Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 2: Violating the Wellness Policy

Finally met my students! My 8th grade geometry has 30 students in a room that can physically support 28.  I don't actually mind, but I'll need to get a fan.

These students have been traveling together for years, pushing the cusp of academic excellence.  The standard math class for 8th grade in my district is pre-algebra, so these kids are two grades above the norm.  The expectations of me as their teacher are much higher as well and I hope that I will succeed.  I think I started off well with my opening talk, trying to mix compassion, humor and my own expectations of them.  I also had an incredible surprise! I have a 7th grader in that class.  She's three grades ahead of the norm and next year, my school won't have a class for her.  I hope I can keep her entertained...

In my pre-algebra classes, I did the standard spiel, put the fear of God in them and explained that the class will be exactly as fun as they allow me to make it.  I have prior relationships (mostly disciplinary) with several students in there so it was nice that they got to see a different side of me.  I am excited for that class.

After the clerical stuff, I had them do the Marshmallow Challenge.  Two of the groups worked quietly and came up with interesting designs, which didn't stand.  The others worked loudly and came up with a spaghetti spear that didn't stand.  I liked how the groups worked to get the towers to stand, but I was disappointed by the lack of creativity. 

In my last class, I have a student who was a trouble kid last year.  In the morning assembly, SHE was the one who was pulled out for being rude to the presenter.  I pulled her aside in her lunch to tell her that I had heard how bright she was and I know we had some run ins last year, but that I'm excited to have her in my class and I'm looking forward to a great new year.  She looked shocked and she smiled.

The last class had a similar issue as the previous.  Two of the four groups displayed amazing effort and ingenuity while the other two tried two things and gave up, stabbing the marshmallow over and over, leaving a disgusting mushy mess covered in string and perforated with pasta.  Two girls who started the class with attitude and had their heads down ended up working very well with their groups.  I think I'll do this again at the end of the year and compare the thought processes.

It just reiterates to me that I need to put some SERIOUS effort into creating meaningful, hands-on lessons for these kids.  Time to make up for all the time I wasted over the summer...

Day 2 down, 178 to go to make a positive impact.  I think this will be a good year.  I have optimism about my job for the first time in a long time.

On a similar note, my principal was so impressed with my impromptu presentation of all the things I did at and after Twitter Math Camp, that she asked me to present some of the apps at the faculty meeting on Thursday.  I'll be avoiding math-only apps like Mathalicious and Desmos because I love them so much and I don't want to lose the history teachers.

I've started building a Storify presentation which is super meta because it will include Storify as a resource!

Now if only I could get my room to not be 85 degrees...

I'm just never satisfied...

P.S.: Don't tell anyone I let the kids eat the extra marshmallows.  It's a violation of our wellness policy.


  1. I feel like there's an insult to history teachers there...

    1. That was not intended. I just know that the history teachers would glaze over if I started talking about the beauty in a wed-based graphing calculator.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm glad! I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow...

  3. So glad that your year is off to a good start and that you are optimistic about the future. Keep up the good work and stay on the MTBoS train!

    1. Me too. I was really worried about this year and I'm not counting my chickens yet, but things are looking good!

  4. I love everything about this post. It's wonderful that you pulled that student aside before class, brilliant strategizing! And, even though it didn't work for everyone, it sounds like your marshmallow activity touched two lives. No lesson works for everyone, and I'm happy if i touch even one so that was a tremendous success. I'm happy that you are inspired but TMC, but even happier that you get to share about it! I was asked to share as well and I would love to see what you present.


    1. Check out Day 4 for the rundown of the presentation as well as the link to the Storify! You have no idea how difficult it is to talk about the amazing things at TMC without using the word Twitter. A major goal for this year will be to remove the stigma from Twitter so that I can talk about it openly.

      Eventually, I will be able to openly declare my love for you and Fawn, but that's down the road. :-)

  5. I am also relearning to teach after 17 years. I did the marshmallow challenge as well and had similar results. My students loved it and asked for more time to work on their designs. I also love that you reached some of the "hard-to-reach" students! I did this activity with an entire class of girls and some of them had not said a word until we did the marshmallow challenge. They did not want to be in the class until they realized we would be having fun too!

    1. Leanna,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I would love to hear how you're changing your style!

      This has been an interesting start to the year for me. I have spent the last few years in the district creating and curating a reputation as someone who doesn't mess around. Kids who don't have me in class see me as mean, but my students usually correct that. "He's not mean. He's just strict!"

      If I can leverage that this year into letting my students have fun in class, but having them know that they have to come back when I need them, then I'll be set to have the best year ever.

      Do you have a blog somewhere? Are you on Twitter? I would love to follow your progress?


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