Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 34: Self-Disappointment

I redecorated my room yesterday and finally hung some things on the walls. It's not a huge change, but it makes the room a bit more cheery and friendly and less like a poorly painted prison cell.

I also took a writing prompt from the #MTBoS today and asked the kids:

My favorite response was "Math would be a pitt bull.  Everyone is afraid of them, but if you treat them nice, they will treat you nice too!"

I have been flipping my classroom with respect to the guided notes in geometry.  I have been giving the homework assignments as "Take your book and do the guided notes from section..."  Then in class, I quickly go over them to make sure they got them.  For the most part, it has worked well.

The guided notes assignment over the weekend was the introduction to conditional statements.  Apparently, it was WAY too confusing.  Or, with the long weekend, everyone forgot to do it. :-/

In any event, going over the notes ended up being WAY longer than I wanted it to be.  Also, it turns out that all of the side-tracks that I've been taking with them has put me several weeks behind the geometry teachers at the high school.  I'm not too worried about it, but I don't like being this far behind this early in the year.  I told them that we need to pick up the pace and they seemed disappointed.

I hate skipping things they WANT to learn in favor of things they HAVE to learn.

Do you ever find yourself talking and in the middle of a sentence you realize "No one is listening to me"?

Last year, I would have said "What rude jerks these kids are being! I'm trying to give them the best education possible and they couldn't care less!"

This year, I find myself thinking "I've failed these kids.  I didn't plan this lesson well enough and have failed to capture their interest."

That's not to say that I DON'T have some rude jerks in my class, but that doesn't change the fact that I should have planned and executed this lesson better.

After reading several posts and talking to a  few people on Twitter, I decided that I would start the unit on fraction multiplication with the Candy Bar lesson from @Radical_Robin! It's a great lesson and takes a boring concept from the text book and puts it in terms the kids care about.

I executed it VERY poorly.

As is my wont, I didn't read it all the way through, didn't do the problems myself, didn't plan what I wanted to say or ask and didn't think about where it could go wrong.  I thought (foolishly) that by throwing the picture up and having a general idea of where I wanted to go, that things would fall together.  In the past, they did!

Or perhaps I fooled myself into thinking they did and blamed the unengaged kids for not being engaged. 

In addition, I allowed my frustration to get the better of me.  We started out with white boards and when they disengaged, I took them back.  Like a spiteful child, angry that my friends weren't playing with my toys the way I wanted, I took the toys away.  I immediately regretted the decision but didn't know how to fix it without them disengaging further.

I almost didn't write that because of how upset it made me and how I think it makes me look, but I want this to be an honest reflective blog with my downs as well as my ups.

The second pre-algebra class went MUCH smoother because I organized my thoughts better.  I also let them use their whiteboards all period.  There was several drawings of Spongebob but they were mostly on task.  I also used my big white board instead of my Promethean board.  Not exactly sure why...

On a more positive note, #MSMathChat last night was AMAZING! We had 32 people contribute 360 tweets in an hour!


There are a ton of new people who have joined the #MTBoS and it has been fabulous to talk with them! I hope I get a chance to talk more and help new people find groups and contacts that can help them.  Everyone who joins brings something that we didn't have before.  It's really beginning to feel like a family.

I feel a little weird promoting it as much as I do because I feel like a late-comer myself.  I only really joined twitter and the #MTBoS in March, but everyone has been so welcoming.  Also, I haven't just found this community supportive and helpful, but actually life-changing.  My wife, family and colleagues say that I am a completely different person this year and I attribute that to my involvement in this online community of life-long learners.


  1. Justin, Justin, Justin - don't beat yourself up so much! You are working so hard, and reflecting in a painfully honest way. Yes, we make mistakes - we download materials and don't try them out first - and we ALWAYS get caught with that - but you know that Standard for Mathematical Practice MP-1 "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them"? That's what you are doing. And everything you said, as far as I can see, shows that you are learning minute by minute from what is going on in your classroom. AND - big AND - the students have responsibility for learning. They are not babies that you need to spoon feed. So while it is your job to bring your best game, in whatever form that takes, the kids are not just these baby chicks that you have to pour math into. They need to meet you at least half way.

    BTW - I love the math/animal question - I'm going to use it tomorrow as we debrief from the PSAT - Wendy M.

    1. What's interesting is that as crappy as that lesson went, it was still MUCH better than anything that happened last year. If I had been keeping this blog last year, it would be spreading misery like cancer through the internet.

