DITL – A Thursday

6:00 am – Wake up and get 3 year old ready for preschool. She tells me she I should go back to bed and rest because apparently daddy is better at telling stories at breakfast. I’m not going to argue ūüôā

7:00 am РStart the drive north to drop said child off at school. I spend at least 1-1.5 hours commuting in the morning and at least that much in the afternoon. I work in downtown Seattle and the cost of childcare and rent are far above my monthly salary, so the commuting is painful,  but unfortunately necessary.

8:30 am – We got five new students today. Our site has 4 teachers, one of whom is out this week. She is the scheduler extraordinaire, so I normally don’t have to do much of the paperwork of new students but I make them a temporary schedule and give them a quick tour of the school.

9:00 am – First period is Geometry. We are working on angle relationships with traversals. Students are tasked with taping the floor and measuring angles.They gallery walk the floor and make predictions. Hopefully a little dancing is in order by the weeks end.

A staff member from our central center stops by to check on the new students, touch base with the ones who started the week before, and give us some paperwork.

9:50 – Second period starts. These are my seniors who are putting together a portfolio of work to get ready for the state test. Its a small group so lots of one on one work to help fill in individual gaps.

A parent stops by to discuss her daughter and the plan for her this week.  We make plans to check back in next week.

10:40 – Third period is advisory. I have the juniors and we are working on graduation plans and job/internship searches But first we have a community circle. This is year two of circles and they are going well. Today we talk about police shootings, protests, and the media. Its an intense, but important 15 minutes. We switch gears to planning and goal setting. Lots of our students have interesting high school histories so getting realistic pictures of what needs to be completed for graduation is important. One student actually found out he had caught up and is now ahead of his scheduled graduation, but a few others are getting the opposite realization. We make plans and timelines to complete classes. I edit a few resumes.

11:20 – Fourth period is Bridge to College Math. (If you are seeing a pattern, in that I have completely different classes all day, ding ding, its true. No getting bored here). its my biggest class and always full of energy. We are digging into equivalent expressions and student misconceptions. Students get in small groups and are off and running. If all my classes could look like this hour I’d be thrilled.

12:05 – Lunch!! and even more exciting PREP!!!! We didn’t have a prep period the first two years so having 45 minutes that I can count on (at least most days) is amazing. I still take home hours of planning, but to have the space to make copies, check in with students, and take care of the mountains of paperwork I always seem to have is nice. ¬†Today I mostly try to get more information on our new students to make sure they are where they should be in terms of scheduling.

1:25 -Sixth period is first semester Algebra.  Most of the students have attempted this class two or three times. The skill levels are all over the place from trying to learn about adding negatives to students who failed the class only due to attendance or other issues.  We have more flexibility here and I used standards based grading so  students are working on different parts of the content. Introduce a group problem then introduce concepts as needed to each student.  All the new students are registered here, but a few think when we get transcripts they might be elsewhere. I get them settled in, make a note to send some emails about transcripts, but jump them right into class, assuring them it will count for credit even if they switch classes.

2:15 – Seventh period is second semester Algebra. Only two students are here today. We work on factoring polynomials. Its quiet, but productive. The change from the earlier scramble to get the new students settled is appreciated.

4:00 – Start the drive north to daycare. Traffic is even worse in the afternoon. I get rear-ended ūüė¶ But the other driver seems nice, we exchange insurance, hang out while the police report is filed. ¬†I get ¬†my husband to go get our daughter while I wait.

5:30 – Home. Cook dinner. Play with daughter. Start on my own homework (I’m working on a Masters in Finance) and Prep for tomorrow. I actually get to bed around 12:30am. ¬†A few more hours until I do it all again….minus the car wreck hopefully.



Bridge to College Part 1

We are now just over a week into the school year. Its my second year in the same building, third with the same school (A record for me and my crazy moving lifestyle) which is both exciting and scary.

It is also year two of a new pilot math class I took on last year which is intended to help students who struggle with math get ready for college by way of deeper understanding on math practice and content standards they have mostly already seen. I really like the focus on going deeper not wider and showing the students that they are all mathematicians.¬†I had a great little group to pilot it last year and I was worried going into this one, but I’ve been blown away by their willingness to jump out of comfort zones and into the work. The class also comes with some PD to look at student work and discuss teacher practices which has been great.

My goal is to blog about this class more this year. I’m asking the students to really focus on communicating their thinking, so I’m trying to do so as well. I want to reflect on student thinking, the challenges my site presents, and importantly, my teaching and where I can grow.

We opened the first unit with two questions: When is estimation appropriate?  How can you take advantage of the structure of an expression/problem?  And the MPS focus was constructing viable arguments.

Task One: Bucky the Badger. We watched the clip and split into groups. I tried out two techniques I haven’t had a chance to use yet: Visual Random Grouping (kind of silly with a class of 6-10 students, but fun anyways) and Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (Amazing. Had some complaints about standing, but they wrote more, tried more strategist and had more all around participation.)


After the groups came up with an estimate, they were tasked with explaining why it was reasonable. We had a quick whole group chat about order of the points and then split up to find a smallest possible and highest possible push up value  before watching the reveal clip.

We then had a quick discussion about the class itself. They felt really proud that they were close and we looked at the ‘math’ involved in the problem. Mostly addition. The idea that even basic math can be a powerful tool is one I want them to take away from the class. Its not about how many advanced theorems you have memorized, but how you are able to apply what you do know and know when you need to learn a new math strategy to go further.

We ended with a quick Illustrative Math task around reasoning about place value. Again, an easy entry problem to set up larger discussions. Small pieces of knowledge add up when you look for structure and patterns. The class does get into more typical high school math type content soon, but the first unit is really about building up the idea of how the class is going to run in terms of expectations, group work, communication and writing required as well as reminding them that¬†taking advantages of what you do know, you can solve problems you’ve never encountered before. This is not a learn the steps, do the practice¬†class. I don’t teach like that anyways, but this class is specifically built up to avoid it.

Moving forward, I want to capture more student examples and conversations to share here. This is such a great class, full of students who have historically ‘failed’ at math who are being amazingly brave and owning their work. Its been a week and I’m excited to see where the year goes.