piece of the pie in the computer science field. I was quite happy when girls approached me and asked about the courses. I may have mentioned this in my earlier blogs, but Perris High now has the opportunity to offer AP Computer Science A through Amazon and I just can't really think of a reason why students will not take advantage of this opportunity(my slides, in case you want to copy and modify). And yes, I bought 14 boxes of pizza from Pizza Hut on March 6th for students and parents who might be interested in learning more about the pathway. Unfortunately, I didn't advertise the pizza in fear that the whole school will show up only for a slice of pizza and not for the information. That was a huge mistake since even the students who were interested did not show up although they came looking for me later that day since it was back to school night. My coach Deatra proposed advertising the pizza next year if I get funds again. After all, the children might show up just for the pizza, then learn that they were actually interested in the field after all. My principal, Mr. Santos, suggested that I keep the parents and the students hostage til the end of the workshop, then offer the pizza (limit 1 slice per person) as they leave my room. Of course I will be applying both their advice for next year. My affection and respect for these two grow more and more each time I interact with them.

Now that has come and gone, it is time for me to confess. I have been lazy.

I cancelled station rotations on March 6. In case you didn't know, Wednesdays equals station rotations. Structure is important for students especially if they never found success in a math class. But I really didn't get to do anything that week except visit classrooms, put in rush orders for posters, order pizza and get presentations ready. I still had to teach all my classes, run GirlsWhoCode and stay after school for credit recovery. So I made an executive decision to direct teach the whole week in my #StartOver class. That week was devoted to studying for Thursday's test where students get to challenge first semester of Introduction to Algebra 1.

I have to say, there was absolutely no planning required on my part. Remember my little team of Introduction to Algebra 1 and Support class where all students are starting over? I'm the only one at my site so I have a team of teachers from 2 other sites at my district and we email each other. Joe is the one who mostly communicates. He sent out a practice worksheet. It was beautiful. It had the same questions on both sides of the column, different numbers. It was designed so I can solve one as a sample and the class can solve the one on the right looking at the model on the left. All of a sudden, I got insight into why teachers prefer direct instruction.

Planning for station rotations has gotten easier for me since I've been doing it for a while now. But you do have to think about which new concept you want to introduce, what kind of notes you want your students taking and what kind of problems you want your students to be solving in each of the stations. And the collaborative piece should be similar but still different every time. I would say that it takes me about an hour to plan and prepare the videos, notes and documents for station rotations. It used to take me longer, but I'm becoming more efficient. Even if I were to use direct instruction, I usually pre-write my notes so students know exactly what the format looks like. I have learned the hard way that if I simply start writing on my Interwrite pad, my students have no idea how to organize it. They have to see how it looks in an actual lined notebook that looks exactly like theirs.

Now that the recruiting week is over, I have to report to you that I'm back to more than half the class not doing work and explicitly going on social media or using their cell phones. I got flashbacks to those days years ago when I felt ineffective as a teacher and wanting to leave the classroom.

I thought about it. If I were a coach and all my energy was devoted to my sport, I probably might not have the time to invest in teaching strategies. If I teach a higher level math class and all my energy was devoted to helping students work through a difficult problem, I probably won't see a need to invest in teaching strategies. But for teachers like me who teach lower level math and is not a coach, I need to continue to grow.

So here I am, looking at my past two weeks and promising myself that I, Princess Choi, cannot be lazy.

And this is my last comment. How can we help coaches and teachers who teach dual enrollment classes, AP classes and other difficult courses be a better teacher?
There is no need to hurt anyone's ego. They are all good people. But it is a disservice to our students when we stop reinventing ourselves.
Have a great time, til the next blog!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

It's Not Anyone's Fault. Expulsions Can't Be The Answer. Striving for a Better System #StartOver Day25-29

At the beginning of the #StartOver math course, I had to let my students know that behind the high pitched voice and the smile that can't be taken seriously was the teacher who felt that her priority was in informing their parents of everything. These things don't happen because I say that is who I am.

I had to show them. 

This meant I had to stop in the middle of class when no one was working, walk over to my desk and start calling parents-in front of the class. Half the class don't want to stress out their parents or deal with consequences at home, so they start working. The other half waits to see if I will hang up, then call their parent next. A few students stand strong and refuse to work til the last minute. 

This type of drama needs to be produced maybe once a year or not even at all in other classes. But when you have a group of students who are used to not working for a year or more, this drama has to be played out often. I learned before day 10 was over that I needed to leave time each period for dramatic productions such as calling parents in front of the class. That meant teaching less, calling more. I had a good rationale. It's better to pause teaching and call parents than to talk into the air while all my students are on social media. It's better to call parents than accept the fact that none of my students will share their thoughts in the classroom. But the effectiveness of anything wears off after repeated use. 

I stopped calling parents during class after week 4. It was turning into a routine and some students were getting tired of it. I started calling more parents after school and on weekends. I had a good rationale. Wasting class time is not effective. I'm producing this drama for less than half the class now. It's better to call parents after school since it's only about 4 students from each course.

