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 code.org 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 code.org 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 code.org 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? 






Monday, January 28, 2019

I want Time to Stop #StartOver Day 9 and Day 10


If you remember my post from Day 8, I woke up refreshed on day 9. I had a pleasant day.
I am still in the process of getting students used to my classroom procedures so they installed the Screencastify extension on their Chromebook and recorded themselves playing the 6 times table during the morning period on Day 9.

During the afternoon period, all students solved questions on the board. I really love #360math but it's difficult to manage classes where students don't work. Some students realized right away that the board work was the exact same questions as the test from Thursday. Answers were already provided for them. They had to show me work. Today was meant to teach the procedures for recording work and working on the boards. I told them they have to write their names on the top starting with their last names. They had to solve one question on the board and take turns writing on the board. They had to write big so I can see their work from the middle of the classroom. They also needed to have their Chromebooks with them since some teams solve problems faster than others so they need to scroll down on their own screen and not wait for the questions on my projector. They get credit based on working, not based on doing work correctly.

Surprisingly, 20 out of 36 students submitted their videos and worked on the board. The other students are still testing my patience or at the restroom when I approach them to help them. For a group of students who failed most of their classes last semester, they are really performing well. It makes me happy. I told students they can request good calls home. I had about 14 requests combined from both classes and I stayed after school Friday to share the good news with the parents of all 14 students. The highlight of the day was when Sarkis came up to me after the board work and told me that he realized he got the exploding dots questions wrong on the test. He said he realized he did it backwards. The whole point of #360math is students realizing what they are doing wrong and  learn from it or reinforce their correct work and I get to assess what I have to reteach. So I would say Day 9 was a success.

I ended Friday on a good note. What a huge contrast from Thursday where I thought I would have to quit teaching all together.

On Saturday, I graded the tests students took on Thursday. Now that I decided to enjoy the process and let go of things I can't control, more positive things were popping up. Even though I see the students for 4 periods, it is still only 2 groups of students. So when it came time to grade tests, I only had 2 classes to grade for. Most kids ditch class on test days so I only had to grade about 50 tests total. The ones who took the test tried hard. Out of my 67 students, 27 passed. It may not look like much to some of you, but to me, it is a huge victory. Let's not forget what I keep emphasizing. Most of the 67 students have failed almost all their classes throughout their high school years.

Today, which is now day 10 of my #StartOver semester, I was all smiles as I talked to my students about how many of them passed the test. Today, I wanted to make sure that students have the 20x20 times table in their notebook and that they understand how to glue the tests I return to them. I started the class by letting students know that I updated their grades. Then I told them I almost never give out extra credit. If their grade is low, they need to make up regular credit. The process is simple. They check their grades, if they notice a 0, they check the date and click on that date on Canvas. They make it up, then email me or show me so I can give them credit. I told them I take 20 percent off for late submissions because it's not fair to the students who turn them in on time. Today is a 40 minute short period day. I ended up spending the whole morning period returning their tests with a glue stick and times table chart and explaining to them how to glue it to their notebook. Don't worry. The students were copying 4 pages of notes that I planned on teaching today. We weren't wasting time. Plus, after today, all I have to do is tell them which page to glue their test and they'll know what to do. During the afternoon period, I was able to teach the multiplying and adding integer lesson from  exploding dots. Consistency really helps. Students are really getting this concept of exploding dots. There were no bad phone calls home today and three students requested good news calls. I realized I should stop taking requests since the same kids from Friday asked me to call again.

I think I lost a total of 5 children to Chromebooks today during the afternoon lesson. I actually joked around and messed with the kids today. They made fun of my high-pitched voice and I made fun of them trying to sound like me. I gave a few high fives to kids who were trying and I saw maybe a total of 40 correct answers from practice questions.


I am carefully optimistic about my 67 children. I learned that the pass rate for the class I teach at my District is at around 40 percent or lower. My heart flutters every time I see a child smile at me because she got the answer correct. And when they realize they made one little mistake, then fix it? I really do feel like a superhero.

Today is day 10 and I wish time will stop right now.






Saturday, January 26, 2019

What my 6th grade son taught me at my darkest #StartOver Day 8


I took a break from blogging yesterday. I still want to share things for my betterment, but everything was doom and gloom in my head that I knew I wouldn't be helping myself if I wrote anything yesterday.

I started listening to "The Practicing Mind" by Thomas M Sterner on Audible at around 8pm. I didn't pick this audiobook. It's part of the free collection that comes with my Amazon Prime membership. I just wanted to take my mind off of work and think about something else.
Everything happens for a reason. This guy makes sense to me. He talks about golfers who's been playing for years and they are still horrible. What's wrong with this picture? Or what about people who are starting to learn to play golf who wants to play well for business purposes but does not practice at all then complain about their lack of progress?

I went to bed by 9pm and I woke up refreshed this morning.

I'm going to take Thomas Sterner's advice and enjoy the process. I'm going to continue and fine tune my skills as I navigate through the education system. I'm not going to be the same teacher from last year or even yesterday. So here I am. Blogging about yesterday.





