Excited that I will be attending the annual Ontario Association for Mathematics Education (OAME) conference in Kingston, Ontario in May. Apparently, registration has been filling up fast. I got a reminder email to sign up for workshops, so these were my choices.
The first one in the list is actually mine! I’ll be running my workshop Thursday, May 11th as one of the very first sessions. This means that the groups will likely be small – Saturday mornings tend to be the most populated – but I’m happy that it’s in the beginning, I get it over with, so I don’t have to stress out about it for two days and struggle to enjoy the conference itself!
I haven’t done any planning at this point – no surprise – but I had made rough notes after doing a webinar on NOMA. This will be the basis for my presentation. So I’ve got the skeleton, but I just haven’t fleshed it out yet.
Some other chores that are keeping me busy :
- Starting new units on trigonometry in both Grade 10 and 11
- Trying to get transcripts of my online course so I can expense it to the school board
- Getting marking done for the end of term 2, which is on Thursday
- School board applications – two more deadlines this coming week
- Getting another reference letter from an administrator
It’s been rather busy since coming back from the holidays and although it’s slowed down a bit with the completion of my online course, other things just pile up!
I’ll feel much better after then end of this coming week!
Perhaps I take after my dad in this way, but I like counting points. On my last conference to Montreal in early April, I managed to cash in on the Air Creebec flight and get 1000 Aeroplan points out of it!
Not that I have much right now, somewhere around 30,000 points? I don’t think I can do much with these points just yet, but it’s nice to have the option for a flight or two in the future!
My first year as a full-year, classroom teacher is coming to a close. It’s been a good year.
While I loved my last job as a science and math tutor, managing a classroom is completely different. In the last job, I got to work with a choice pick of kids – the ones that wanted to attend, wanted to work and had a strong drive. In the classroom, you’re managing everyone. You have to try to motivate even those hanging at the lowest rung and are doing everything in their power to make you miserable.
While it’s hard to summarize the entire year, I thought I’d throw down a few thoughts about each grade I’ve worked with:
- Secondary 1 Science: This was my Achille’s Heel. It took the whole year to get a handle on this class of 18. I was constantly researching different class management strategies. I eventually settled on ClassDojo, which they enjoyed. ClassDojo worked moderately well, but the effect wore off towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, there are still a few kids who constantly derail anything and everything. The class stressed me out that I ended up deprioritizing follow-up after class (i.e. detention, punishment, etc.); this hurt me in the long run and only encouraged misbehaviour. Another factor that makes this class difficult is that there are several students with extremely low literacy skills; they struggle to follow along, read or write. I had to cut out the units on astronomy and structures, due to the interruptions and the slow pace of this class. The last day of class was actually a complete disaster, but the way I handled difficult situations made me realize I had come a long way and that it had been a few months since I had such a stressful afternoon. Next year however, I will not be teaching this course (phew) but will have to approach the students in secondary two with a better plan.
- Secondary 2 Science: Term 1 was the hardest, but by second term, it started to smooth out. There were lots of bullying issues amongst the boys, who couldn’t seem to get their hands off each other. I still remember the day the principal had to walk and warn the students that even playfighting was going to result in an automatic suspension. I was lucky that the homeroom teacher, I., communicated with me regularly, as she was right across the hallway from me. I. also guided me a lot and made me realize how important it is to give parents a call right away; the impact of two teachers contacting a parent meant that we saw changes a lot more quickly in a student’s (mis)behaviour. Also, having the cellphone ban start in February actually helped give me some power and control. All I had to do was give the stinkeye, then press the intercom button, so that an administrative staff would come upstairs to take away a cellphone or an electronic device. The class responded well with rules, as long as I stayed consistent. This was actually one of my favourite classes, because the students were academically one of the strongest, hardest-working groups; they also had strong literacy skills and language acquisition skills that put them ahead. As well, they were verbal and often let me know when they needed help (a trait lacking in a lot of students here). I look forward to teaching them in secondary 3.
- Secondary 3 Science: There were two separate groups of secondary 3 and they were practically night and day. One class was large, boisterous and full of energy; the second could have been in a contest to see who spoke the least. In terms of the course, I had 6 classes per cycle, giving me lots of time to get the class moving together despite the inconsistent attendance. I liked this course, but had to cut out some major components, such as meiosis, sound waves and ray diagrams on concave/convex mirrors (didn’t have the equipment, but ordered it for next year). I hope to get more in depth with the curriculum next year.
