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.