I taught my students how to add fractions. The process was very sad. Students already took notes for this during station rotations on Wednesday. Most had the notes ready. I explained the above notes. It took between 1 and 2 minutes because I didn't have to wait for students to copy notes. Then I wanted to make sure students understood what I said for the past 2 minutes. So I called on N. "N, What is the first step in adding fractions?" She said she didn't know. "Sorry N. I don't know is not an option. What is the first step in adding fractions?" Then I pointed to step 1 on my screen. And I waited. Other students knew what was coming next but she didn't seem to realize it. One child blurted out the answer for her. "Find the common multiple!" I told K, "Thank you K, but you are not N. I want N to tell me. N, did you hear what K said? What is the first step?" Her station members pointed to her notes to guide her but now she was set on being resistant. I called mom. Mom said N told her that math is too hard for her. I gently reminded her that math is not the only subject she failed last semester. Mom tried to say something, then stopped. She said she will talk to N. I felt anger towards the mom. Why can't she just admit that something is wrong with her daughter's attitude? How does she explain the 5 F's in her daughter's report card from last semester? After the phone call, I asked other students questions to make sure they understood, and they answered. They didn't always answer correctly, but I saw them trying. Trying is always good.

(I realized my first step is wrong in my notes. We have to find the lowest common multiple. I wrote find the common factor. I fixed it today in class)


When the bell rang, Eric excitedly approached me and told me that he understood math for the first time in his life. I was walking on cloud 9 for about 3 minutes.

Then a new student was added to my class. I felt so much anger. She is my 36th child. We max out at 36. Do the counselors think I'm a superhero or something? I hated my life. Why did I volunteer? I don't need anyone to think I'm a good teacher. I can get by being normal.

You know what else? The class was meant for 9th and 10th graders. Counselors sent me 11th graders. I emailed the counselor and stated that this is a disservice to the child. Her response was that the children are from group homes and they will leave soon anyway. They really need help with math so they belong with me. I really am a dumping ground. I hate that counselor.

After school, Melanie, one of the teachers I actually respect, said she will cover my after school credit recovery class for me so I can attend the PBIS/MTSS/Discipline meeting. She is in charge of the credit recovery program. I want to describe her as "dedicated". Thanks to her, I attended the meeting. I was still very angry from the day's events. When the assistant principal ran the PBIS meeting, I felt like she wasn't respecting my opinions. I get paid for the credit recovery program. I volunteer for this meeting. Suddenly, I felt like I was wasting my time. I decided I will email her and let her know I no longer wish to volunteer.

After the meeting was over, I went back to my classroom to call another parent. E's mom was worse than N's mom. E failed all classes except Drama last semester. Mom was taking her daughter's side and telling me that E is not at fault since math is too hard for her. I hate this part of my job. I said, "I don't want to sound disrespectful, but you do know that math is not the only subject she failed, right?" Then mom says, "yeah. She always had a hard time with English and Math." I wanted to scream at her. "So how did your daughter fail PE and Spanish? When will you ever recognize that your daughter is no angel and do something about it?"

But I didn't. I wanted to hang up. I knew E won't be passing my class since mom won't be backing me up at home. Cuz it's my fault math is so hard. So I said to her. "Ok. Thank you. Can you please talk to your daughter about trying? I hope you have a good day. Good bye." I basically cut her off kindly in a very calm tone.

Then I went home. It was 6pm when I left.

So now you know why I didn't blog yesterday.



But today is today.
I woke up at 4:30am. I thought about the audiobook. I continued listening to it this morning on my way to work.

I decided I will go to one more PBIS/MTSS/Discipline meeting then email the assistant principal if I still feel like it is a waste of my time. In the end, I am a teacher and she is my boss and her vision trumps anyone else's vision. But I want to give this one more try. Because yesterday was a bad day for me. I don't want to project my feelings towards her.

I also thought about the two moms I spoke to yesterday. I am a mom too. I can't speak Spanish. I wouldn't know how to help my kids if they ever have a hard time with it in high school. If their teacher calls me, I might feel defensive. From one mom to another mom, I decided I'll cut them some slack. What does me being angry at the moms do any good for me or my students anyway?

As for the counselor, I can't forgive her. But as for the 11th graders, the poor children have bad grades in math. Since they are in group homes and they will soon move anyway, I should love them during their stay with me.

And I did have Eric who told me he understood math for the first time. Also the many other kids who are trying so hard to learn in fear of me calling their parents. They are so adorable when they try to produce work for me even though it's under duress.

Finally, Thursday was their very first test and as they turned in their test, they had to answer my 6 times table quiz in person. I saw them memorize the 6 times table before coming to me to turn in the test. They were nervous and some really didn't do well. But they really tried. It was really cute. I felt that I could at least get them to memorize the times table by the end of the semester. I saw hope.

So did one audio book change my perspective? No.

It was my son.

Today was the party for the honor roll students at his school. Last night, I asked him, "so, are you going to be okay tomorrow? I mean, you didn't get honor roll. During periods 2 and 4 you might get sad because some of your friends will be out playing and you'll be stuck in the classroom learning boring stuff. How many students got honor roll in your second period class?" My son didn't even hesitate for a second when he replied, "In my advanced English Language Arts class, everyone got gold honor roll except me. In my art class, only the loser kids will be left in the class." He sounded upbeat about it. I had to ask. "So how do you feel about it?"

He shrugged. Then he said, "mom, that was last semester. This is this semester. I'll make it this semester."

Yup. My son is deep. Thursday was Thursday. Today is today. Princess is back because I am my boy's mom.








Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Station Rotations #StartOver Day 7

View from my classroom

During first period (Computer Science Discoveries) I thought I saw J walking with a group of friends outside. I have a view of the street from my room. I saw him walk over to the apartment area. He came back to school before first period was over. I was trying to decide if I should call his dad or write a referral. I was glad I was mulling over my options since when J walked into class 4th period, he was not wearing the blue sweatshirt I saw outside. And the boy outside didn't have a Durag on his head. J had one on today. Uh oh. Maybe it wasn't J. Maybe I thought I saw J, but it was someone else. Maybe I have a prejudice against this child. I feel bad about my prejudice, and thankful that I decided to wait it out instead of going straight into action.

