Author Archives: melomania

Second Semester Reflections

Some explanation that’s not really important so you can skip it if you want…

Because we start school so early in my state, we finish our first semester and have end-of-semester final exams before winter break. When we return to school after the break to a new semester, and since we do our grading on a semester basis, the kids have a brand new start with a fresh grading period. Since I teach freshmen, who have never experienced the consequences of failing a class that is required for graduation. Many of them have failed classes in the past and received no consequences (as we rarely retain students in grades K-8 for failing classes) so they can have a hard time adjusting to this huge change in expectations.

This means I have an advantage right now – nearly 30% of my Algebra 1 kids have seen Fs on report cards during the break and are starting to realize that it means something. Something bad. (Some of them won’t actually have this realization until next year when they might end up back in Algebra 1 for the second time. A few will take even longer.) So when I was planning for this week, I decided to spend the first day back (yesterday) having them reflect on last semester.

I started with a reflection sheet that I found as a free download on TPT and customized it for myself: second-semester-reflection-sheet. Yesterday I had the students fill it out, trying to encourage them to be specific about what they were going to do this semester to be more successful and about how I can help.

Man, this was awesome. I can’t believe how good a job these kids did reflecting on their semester, what they did well, what they could have done better, what they should do this semester to change things, what I can do to help them. The kids were honest with themselves and with me. Many of them indicated that they needed to do more and I was doing everything I needed to. The ones who did have suggestions for me actually had productive things to say, not just “don’t give homework” or anything like that. Reading through these (and organizing the responses in a spreadsheet because I’m a huge nerd) has given me a lot of food for thought.

The actual point of this blog post…

I’ve been struggling with one of my classes all year. They’re very chatty and I try to allow them to use that to learn. We get off-topic more in that class because they’re so chatty with each other and with me, and because as soon as I allow them to talk even for a moment, it takes ages to get them all to refocus. (I know some would argue that I shouldn’t allow them to talk at all, but that’s not my style.) So I know that I need to try some different things with this particular class.

It was interesting to read their reflection sheets because they were so different from my other two classes. The kids in this class focused a lot on accountability. They wanted me to check in with them more during class to check their understanding, to remind them to come to tutoring, to hold them accountable for actually coming to tutoring, to let them know when they’re off-task, and to push them to understand instead of giving up. Cool. Great ideas, but really hard to implement in a class of 30, often with a lecture-style format.

So I’ve spent some time today brainstorming ways that I can change the structure of the class to work better for this group.

Small groups would be good. I can’t check in with 30 students individually, but I could check in with 7 or 8 groups. I have a bunch of really highly-performing kids in this class who could help their classmates with the material if they work in small groups. I like the idea of having them hold each other accountable – everyone in the group gets the concept, or you’re not done.

So then how do we have time to work in groups like this? I spend so much time on notes that we usually don’t have time to work through problems or even do that much practice. It’s why I assign homework, even though I realize that if they can’t do the homework, there’s no point in giving it. Maybe I could do a pseudo-flipped-classroom? I don’t feel comfortable assigning videos to be watched at home (although maybe we could get to that point later) because not all of my students have access at home. But maybe they could watch videos on devices for the first 5-10 minutes of class? If someone doesn’t have a device, the group could watch the video together. How do I have them take notes so they can remember what they learned? Should I provide some structure to the notes or just let them do it? Should a group member be designated to take notes for the group? Then I could give an in-depth problem or rich task after the video, or just assign some practice with a chance to check in with everyone as they work.

I have a bunch of students in this class who really struggle with motivation. They are very social and don’t seem to care much about their grades. (The beginning of basketball season helped that a little bit, as a bunch of them are on the basketball team.) How can I make sure that everyone is held accountable for their own work, while also getting the support they need from the group?

I’m ready to make some huge changes to the way that I normally structure my classes, I just don’t know how to do it. The only math teaching I ever experienced was direct-instruction, I-do-we-do-you-do, traditional, so I don’t even have a model in my head for what I could do differently.

I told the kids some of what I was thinking about today, and asked them to give me suggestions too. I told them that whatever they want to try, we can always try for a day and see how it goes. They seemed open to the kinds of things I suggested, although it’s possible they just really liked being told that they could tell me how they want me to run their class. I like being honest with them about what I’m thinking, why I do the things I do in class, and what I’m struggling with – the questions I still have. They respond well and we build a good relationship. Now I need to figure out what to try.

