Possibly not the most exciting blog post in history. Nor the most artfully written. Consider yourself warned.
Robotics: We scheduled two additional practices. Not that much progress has been made in the last few practices, for a multitude of reasons, some technical, some behavioral, some motivational… but the kids got really excited on Tuesday and worked really hard. We made a plan for presenting to the judges even though we haven’t really been successful at doing the research project, and now those kids are writing a play (and it’s pretty hilarious so far). The programmers are continuing to do good work but got stymied by the slow progress of the builders. We had a joint meeting and I sort of forced (er, coached) them to make some decisions about design and then stick to those decisions and work on troubleshooting rather than paradigm-shifting every time something goes wrong. As a result, during our first extra practice session today, they actually had a robot that they could test with the programs and fine-tune. The Bronx Tournament is December 8th at Lehman College, just in case you’re interested in supporting the future engineers of NYC. Bring earplugs and a camera.
Science: God help us, we will finish levers & pulleys next week. We’re writing our second lab reports of the year, focusing on writing clear, step-by-step procedures and on analyzing data, and it’s going well. Lots of work for me, though. Then it’s a brief unit on energy and the old Rube Goldberg Machine project, and then we get vacation!
Data: We collected – we being my school – tons of data this year so far, in every class. Each department decided what forms of data to collect. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to keep records of my kids’ progress by question or by rubric category for each major assignment. The TFA kids (er, teachers, just ’cause I’m getting old doesn’t mean I should also get patronizing) are required to track by performance standard. Some part of me resists that; perhaps it’s an overriding feeling that I don’t teach in neat little standard-based packages, but I still get my kids to master the standards. Still… the data we collected in Science seems marginally useful on the school-level, despite it’s value at the classroom-level. Would tracking by standard help? Am I becoming a dinosaur, content with what I do already and resistant to change?
Some interesting questions did arise because one teacher had students who knew 70% of the material on the pre-test, and only 75% on the post-test. First issue: are we wasting that student’s time teaching a lot of stuff s/he already knows? Or is it a test-taking skill rather than actual in-depth knowledge? Do assessments based on the 8th grade ILS exam really capture the depth of what we teach in class? If not, should we try to align our assessments and our teaching by changing one, the other, or both? Second issue: Did that student learn essentially nothing during the unit? Eek.
Kitchen: I am making at least six different dishes – all finger food – for a fancy party on Saturday. For this, I treated myself to four new high-quality (higher, anyway) pots & pans. They are beautiful, gleaming aluminum. Question: How do you store fruit tarts made a few days early? Freezer? Fridge? Airtight tin?
Gym: Sometimes the gym is just what’s needed. I still find the whole environment a bit strange, though… the lighting… the machines… the outfits… the TV. Using that much power to work off extra consumption (which, to be fair, is not everyone’s reason for being there). I try to avoid the treadmill so I can avoid the inevitable, Why am I not just running outside, seeing some nature, and saving myself $72 per month? Still… can’t argue with endorphins.
Books: How to Thrive as a Teacher Leader is fantastic. The experiences described and the solutions and strategies outlined feel so relevant and helpful. If you are in a non-administrative leadership position in your school and feel like you could use a little check-in, I highly recommend this book.
Differentiation: The group in my CMSP class who compacted out of the multiplication unit are working on learning about base systems, mostly independently. So far they have mastered binary numbers and are preparing explanations of how to add, subtract, multiply, and more using binary numbers. This stretches their understanding of what borrowing and carrying and place value are really all about. One girl figured out how base-5 would work. I gave them some starter worksheets, a small amount of instruction, and then five challenges, of which they must pick 4 and prepare short essays with example problems. This is how they earn a grade for this unit. Meanwhile, the other kids are learning multiplication much faster than they otherwise would have (I suspect – it’s hard to prove but certainly going faster than addition and subtraction).
Addiction: It’s a good thing Starbucks only sells peppermint mochas for about a month. Because this drink? It’s like crack to me. And almost as expensive. *sigh*