Today is station rotations(here are my tasks).  I love that my students are more on task in this class than in my normal Algebra 1 class last semester. This is where I realize that careful planning of tasks for each of the stations and being strict when it comes to producing work helps with the implementation of station rotations. Also the fact that I have very responsible peer tutors overseeing the rest of the class when I am focusing on my teacher-led station (Station 4). If students had to go to the restroom or had questions for anything like needing a pencil, my peer tutor was there like a superhero. I was pretty impressed with a few students who were in my Algebra 1 class last semester but failed and is now in my restart class. Unlike last semester, they are really trying hard and going above and beyond. I'm trying to figure out what the magic is behind their change in work ethic. I know I did a good news call home for one. The other one received a bribe from that RSP lady in second period. She said she'll buy him a bag of hot Cheetos if he stays quiet and only reply to my questions. Oh my! It made a huge difference!

If you click on the link I provided above, you will see that out of the 6 stations, 2 are for Imagine Math. This is an online math program that students have to work on, required by my District. I tell my students to complete 2 lessons a week. Right now (they don't know this) they are working on 6th grade standards (dividing fractions).

Station 1 worked on adding using Exploding Dots by James Tanton. I plan on going through the whole series to see if his method helps my students understand Algebra better. Some students said his method was better for addition than the traditional method. But others thought it caused them more work. My students wanted to know which version they have to use on the test. I told them whatever method gives them the right answer is what I want.


Station 2 is memorizing the 6 times table and playing games. Normally, I will have students record themselves playing so I have proof but I realized I didn't spend a period getting them to add the Screencastify extension to their Chromebook and record something just so I know they can do it. So I'm going to have to do that Friday since tomorrow is their first test (Tests are every other Thursdays in my class). I know that some of you might say it's not worth my time getting the students to memorize their times tables. But really, if you have seen what I saw the past few days, you will agree with me that students do have to know the times table to do simple tasks such as dividing fractions. I will provide multiplication charts for their test tomorrow since I don't believe students should be penalized for not knowing their multiplication facts when they know how to solve the problem. But I stand firm on a few goals for my students whether they pass or fail my class: 1. the times table 2. adding integers 3. being organized 4. having a good work ethic.

Station 5 is where students will be copying notes so when I teach the lesson tomorrow, all they have to do is fill the blank spaces. Teachers waste so much time waiting for students to copy notes while lecturing. This is my solution that I got from Joe (Remember that other teacher at another site within my District who is teaching the same course, but not as a block?).  Having students pre-copy notes is such a great idea. For my regular classes, this station would be a pre-lesson explore task where they ask Google who is Pythagoras or why we flip the inequality symbol and have them create a Google slide. But I am not there yet with this set of students. I have six stations and if students have to do something challenging, they would request my attention or refuse to do the work. Copying notes gives them something simple to do that doesn't require my help and it makes the lesson go faster the day after.

Station 4 is my station. I had students solve questions that will be on the test. I helped them when they struggled. Most struggled.  I focused on number 3 and 4 which is dividing fractions. Sixteen minutes was barely enough time for me to work with all 6 students, but that would have to do for now.

Now that students have been in my class for 7 days, they are used to my procedures. When they walk into my classroom, they know they have to go into Canvas and pull out their notebook. From there, they click on the corresponding date and everything they need is right there.


I am very proud of myself because my goal for this semester was being organized and one thing I wanted to commit to doing was taking notes in my notebook first so I can tell how much space my students will need in their notebook. I've been taking notes in my notebook first, then using Genius Scan to scan the page using my phone and uploading them to Canvas. This way, students know how it should look and I know exactly how much space my students need. Prior to this semester, students were always complaining because they ran out of space in their notebook or I didn't give them enough notes on each page (AVID students usually do this).

Today I'm nervous about tomorrow's test. We will learn adding fractions during the first period then test during the later period. I hope that I will see good results, but what I observed during station rotations state otherwise. I didn't make good or bad phone calls today.
from my hike Monday with the kids

I wanted to spend time with my son. He didn't make honor roll. He got a 3.42 GPA last semester. You need a 3.5 to be on honor roll. My daughter got gold honor roll which is for students with a 4.0 GPA. They are only in middle school. Not that honor roll matters to me, but I know that my son is beyond capable. AND it should be easier to get good grades in middle school. So it drives me crazy to see how lazy he is. I figured he needs more love so I listened to all his jokes and tickled him and talked to him about the importance of making grades. Prejudice and stereotypes make it difficult for non-Caucasians to get good jobs, I explained to him. We want a better society that is mindful of equity, but change takes time so we need to be proactive and get good grades, go to good schools, be social etc. Big companies won't pass you on if you got specs. If it's a smaller company, they can hire someone else they feel "comfortable" with over you. "Comfortable" meaning they talk like the hiring committee and look like the hiring committee. He may be too young for this message, but nevertheless, it is important. 

What I didn't write yesterday was that of those 6 kids who ditched, I called one child's aunt. He showed up to both classes today. He mentioned in passing that his aunt talked to him about my call. I decided I will make time either tomorrow or Friday to call the parents of the students who skipped class yesterday.