Now I'm looking to start week 7. Two weeks went by without me calling parents in front of students during class time. A started walking out of class 3 minutes before class is over and he definitely walks in 10 minutes after the bell rings. About 10 percent of my class is paying attention and sharing their thoughts with me during my lecture/project days (Monday and Tuesday). When I asked A to sit down and work, he said, "you haven't even been calling parents for a while now." I responded by saying, "oh you think so?"

Actually the night before, I was texting/calling a parent because I was doing my routine calls home and K's mom was at the emergency room. The poor girl is quiet and keeps to herself. And she is failing all her classes except for one. I wanted to call the mom to see if there is anything I can do to help her since I can't seem to be able to connect with her in class. Mom was at the emergency room because K was sick. Mom told me she wants to talk to K's counselor to see if there is another option for K's schooling. I told her that is a good idea. I felt bad for not being a counselor. All I could do was wish her the best and hang up. It was 10:10pm when I last spoke with mom.

On day 29, there was a SST meeting for L. L is so cute. I have to say this because he is so extremely cute. He is funny too. But he does absolutely no work. And he has no ability to control himself. He gets in trouble at school because he throws things. And in my previous blog, I did mention that he kept calling a girl "Skin her". That girl is now no longer in my class. The administrators decided to protect her by changing her class. I called mom several times and when I emailed her, I finally got a response from her. I was really shocked. You would think that L's mom either doesn't care or doesn't like the school system or doesn't know how to control the child. All those prejudices were broken for me when I met the mom. She was soft-spoken, smart, positive about the school system and had strategies to discipline her child. It's just that L is his own person.

Sometimes, us teachers complain about parents. Because we think that our worst performing students are the product of parents who don't care. L's mom has to work. She doesn't get home til after 6pm. She has a job where she can't pick up her phone. That's why she responds via email late at night. She didn't get L a phone because she didn't want him to be on it at school. She told him not to take the laser pointer to school but he did. Behind her back. Then got in trouble with me.

Actually, now that I think about it, of all the parents I ever called, only 2 were hateful and blamed the school instead of their children. Everyone else were grateful I called even if Google Translate did a horrible job of translating English to Spanish for me. And the phone calls sometimes translated to the change in the child's behavior. But not always.

I thought about it. High School is the last education system the children have to pass through before they hit adulthood. I thought about this society I live in. There are people who follow the golden rule. The law need not be there for these people. They follow a higher calling. Then there are people who need the law. Without it, they might do some harm to others, mostly because they didn't know. Then there are a few who try their best to find loopholes so they can do what they want and get away with it. Finally, there is a system where people who cannot be controlled by the law are contained, away from the general population (prisons, jail etc).

At school, we have rules. A minority of our students love school and they come early and stay til late. They email teachers for feedback and can't wait to participate in school events. Most others come to school and follow rules because they have to. Then there's students who sneak away and share drugs or display graffiti in the bathrooms or destroy school property and get away because they were never caught. Then there's the few who are caught and they have to go through consequences set by the school.

In my dream world, every school has the same allotment of students who are in each of the categories I mentioned earlier. And we all have a great system to help these children who love school shine even more brightly. That would mean rigorous courses, service learning, a lot of community service hours to help out the less fortunate etc. For most of the general student population, we would provide the same thing we provide to our students who love school. But for the students who are not performing either because they are sick physically, emotionally or mentally, we need to have a system to help them. High School is not the same as real life experienced by adults. We cannot expel or suspend them. What would these children do after a suspension or an expulsion when they become an adult? But we also cannot mix these students with the general student population.

Looking at my site, I know we have counseling, ATS(Alternative To Suspension) and independent work. Many of my students are not in my class on a given day because they either have to go for drug counseling, psychological counseling, ATS or do independent work. These programs are great. But while they are gone receiving these services, they are falling more and more behind with work in the classroom. So when they return from ATS, counseling or independent work, they face failure in the classroom anyway. These students are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Back to my dream world, what if we had a system where counselors,  program managers,  administrators and a few dedicated teachers from each subject form a team? We would need psychologists as well. This team will only do one thing. Help students keep up with required curriculum as well as provide necessary training to navigate through the school system and provide counseling as needed. And the system here will not be set up like a classroom. It would be like a rotating system so anyone can come in whenever necessary and leave whenever necessary. Kinda like mainstreaming the students with IEPs. I know there are schools that does just this. But that is not what most families are exposed to. Parents have to research to find a school that does just this. What if every public school had this system?

So if a child got in trouble for selling drugs and using drugs, they can enter this program. And instead of being pulled out of their classes for ATS and counseling sessions, they can stay in the program. There are credentialed teachers for different subjects who will help them with work individually or in small groups and they can get counseling and other support as necessary. This way they can get their credits and get the support they need as well. When they feel like they are ready, or when the adults feel the student is ready, the student can then be reintegrated into the general student population where the focus is on service learning and helping others.

