Catching My Breath

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How is it that we’re 6 weeks into the school year and this is my first time blogging?! It could be the fact we were out three days last week due to Hurricane Irma and the following two days were a whirlwind. Or the start of a personalized learning format has been taxing. I feel as though I haven’t been able to catch my breath.

My First Two Weeks

I wanted my Math Enrichment classes to be a place students wanted to come and learn math. I wanted it to be a place where they knew they had a voice and flexibility with a balance of structure. So we spent the first two weeks establishing our routines and procedures.

We had flexible seating in our classroom. Seats were assigned using playing cards. Students would enter the classroom, place their book bags near the door, find their seats and read the Daily Message. It worked well for us. Students never fought over who would sit where and they would have all materials needed for class before I was done greeting the last student.

Because students would work independent of my instruction, we needed clear expectations. What better way than for students to set the expectation for themselves. So each class participated in their own affinity map activity.

Each class had their own unique set of expectations in which they were held to during self guided work time. Of course I had to remind some that they in fact set the expectation they we currently not meeting. Ownership goes a long way.

The Work Began Week Three

We didn’t begin jumping into content until the 3rd week of school. The personalized learning curriculum developed for my course has 4 levels for each unit. I had all students begin at level 1.

Each day we were to complete self guided assignments, students would complete our goal setting form before diving into the assignments. At the end of the work session, students would complete a reflection form.

I was in a groove, and 5 weeks into the year, I was informed I was moving to 7th grade…

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Sneak Peek

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Like most people in my profession, my summer has been laced with relaxation and preparation for the coming school year.  I made this short (10 minutes) video for my collaborators of a new curriculum we’re planning to try this school year.

Just a little background before you view the video.

  • I’ll be teaching 6-8 grade math enrichment.
  • My max class size will be 20 students.
  • I will have access to 20 computers daily.

Personalized Learning Screencast

I’m open to feedback and suggestions.

If You’re Reading This, It Is Already Too Late

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If you’re reading this, it it already too late.  I have already begun to instill confidence in my students.  They, not I, have worked hard to develop their understanding of the 7th grade math concepts.  Even with a shaky foundation, they press forward through the productive struggle and have celebrated each milestone they have surpassed.  This cannot be contributed to superficial coverage of material to stay within some arbitrary deadlines of feeding information.  This comes from what people preach but very rarely practice, meeting the students’ needs.

No we haven’t spent weeks on the same topic and so we got behind, that’s way we implement small groups.  We’ve spent quality time building conceptual understanding, practicing the skill and applying the skill within contextual situations.  And yes, this takes time as any sustainable change does.

Many are pushing personalized learning, which is a complete joke when you say, “Everyone must be at this point in their understanding at this point in time”.  You cannot in one breath say, “Do what is best for your students”, then pigeon hold them to your time constraints.

So yes, it is too late.  My kids have already pleaded with me about not knowing what’s on your test.  I have walked around and watch students completely give up on trying because you are expecting them to show what they know about content which is currently foreign to them.  I’ve comforted a student who drew a line through his answer document as his confidence plummeted as he said to me, “I can’t pass this, I don’t know any of this.”  That’s not because he is not smart or because he is incapable of passing.  It is simply because we have not gotten to that content yet.

There has to be a better way.  We formatively assess but make it evaluative.  We push for personalize learning, but imply students must be at the same place at the same time in their learning.  We talk about student progress, but rank schools based on achievement, not growth.  And through all this students struggle to build resilience with a content it has become commonplace for people to say, “I’m not good at math or I’m not a math person”.

I almost didn’t post this.  But if you’re reading this, it is already too late.