I feel like I have no life because I spend so much time with these two classes. I am ending the day unhappy because it's day 7 and counselors keep sending new kids my way. I know that until the last day of school the counselors will be dumping kids in my class. I will work hard this semester, and remain positive and proactive but I will NEVER volunteer after this semester. I was wrong. My District did not get things right. Randomly placing kids in my class will not help anyone. I wonder how this helps my students who really need structure since every time a new kid comes in, I have to reintegrate that kid into my classroom culture and that takes time. And the new kids are ditching already. But for now, this is what I volunteered for. So I will do what I signed up for.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Surprise! Nothing New #StartOver Day 6


Can't believe it's day 6 already.

Surprisingly, I had an easy day. It was hectic, but it wasn't because of my restart class. It was because there was traffic in the morning, then my son got sick at school and I had to leave school for about an hour to pick him up, drop him off with mom and come back to school. Also, because I facilitate after school credit recovery classes every Tuesdays and Thursdays until 4:45pm.

I have my two groups for two periods so I always plan on teaching two lessons per day. Today was such a day. I ended up finishing only one lesson.

I am still loving James Tanton and his amazing brain. Today we watched video 1.4: The 1 <- 10 machine. Just like last time, I paused the video every few seconds to ask students what James just said. Two children didn't pay attention and had to wait outside. I yelled, "you are going to pass this class! But if you don't pay attention, you can't! So if you're not going to pay attention, wait outside! Why are you even sitting here?"

Oh boy! I was so mean.

The two children didn't resist and stepped outside since they know now that I call their parents right then and there if they refuse to do what I ask.


After the two students stepped outside, the rest of the class paid attention and attempted to answer all my questions from the video. They were simple DOK level 1 questions. Don't worry. I was all smiles and nice when they participated.

Then they had to represent 25 in binary, base 3 and base 10, using the machines James was teaching them through his videos. EVERY CHILD WORKED! I didn't say all of them got it right. I said they did something. While my children were working, I stepped outside to talk to my 2 students who had to leave the room because they didn't pay attention.


I brought my soft voice and smile back and explained to them that I want them to pass, so they need to pay attention. It looked like they understood what I was saying. I was actually a bit surprised that they didn't walk away. They really waited for me for like 5 minutes so I can come talk to them. I escorted them back into the room with a smile.

Then we learned how to use the machine backwards.

Finally my students had to work on 4 dividing fractions questions that they learned Friday. I gave them 20 minutes to solve 4 questions.

This time, I asked my peer tutor to help anyone who needs help, but I intentionally only worked with students in stations 2 and 5. I used big numbers on purpose to see if the students can navigate through them. I learned that the students know the algorithm and the why for dividing fractions, but don't know their times table so they can't reduce the fractions, ending up with the wrong answers.

I decided 10 percent of their grades on their tests will be memorizing the times table. I will have to test them in person for a few seconds or ask my peer tutors to do this part of the job.


I ended day 5 horrified. I thought that I would have to forget about having a life this semester. I might be wrong.

After learning of my teaching style, my second group of restart students decided to ditch 7th period. I think about 6 students who showed up for 4th period didn't show up for 7th.

Again. Another point where I have to make a decision. I can either call all the parents of the students who ditched and inform my administrators or enjoy the fact that my protestors are gone. I know what I need to do for the children is the first option. But today, I decided to be lazy. It was their first day ditching. I'm going to wait til Friday to report anything.

I know I made the wrong decision. If I really care about the students, I should get them now.
But class was so good without the 6.

Please don't hate me.

I ended the day by calling about 4 parents today. It was all good news calls. I am learning that the good news calls are so important, since I do so many bad news calls. The parents are so happy. Today one of the parents asked, "no problems?" when I only shared the good news. I told him "no problems. Today is a good news day." He was super happy. He said a whole bunch of stuff in Spanish excitedly, but I don't speak Spanish, so that was a bummer.

Have a good evening. There is nothing exciting to share today. I think I will skip blogging on days when nothing special happens and class is being run beautifully. Tomorrow is station rotations so I'll see what happens.




Sunday, January 20, 2019

How the #Numbertalk turned me into the screechy voiced Mean Teacher #StartOver (Day 5)


My students will be working on #20Time on Fridays. But this is the first week with new students so I still need to establish classroom procedures. I realized I haven't really done any lecturing except when I asked students to reverse engineer the game and taught them how to read coordinates. So I decided this Friday is when students get to experience how a lecture day is run.




I took notes in my notebook first and took a picture of it and uploaded it on Canvas. I passed out notebooks to students so every child has the same number of pages in the notebook and the same number of lines in each page.

While I took attendance, I told students to copy what they see, exactly how they see it.

Then I gave them 2 more minutes to finish. Now it was time for the number talk. Students didn't finish taking notes during the 5-7 minutes I gave them. But I gave them plenty of time to write, so I decided to move on.

I asked them to draw what the two division question would look like as a drawing. I told them they can use a circle, a number line or something else entirely.
After the allotted 2 minutes were up, no child had anything in their notebook except for what I asked them to copy.

I had two choices at that moment. Give them another chance to show me some work or just move on and give them how I see the division problem visually.

I thought about it.

Every time I teach a class where all students failed the previous class, no child produced work. Prompting alone never worked. Then I felt like a failure. Then I started worrying about job security. Then I hated my life. I don't like that sequence.

So I decided to be that mean teacher.