Back to reality. It's not the parent's fault my students are behind in math. It's not the middle school or the elementary school's fault that my students behave the way they do. It is not because my students are dealing with poverty they are the way they are. All schools should have a good system to support all these children before they become adults. I read a few months ago that more and more educators are running for political offices. Maybe they will help a little. I learned that we spend more money on prisons and helping low income families than in education as a society. Maybe revamping our school system will help society. In my classroom, I have to get back to producing the big scene of calling parents in class so my students who need the whip can get back in place.

Thanks to this #StartOver classes, I remembered why I started teaching. It wasn't because a teacher impacted me. It wasn't because I love children. It wasn't because I love math or computer science. I wanted to teach at the high school level because I felt like if I could catch the struggling mini-adults in high school, maybe they would be a productive person in society as a full-grown-adult, where it's more difficult to find support for their problems.

I love my job more than ever before. And I feel so much affection for my 70 #StartOver students. But I also feel like there needs to be change. I've been going to conferences and fan-girling over people who I think could change education in the classroom. Now I want to change my direction. I want to think of the school as a whole system. And remember the fact that my students could struggle as adults. And I want to create a system that would help them as adults when they leave my school. I feel powerless as I think about this. There is so much to learn. So I will take my first step. I don't have a clear idea what my first step is. But that's why I blog. Is there anyone out there who want to join forces with me?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Finding Balance #StartOver Day 20~Day 24

Now that I'm done with Day 24, I realize that I won't have time to write a blog everyday. And to be honest, I had so much fun exploring new things to introduce to my #StartOver students and new strategies to get my students engaged that I have been working a little too much. A little too much that I have been neglecting many things, mostly the students in my computer science classes.

On Wednesday morning at around 2am, my daughter woke me up crying hysterically. She said her heart was hurting. I panicked. I took Wednesday (Day 22) off so I can take my daughter to the hospital. It turns out that she was having muscle pain from flag football practice on Tuesday. It was her first practice and she's the only girl in her team. It's not like she wanted to be there. I forced her. Since I require my son to participate in flag football every season, I thought I'd make my daughter join too. I didn't know that girls can join the team, but it turns out that NFL Flag Football Inland Valley is co-ed. I think she wanted to show the boys that girls are as good, so she overworked herself. She caught the coach's ball from really far and I'm pretty sure that's why her chest hurts. I guess this is why coaches tell you to catch with your hands, not with your chest. But I thought my daughter had a heart attack that evening.

Anyhow, that meant that I missed work on Day 22. But Wednesday is also my lunch club day. I have come to love GirlsWhoCode even though I didn't even want to participate in the beginning. Guess what I did. I actually went to school after the hospital visit on Day 22. It was also the incoming freshmen electives fair. And as you know,  I am trying to establish and grow the computer science pathway at my site. I had 4 freshmen at a table recruiting at the gym from periods 2 to 4. I had to check on them as well. This was when I realized something was wrong with me.

Then on Day 24, I missed school again this time to go recruit for my computer science classes at Pinacate Middle School, which is our feeder school. I didn't have a Google Slide or a short video to present to the students until the last minute. I have been working with my technology TOSA Deatra Lee to build and expand the computer science pathway at our site. We are trying to offer our capstone class, which will be the AP Computer Science A course. I only have 15 students who committed to sign up for that course this coming school year. My principal tells me I need at least 20 students or it's a no-go. The thing about this course is that last year, I wanted to offer this course, but I found out that we had to purchase the curriculum. Schools don't ever have money so the idea to offer the course was probably not appealing to my administrators. It was shot down. This year, Edhesive is offering the course for free through Amazon. They even have internship programs and scholarship opportunities for students. I was excited when I found out our site was selected to receive the program for free after an interview process. And our site administrative team is open to offering the course thanks to Amazon and Edhesive.

Deatra and I have been talking about sending emails out to students, teachers and counselors, making slides and videos and visiting classrooms to recruit for the pathway. Except I was pre-occupied with my #StartOver classes. So I failed to create the video and the slides. I think I mentioned Deatra before in my blog, but she really complements me so well. She knew of my situation and drafted a slide for me. For the video, we already had ideas, but I couldn't start it for some reason. She told me to record samples of my student work, then send it to her and she'll edit it. Finding student work and recording them sounds easy enough, but that alone took a few hours. But I got them done and once I sent it to her, she magically put them together with music and even my voice-over. You can check out the video here. With the slide, I got rid of a few slides, changed the order and it was good. I have to admit that if Deatra wasn't there, I wouldn't have a video or a slide to recruit students with. This is off-topic, but I have to say that even though I have great affection for all my previous technology TOSA's, I love Deatra the most. She is tall and beautiful so I had to get over my insecurities first, but once that happened, she was the best person to work with. I am learning so much from her about being a good team member, but mostly about being a good person.  Back to my point. My failure as a teammate in creating the videos and the slides and sending out the emails on time was also when I realized something was wrong with me.

