Friday, November 17, 2017

What I Learned in Jury Duty

I had jury duty this week and was out all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday (we were dismissed on Thursday at lunch and I came RIGHT back to school).

Jury duty was...well, jury duty. Not much to say there.

For me, the bigger implication of jury duty was having a chance to reflect on where teaching falls in my life. Especially in October and November, it is easy for me to feel DEVOLSON burnout. I get caught up in the transactional component of teaching high school math--tests, struggling students, submitting progress grades, staff meetings, meeting about staff meetings, etc.

But stepping away for a few days helped me realize that while the transactional nature of my role as teacher sometimes feels the most urgent, it is not the most important part of my role. The relationships I build with students are the most important part of my job. And those relationships are what get me up every morning--even in the cold, dark months of October and November (confession: I live in California, so it's not really that cold).

While on jury duty, I would come to school at 6am, get everything ready for the substitute that day, then head to the court by 9am. In essence, I was only doing on the transactional part of my job: making copies, making answer keys, answering emails, grading work from the day before. And it felt soulless.

But this also helped me realized that the magic of teaching is in the relationships. The reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I can trod through all the urgent transactions that make up teaching, is because the important relationships that are at the heart of teaching are what satisfy me.

When I grade student work or answer an email from a student, I often only get a sense of what isn't going right. And I need to do that--it is part of my job. But when I work with a student in my class and see them attempt a problem, struggle, talk to a peer, try a different approach, and then make progress towards a solution, I have the honor of being part of that student's learning process. I have the honor of witnessing them grow intellectually and emotionally and in the process I build a relationship with that student. And that is what's important; that is why I teach.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Stats Project Part –2

I've wanted to try PBL in math for a while now. Two things were holding me back. First, there is a lot to PBL and I wasn't ready as a teacher to tackle all that until this year (maybe...we'll see). Second, I don't think PBL is a natural fit for mathematics. It is hard to have authentic, public projects that align with some of the content I teach in algebra--solving for example.

However, last year I realized there was an opportunity for me to teach my Statistics Unit using PBL. Stats is real life! What a great opportunity to come up with an authentic, public project that aligns with the content.

In January, I'm going to teach the Stats Unit via PBL for my Sheltered Algebra class. Sheltered algebra is for recent immigrants to the United States. The students have low English proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Some students speak conversation English, some speak no English. Most of the students are Latino, however, I also have students from China, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, and Palestine.

Thus, any blog posts about the Stats project are "pre unit".

I expect this project to be messy. There is a lot I've thought about and planned for; but there is a lot of things that I know will catch me off guard and I cannot plan for those things. I will be sharing my experience (good, bad and ugly) on my blog.

The Project

Since my class is for recent immigrants to the US, and since the topic of immigration has such a prominent place in the current environment, it seemed like a natural fit to do the Stats PBL project around immigration. 

The driving question for the unit is: how can we use statistics and storytelling data to help the public understand of the impact of immigration on our country? 

Students will choose a subtopics under the larger umbrella of immigration: 
  • Immigrants take jobs from US citizens
  • Immigrants cause an increase in crime
  • Most immigrants are here illegally
  • Immigrants don't pay takex and are a drag on the economy
  • We can build a wall to stop immigration

Language Production

The biggest challenge in terms of teaching this unit and having students access the content is going to be language. Thus, I've started teaching the language they need for the project they will begin in January now (in early November). 

At the start of the lesson today, I showed students this graph and asked them to describe it

They said things like "going up" "going down" they named the countries on the graph. After a few minutes I stopped them and told them we need to learn specific language in order to describe this graph. And we started a lesson on using the words increasing, decreasing, and constant to describe a relationships between variables in different representations (graphs, tables, and patterns). We relied on this sentence frame to help make sense of the math: 

We also learned how to identify the inputs and outputs in an representation in order to help us describe the relationship between variables in the representation. 

Then we came back to the original graph showing trends in immigration to the US. The students were quick to apply their new language to tell me that "immigration from Mexico is decreasing" and "immigration from India is increasing". I asked them if that was always true and got a resounding, full-class "NO!". Great. That was my goal. :) 

We then talked specifically about immigration from Mexico/India/China increasing from _______ to _______ and decreasing from _______ to _______. 

I asked them why the immigration from various countries was increasing or decreasing. Many students said the economy--which was interesting. 

Overall, a good start. I was super happy with their interest in the graphs and their willingness to try to describe "messy" real-life data using the sentence frame and language from the lesson. 

Mini Presentations

The Stats Project will require students to apply mathematical content, but it will also require students to presenting information to the public. Thus, we've been working on public speaking for the last 3 weeks. 

Students have been giving "mini presentations" to small groups in class. Each mini presentation has a rubric assessing public speaking skills like posture, eye contact, or voice.

Below are the three assignments I've given them. I usually assign the presentation on a Friday, always doing my own example presentation, and they give their presentation the following Friday. I've been BLOWN AWAY on their willingness to get up in front of a small group (5-6 students) and share something about themselves--in English. I've also been impressed by the quality of their presentations. I have to say, I'm a very proud teacher. These kids are amazing.

Personal Presentation #1

Goal:  To improve your presentation skills and teach your group something about you.

What do I share?  
ONE personality trait or hobby or something unique about you that will help your classmates get to know you better. 
Also, you must include evidence (examples that demonstrate this part of you and your life).

How long is the presentation?  30 seconds – 1 minute

Requirements (what’s graded)
   Focus Presentation Skill: Posture
   Accurate Length of Presentation
   Accurate Content (1 personal detail + evidence)
   Preparation (proof of planned speech – notecards, paper, etc. )  * Bonus for memorized speech


Personal Presentation #2

Goal:  To improve your presentation skills and share an academic achievement.

What do I share?  
ONE academic achievement you are proud of.   
Also, you must include evidence (give examples and/or data that illustrate your achievement).

How long is the presentation?  30 seconds – 1 minute

Requirements (what’s graded)
   Focus Presentation Skill: Eye Contact
   Accurate Length of Presentation (30 seconds to 1 minute)
   Accurate Content (1 academic achievement + evidence)
   Preparation (proof of planned speech – notecards, paper, etc. )  * Bonus for memorized speech

Personal Presentation #3

Goal:  To improve your presentation skills and share something you learned when you made a mistake.

What do I share?  
Tell us about a time you made a mistake and something you learned from that mistake.
Also, you must include evidence (give examples and/or data that illustrate your achievement).

How long is the presentation? 1 minute-2 minutes

Requirements (what’s graded)
   Focus Presentation Skill: Voice: Audible from the back row and one dramatic pause.
   Accurate Length of Presentation (1 minute-2 minutes)
   Accurate Content (1 mistake + evidence)
   Preparation (proof of planned speech – notecards, paper, etc. )  * Bonus for memorized speech

I'll keep posting on lessons that lead up to the Stats PBL Unit in January. 

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