I gave them one more minute to draw something for me. I walked around the room after the allotted one minute. Still no work was produced. I have 32 kids in period 2 and ZERO students gave me work. I wiped away my smile. I gave them the disturbed look. I told them that I will walk around one more time. If they still don't have anything, I will call parents. My voice was very high pitched. Too high pitched even for my own ears.

Students started saying things like, "what's wrong with her? She's wasting class time for this? Why can't she just teach?" Other kids said if no one does the work, "Ms. Choi won't have the guts to call all the parents". "She will get fired for calling our parents instead of teaching". Some mimicked my high-pitched voice.

It makes me sad that the students who fail math classes year after year have so much hatred for the subject that when a teacher forces them to work, they immediately resort to going to their parents or the principal to get the teacher fired. I maintained the serious look on my face. Inside my head, I was honestly worried that no child will budge and that I would have to call all the parents. But I told myself that I would have to take the right path and not the easy one. Thankfully, as I walked around the classroom for the third time, some students broke and nervously asked me what exactly I was looking for. I told them, "You see the two division questions I told you to copy? Okay, so if you wanted to use drawings to show how it is done, what will you draw? Maybe your first step is to show what 1/5 looks like." Then I had to reassure them that it's okay to get it wrong because I haven't taught it to them yet. I told them I just wanted to see how they think, hence the number talk.

I am happy to report that only 3 students stood strong in keeping their notebook blank. And while I called M's aunt and left a message, the other 2 students divided the first circle into 5 parts and showed them to me. So I ended up calling only one parent.

My voice softened down after that one phone call. It was difficult to keep my smile at bay. I brought it back and brought my softer voice tone. When I get upset or excited, my tone goes up automatically.  I turn screechy. It's difficult to control it. But when I'm happy like the calm ocean, my soft voice comes out.

I told the whole class that no one got the visual representation correct and that's a very good thing because no one has to be embarrassed about sharing their work now. I had two students come up to the board to draw what they had in their notebook. Then I had them explain to the class why they drew what they drew. I complimented them over and over again about having the courage to come up to the back of the class to share their drawing on the board. The bell rang.

Fridays are about 37 minutes long. I spent all 37 minutes and I didn't even finish the number talk, which was the warm up. I had originally planned to finish the whole lesson in that 37 minutes so when they come back during 5th period, they can work on Imagine math.

My post for Day 5 is already getting long, so I won't talk about my next group of kids, 4th and 7th period.

But I do want to finish sharing what happened when the first group of kids came back to my class during 5th period. I added on to the two student's visual representation and explained how the division problem can be visually represented. I heard a few students say, "Oh, I get it!"

I felt joy.

Then I explained my lesson. I was proud of myself for asking my class what they think happened as I went over each line of note they copied earlier instead of telling them what was happening. (Reminder to self: I should use this method as often as possible on lecture days. )


Then came sadness again.

There was about 20 minutes left in the period. I told them to solve the 4 questions then jump into Imagine Math. No one jumped into Imagine Math. The whole class was confused over how to solve the 4 questions. Talk about misled beliefs when you do whole class lectures. The 3 students were so good about answering my questions that I falsely believed that the whole class got it.

Again. Another decision making moment. Year after year, I only cater to the students who are actively pursuing my help, not doing anything or causing problems. Then eventually at a parent conference towards the end of the semester, the parent and the child says that I never helped the child. But the child and I know that is only partially true. The child never asked for help and I never intentionally went over to the child to offer help. In the end, I stay quiet since I am also at fault. But the child also loses because the failing grade won't change. It's too late. It's a disservice.

I told myself at that moment that I will only help the students in station 5 and 6 that day. Each day, I will pick one or 2 stations and make sure I offer help to every child in that station. I'm not going to let children fall through the cracks. The students in the other stations completely lost interest and started goofing off. But I didn't waste time to correct their behavior since nothing crazy was happening. They were just not working. The 12 students that I helped only complied because they already knew from period 2 that I will call parents again if they don't do any work. Once I left one child to help another, the previous child stopped working. But now no child can say that I didn't help them. At least, not the 12 I helped. There were 3 children who persistently finished work, then walked to another station to help other students. I stayed after school to call their parents and tell them about it. Parents were so grateful to hear the good news. There were two girls who stayed after school to ask me for help since they were not part of the 12 I was determined to help on Friday. I called their parents as well to compliment them. Then I realized I had to grade their notebooks.

I learned that most students didn't solve the last 4 practice questions as I was grading their notebooks. The 12 students in each class that I helped only partially finished the 4 questions. My heart felt heavy.

When I left school, it was 5:30.

I had the #IACUE Tech Fair the next day so I hurried home. I had to update my presentations.

Then I had a good time Saturday at the tech fair. Conferences are always uplifting. It's an addiction. Meeting like-minded people and sharing strategies is something I won't be able to stop doing.

I am realizing that if I do this right, I won't have a life. I didn't go indoor rock climbing once this week. I didn't have one meaningful conversation with my babies at home. My daughter was selected as the school's ambassador for the Chinese students who will be coming to visit her school. I didn't have time to talk about how proud I am of her. I just had that 2 minute conversation today and today is Sunday. She was selected on Thursday. I didn't go hiking once.

Thankfully, tomorrow is a Holiday. I'm going to take my kids to the Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail. Hopefully the waterfall looks beautiful. It was raining all week so there should be enough water along the creek. I plan on relaxing.

So let's see if I continue to blog about my days next week.

My spirits are still high. I still have faith that my students will be better prepared to tackle Algebra 1 next year after they are done with me this semester.

