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Three Days In…

August 18, 2011

After my initial burst of energy creating this blog and commenting away at the Building our Classroom project, even going so far as to join Twitter since that seems to be what all the happening educational bloggers do, I’m a little disheartened that I haven’t found as much time for this as I would have liked. Nor do I really understand how to use Twitter – I feel like the only way I’m using it effectively is to eavesdrop on inspiring people having conversations with each other. I feel like the guy pretending to read the newspaper in the diner, when really I’m fascinated by the conversation taking place in the booth behind me.

Anyway – here’s where I’ve been:

Arizona, the desert that it is, starts school early – as in, August 15th was the first day. Today marks the end of my third day. So, I’ve been busy. My class sizes have ballooned to an average of 30 students per class. Since I’m working in a school where the entire math department is new, I have no frame of reference for my students – no one has any idea who works hard, who is a trouble maker, who is lazy, etc (which is a good thing – all my students get a clean slate). So, a major goal for this first week has been to meet my students, introduce myself to them, and prove that I am someone who is worth their time (which may be me projecting a bit too much of myself onto how my students perceive me).] Early on, I decided to make a list of goals broken down by the end of the first day, end of the first week, and end of the first month. Here’s how that turned out:

By the end of the first day, I want my students to…

  • Know my signal for refocusing
  • Know where they’re sitting for the first few weeks
  • Know the name of their neighbors (this was my posted objective for the first day)
  • Have a conversation with their group

By the end of the first week, I want my students to…

  • Know how the first 5 minutes of class work
  • Be trained to turn to their partner and share an answer when necessary
  • Be trained to have tight transitions between group work and whole-class discussions
  • Have turned in at least 1 real homework assignment (‘real’ meaning not just a syllabus signature, questionnaire, etc – although I did do both of these too)
  • Know how tardies, absences, leaving the classroom, and all of that other Harry Wong procedural stuff work (although the only thing we practice explicitly, on the first day, is the refocusing signal)
  • Have taken a pretest so I can gauge where their mathematical ability is
Also by the end of the first week, I should know all of their names well enough to greet them in the hall and recognize which period of mine they’re in.
Thinking about staggering procedures and routines by 1st day, 1st week, and 1st month has been a useful exercise – it makes the first week seem easier to handle, as opposed to the impending sense of doom and pressure I felt after reading half of Harry Wong’s The First Days of School – the pressure to cover every rule and every procedure in the first class is tremendous and unnecessary. It also made me realize I had a day or two of slack for some of the classroom routine questions on the Building our Classroom website – students don’t need to know how to turn in homework until I actually assign it (although I need to think about this at least a day in advance).
Anyway – In the next few days, I plan to share an activity I did on the second day which encouraged students to think about the habits of an effective teacher and a successful student, then used that to segue into classroom expectations (which worked out beautifully for me, but could have been troublesome for a less ‘think on their feet’ teacher). The interesting thing is that I realized after the fact that I had collected a lot of data about student perceptions of effective teachers and successful students – I’ve got a plan to get it organized in an interesting way and share it with my students, as well as you all out there in cyberspace. Also soon to come: geometry curriculum ideas… I hope…
Cheers – thanks for reading.
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One Comment
  1. I know exactly how you’re feeling about Twitter! I’m trying to get going with it, but I still feel like an outsider. Hopefully that’ll go away as we build our networks.

    By the way, I’m also teaching geometry this year as a first year teacher, so I would definitely like to see some posts about your ideas!

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