In addition, I read some guy's blog that stated that what I'm doing is writing a diary. And that is different from a blog. Upon reflection, I realized that I want to blog to help myself but I also want to help others. I want other teachers to have a reason for reading my blogs so we can all get better together. Sometimes I scour through Twitter in search of other teacher's blogs to find what I need and find nothing. I know I read it somewhere but I can't remember the name of the author and what the title was. Looking at my titles and my content, I realized other teachers will have the same problem with my blogs. Plus, by now, my routines are the same every week. The only difference now is that more students are ditching my class.

I had this whole week off and I didn't go to the gym once. So I guess my #StartOver classes was not the reason why I didn't work out.

But I did rearrange my room and clean out my closet and gave my daughter outfits that are too small for me now. I also cooked myself some healthy Keto snacks and looked up different strategies to memorize the times table. But most of my time was spent solving practice questions from in preparation for my students' upcoming coding competition in April. I learned that I really enjoy solving these coding challenges. I get into the flow. I wonder what I would be doing today if my teachers encouraged me to learn to code when I was younger.

Anyhow, so I decided that instead of writing a diary about all the things that happened each day, I would find one topic of interest and try to blog at least once a week only pertaining to that topic. Of course something from my day would have triggered that topic.

As always, if you teach math to students with IEPs or if you teach a remedial class, I want to thank you. Because I know most administrators, politicians, parents and even other teachers want to blame you for the students' failure.  You are NOT the reason for their failure. But you have to continue to reflect and reiterate. No one ever wants to do your job. And when you don't have to teach one of these classes, always find something positive to say about that teacher who teaches that course. Because that teacher is drowning and slowly dying inside. And if that teacher leaves the profession, you might have to take over the class. And if that happens, you want other people to be supportive of you, right?

Twice As Long Doesn't Mean Twice As Slow #StartOver Day 18 and Day 19

Day 18- We finished lesson 3 using's CS in Algebra curriculum.
It's so cool to see my students engaged and active. It was even cooler to witness my students who are done early go help other students. I always wanted to use Bootstrap in my Algebra 1 classes but I didn't have any time. This is why the two periods work really well for me. Some teachers don't see the point of seeing the same students twice a day for the same content when students refuse to work. We have to remember that seeing the students twice doesn't mean we do the same thing twice, or speak twice as slow. The students need more time to catch up on math they didn't learn when they were in lower grades. I feel that the teachers need to find that point where students first got lost and start from there, even if it means you start from helping them memorize their times tables.

If my administrators gave me 1)  an additional prep everyday to call parents, document them and lesson plan, and 2) the behavior support office trusts me and 3) the counseling department works with me, I think I can teach the #StartOver class every semester. At this point, I can handle the heartbreak every time a child displays their displeasure towards me because I have bought the hearts of a few others.

Day 19- I was excited over our first #20time Friday. But my excitement quickly disappeared as students predicted that no parents will show at the end of the semester or when they stated that they won't do it. Then one girl asked me if she can figure out how many ounces of weed it would take to get high for her #20Time project. She said she won't do it herself, she would just ask other people. I first said yes, and now I realize that was a bad mistake. Can you imagine the horror as parents talk to this girl? My math department friends apologized to me first, then mocked me for being stupid. I have to go back and talk to her. I hope my students can find a good #20time project. Can you help me with some ideas? Most of my students like to pick from a list of ideas rather than come up with their own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Building Relationships in Station Rotations #StartOver Day 16 and Day 17

Day 16- I lectured Monday so lecturing again Tuesday would be too much torture for my children. So I lectured for about 10 minutes during the morning period, then had students work on solving 2 questions as a group. They could write their work on the board or share a Google Slide with me for their presentation. Most groups chose the board. During the afternoon period, they had to present. Everyone had to speak.

I was pleased to find that all groups worked and they all presented. Even the EL students. They really struggled saying just one sentence, but they did it and I was proud. I came to United States from Korea a month before my Junior year was over in high school. I understand the struggle that EL students have to go through. I am sad I can't speak Spanish, but I am patient because I know how hard it is to get used to a new culture in addition to the language. The highlight of the day was when 2 groups got their work wrong. I was pleased to see that now my children are no longer afraid to be wrong. I told them their work was wrong and asked them to find out what they did wrong. I didn't forget to compliment them for doing the work anyhow. And added that their brain cells are growing because they are now looking for their mistake. The 2 groups persevered and figured it out with the help of the other group members.