I think I said this in an earlier post:

To those of you who teach students who need extra love, extra prompting and even a little bit of threat here and there, I want you to know that I respect you. Thank you for doing what you do.










Thursday, January 17, 2019

Drug doggie, Bootstrap through code.org and my first apology to a child this semester (#StartOver Day 4)


It is day 4 and I'm still writing, so I haven't lost faith so far.

This lady showed up to my class yesterday and told me she is here to observe a student. I thought she said she came from RCC. I figured she's a student from a community college. Today she clarifies and tells me she is from RSP (Resource Specialist Program). She says she's a sub and she is here because the student got a referral on the first day of school.

Her student needs a lot of prompting but he doesn't cause problems and he is not defiant. He is one of those friendly kids who does work for a minute after being prompted, then gets distracted again. But I learned from looking at his files that he had 24 referrals last semester and they look bad.

She acknowledged that I have a difficult bunch of kids and offered to help in one of the stations during period 2. She asked me to adjust the student's seat so he can be part of her station.

During station rotation practice yesterday, students were supposed to sign in to my code.org class and watch the first video that explains coordinate planes on p. 4 of their notebook. When I checked my code.org account last night, only 8 students were enrolled from my second period class. Twenty three were enrolled from my 4th period class. That means all those other students who are not enrolled didn't take notes on the video yesterday.

So I had to spend about 10 minutes checking to see if all the students were enrolled. Again, this only lasted 10 minutes because I have a peer tutor. Then I started my lesson. We had to play this game, then talk about how many sprites we see, how they are moving, then move on to reading points on the coordinate plan using the sprites. Finally they get to plan their own game by answering this discussion question on Canvas:

You are going to make a game similar to the one you played with by the end of the semester. What characters and background do you want to include? What will they be doing? Describe the game you want to make. 

screenshots from the CS in Algebra course in code.org 


Of course the big emphasis was in helping them read coordinates and have them understand that the ninja is moving up and down along the y-axis and the dragon and the unicorn is moving sideways along the x-axis.

The lesson for today went great. My students were so excited when it was time to play the game to reverse engineer it.

Despite the amazing lesson, I had a few incidents.

1) A student was singing in class during second period. I pulled him out, had a conversation with him, then left a message for his grandma. 2) Then suddenly the drug dog came to visit and took 2 kids out. Of course more has to happen on day 4 of second semester. 3) This one girl kept refusing to work and kept talking loud so I had to call her mom and grandma. She got mad and told me I'm a horrible teacher because she was asking her friend about my work. I didn't give her a lengthy response since that would give her more ammunition. I said, "OK" and walked away with a smile. What I really wanted to tell her was that it's been 30 minutes since the bell rang and she barely wrote the title in her notebook. Does she really think that I believe she was talking about classwork? 4) Another student in my 5th and 7th period class refused to give me the coordinates for the octopus.


When I called his name, he said, "never mind, I am doing something right now."

I don't know why, but I felt anger.

I have a confession. At that moment, a technology guy was in my room helping another student with his Chromebook issue. I felt the student was disrespecting me on purpose in front of the tech guy. In hindsight, my ego got the better of me. I guess I didn't want the tech guy to think I'm a pushover. So I said, "oh no! You got it wrong. You do as I say in this class!"

The moment the sentence flew out of my mouth, I regretted it. And of course the child started saying things in anger. I prayed that he wouldn't explode because I knew that now I have damaged HIS ego. So I did what I always do. Ignore the kid, pretend nothing happened and keep going with the lesson with a smile. I felt the uneasy vibe in my classroom.
Towards the end of the period, I asked J to talk to me outside. He was hesitant, but he saw that I was smiling and that I was walking towards the door first, expecting him to follow. So of course he followed me out. But he was mumbling all kinds of stuff as he was walking out with me.

As soon as we got outside the classroom, I apologized to him.
"J, I want to first apologize to you. Remember how I told you that you were wrong and that you have to do as I say?" He nodded. "Well, I didn't like the way I said it to you. I am worried that I hurt your feelings. Are you Okay?"

He looked shocked. He nodded.

I was equally shocked that he didn't give me attitude or threaten to go talk to the principal like all children who feel angry do.

Once I felt that he accepted my apology, I asked him why he said what he said to me in class. He told me that he didn't want to give me the coordinates of the octopus because he was taking notes (I am collecting notebooks tomorrow). I explained to him that I really care about him and that it would be easier for both of us if we both try and work together.

He agreed.

We walked back into the classroom and I noticed that J was no longer mumbling negative things about me, the class, school and life. I called his dad after school to let him know what happened. I apologized to his dad as well. Dad thanked me for calling him and asked me to call him whenever something happens. I remembered to log the call on Infinite Campus in case something happens.


That's not all. I had more things that happened today. But I decided that it's best not to talk about the other two.

I have to tell you. I have the biggest respect for the teachers who take on classes that is loaded with students who need extra love. It's only day 4 and I lost my cool for one second. And because I couldn't stay cool for one second, I had to spend about an hour mending my relationship with J.

It looks to me like I need to pray everyday before I walk into class.

And if you are that teacher who's teaching a group of students who need extra love, I want you to know that I thank you. And please remember this.

I. respect. you.







Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Station Rotation Practice #StartOver Day 3


Today is an important day.
We are practicing station rotations.
I started utilizing station rotations in my classroom about a year ago and it has made such a difference in my outlook on teaching.
Last semester, I had a regular Algebra 1 class so 4 stations with 8-9 students in each station was feasible. After all, half the children worked without prompting and the other half needed more attention.