- Secondary 4 Science: I was very serious when I ran this course and very firm with my class management. Since I had specialized in the curriculum for the previous 2 years prior to joining the school board, this was my baby. I made it very clear from the beginning of the year that students needed to work hard to pass the course (many kids across the board drop out of high school altogether because of this course). I worked them hard and got a lot of work done; they knew that the expectations in the class ran very high. Generally, I felt this course went very well, but made the mistake of not having incorporated enough hands-on labwork. It could have been more fun and I would have loved to do more chemistry, explore climate change in more exciting ways and build neat circuit projects with the students. I also wish I had more time to incorporate study strategies. Four periods a week with the students did not seem like it was enough.
- Secondary 4 Science with Secondary 5 Students: I didn’t have a strong relationship with the seven students that started. And since these were students that had failed the course before, I should have put more time to set up a very warm, inclusive environment right off the bat. The attendance, however, was amongst the worst. There were days where no one showed up, even if I knew they were somewhere in the building. We had some good, productive days together, but how do you not feel disappointed when a student disappears for weeks or months at a time? I’m hoping that there will not be a separate class next year; it would be beneficial for all the students to be together.
Here are also a few things that stood out in my mind:
- After-School Detention: This was a new set-up in our school. In previous years, there was no such system in place. Teachers write names down for those who showed up late or were skipping more than 2 times. I wasn’t quite as consistent towards the end of the year, but it would get the attention of a few kids and cause them to turn around. When I had detention duty, it also gave me the opportunity to bond with the students and give them one-on-one time. It was beneficial as it allowed me to develop trust in a more intimate setting, away from the distraction of the student’s peers. It gave me an opportune chance to discuss why they were in the room in the first place.
- Taking initiative: I feel that I made a good impression with the administration. I have shown initiative here and there (i.e. setting up the Smartboard sales meeting). I’m a nerd; I’m far more interested in curriculum and professional development, than I am in community projects or field trips. I would also love to do training for other teachers.
Areas of improvement that I should work on:
- Long-range Planning: I didn’t have a strong long-range plan, which caused me to fall behind on different courses. Big project for August. Perhaps I’ll reach out to other teachers to see what works well for them.
- Lab Safety: I did not start off with a strong lab safety component at the beginning of the year. I definitely need to do this next school year.
- Timing: Down south, most teachers would be at school an hour before the bell rang. There were many days where I was running in 10 minutes prior. I need to nip that bad habit in the bud. 8:15 am would be a good time to be in school to make photocopies, prepping and pulling out lab equipment.
Since I had a great time last year at the OAME conference in Toronto, I wanted to attend again. Of course, it had to be a week after Goose Break. Sighhhh. But wait, it was available online this year to anyone living over 100 km away!
On Friday, with permission from the principal, I took the day off to attend my first eConference ($100).*
I participated in three live-streamed lectures by Jo Boaler**, Dan Meyer (pictured below) and George Couros. Although it wasn’t set up for any other workshops or lectures, the three of them were amazing! We even had a live chat with other teachers who were attending online and there was some lively debating going on.
I’m glad that I participated. These types of events help keep teachers focused and interested in their work. Enthusiasm can be contagious!
*This is the first year that the OAME tried running an eConference. Anyone living more than 100 km is eligible for it. The board would not cover the expenses since it was out-of-province, and I did not give sufficient notice for it to be considered. I took an unpaid day to attend. Perhaps next year I could get it covered?
**Funny enough, I was actually browsing Boeler’s books on Amazon just a few weeks ago, perhaps I will buy one after all. You can also read this article she wrote on The Atlantic.
I took a day off from training at the office. Instead, I had a great day at the OAME conference at Seneca College. I attended four workshops back to back and just felt re-inspired to make math fun. It was also great to see other teachers using the same techniques for teaching integers and algebra with manipulatives.
What I was most impressed with was Wendy Hill, who showed us that, who refuses to use the times table, she can get kids learning their number facts by running around on a carpet! Here’s a clip that I took at her workshop:
I didn’t do as much networking as I had intended. However, I’ve realized that I am better at giving a good impression in a professional setting. Two years ago, at the last teaching conference I had attended, I remember feeling very shy and withdrawn. On Friday, I carried myself with confidence and openness; other attendees were interested in my work and offering me networking advice with professors and researchers who study with First Nations communities. As I’d mentioned in the recap of my April goals, I’m definitely going to try connecting with some of the speakers I saw at the conference.
I definitely love teaching math, much more than I do science. Perhaps if I get more involved, I will find myself running a workshop at OAME years from now. Either way, I hope I will get to go again next year.