Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Student Surveys and Crazy Days

   Today I had to take my core plus class down to the computer lab to take a survey on their learning styles. This is part of the requirements that we have on Teacher Observation years. Yes we get observed every year but every three years we have to do a portfolio and our observations are a lot more formal. I also need to do a student survey on what my students think of my teaching. I figured I could send the students to the website for this survey today too making good use of my time...but I was a little worried. Usually you want to do this on a day student are in a good mood. But today I was giving back their tests and a handful of students did very poorly. Surprisingly so.  So should I give the survey or not? Well I decided to go for it. Maybe there are things I could have done better for those 3-4 students and they will share it on the survey. I know not everyone will like my teaching style and I know there is always room for improvement. Probably why I spend my summers reading on ways to teach better. This year I have implemented a lot of changes and I hope in the course of the year it makes a difference in how my student perceive maths. I want them to know more than algorithms I want them to see the joy in it. In the process of taking these two surveys the students were just bouncing off the walls. (Maybe because they got me to "dab" ) in class?  Lol. I love my students and some days its just fun to have fun with them. Getting to see their personalities and letting them see a little more of my non-teacher side.  So this was a bit of a crazy class (glad it was only the last bell of the day). A little louder than I enjoy but still a day that gave me joy. Teaching is such a blessing and with all the changes this year I have found my joy in teaching again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Words have Power.

Words have power. Use them for Good. I teach 7th grade math. I was an elementary school major and a mathematics major in University.  I was driving a bus, raising my two girls and going back to school in between my bus runs and sometimes at night. My husband worked a lot and had no patience back then (he's much better now) so he wasn't much help back then. I worked hard. I had note cards that I studied while waiting for my students to come out of the school. I would fall asleep at night trying to study after cooking dinner, helping with homework and putting my girls to bed; so I had to get up extra early in the morning so I could get through my studies before I went on my bus in the morning. Did I say it was hard?
Flashback: 5th grade. I remember saying to my teacher that math is my best subject. I don't remember what my teacher said to me but I know that she essentially said that it really wasn't. I walked away and dismissed what she said. I remember thinking, "she doesn't know". I attribute this to my oldest sister Donna that always told me how special I was. (Back then it was a good thing, trust me.) In my sister's eyes I was the best thing ever. I had the potential to do anything. I think she fed me that message from the day I was born at least it felt that way. So when my teacher inferred math was not really my best subject I just knew she was wrong.
  See words have power. My sister gave me a powerful message that I was capable, I was special and those words transformed my life. She did not just say words to me she actually spent time with me, listened to me and poured into my life. My 5th grade teacher made one negative comment that could have been devastating to me if I listened to it. But I didn't. If I believed I was not good at math would I have kept working at it? Would I have given up in college when I was always at my professor's office hours or always the last one finishing the test?  I could have missed out on the joy I had when I finally figured out the projects in Abstract Algebra. I definitely would have missed the joy of teaching maths to students and hoping to pass my love of math onto my students.
  So this message is probably more to me than to anyone that could possibly read this but I want to ask you (and me): What do you want your words to do? Will your words discourage your children and students or will they give your children, students, family,  power and life? I've been guilty of both, I know it. But today I choose to pour life into my children, grandchildren, and students. I think I will bring a picture of my sister into my classroom this year. I need her to remind me when its the end of the day and that child is tweaking my nerves for the umpteenth time, I will see Donna and remember that my words have power and I want to use them to fill my students with confidence in themselves so when those inevitable negative comments come their way in the hallway, or school bus or where ever ...they can walk away and think "they don't know".