This semester, with this Introduction to Algebra 1 class, I decided that the same format would not work. I remembered that when I had a group with more than 4 students needing intense help, I lost one to three kids in the teacher led station. During the winter break, I attended the District math meeting and spoke to Joe, who already taught this class at another site. He told me he did 8 groups with 3-4 students in each group, and the rotations lasted 3 days.

He is a coach and his presence is felt. So I'm sure he was able to manage going for 3 days using station rotations. I have a different aura and station rotations mean free time for some of my students. I don't want station rotations to last too long.
I decided to try 6 groups of 6 students with each station lasting 16 minutes. I have them for two periods, so I can finish all six groups in one day (I can fit 3 stations in one period).

Today I decided to give students 10 minutes in each station. I was going to need time in between rotations to explain in detail what they were expected to do. I used this lesson today.

My first class was extra rowdy. This is in stark contrast to the class atmosphere from the past 2 days. I realize that the students are taking advantage of the fact that I'm only focusing on Station 4, the teacher-led station.
In between switching stations, I kept reminding the students that the volume of their voice has to be close to a whisper. Then I told them I like that they are talking.

The second class did much better. They didn't require much prompting. They got up when the 10 minute alarm rang and moved to the next station without a fuss. One child complained about getting up and moving to the next station, but he did what I asked in the end. I kept reminding students that if they need anything, like permission to go to the restroom, a pencil, a loaner Chromebook or a notebook, they need to talk to my peer tutor and not me. I have a peer tutor in three of the four periods. They help me so much when I'm running station rotations.



In the teacher-led station, we did a number talk on 18 x 5. I learned that students are hesitant about sharing that they count by five 18 times. I kept congratulating them when they shyly shared this strategy. The ones who multiplied using the traditional method were really proud and confident in their speech. I congratulated them too but with less enthusiasm. Only 1 child shared an area model. I'm hoping that as time pass by, students will be more willing to share.

I would spend more time explaining the things I had my students do today to practice. But I am exhausted. One girl who came to my class for the first time today (yes, this is day 3) was being defiant and I had to call her mom. She didn't even let me finish my sentence during our conversation after class. She had something to say back to me after every sentence. I kept reassuring her that I am here to help her be successful so she can put her guard down. But it didn't look like she trusted me. Once I sent her off to her next class, I spoke to mom on the phone and mom was really sad. It turns out that she failed all her classes last semester. And she had a long long list of referrals for a 9th grader. When I emailed her counselor and the admin in charge of counseling, I found out her mom pulled the girl out of school. The counselor told me my phone call was the last draw for mom. The student will attend Come Back Kids, run by Riverside County of Education. I guess I won't have to deal with her, but I feel sick in my stomach. Did I already fail a kid?
The counselor must have read my mind. He emailed me and said it's not my fault. So I feel better.

My second group of students were so in-sync that we had 12 minutes left over in the period. I used that time to have students share one thing they liked about station rotations and one thing they didn't like. Most couldn't tell me what they didn't like.  After all, today is only the first day they were exposed to station rotations. They liked the independent work and the fact that they can talk to each other.

I don't know why, but I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dot Explosion! #StartOver Day2


Over the break, I decided that Tuesdays will be my station rotation days.
Since this is our first week together, I wanted to do something that will gently ease my Introduction to Algebra 1 class into station rotations. So far all they know is that they are in groups of 6 and I call them stations. 

But alas!
I didn't finish Jo Bolar's lesson yesterday. We watched the video, took notes and discussed them, but I didn't get to the dot card activity. 

So I had a dilemma. Do I skip the dot card activity and have them practice station rotations or do I finish what I planned for day 1.

I decided to finish day 1. 

So I used this lesson plan from youcubed

You display dots like this for a second,


and the students tell you how many they saw and how they grouped them to get to their conclusion.

My only problem was that I didn't think deeply about how I am going to show the dots to my students quickly for one second. I turned off my projector, got the image on screen, then opened my calendar then turned on my projector. When it was bright enough, I opened the tab with the image for a second then went back to the calendar. That process was a waste of time. (Don't worry now. I didn't repeat this sad procedure again with my second group of students. I upgraded this little part of the procedure.) The activity on the other hand, went very well. 

This is how my students saw the above dots. 

I was very excited that Laurence gave me a different number but disappointed when he didn't explain to me how he saw them. I told him that when I first tried this exercise I saw 16 dots and not 12. I told him that I only saw a box of 4 rows and 4 columns and didn't notice the four corners were blank. Then I told him it's ok to have a different answer. Because the video from yesterday said that the moment we are aware that we made a mistake, a brain wave fires through the synapses and makes us smarter. I hope Laurence feels empowered to share more later today. 

Again, my students had to write minimum 4 sentences on the discussion question and reply to one classmate. 

I asked, "What did you learn from this dot card number talk?".

Here is one answer I liked. 


With my second group of students, I started the activity by letting them know that I got my number of dots wrong the first time I tried the activity. That freed up the students to share varied answers. They mainly focused on explaining their visual representation, which was what I wanted. I liked the way I ran the class with my second group. 


So the next period is when I finally get to share Dot Explosions by James Tanton, my current star.  When I watched his video series over the winter break, the lesson plan was simple. Have students watch the video, then I give them questions to solve and they all go to the boards. #360math to the rescue! 

But that was before my first group of students walked through the classroom door. 