Day 17- My favorite station rotation Wednesday! I slacked today. Most of my students now like me. This is really good, but also really bad. When I was their enemy, they hated me, but was compliant(I know that word is bad). Now that they know that all my phone calls home and threats are out of love, they try and take advantage of me. I have to admit, my big trouble-makers are kinda cute and funny. I put my foot down and didn't let 5 students go to the restroom today because they didn't work. I saw their disappointed faces and explained to them why I said no. I told them they have to show me evidence that they were working to go to the restroom. All 5 decided to stay put. It looks like my students are loving station rotations because unless they are in my station, they are pretty much free from my reign. I need to fix this problem. Sebastian advised me today that I should ignore the troublemakers and pay more attention to students like himself who are behaving and patiently waiting for my attention. I thought about it. He was right. If I keep chasing my trouble makers, even students like Sebastian will be tempted to act out because they all want my attention. Trust me. I feel the energy when they walk in. They really truly want so much attention from me. It almost feels like they are deprived of love and attention and they try to fill their tanks during the two periods they are with me. And I'm willing to pour into their tanks.

During second period, we had a surprise visit from my principal. There was one child who earned honor roll in my #StartOver class! I was so proud. I recorded the whole thing and took many pictures.

On Monday during our PLC, my department friends were talking about apathy and the academic level of our students. One teacher spoke of spending time Fridays to sit with individual students and making them work. I couldn't hold myself and threw in my two cents about how great he is, because he really is, and then said how station rotations works great for that purpose. Most of my students, and I'm sure yours as well, are conditioned to work only when we attend to them. Even during station rotations, while I help one out of the 6 children in my station, the other 5 are looking at the ceiling or hiding their phone in front of their Chromebook and watching something. Once I am done helping one child with one problem, I help the next child and the one that just worked with me is now suddenly not doing anything. There is nothing I can do about that. But I have now helped one child with one problem. I don't know how much that will help the individual students with their grades, but it's much better than letting them be or blaming them or beating them to compliance. I need to make sure that during my 16 minutes with each of the 6 students, I help as many students as possible.

But I mentioned earlier that I slacked today. I meant that I spent about 5 minutes out of the 16 socializing with them today. I know I shouldn't have, but deep inside my heart I wanted them to finally smile back at me and be kind to me. Today they were being silly and telling me about their little cut on their finger and why they think I am crazy. I did get them to work a little, but I wanted to enjoy the "Ms. Choi, I want you to pay more attention to me" pleas and the "if you like anyone else more than me, then I'll have to beat up all the girls in here" threats. And those beautiful smiles as they say, "this is my favorite station."

So that was great in itself. But I also had day 2 of Girls Who Code and a few more girls showed up. I'll write about that another day.

Finally, as I wearily walked towards my car at 4:30 because I promised myself I will go indoor rock-climbing today, the administrator in charge of counseling walked towards me, away from his car. I'm like, "no, I need to go home before 5 today. Wait. We were all happy today. Which child went to Mr. Wise and complained about me again? Is he going to send me more students with multiple suspensions to my class? What would be so important that the man over there would walk away from his car and towards me?" Those few seconds looking at him walking towards me was the worst. Once he approached me, he told me that he had a meeting with his counseling department today. He said that the counselors are aware that I have a concentration of certain demographics in my #StartOver classes. He said that if there is anything they can do to support me, they would. I hugged him. I almost felt like crying. I told him I'm having a hard time and I don't even know what kind of support I need because I'm in the thick of things, but I told him I'm grateful.

I know that there is nothing they can really do to help me. They probably mean that maybe they'll listen to me when I complain? I don't know. But even if nothing changes and I still don't get any support, knowing that they know how difficult it is for me made me happy.

Volunteering to teach this class and deciding to #StartOver might have been a good thing for me after all. I like my job a little more today than other days. My body is sore because I haven't gone rock-climbing for about a month or so. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Visual Representations for solving Equations #StartOver Day 15

Before I even start talking about how my Monday went, I wanted to share this.

I feel so lucky to be part of a great team.

I am the only teacher teaching this restart class at my site. My other two classes are computer science classes.  So I don't have a team to work with at my site. But in return, I gained a group of teachers from other sites within my district. Joe, Lara and Deborah email me and share what they are doing with their Introduction to Algebra students on a weekly basis. We share our thoughts. It is so helpful to work with a group but also have the freedom to do what I want in my room. We all share our assessments and activities.

Also, because I have students who require much attention from the Behavior Support office and the counselors, my administrators and counselors email and speak with me on a regular basis.

It's true that the main focus in my restart class is classroom management. It's also true that I currently have no life because I have to constantly think about what I need to do to support my students academically and otherwise. And I call many parents everyday, including weekends. But I am also happy and grateful. Working collaboratively yet independently is what I always wanted. The only thing I lack is personal time.

So yeah. Even though none of these people I mentioned even know I blog, I wanted to thank them. And I wish all of you will have something that I have right now. I know how great this is, because I never had one for the past 10 years.

Now back to today.

I thought about it. If these students failed Algebra 1 for years, then that must mean that whatever they had to do prior to being with me didn't work for them. So then I can't try and do the same things I did in my regular classes.