Anyone have suggestions for ways I can answer the questions above?

What a Crazy Semester!

Well, it’s late in the evening on New Year’s Day, and I was supposed to be traveling to another state to visit family, but we had to cancel our trip due to weather. This is the first time in a while that I’ve had the time/inclination to write a blog post. Actually, I just looked at the date of my last post and it was during the first week of school. So yes, it’s been a while.

This semester has been insane. (And no, it’s not going to get better for a while.) I started my masters program in May, so I was taking a graduate course all semester. I spent most of the semester feeling like I was behind on my grading, which was usually followed by a day of realizing I wasn’t that far behind because my student aide is awesome, and then another 3 weeks feeling behind again. Also, I hate grading and I infinitely prefer planning, and I’m a professional procrastinator. My poor students. They were very understanding though.

While we’re on the subject of my students, my freshmen are amazing. Now sure, not every single one of them has a fantastic attitude every moment of every day, but in general, as a whole, they are wonderful kids. They really do have great attitudes most of the time. They will do pretty much whatever I ask them to, without much arguing or complaining. They’re a really nice group of kids – they’re nice to me and to each other. I teach because I love my students, but this year the students have made themselves really easy to love. Did they all pass first semester? No. Are they all stellar students? No, although I will say that their academic skills are stronger than I’ve ever seen from a class of incoming freshmen. But they’re great kids. I don’t go back to school for a week and I’m already looking forward to seeing them again.

We started learning about adding, subtracting, and multiplying polynomials at the end of the semester, and I told them I LOVE polynomials. Most of them laughed and rolled their eyes, but someone said, “Didn’t you say that about graphing?” I said, “Yeah, I love graphing too. Oh, and solving systems. And function notation. And writing functions. And next semester we’re going to do factoring and we’re going to solve quadratics, and I love factoring and quadratics.” (As I say this, my voice gets gradually higher and more enthusiastic.) At this point they’re pretty much all giving me that Miss-is-crazy-and-we’re-pretty-sure-she’s-torturing-us-but-it’s-kind-of-funny-and-we-like-laughing-at-her sort of look. So I grinned at them and said, “Do you see why I teach Algebra 1?” Now they’re actually laughing.

Speaking of polynomials, in two of my classes when I explained that we were going to add, subtract, and multiply polynomials, someone asked, “Are we going to learn to divide polynomials?” So cool, because I got to explain that we sort-of divide polynomials in January when we do factoring, and then we learn how to actually divide higher-degree polynomials in Algebra 2. This is fun because now I can talk about that question when we learn about factoring in a week or two.

Confession time: I was having a pretty rough day a couple of weeks ago, and yelled at one of my classes. I told them I was going to put them into groups so they could play a review game for their final exam, and they started whining. I was sick, it was the end of the day, and I was exhausted. I threatened them that if they didn’t want to work in the groups I assigned, then the whole class could spend the rest of the period working silently on their study guides. I ran my random group generator and immediately heard at least 4 different kids complain about their group. I explained (ahem…loudly) that I don’t care how they feel about who is in their group and they have to learn to deal with it. I turned back to the board to check that I was ok with their groups, determined I was, and turned back around to tell them to get together with their groups. One poor kid who was right in front of me said, “I can’t-” then saw the look on my face and didn’t get any further into that sentence. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the class, I’d had it. I explained to them (again, rather loudly) that once again I don’t care how you feel about the people I pair you up with. In fact, that’s why I do it! You have to learn how to work with people you don’t like in high school because it WILL be a part of your life after high school. And if you can’t, then you are likely to lose your job. I said a few other things as well that I don’t really recall now, instructed them to work silently for the remainder of the class period, and sat down at my desk in a huff.

Well, about half an hour went by and after I finished being furious I started to feel guilty. (It only takes a few minutes.) They did work in silence for the rest of the class, which was a testament to how angry I was because this particular class usually can’t make it 30 seconds without talking, much less 30 minutes. A few minutes before the bell rang, I stood up and asked for their attention. I told them I knew I shouldn’t have yelled at them, and I was sorry. However, I believe that the things I said were still valid, and that they needed to hear them…just maybe not quite at that volume. (They smiled at that.) I explained, in a much more reasonable tone of voice, that as an adult you do not get to choose the people you work with or for. You do have to learn to work with people you don’t like. I gave the example that one of the people that has been the most difficult for me to work with is someone that actually worked for me. I couldn’t fire her because she was a great employee, even though I personally couldn’t stand to hold a conversation with her…which is also a kind of decision you have to be able to make as an adult. I reminded them that my goal this year is not just to teach them algebra but to teach them skills they will need to be successful after high school, and working with people you don’t like is one of them. So again, I’m sorry that I got angry and yelled, but I’m not sorry for what I said.