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Confessions of a Math Teacher

 So its been years since I have blogged but I am so inspired this year and .... well lets face it I really want to be a part of the Twitter community of teachers because you all inspire me to to do better.  I read a few teaching books this summer like most summers I am always looking for something that will help me in my classroom. But nothing has inspired me like Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. I have read different people on Twitter tweeting about problem solving; letting students struggle. A piece here, a tidbit there but not enough for me to get it. You know how to actually implement it in my classroom. Then I read  Mathematical Mindsets and my eye were opened (cue music and singing animals here). I was so excited that I went to YouCubed and signed up for the course on How to Learn Maths for teachers. I really am a visual learner. Seeing the videos really helped me.  But the real excitement for me is learning about a growth mindset. I see so many of my students faces from the past few years and now I know one of the reasons I could not reach them was they had a closed mindset. It bugs me that I let them down. I did not make math open and show them the beauty of it. I tried but I know I let them down. No I am not beating myself up, I am going to use those faces as a reminder NEVER AGAIN!
   My students and I will be on a journey this year to learn about Growth Mindsets. We will celebrate mistakes not gloss over them. I will give my students time to delve deeply and allow them time to struggle. I cannot totally throw out my pacing guide but I can creatively ignore it as much as possible. I have never been one to teach to the test. Yes I am guilty of teaching memory tricks but only after hands on learning and really teaching the math. I love math. I want to share my love with my students. So I am blogging again because I want to be accountable. I also need your help, this is new for me. But let me tell you I am sooooo excited for this year.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#mtboschallenge Week 4: First Week of School

  We have officially ended our second week of school and my students and I are finally starting to get into a good classroom routine.  Students have caught onto my “class”  “yes” routine which allows me to have students talk and re-teach each other concepts but allows me to quickly get their attention back and quiet down to move onto the next thing we are doing. Students found it strange on the first day but we are having fun with all the talking in class now. The more enthusiastic students are when they teach each other the more fun it is. Studies show when students are having fun they are able to retain and learn more information so hopefully I can tap into that part of their brains with this “Whole Brain Teaching” style. Its still a work in progress for me to remember to keep this up. But the more I do it the better it works. 
  I set my classroom up totally different this year with a table in the center of the room with supplies on it. It is working out great! Students can quickly get the materials needed for class. Its been working smoothly; students can needed materials quickly and back to their group without a wait.
 As the year progresses classroom management often gets away from me. I know part of the reason is that I do not spend enough time in the beginning of the year practicing routines, procedures and rules. I am making a point to do more of this this year. I did want to give students a list of procedures to put in their notebook but I had trouble editing it down to a short list, so that's out for now. But I do have classroom rules that I have posted and we have reviewed them daily. We have practiced some of the classroom routines and talked about expectations. I tend to get frustrated with students when they are not behaving in class the way I want them to but I must own up to not always telling students my expectations. I am not only talking but having students talk to each other about the expectations so I can listen to what they are saying and be sure that they truly understand.
 Here is my first week summary:
Day 1: Students make things with play-doh that represent themselves. I get to walk and talk informally with students. Then they share with me their creations and what it says about them. This is fun and shows me a different side of students. After that a quick power point of Mrs. Olsen's world showing where/what to do in class.
Day2: Go over classroom rules and expectations. Introduce "class" "yes" procedure. Math 7 students play a number line activity where they compare integers and the number with the greatest value wins. Its active and gives me a chance to walk around and see where students are in their understanding of the value or positive vs negative numbers.
Day 3: Review rule/procedures. Practice class/yes routine. Math 7 students play similar number line game as day 2 but today the number furthest from zero will be the winner. This game introduces the concept of absolute value without using the terminology.
Day 4: Review rules/procedures. Math 7 students play similar number line game putting the three days together. They roll to get their number and graph on the number line. After both partners have rolled they flip a coin that has n on one side and on the other the n is inside absolute value bars. If a student rolls the n they keep the number they have. If they roll the absolute value side they then take absolute value of their number. If its a change they need to move their playing piece. The winner is the number with the greatest value.
  All in all it was a good week. The activities eased students back into the school routine. They allowed them to talk and work and get their minds engaged back into school. Not bad for the first week. Just wish I was quicker at learning my students' names.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Classroom

  I always enjoy reading posts about other teacher's classrooms so I thought I would share my classroom this year. It hasn't changed too much in the past couple years. I was tired of the same old posters and wanted it to have a warmer feel so I looked at a lot of themes in Schoolgirl Style. I decided on a black white and red theme, though this year I added a few other splashes of color. Enough talking here are some pictures.