      You are absolutely right! I need to keep in mind that this is all a learning experience and remember to plan for tomorrow a little sooner than tomorrow.

      You're fantastic! Thank you for reading and posting!

  2. Justin,
    Last night's #msmathchat was my first Twitter experience, and as overwhelming as it was, I really enjoyed being a part of the community! Thank you for that.
    This is also my first time checking out your blog and I'm really enjoying it. Thank you for honest reflections. I'm feeling really inspired, but also really intimidated my this whole online math community, so it's nice to hear that we're all just doing our best each day and trying to learn from each other. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you so much for coming by! It was great having you in #MSMathChat last night! I don't want you to think that that was typical. It's usually about half that speed at the most.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. I don't expect a lot of readers because of the lengths of my posts, but I hope that those who do find it helpful. This job is REALLY hard and anyone who thinks otherwise is doing it wrong. There are tons of resources out there and #MTBoS is the best one I've found.

      This time last year, I was ready to leave teaching. I had planned for this to be my last year, get my loan forgiveness and then move to another career. I'm so thankful to have found this community and be reinspired myself. If you ever need help or just someone to talk to or vent at, don't forget that we are here!

      I look forward to reading about your journey!

  3. Hi Justin,

    Great post. I read everyday, but don't usually comment. After reading this post, I thought you could use a comment. You are doing a great job. It sounds like you are doing your best to teach the kids in your class that want to be taught (and even trying to drag along those that don't). I always struggle with the I want to do this....but I have to teach this. I think it is a struggle we all face. Remember each time you teach it is a learning experience. If something flops it is an invitation to try again. No one knew how to ride a bike on the first try. What makes you a great teacher is that you are willing to change and revamp. You don't seem to be satified with teaching the same thing everyday for 30 years. You want to be the best teacher you can for your students. To do that you do have to have some lessons that fail, otherwise, how can you get better?

    1. You are absolutely right! I preach the gospel of mistakes to my students daily, telling them that without mistakes, we can't learn. I should be telling myself the same thing.

      When Edison was asked about the 10,000 failures he had in making the light bulb (yes, I know it was actually Tesla) he said: "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward"

      Or something like that.

      I haven't failed at teaching this lesson. I simply found a way that doesn't work. Time to look for something new!

      Thank you.

  4. I also often read and blogs and don't comment, but many of your words in this post could have been mine in the past couple of weeks. I've been really struggling with my ninth grade class, and hearing about what's going on for you is really reassuring and inspiring. I have been beating myself up for doing lots of practice (systems of linear equations) and not doing as many hands-on/project-oriented stuff. I also have fallen into the trap of getting really excited about a great way of introducing something, and then having it bomb because I wasn't prepared enough.

    My department chair and I were making goals the other day, and she suggested that I consider ways to be more kind to myself and to focus on some of my successes. Like you described, I have a tendency to think that when things don't go as I had hoped, it's mostly because I wasn't prepared enough or that I screwed up.

    I am so grateful that you are willing to share your struggles. It helps to humanize the whole experience and reminds us that we are all in this together. It inspires me to participate in this community more than just observe it. Thank you.

    1. I used to be very lonely in my job. I used to think about the solitude that I faced in my classroom of me vs. the students and no one I could turn to. I had people in my department who would sympathize, but it turned into a negative spiral.

      Things have changed entirely for me and I realize that solitude as a teacher is a choice. There are tons of people out there who want to reach out and help, even if they don't exist in my own school. That's not to say that my department is bad. They are fabulous but they don't always offer what I'm looking for.

      If you don't already have a blog, you should start one called One Awesome Thing where you write about one thing that happened each day that you think you did well. You can talk about failures too, but it will ensure that you see the good you're doing.

      Just my 2 cents. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it!

  5. hey Justin! I had to come back a few days to catch up. I can't help but feel bad that this lesson didn't go so well when I kind of said in my post I just threw the picture on the board and everything was wonderful. I did set them up with problems, but just taking the textbook problems and relating them to the candy bar.
    I am really impressed by how you blog every day! I need to start doing that too!

    1. Oh god! Don't feel bad! In all honesty, I only skimmed your post and didn't even prepare the questions I wanted to ask. I made assumptions and didn't try the problems. I made my own bed and it was not your fault at all.

      If anything, I wanted so badly to make it better than todays lesson went AMAZINGLY well. I did the planning for it and saw where I wanted it to go.

      Even though I crapped the bed on this day, I rocked it on the next! You're awesome for the idea!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...