The interesting thing is how they responded to this. First, they seemed to have no trouble accepting my apology (judging by the looks on their faces and the fact that they didn’t seem to hate me when they came in the next day). But they also agreed with me that they needed to hear my point. The class nodded when I said that and a couple of students even stayed after to tell me they agreed with me.

I love how quick teenagers are to forgive and forget when you own up to your mistake and apologize. I especially love this because it’s not like I’m going to stop making mistakes.

It’s been a crazy semester. Most of the days have been really good but very busy. In my “free time” I’ve been reading papers and writing papers. The first day all semester that I made a point to reserve for myself and not do any work was Veteran’s Day in November. It was much-needed too, let me tell you. I was starting to get a little snippy in class. I’ve spent much of the semester frustrated about some other things happening at school that I’m not going to post on a public forum, but suffice it to say there was an added level of stress from other causes as well.

But my kids are awesome. I have not managed to make it through a single day without laughing all semester. I’ve had some really great parent meetings where I got to share positive information about students. During the last few weeks of the semester, one of my classes turned around from being my quietest, least-engaged class to being my most focused and productive class. Almost all of my students are taking great notes and using their notebooks (when I remind them) to find answers. They didn’t panic about their final exam and actually did pretty well, compared to past years. We’ve figured out some good strategies for class – they’ve figured out my teaching style and are responding to it and I’m figuring out how to manage the extreme chattiness of the one class and the overwhelming size of another class. I’m still working on convincing them to come to tutoring next semester. It’s very likely that I’ll see increased attendance at tutoring now that a bunch of them have failed a semester and might realize they need to not do that again. (Fingers crossed, anyway…)

My masters program isn’t supposed to end for another two years so next semester will be just as busy. I’m greatly enjoying winter break, as it’s the only time I don’t have work of either form for the entire year. Here’s to a restful week before I go back to school, and a productive semester for both me and my students.

“I Like This, Miss!”

Something interesting has happened while my Algebra 1 classes have been working on Noah’s Ark and Barfing Monsters.

One student stayed after class on Tuesday to continue working on the Noah’s Ark problem during lunch. When he left the room (because I told him he couldn’t stay for the whole lunch period because he does actually need to eat), I looked at my colleagues who joined me for lunch and said, “Did you see that?! He wanted to stay so he could keep working on that problem!”

Yesterday, this student stayed a couple minutes after school so he could check in with me on his progress. Since he had to catch the bus, I finally told him that I wanted him to take a break from it last night and look at it again today. He’s so close, in fact he has work on his paper that looks correct but doesn’t match what he was telling me. I think he got confused because he was trying to rush through his explanation.

Yesterday after class, however, the most interesting thing happened. We’d just spent the period working on Noah’s Ark and then Barfing Monsters, and he came up to me at the end of class. He was holding his Noah’s Ark worksheet and gestured toward the board (which was still displaying a slide from Barfing Monsters) and said, “Are we going to do problems like this all year?” I said, “Not every day, but I’m hoping we can do a lot of these kinds of problems.” He nodded, and said, “Even if we don’t, can you still give me problems like this all year? I want to do them!”

Seriously. That happened. In my classroom. I’m still kind of in shock.

Obviously I said yes, so now I need to find some cool problems that I can give him to work on when he asks again. I’d love suggestions!

This kid needs to play with my Tiling Turtles. He would love those.

Explanations In Algebra 1

A couple of interesting things happened today to set up one of my expectations for my Algebra 1 classes.

First, our bell work question today was a Which One Doesn’t Belong? image. I showed the image and instructed them to write which one they felt didn’t belong and explain WHY their choice doesn’t belong. I gave them a sentence frame for this: Your answer should look something like “The _____ shape doesn’t belong because it is the only one that _____.” Then I had them vote using Plickers. We had a discussion about the two shapes that everyone voted for, and then I asked if they could come up with reasons why the other two don’t belong as well. They did. Then I tried to move on to the next part of the lesson.

