Its the second day of classes, and I have done my usual upsetting of student’s beliefs of what Math Class is in School, even one in a Juvenile Center. (Sorry I have taken a hiatus from the blog over the summer, but it was a much needed break and a lot of recharging) Before I dive into blogging about things we learned this year, I want to reflect on a couple of the challenges that I continually face here so you understand some more of the challenges teachers in my situation face.
First- because of confidentiality, there are many things that tie my hands as an educator. Although we can have some limited internet access, students continually find ways around firewalls and security to make contact with friends and family outside- which is a big No-No. Because of this, I don’t have the luxury of implementing many of the inter-tech goodness that I loved at my old school (losing Desmos in this way is really killing me!). I can’t video myself teaching, or students discussing things in class- and it’s very touchy for me even snapping pictures to post on this blog or Twitter. This almost throws me into old-school methods for a new-school teacher, which can be a challenge of its own. As such, I’ve had to be creative in what I do in order to keep things fresh in the classroom. I DO have a SMARTBoard, so I can at least give them access to some of those things through my computer and access.
Second- the nature of having students in a Juvenile Center means that they have done some things that are socially not acceptable. Many times the consequence of that is Separation- the inability to interact with a particular peer, or peers of the opposite sex. Once again the start of this year, my students were on multiple separations. I will have to wait a week (or until they earn their privileges back) before I can start instruction on group work. A result of this is that my room has not been set up in a work-station format instead of group-table format. This is how my room now looks:
(or, it looked this way pre-service as I was cleaning from summer classes/setting up)
As many of you who know me, this is killing my normal teaching routine/style. I try to keep my students working in groups and talking with each other about math as much as possible, so in an attempt for compromise between Center expectations and my own, I took two perimeter bookshelves from the room and placed them back to back in the center of my room. That gave the tables room to be placed around the outside of my room and it set up a space I am loving so far. I also teach LEGO Robotics so I need a workspace to run test tracks. The two bookcases left a large crack between them, which doesn’t make a nice workspace for assignments or robots (I would be worried about what I would find at the end of the year), so I built a counter-top for it, one made out of white panelboard so I can use dry-erase markers on it. I could have put in a work order for it, but the project only cost me $65 and a couple hours of work to assemble/finish the wood.
I am really liking this space so far, I have yet to use my whiteboard in class. I have the students gather around the center island workspace to work out problems and brainstorm. Students are also really liking the ability to write on the surface, stand and work, as well as having a more casual atmosphere for discussions. Talks are flowing more naturally, like they would if were were just standing around talking about what they were going to do later that night.
This group is pretty rough so far, there are many new faces and they are not used to my approach to math. Many have fully bought into the facade of mathematics: if they are smart/stupid, fast/slow, good at math/suck at math. These first few days have been different for them, a struggle against what they believe math is. They are having problems with they expect I want (procedures and answers) from them versus what I am asking of them (to just play with Math!). So far they have experienced WODB, Visual Patterns, Open Middle, Gemini Puzzles and Four 4’s. Tomorrow I will hit them with the 10 challenge from #BecomingMath, Estimation 180 and Graphing Stories.
This first week is about breaking down those established expectations and getting these Students in a place where they feel comfortable playing with mathematics.