My pacing guide tells me it's time to go beyond solving one-step equations. It's time to solve two or more step equations.

I decided I'm going to have them draw. Maybe that will be easier for them when I explain why we have to eliminate the variable on one side when we see variables on both sides of the equal sign.
We already learned to add integers using James Tanton's exploding dots so they know that an antidot and a dot goes "poof" and leaves nothing.

My students complained that they had to draw too much, but it seemed like they understood what had to happen. We'll see what happens after the test Thursday.

Surprisingly, my day was easy. I had to write 2 referrals but it was because my children misbehaved with the sub while I was gone Friday.

After school, a girl from my #StartOver class came by to ask for help. I was overjoyed!

Today was a good day. Using the scale model to help students understand how to solve equations is everywhere, even in our textbooks. But for some reason most of us don't use it.  Do you know how I know?
Cuz I asked all my restart kids and only one child told me that he saw this model from his middle school teacher. And the truth is that I never used this visual representation model til today.

It works. Remember? My students are not the only ones starting over. It's #StartOver for me as well and I'm really enjoying this journey.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Strength Based Teacher Driven Change #StartOver Day 14

I didn't go to school today. My #StartOver students worked on Imagine math during both periods with the sub, I hope.

I was excited about today's Southwest Riverside County Think Tank meeting. One of the members, Toby, spoke very highly of Yale Wishnick, who was our speaker, so I wanted to see what I can get from him today.

Yale has a warm and kind aura about him. I felt comfortable in his presence. His topic was strength based teacher driven change. What a great topic. I was just about to get into his talk. But then he threw me off. This was his first slide. He told us to figure out what the letters stand for.

I was immediately stressed. He didn't even start his talk. And out of nowhere, we need to figure out what these letters stand for? I felt nervous. I wanted to go home. He told us to work in groups of 2 and lucky for me, I didn't have a partner. So I observed. For me, the I & T stood for I and Team. I noticed that the other teachers tried to come up with words that had to do with the theme of strength based learning and think tank, since our group is a think tank. It was 2 minutes. And the two minutes felt like it was forever. When Yale picked on someone to ask what they thought the I & T stood for, I was so relieved. This was the moment I totally sympathized with my restart students. Can you imagine their fear as I call out their name and demand that they tell me what they just heard? I don't know the approximately 15 people who are in the room with me and I definitely did not want to feel like the dummy in the group. For my students, what immediately follows when they don't answer me is the dreaded phone call home in class! I decided right at that moment that I should not punish my students like that in class any longer.

As soon as Yale told us that the I stood for "I am great because...", I was so relieved. Suddenly, he made us all finish that sentence. Then we all had to share it out! I have to tell you, it was hard to say in once sentence what I was great in and why. But we all did it. We laughed later when Yale told us that if he told us to write down what we need to improve on, we wouldn't have a problem and we'd write a long list. But when asked what we are good at, we were stumped. It was incredible how he made us write one sentence to make his point on how our society is run using a deficit model.

What I got from today's session was that if we focus on strengths, we will be energized and everything will work great. But the norm is to turn to the deficit model. The deficit model identifies what is wrong and attempts to fix it. That model is so exhausting because deficits are organic and it grows. Yale urged us to simply ask what we are doing well. He advised us to not even talk about what we're lacking. And from that point, keep going. He also said all the answers are in the room. All the right people are there. He also asked how we feel when we go to a meeting and one group wants things this way and the other group disagrees and wants things another way. We feel drained. But if we go to a meeting where everyone talks about what they are doing well and uses that to do something positive, how do we feel? We feel energized.  By the end of the day, I felt so grateful Yale showed up in my life.

After Yale left, our think tank wanted to discuss our direction. We decided to use Yale's strength based model and write one thing we're great at and use that as an anchor to propose which way we think the think tank should go.

Yale gave us a copy of his book. I justly forced him to sign my copy. I asked that he write my name and a message before he signs my copy. He told me I was demanding. I took it as a compliment. I took a selfie with him because he doesn't know me at all, but I know me and a man who has such great thoughts has to be in the same picture as I. I am a leader since at least 4 other teachers demanded the same after they saw my move. I'm sure Yale enjoyed his author signing session thanks to my lead. I think great thinkers like him deserve moments of love and attention.

I feel grateful almost everyday these days. Why am I so lucky? I have such good people around me. I also learned that in this group, many teachers are implementing #20time in their classrooms. And this man Toby, he started a hydroponic garden at his school with the grant money he received from the CTA. Wow! And I secretly stalked Tech Fairy Michele Osinski then asked her for a selfie. I can't wait til I meet the think tank members again. I already feel like I'm going to be a better person because of today's session and the people I met.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Long Read #StartOver Day 11, 12 and 13

Time didn't stop for me like I wanted.
By the time I woke up Tuesday, I remembered M sitting in the back by himself with a Chromebook on his lap. And E who was quiet, but still not working. And A who has a gorgeous smile but doesn't work. Or D who goes out to the restroom every period and doesn't come back til the bell is about to ring. By Tuesday morning, it was very clear that there were evidence leading to the fact that my day was NOT beautiful. 