Well, they didn’t like that. They demanded to know which one was the right answer. I shrugged and said, “Well, didn’t we just come up with reasons for all of them?” and then ignored them while they yelled out indignant questions. We’ll do more WODB questions (about 1 per week until I get bored) so they’ll get used to them. (In fact, I’m betting that next week I’m going to have one kid who tries to outsmart me by smugly telling me that none of them belong. I always tell them that they’re welcome to write that on their bell work, but then they have to write an explanation for each one.)

Goal: Introduce the idea that there isn’t always just one right answer. √

Goal: Introduce the idea that the explanation is more important than the right answer. √

While I was ignoring their indignant questions, I instructed them to get together with a new group of people today (randomly assigned) to continue working on Noah’s Ark.

I’ve used Noah’s Ark during the first week of school before, and I’m using it again this year. I just re-read the blog post from last year where I talked about how it went, and am frankly a little surprised at how positive I was about it last year. (Last year was not a good year for me in a lot of ways, so it’s possible that I’m just surprised I was able to write anything that was positive. Of course, when I wrote that post, it was before I discovered just how bad it would get.)

It’s going better this year. I’m excited and impressed. Or I would be if I wasn’t so tired right now.

So all 3 sections of Algebra 1 started Noah’s Ark on Monday. Each day this week, I’ve been running out of time, so I’ve only been able to give the kids about 5-10 minutes a day to work on it. I know this isn’t enough time, and the first day in particular I told them I didn’t expect them to finish. (Actually I told them that if they did get an answer before the end of class, it was probably wrong.) So they’ve now worked on it for like 5-10 minutes a day for three days.

A couple of kids have the right answer and now have permission to spend the work time helping other students (while under strict orders to not tell anyone what the answer is). A couple of kids have the right answer but I’m not sure how they got it, so they’re technically not done yet. (And they don’t know they have the right answer because I haven’t told them.)

I’m impressed at how well they’re doing with this considering how short their time is each day. They’re making little bits of progress and it’s adding up. I think I’m going to bring this up when I start assigning homework next week and tell them that working on something like this for a short time but often is clearly paying off, and that’s basically how I assign homework – nearly every day, but not very much. I’m hoping this will help to put the homework load in perspective.

Today we had an interesting conversation in one of my classes. It went something like this:

Student: “Miss, do you know the answer?”

Me: “Nope.”

A few students: “WHAT?! How can you give us a problem that you don’t know the answer to?!”

Me: “I just figure that anyone who can give me an explanation that I can’t poke any holes in must have the right answer.”

Another student: “So, wait…if we can give a good explanation and you can’t find anything wrong with it, that means we’re right?”

Me: “Yep.”

[This all repeats a few more times, verbatim, as the information gradually spreads through all 30 kids.]

Some other student, with a very shrewd sort of look on his face: “So does that mean you care more about the explanation than the right answer?”

Me: “Yep.”

Oh snap. Did you see that? On Day 3 of the semester, we’ve established that I care more about the explanation than whether students have the right answer. And I didn’t have to say it.

Goal: Reinforce the idea that the explanation is more important than the right answer. √

 

I’m honestly not sure I could have come up with a better way to make this point.

The other really cool thing is what happened about 15 minutes later.

So I let them work for about 10 minutes and then I stopped them because we needed to move on to Sam Shah‘s Barfing Monsters (adjusted for Algebra 1 by Elizabeth Statmore and adjusted further by my roommate who is not on Twitter in spite of my nagging).

Barfing Monsters Alg1 Day 1

Barfing Monsters Alg 1 Day 2

Barfing Monsters Alg 1 Day 3

[Note to self: for next year, the Day 1 patterns need to be easier. I need a lower entry point for my students’ needs.]

We talked through the setup and worked through Case File #1 together, then I instructed them to get as many case files done in the remaining 10 minutes of class as they could.

Here’s the hilarious/awesome part: one of the kids, again with this very suspicious/shrewd look on his face, stops me while they’re working to ask, “Do these ones have a right answer?” I decided to be nice to them this time and said, “When it asks you to make a prediction for what the monster is going to throw up, based on what they just ingested, yes, there is a right answer for that part. But there could be more than one explanation for why that’s the right answer.” He nodded and got back to work.

Goal: Reinforce the idea that the explanation is important. √

Interpreting Graphs

I decided my Algebra students need a break from factoring.

(Actually, I decided that I need a break, because if I have to grade anymore quizzes that continue to show no understanding of a concept that we have been working on since January, I might explode.)