 Here is the view as you walk in the door.

 These show the front of my classroom

 See the cute polka-dot skirt I sewed for my podium? The holder on the end I got from Thirty-one. (My daughter sells it so I always know when the specials are on. But on special or not it is heavy duty and  keeps things organized.)
 The Bell drawer is where all papers are handed in. The black stacking holders are where students will find their work if they were absent. It frustrated me though when students did not come in to make up graded assignments so I attach a slip to their papers now that tell them if there was something graded they need to make up. In my pre-algebra classes I have students collect and fill out the slips for the missing people in their group. If you want to see the form leave me a comment and I will come back and add it. I would do it now
 The posters I do have are to add to the classroom community. I want students to know making mistakes is a part of math, actually its just a part of learning. The poster next to it is dear to my heart because a couple students made it for me a few years back. It says "In Mrs. Olsen's World everyone loves math". And that is truly my hope.

 I love my folder holder below the mistakes poster. I place all corrected papers in there by bell. The bottom one holds my homework clipboard.

 Love my Wordle poster. Got a great deal on groupon one time so I was able to make my classroom posters for next to nothing.
 Just some math signs to decorate the wall and keep with the classroom theme. Love my calculator caddy. No problem anymore when students forget calculators. I assign calculators by the number they are on my roll, so if one goes missing I know where to look.

 I added red and black fabric to an old bulletin board to spruce it up. This where fliers or announcements go. I found the stars on clearance and my husband spray painted them to match my theme.  To the left of this bulletin board I have sign that says family and I have pictures of my children with their families. Pictures of my grandchildren. And a big family picture (that keeps falling down.) I have tried every thing to hand the picture, but I think because its over the heating/ac vent the hooks and Velcro don't stick.

 I am putting classroom supplies in the middle of the class this year. I am hoping there will be less wasted time when students need to borrow glue or scissors, etc...

OK I saved the best for last. Here is my back wall. The math sign was inspired by Julie Reulbach though honestly I don't remember what, if it was a picture on her blog? I went to check her archives back to when I saw it but its not there but I do know the idea came from her so I wanted to give credit where credit is due.
 The hanging next to the sign I found at Bed Bath and Beyond. You know their coupons never expire right? So never pay full price.
 My Wordle poster, always feeding students a love of math.

 Oh I wanted to show you the skirt I sewed for my desk. I also covered my chair.It was an ugly rust cover but I love green and this bright one is just the right splash of color in my classroom.
 So that's my classroom. I hope you enjoyed it.. I really struggle with organization but I think this year I have everything set up for a fluid organized movement in class.
 I am so looking forward to school starting tomorrow and sharing my classroom with a whole new group of students. I hope that Mrs. Olsen's World will bring them a greater love of math and a desire to keep learning!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

First Day of School Plans #mtbschallenge

 I want to join in the the #MTBoSchallenge even though I know I am a little behind. The first challenge was to write about your first week's plans. But for me as this blogging thing is still new to me so I will just write about my first day plans.
  In my middle school we work in teams for the core subjects. As a team we usually extend our homeroom so we can hand out paper work, assign lockers etc...  Once my bells begin as they will be shorter to account for the longer homeroom time so I will only have 40-45 minutes at most.
   I definitely will do my intro to Mrs. Olsen's world Power Point.

This slide is followed of pictures of previous students holding up whiteboards with things they think my  new students should know. They say things like show your work, ask questions, do your homework,  etc... Next I address where to hand in papers. Should papers be put on my desk? My reply is a bold:
This may be a slight exaggeration, but I stress to students that all papers go in the bell drawer!! If they do anything else and it gets lost its on them. I struggle with organization and having a bell drawer works great for me. I only take papers out of the drawer when I am checking or grading them.