Day 11- I didn't get to see my students during the morning periods because I was busy walking over to our feeder middle school, Innovative Horizons, to recruit students into my computer science classes. I took three 9th grade students with me who attended Innovative. Teachers and students alike were very excited at the middle school to see my computer science students and I'm hoping I'll get more freshmen in my computer science classes next year. It really helps that has some cool recruiting videos. 

In the afternoon, I had to be strict because my math students enjoyed the morning class without me too much. I had to teach them how to multiply and divide integers. I gave tricks every year for the past 10 years. I never even thought about the why behind the symbols changing. But this time, I looked up videos. And I found something from Khan Academy. Apparently 2*(-3) is two groups of -3 added together (-3)+(-3) or 3 groups of 2 subtracted -(2)-(2)-(2). 

I still gave them the trick with the drawing of the face, but then I explained the why. Honestly, my students seemed more lost with the why. But I felt better about myself as a teacher. I'm including the link to the video so you can watch it too. 

E was not doing work. Remember how I woke up thinking of a few kids? E was one of them. E is the girl who failed all her classes last semester except drama. And when I called mom, mom said E was always bad in math. At which point, I said to mom, "not to be disrespectful, but math is not the only subject she failed last semester." Then mom finally decided it was the school's fault that we gave her daughter a Chromebook. 

I asked E a question. She had this defiant look on her face. She refused to answer. I called mom. She didn't pick up. I called grandmother. She said she doesn't speak Spanish and hung up on me while I was using Google Translate. E was so happy. She said, "my mom hates you and that's why she's not picking up. My grandma doesn't speak English and she doesn't understand you when you sound like that. That's why she hung up!" 

It was clear that I wasn't going to get any support from anyone with E. I said, "if your mom doesn't want to help you and your grandmother doesn't want to help you and you don't want to learn, you should step outside and wait for me. Why are you even sitting here if you are not going to learn anyway? "

I admit I was harsh. I was sad and upset. Sad about E and my current circumstance and upset over losing my calm again. 

Then she blurted back out at me. I expected her to blurt something out at me. But what came out of her mouth was unexpected. 
"You just wait and see what happens to you now!" 
She threatened me and stormed out. 

Needless to say, when I walked out the room to speak to her calmly, she was nowhere to be found.

I don't believe in referrals. But I wrote one on day 11. Because every good day comes with a bad day. I called mom again at around 5:15pm so I can talk to her about what happened. But mom still didn't pick up. 

I went home thinking about so many different ways I could have handled the situation. I wish I was a robot. Just do my job. Have no emotions. Wear a gigantic smile. 
I was so tired from the morning walk back and forth to the middle school I literally passed out after asking my two children if I can go to bed early. I explained why and asked them to quietly go to bed at 9:15pm. Sometimes I think I tell my children too much. No wonder they don't want to be a teacher. But they know I love my job. 

Day 12- My Favorite day! Station rotations! I was shocked to learn during station rotations that most students still don't understand how to divide fractions. I love the intimate teacher-led station. We giggled and joked around in my station. Unfortunately, the para-educator that supports D in my 2nd and 5th period class didn't show because D was absent. She is one of my favorite person right now because she also keeps an eye on L for me. And the day the para-educator was not there, L managed to make fun of a female student's name. "Skin her, skin her!" He kept repeating and started laughing. Young Ms. Skinner seemed annoyed but didn't retaliate. I had to write him a referral. I already called his mom twice. It doesn't look like mom can help me much. I also sent M out with a referral. M was the one sitting in the back with his Chromebook on his lap. M already has so many suspensions on his record but I have a soft spot for him in my heart and I didn't want to write him a referral. But I called his mom so many times and although he is not aggressively defiant with me, he is definitely not doing any work for me and it was time he knows I'm serious. The two cuties were upset I wrote them up but walked out with the campus supervisor like they should. I asked them to come back to class the next day and start over. I was proud of myself for not losing it like day 11. 

Then I remembered day 11. I realized that E was not in class.  I was so excited about station rotations that I forgot to take attendance! While checking attendance, I learned that E got transferred out of my class. My heart instantly filled with joy. Then within a few seconds, I realized this was actually bad. What is our school teaching E and her mom? That it's okay to fail all her classes but drama, then ignore the teacher's calls, then have the child threaten the teacher, then have her go to another class? I doubt that E will start working in her new class. I already knew as I fell asleep last night that I had to apologize to E when she comes back to class, then call her mom again. I wasn't sure how that process was going to go. So I went to talk to her counselor. He told me that she didn't have an English class, so he called mom, apologized then gave her an English class. That meant she only had one period for math so she was placed in a regular Introduction to Algebra class without the support period. I know that every time E sees me on campus, she will cringe and tell her friends how horrible I am. That's ok with me. But what's not ok with me is that every time I see E on campus, I will cringe thinking about how I failed to keep my calm and how I wasn't able to help her. I know I will always look her up on Infinite Campus to see if she ever passes any other class and feel guilty if she doesn't. 

