Friday, January 30, 2009

Checking the Annual Report Off My To-Do List

I really like Dan Meyer's annual report contest. (Even though I treat it more as a meme.) Despite it being a change in the calendar, January never feels like the change of year to me. My life calendar always seems to shift in the summer months. So pausing mid-year to reflect on the changes reveals interesting behavior patterns to myself.

I wasn't sure I'd get slides done this year. Last night I sketched out some ideas in my journal and created them this evening. I'm not totally happy with everything--slides aren't as consistent as I'd like--but tweaking them to perfection is not going to be the best use of my time this weekend.

So for now, here you go.

Edit: Feb. 2, 10:56 pm. Realized last night that the labels on slide 4 were incorrect. Not that anyone else will care, but the corrected version is below.

A few final reflections.

The background picture is busy. But I wanted something that fit the "Comfort" theme. I'm waiting for some slippers to arrive, but planning on spending this weekend cozied up in PJs. You don't get much more comforting than a baby blanket.

I like not having the scale shown on these. Full confession, I did not track all of this data, so some of the numbers are guessed. My personal favorite slide is the one with the least fact behind it and my least favorite is the one where I can tell you the numbers exactly. Go figure.

Thanks to Dan for putting the challenge out there. And thanks to everyone else who got their entries in before me for the inspiration to create mine.

(A note to Alice Mercer: I really liked the text as background on your slides and originally planned on adapting that idea. I had planned on using my parent's pizza recipe (I freestyle mine anymore), directions to a friend's ranch, the pattern for the lace shawl I knitted, and the text from last year's entry to the same context.)

With that, I'm off to bed and the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What We're Up Against

"Ms. Cannon, how old are you?"


"Man, if I was twenty-three, I wouldn't be teaching. I'd be living it up. What are you doing teaching?"

"Because then I get to see your face make expressions like that one."

"I'd be living it up. I wouldn't be a teacher and I wouldn't be teaching Indian kids."

"Wait. Why wouldn't you be teaching Indian kids?"

"Because we're dumb, man."

It's not a unique conversation. But it's the internalized negative stereotypes that we work to prove wrong. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Welcome Back (Part 2)


I'm beginning to hate the word. I don't care why you're not here, I just wish you were.

It's an epidemic here. Students who had 90 percent attendance were honored at last year's awards ceremony. (For any nonmath people, that's rewarding students who missed a day every two weeks.) As the first semester ends, I have multiple students with 20+ absences. They've already missed a month of school.

For today, I'm not worried about how to change that behavior. Though, if you have suggestions I'd love to hear them. I want ideas on how to welcome students back.

What I'm Doing to Cope with Absences

A list of various techniques in no particular order.
  • Using an adaption of Dan's concept quiz system. You need to know the material. I don't need you to make up every worksheet.
  • Providing two nights to complete "homework" assignments.
  • Listing all assignments on GCal. (So that I can see what you missed when you return. Few students have access to internet.)
  • Maintaining a filing system where for notes. Students are supposed to go to the folder and find anything they are missing. (Often we work on one set of handouts for two days.) They ask a friend for help or come in for...
  • Tutoring after school. Or before school if you make sure I know you're coming in. Or during lunch if you let me know in advance*. 
  • Sending work home. I'm not as proactive on this as I aspire to be. But I try to have something ready for students coming by with an advanced makeup slip. Seen one student actually do the work.
  • Trying to remind students of what they missed. While they're doing warm-up journals I try to visit with everyone. It's a brief chat, but hopefully allows me to tell them  I missed them, find out why they were absent, and let them know what we did.
Still Short

Some students do not need to be in school everyday. One of my top students was dropped over the weekend. It doesn't change the fact that he's aced all the concepts.

But most students aren't that lucky. When they miss school, they fall behind. They don't know what's going on, feel dumb, won't try the next assignment, don't learn it, miss more school... Vicious, vicious cycle.

I hope this isn't as big of an issue elsewhere. But I know very few people make it though a year with perfect attendance.  What strategies work for you to help students get back to class? Thanks for any inspiration.

*The last one is rare because by that point in the day I really do need to go to the restroom/microwave food/visit with other teachers for support.

Welcome Back (part 1)

I came back from Christmas break to have four of my students suspended. They'd gotten in trouble with alcohol and drugs over break. Later in the week another two were suspended for drugs, one was suspended for fighting, and one is no longer coming to my class because she's pregnant and struggling with morning sickness.

They started coming back today. It's the same old game of catch up, but with the added pressure of grades due on Thursday.

I know these problems are everywhere. I know I sheltered myself from them at my high school. I wish my students could hide from them too.