  After this brief Power Point I hand out Play-doh to all students. I give them 5 minutes to make something that tells me one thing about them. During that time I walk around and talk with students. There is always one or two students that have no idea what to make, so I  help them brainstorm something. Letting them know it does not have to be any great thing, just something small. I love it because the students have fun with it and it gives me a glimpse of my students and their interests. One student last year made a horse head because they ride horses. Another student made a ball because they play soccer. This is a no pressure, just a have fun activity. I did this last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. I then walk around have students share what they made and why.
  I don't cover a lot on rule or routines the first day. I know the first day of school students are having rules thrown at them all day and they remember very little. I try to address the routines and rules over the next week. I used to get frustrated students did not remember the rules/routines that I explained the first day of school, then I got a clue.  I now realize the key to students following routines and class rules is repetition, repetition, repetition. I did this better last year and will work on it again this year. I get a little self conscious talking about rules and routines daily for the first week or two so I do not always keep it up as much as I should. (In the beginning of the year I sometimes feel like an awkward 7th grader myself).The review only lasts a few minutes at the beginning or end of bell done more like a game. I know it will pay off in the long run if I work on routines and have students practice them, in the beginning of the year. I also plan on revisiting the rules/routines at the end of each quarter. This is just as much for me as for the students. I want to make sure I am staying consistent with my students. 
   So that is my first day, and little of what I plan for the week. What are you planning for your first day? 
P.S This is my first time putting pictures in my blog. How'd I do? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Inspired to try...

     Today I was reading a post from Andrew Stadel which led me to another post by Kate Nowak which made me think. I started blogging last year for a challenge but got frustrated with so many things I stopped. I was "going to" the middle school discussion nights on Twitter but had trouble navigating the conversations a bit, and felt like everyone knew each other and ...well I don't know anyone. Everyone was friendly, it was just me feeling inadequate. I used to love going on Twitter listening to a few conversations when I could. I checked out different blogs but last year I stopped. So here I am again wanting to try again and not knowing where to start. I want to be a better teacher. That's the truth. But I have a lot of constraints where I teach time wise. I read blogs that inspire me but wonder how can I do that? When I only have 8 days (including assessment) to teach fractions, decimals, percents and scientific notation. Changing from one form to another, comparing numbers in any and all forms. Yes I know what others would advise, I tell it to myself too: take what you can and implement it into your class. A little change here and a little change there will impact my classroom. And that's good advice. It must be as I gave it to myself. (said with a sarcastic voice).
     But there's more to the frustrated give up feeling I had last year. I work hard. Yes I know we are all teachers and work hard. Its just I am not efficient at it at all. It takes me a lot of hours and I accomplish little. So I am frustrated. If for three hours after school I feel like I accomplished something then I would feel great. But instead I feel like I searched for some great activity, found nothing, ran out of time and threw together a lesson because it had to be done. I love teaching and hate it at the same time. I hate that it takes me hours to accomplish nothing. I hate that I am always overwhelmed with school. I think if things don't change then I want to leave and do something else for a living.'s the but...when I have an 8th grade student stop by my room and tell me how much they love math this year I know I am where I am supposed to be. The student that hated math when they entered my door in 7th grade, left loving it. Yea! When I see the ''light bulb" go off in a student and they get it...really get it..I know I am where I am meant to be. So although I am not close to being ready to go back to school, I am ready to do better this year. I will read a few middle school blogs. I will try to remember middle school discussion night on Twitter. I will make myself leave school in a timely manner at least three nights a week because I need time with my family; a well rounded person makes for a better teacher.  And I will blog once a month to process what I am doing. I know no one may actually read it, and that's okay. I need to write and who knows maybe there is another over-whelmed almost ready to give-up teacher out there and they too will be inspired to keep on trying.