On the bright side, Theresa started Girls Who Code at my site. She was very kind when she asked me to partner with her and facilitate the club together. I accepted. She has second lunch and I have first. We decided we'll run the club on Wednesdays during both lunches. Today was our first day. We only had a few girls show up, but it is the beginning of something beautiful. I am grateful for Theresa and our partnership. But that also meant I skipped lunch. 

Another great news! During my prep period, I had a meeting with my tech coach Deatra, my principal and assistant principal in charge of counseling. I finally got the green light to offer the AP Computer Science A course. They told me they will include the course in the master course list so students can select it when they register for classes next year. They also told me they will support me in my efforts to recruit. But if I don't get at least 20 students, I won't be able to teach it. This is great since I've been working with administrators to offer this course for the past 3 years. I am so grateful for Deatra who always reminds me to focus on the task at hand and not complain. She tells me I can complain to her instead. I really love this woman. She is my number one precious person at work. She also helps me organize my thoughts. She also creates diagrams and outlines presentations for me. If I ever become a millionaire, I'm going to hire her to be my full time life coach. It also helps that Amazon is offering the courses through Edhesive for free this coming year. I applied for the free program, got interviewed and received the offer for our site! I don't want the free course to go away. Please send me prayers so everything in the world will align correctly and there will be more students pursuing computer science as a career. 

Day 13- And today is day 13. I am very relaxed today. My students have now realized that I'm just a fluffy bunny with a high pitched voice. They make fun of me and mess with me. Even the students who don't do work smile at me when I prompt them and show effort for a few seconds while I linger around. They are no longer scared of me threatening them about making phone calls. They know all they have to do is answer my questions to the best of their ability, copy notes, and try to solve the practice questions. They know I do good news calls too. L came back to class after yesterday's referral and the para-educator for D was here today so L behaved. When Ms. Skinner walked into the room, I gave L the death stare and he acted as if he is innocent and smiled at me and reminded me that he hasn't said anything. I was worried because M was not in class yet. Suddenly in the middle of class, a campus supervisor walked in and asked me if my students are working outside in the hallway. I knew that I didn't have any students waiting for me outside. My neighbor teacher saw M hanging out in the hallway with his friends. She is very helpful. She told me that I can write him up for being truant and if discipline needs help they can call her. I talked to M.  I asked him, "remember how I told you to come back today and start over? So why were you outside?" He told me he had a tummy ache and that he had to poop. I accidentally let out a laugh at his choice of words. But I got my stern face back. I told him I'm going to write him a referral again for coming to class at the end of the period and for disturbing my neighboring teacher. He pleaded me not to do it. He said he will surely be suspended again and it will be my fault. My heart was breaking into a million pieces. I told him, "please listen to me. I know you think I'm trying to get you, but I'm not. I really am trying to help you. You really have to work with me. Please come back tomorrow and start over again. Please listen to me. Please look at my heart." 
He wasn't angry and he didn't say anything back to me. I hope he will come back tomorrow and start over. 

As for my lesson, I used the CS in Algebra course from today. We are in lesson 2. Students were having so much fun in the morning period. Most students had difficulty with this problem above. I thought that the lesson made PEMDAS visual and easy to understand for my students. Most students wanted to move on to Lesson 3, but I told them we only work with on Thursdays so they have to wait til next week. In the afternoon class, I taught them how to solve one-step equations. Based on the practice questions they solved, I think we are good. But most students had a difficult time with questions where a fraction is multiplied by x. 

I stayed til 6pm again today just like yesterday calling parents that I don't write about here. I noted that Erick did all his work today. I called his mom yesterday. I'll talk about Erick another day. 

Today during my prep period, Deatra came so we can work on our plan for the computer science pathway. She suggested and I agreed that once the students complete the third course in our pathway, AP Computer Science A, they should be able to leave the school with something like an industry-approved certificate. We found a certificate from Oracle. Actually, she found it and I thought the students could earn it if they take the test at the end of the year after reading the description of the test. During my lunch I ran over to counseling to find the counselor who is in charge of the master course list but she was at a meeting. I caught her for a few seconds after school right before a parent conference and asked her to include the course. I felt bad because the assistant principal already told me that she was done with the list two days ago. He told me I have to go ask her as soon as possible because of that. She seemed irritated, but she is a professional so I'm sure everything will be fine. I'm sure glad everyone I talk to are good at what they do. Like Deatra always says. We are a team. And we can't do anything without a team. 

Right now, I'm writing because I won't be going to school tomorrow. I will attend the Southwest Riverside County Think Tank meeting. I'm excited. But I have Saturday school the day after tomorrow. Boo to that. But this is life, right?