Monday, January 18, 2016

Where I'm writing now

I haven't blogged here for several years but the User ID seems to be linked to several things, so the blog is 'active'.  To read what I'm writing, check out

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

So I'm not as consistent a blogger as I intended.  It was an intense year - a big time of transition on both personal and professional levels.  I made the move to the big, big school, with both positive and negative results.  Classes are done, we are proctoring and grading state exams, and generally winding down.  So I have time to truly reflect, and begin unwinding.

The pluses of my new big, big school - tons of resources for students in terms of activities, and functioning systems.  If you need something, there is [almost] always someone whose job it is to help you get it or do it.  The Copy Center, for example, and the lovely gentleman who unfailingly did his job, removed a huge level of stress from my life.  (Former school - 25 teachers - 2 machines that worked sometimes? Much hysteria and squabbling.)

The downsides include the flip side of the positive - the large size, which permits the wealth of extra-curricular activities, and the staff to do all those administrative things that teachers have to do (or they don't get done) in small schools, also creates anonymity.   There were students to whom I became attached in the fall term, whose paths I did not cross again in the spring.  There were teachers who thought I was a sub all year long because they barely saw me.  This is a HUGE change from a small school, where every teacher knows every other teacher, and in which you know most of the students by name because you have taught all of them at least once.  A longtime resident of NYC, I do not necessarily find large populations a negative, but I understood how freshmen might feel coming to the school for the first time - a face in the crowd without compadres.  I had some lonely moments.

I also found that large long-established, well-functioning schools house long term staff members who cling to the past (even young ones), and who resist and even ignore the changes in the system.   They rely on 'the contract' to proscribe their activities; the suggestion of doing official work beyond the 6 hours and 50 minutes is a schande.  Coming from a struggling school in which the staff went to herculean efforts to engage students through a continually evolving and reflective practice, and create a nurturing culture, I was disheartened to see that some of the stereotypes of teachers do in fact exist.    Not everyone, of course, is like this, but enough staff members are, so that they can create a force of entropy. 

But there are many hard-working and caring people in my new school.   Sadly, I have not found like-minded individuals within my own department, even though the 'numbers' [scores on state tests show us to be a very successful team.  There is a well-bonded inner core of teachers in the department (did someone say clique?) who have worked together for years, and even though they were always sociable and 'friendly' to me, I clearly was not part of the group.  Further, the person who hired me, who I admire and enjoy working for, announced her retirement midyear.  Her successor?  One of the group, natch.  I am adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

So I guess I sound pretty negative, and I have had some dark moments, wondering whether I made the right decision to choose this school out of the several good options I had.  I have even dabbled in checking out new openings in other schools.  But transition is hard, and it takes time to put down roots.  At the end of the term, as I wondered whether I should make a substantial effort to move again this year, I noticed that I did make many connections - with students.  And this is, of course, why I teach.  On the last day of classes, when my students said, "We'll miss you!", I told them I wasn't going anywhere, and that they could come see me next year.  So I guess I will have to make that true.

I haven't even talked about my teaching this past year - which is a much better story - for my next post.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reflections on Transition

This year I left my very small tightly knit but struggling community for a mega-sized comprehensive high school.  In many ways it's like a different planet - one on which I only know a few people - but there are some constants.  In my three term ['remedial'] Algebra classes, I recognize many of the same types of students I taught before - students who have struggled for years with math, never really understanding what was going on in the classroom, who have continued, for years, to try to understand, and who cling to rules, procedures, and acronyms that they can memorize in the hopes of performing well on assessments.

Moving through the beginning of the curriculum, my lessons were clear, a little on the traditional side (I figured the structure would be good for both me and my adjusting 9th graders), but still engaging through creative use of the SmartBoard, and well executed.  Feedback, attendance and homework completion were all positive.  But when my test results came back poorly, I began to second guess myself and started to go down that rabbit hole - what if I try this method, what if I group them this way, what if we use maniupulatives, on line quizzes (if there were enough technology, that is), am I differentiating enough, am I setting individual learning goals (for my 150 students).... and I find that the structure I set up is loosening.  My lessons are taking longer; I am allowing additional practice time, and extending homework due dates to accommodate the students' learning curve.  But I am not sure that their comprehension is any better, so, as usual, I am doing the mirror thing - reflecting.

I was observed by my principal this week (first time since I started that an administrator has checked out what I am actually doing in my classroom) and got specific, helpful and glowing feedback - which I was thrilled to receive, and did feel what was justified for the lesson he saw.  We were using individual whiteboards, which the kids and the principal loved.  But if I am to get credit for this wonderful moment, I also must take responsibility for the moments that don't go well, and I do.  So I wonder, how can I create these exciting moments more often - often enough that the students are willing to work through the less exciting ones?  He asked me if I used the whiteboards every day, but I know that familiarity breeds contempt, and boredom, and would rather keep the boards as a few times per week treat.   I endeavor always to make my lessons engaging, but do I need bells and whistles every day in order to get better test results?  (An aside - the kids did me proud when we were observed, but the following day I had about 1/3 of the class absent, and the day after that had to stop the class because of the foolishness in the room.)

I don't know if anyone is reading my blog, but I have posed the question, and would love some feedback.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Resources for Constructions

As we continue deep into our unit on Constructions and Locus, the following websites will help you as a resource for practicing:

You can also download the constructions packet here on the blog.  Notes for Points of Concurrency and Locus will appear later this week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"The grand thing is to be able to reason backwards." Arthur Conan Doyle

Today we embarked on our study of proofs.  In some ways it was painstaking, but in other ways, energizing, as I saw students struggle to make sense of what we were doing (and why), and then to see them understand the sequence of reasoning.  Not everyone was convinced of the value of the exercise on this first day, but the tenacity with which many stuck with it was impressive.  I think this will be a very good year for Proof at HSGC.

Do a little research on proof on line, and share a little bit about it with us below - perhaps the history of it, or how and why it is used as a discipline in math, why do we continue to study proof?