 

Our school currently has a grant funded by NMSI, the National Math and Science Initiative. The goal is to increase our enrollment in AP classes, as well as our performance on AP exams. The part of this that applies to me, as a non-AP teacher, is that we have training and resources geared toward teachers of lower levels to help introduce concepts that will be vital in calculus and statistics. These activities are usually pretty interesting, and well-scaffolded, so I’ve enjoyed using the few that I’ve done with Algebra students. They also provide AP-style multiple choice and free-response questions that are scaled down for the appropriate level.

I found one activity on interpreting distance graphs and another on interpreting rate (speed) graphs and decided to give them a try. We started Distance Graphs two weeks ago. Because of the nature of the assignment, I’m requiring students to answer using complete sentences (like you would on the AP exam) and provide explanations for their answers (like you would on the AP exam).

The actual interpreting of the graphs went surprisingly well. I was impressed by the accuracy of their answers to the interpretation questions. They know how to read graphs and they can use a fair amount of that knowledge to make inferences about the situation. For example, no one tried to convince me that because the graph went up and back down again it meant the person was going up and down a hill. They also made the connection between slope and speed really well.

The explanations for the questions (explain how you know, or explain how you figured this out), however…didn’t go well. At some point, I said if anyone else tried to tell me “because the graph shows it”, I was going to strangle them. (Because they are teenagers, of course the immediate reaction to that was to spend the next 10 minutes ONLY saying “because the graph shows it, Miss!” and then laughing like my impending aneurysm is the most hilarious thing in the world. The main culprit only stopped when I asked the class, “So when I kick A out of class in a minute because he’s DRIVING ME CRAZY, will his distance from me be increasing or decreasing?”)

We completed the first assignment where we analyzed distance graphs, and they turned them in. I scored them out of 2 points for each question – 1 point for the correct answer and 1 for a good explanation. My class average was 54%, and the highest score was 83%. (I was unpleasantly surprised by the number of students who didn’t even get the questions right that I had written out on the board.)

“So guys, I graded your Distance Graphs worksheets yesterday. They’re pretty terrible. I mean this in the most loving way possible, but your explanations suck.”

They laughed.

I acknowledged that I know why their explanations were terrible – they’ve never really had to do this before. Most of them have never been asked to write explanations for anything in math class before. They nodded. I said this is why we’re working on it. I know you’re not good at it, so let’s learn how.

Tangent: I was once again reminded of how much my students appreciate it when I acknowledge these kinds of weaknesses openly and make it clear that I’m not trying to hold them to an unreasonable expectation. I’m saying that I knew you weren’t going to be good at this, and I knew it’s not because you’re just refusing, it’s because you haven’t learned it. Without that moment of honesty regarding their side of this situation, there’s no way I would have been able to get them to complete the next activity we did.

So I passed back their graded worksheets and we quickly skimmed through the problems so I could describe what kinds of explanations I had been looking for. Then I passed out a 10-question multiple choice “quiz” (another source from NMSI, so the problems are intended to be similar in style to AP multiple choice questions). I gave them a few minutes to go through and answer the questions and then we checked answers. I was clear that their score on the assignment was in NO way related to the number of questions they got correct at this moment.

After we reviewed the answers, I instructed the class to choose 5 of the 10 problems and write an explanation for the correct answer. I encouraged them to check with me before turning in their assignment so I could make sure their explanations were good enough.

I was impressed. Granted, not all of my students actually had me check their work before turning it in (probably not even half did), but the ones that did were surprisingly good. In most cases, I make suggestions to improve their explanations – make them more clear or more specific – but the foundation that was there was solid.

Yesterday, we started an activity on interpreting rate graphs (as opposed to distance graphs). We talked about how the interpretation of this graph is different, since the y-axis is speed not distance. I had to remind the students of this fact over and over again, which I expected because they are used to reading distance graphs and not rate graphs. Honestly, I think I expected to have to do it more than I did.

At the end of class yesterday, I told two of my classes this:

“You guys are doing really well with your explanations! I’m really impressed by how much improvement I’ve seen from that first assignment a couple of weeks ago. This makes me really happy for two reasons. First, I’m proud of you – I get to see you learning and improving, and that makes me happy for you. The second reason is actually a selfish reason – it makes me feel like a crappy teacher when you aren’t learning. That’s what’s been going on the last 13 weeks of school – you haven’t been showing me that you’ve been learning anything, and I’ve felt like a bad teacher because of it.”