I had to first make sure they know how to go to Canvas to get to the link. Then I had to explain how the lessons are numbered 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc. Then I had to re-explain how to use the notebook since many students didn't make it to my class yesterday. Today was their first day. 

In class, as I explained once again how to use the notebook, I decided that I won't use #360math. I decided to use the notebook. I instructed them to go to page 2 of their notebook. Then explained where to write the title, their name, date and period. (My goal this year is to help the students be organized. )

Then I played the 20 second video. I assumed they got it. I asked a few students what James said in the video. Three students gave me something. 
Then I moved on to the next video. That one was 2 minutes 40 seconds long. Once I played the whole video, I expected the students to know how to use the 1<- 2 machine. I was so wrong. 

I panicked. 

I started writing on the board, explaining what James said all over again. 
It was ugly. The two videos took all 57 minutes of class today. 

So of course when my second group of students walked in for 7th period, I made changes. 

Even for the 20 second video, I paused it every 6 seconds or so and made sure students in each of the stations understood what James said. 


During the 2 minute 40 second video, a student made a mistake and said "left" instead of "right". He said, "two dots explode on the left and one dot shows up on the right". Once I thanked the child for answering, I told him he was very close, but it's the dots on the right exploding and the dot on the left showing up. The whole class laughed at the child. 

I wiped away my smile. I made a very disappointed face. 

Then I asked the whole class, "Why are you guys laughing? Did you all know exactly what was happening in the video? What you are forgetting right now is that his brain cell just grew from his mistake while yours didn't." 

The class quickly quietened down as if cold water suddenly drenched them. 

We kept going.

The lesson with my 7th period was a success. But it still took the whole 57 minutes. 

You can bet that almost everyone volunteered information after that scary silence. 



What I learned today is that students need to feel safe to participate. And the best way to make them feel safe is by letting them know of the mistakes I make myself. And to advocate for students who are trying, but didn't get them quite right. 

I know. This is probably common sense to everyone. But you see, I was never this intentional about making my students feel safe until two days ago. 

I also learned that a 15-minute lesson can always suddenly turn into a 57-minute lesson. And that my lesson plan can suddenly change in class. 

Again, I know this is common sense. But I never recorded anything in the past so I think I never really thought about it intentionally. 

I feel happy and satisfied. 

#StartOver





Monday, January 14, 2019

First day of Class with Students Starting Over (1/14/2019)


I don't know what came over me. It looked like my district is finally going the right way.
So I volunteered.

"What are we going to do with the students who failed Algebra 1 this semester?"
My colleagues were asking and I wanted to know as well.
Restart classes don't work but leaving them in the same class is also a disservice in my opinion. (Can we not discuss this topic now?)

So this is what our brilliant administrators at my site along with the approval of the District decided to do this year.

Have the Algebra 1 teachers recommend 9th and 10th grade students who failed semester 1 but works hard. Put all those students in Introduction to Algebra 1 and Algebra 1 Support. That would be two classes a day. The goal of the teacher would be to get them ready to pass Algebra 1 next year.

When the department chair asked who wanted to volunteer to teach this class, everyone was frowning and looking away. And when I say everyone, I mean even the ones that I think are great teachers. The ones who I know are so capable.

So I volunteered. Because no one ever asked me to take on a challenging class. Maybe it was my turn to be like the other teachers who I look up to.



And that was last semester.

Today is the first day of second semester.

I am justly nervous because I know my friends might have recommended a child to me because they want the child out of their room, even though that was not part of the plan.

Today I had 29 students in periods 2 and 5 and 31 students in periods 4 and 7.
The earlier group works as I ask. Even though it's the first day, I see many students on their phones.
I was smiling ear to ear the whole time, even as I explain to them that phones need to be out of sight right now.

The second group is mostly from one teacher. Many of them are slightly disrespectful. I smiled more genuinely and listened carefully to their complaints, then asked them to work. Most participated.



Since I will be utilizing station rotations, I divided up the students into six groups and assigned their seats. Then my peer tutor passed out notebooks.

I explained to them, "We all failed last semester, but we are the selected few who have the potential to pass this semester. That's why we're together."

I felt like students' were relaxing. The atmosphere felt different once I said that.

I helped students find Canvas(our learning management system). Then we watched Jo Bolar's "4 key Ideas in Math" video. It's actually titled "Boosting Math". I paused the video after each main idea and had students write them on page 1 of their notebook. The video was also loaded on Canvas. So if students felt like I was going too fast or too slow, they can watch on their own without sound and with closed captioning on.

They really liked the story of the girl whose left half of the brain had to be cut off because of her fits, but eventually she was able to run. And the part where the mathematician thought he was stupid in 11th grade.

We had a discussion in person. Then they had to post their answers in the discussion thread.

The lesson is on Jo Boaler's youcubed site.
I used the very first lesson in that series.



I decided that I will try to blog about what I do every day so I can be a better teacher. Also, I noticed that the curriculum for Introduction to Algebra 1 was basically semester 1 of Algebra 1. That would not really serve the students taking the course. So I want to try something different and see if that helps. But mostly, I want to buy the hearts of these children so they won't be turned off by math once they leave me.

Cuz you see, I love math. But in 7th grade, despite my great affection for my handsome young math teacher, I had no idea what he was talking about in class every day and so I failed. I spent the next two years running away from math. Then I met another teacher and this group of friends that came along with her. I never had the courage to major in math, but hey, I am qualified to teach up to Calculus. AND math excites me now. I just want the same for all my students. I want to #StartOver as a teacher and I want my students to #StartOver as well.