Whew.

I’m looking forward to finishing this activity with two of my classes tomorrow, so I can tell them what I got to tell one class today – you are doing calculus! Using the slopes in a distance graph to find the speed, and using the rate and time in the speed graph to find the distance – this is what the AP Calculus class has been doing this year! Granted, they are using harder graphs and equations, but this is how it starts!

I love blowing their minds with this kind of information.

After we finish these, I need to find a good activity for them to do more independently and summatively. They might be doing a poster project. Just need to find a good problem set.

At the Bottom of the Roller Coaster Again

Last weekend, I wanted to sit down and write a post about how I’ve realized how much my students trust me and know that if I’m teaching them something, I have a good reason for it. Maybe I’m being a little bipolar, but that’s not how I’m feeling today.

I’m frustrated a lot this semester again. I feel like I’m constantly on edge, waiting for the next moment that some student is going to “take it too far” and I’ll blow up. I haven’t actually blown up much, considering I’m so tense all the time, but the feeling is there. (Actually, it’s more likely that I’ll snap at one of the kids who never irritates me. I’ve had so many negative interactions with some kids that I’m more careful with them than the ones who don’t usually act out. Poor kids.)

Some of my difficulty this semester stems from some emotional things I’m going through in my personal life, that I don’t want to get into detail about in such a public forum.

Some of my frustration is my own fault. I wanted to teach this Support class this year with this doe-eyed dream of turning math around for these students. I wanted to be that one teacher that would make a difference, that would help them understand math and show them the beauty behind all these things that they have to learn in Algebra 1 (and I LOVE the content in Algebra 1). It’s only my third year of teaching and I’m still prone to the teaching-like-I’m-in-a-movie line of thinking, where my class is going to be the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to these kids.

So when they come to class and refuse to do any work for the first 4 weeks of the semester, or chat with their best friend instead of watching the movie that I’m using to teach about the Standards for Mathematical Practice, or repeatedly whine about how they “don’t get it” but never do anything to help them “get it”, I get frustrated. (Seriously? You won’t even watch a movie? What can I possibly do to support you if you’re this stubborn about not doing what I’ve asked you to do?) And I get disillusioned.

Yes, I knew teaching was going to be hard. I knew I wasn’t going to get paid much. I knew that I was going to have more work than one person could reasonably be expected to do in a day. I knew that I was going to have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, and bad years. And yes, I know that this is just a bad week, and maybe it’s just a bad year.

Living it is different from knowing it. I’m watching my seniors attempt to write a research paper and realizing that they have no idea how to construct a coherent sentence, how to use research effectively (actually let it inform their writing without plagiarizing their entire paper), and in some cases, how to work together. I’m watching my freshmen watch “The Martian” and realizing that not only are their reading comprehension skills terrible, their movie-watching comprehension skills are also terrible. It seems like they have no idea what’s going on in this movie. If they have no idea what’s even happening, they certainly can’t relate the situations in the movie to the 8 Mathematical Practices, which is their assignment.

I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless and lost.

Some of my frustration is related to the lack of motivation and critical thinking skills and life skills and ability to not give up that I’m seeing in my students. I’m re-reading Chase Mielke’s What Students Really Need to Hear again and it’s resonating again, just like it did my first year of teaching. I hate watching my students throw away their education and refuse to learn the most important lessons they could ever learn about how to live life.

On the other hand, I’m seeing some progress this year. Students A and B are paying attention in class, participating in positive ways, and actually doing their work sometimes. Student C has finally started speaking to me politely every time he interacts with me, even though he’s not doing much in the way of work. Students D and E continue to demand my attention, but their purpose is to ask for help with their work. Students F and G are my top-performing students across all of my freshmen, and no one is more surprised by this than they are. Student H is finally learning Algebra and demonstrating that (when she pays attention to what she’s doing) she can solve problems without mixing up her integer operations. Students I, J, K, L, and M all asked for paper sets of Algebra Tiles so they can use them in their Algebra 1 classes as well (unlike the rest of their classes who resist using the tiles unless I physically move the tiles around for them).

I love these kids. They can be so much fun to teach. And then other days, it’s just so draining to deal with all the drama and the lack of motivation and the lack of skills. I can’t figure out if I need a day off or if I need some better coping skills. Or if I just need to be a “better teacher”.

I had a caffeinated beverage this morning, so it’s not that.