Monday, August 27, 2012

I do not think this means what you think it means...

Going into my 15th year as a teacher in my present school, I have participated in many, many professional development sessions.  We have 5 days before each school year, 2 full days during the year, and an hour and a half every single Friday.  While I can't say that every one has been essential, meaningful, and valuable to me, I can say that for the most part as a participant I feel my school's PD generally has the best of intentions to be purposeful and relevant to the school's needs and the needs of its students.

Tuesday's afternoon session was an exception.  This session was as out of place and as wanted as okra in the Northeast.  On our schedule it indicated that the topic of the session was on Bullying (awareness and prevention - not how to be a better one).  The presenter was from the outside world (i.e. not my school). This generally perks everyone up as novelty is preferable to the same typical voices that present our PD (mine include).

I was almost immediately confused. I really couldn't tell how the presenter was going to work from his introduction into bullying awareness and prevention.  Well, he didn't. He never touched on it.  The presentation turned out to be on peer-led conflict resolution.  After a half hour my brain finally shifted out of "this is supposed to be about bullying prevention" and opened to actually listen about what was being presented.  While in theory much of what was presented seems like it might work in a larger, public school setting I really couldn't see how this process could work with the systems we already had in place and with the language/cognitive challenges of our students.

The one bright spot in the training was the playing roles of students from (actual) scenarios we had contributed. My favorites included:

  • the poorly received assistance from an avuncular upper clansman and resulting hurt feelings
  • the vainglorious drama-seeking-center-of-attention-hogging-mean-girls and their rotating exclusion of each other
  • explosive-red-head and his paranoid response to what he thought was name calling, but turned out to be an unrelated discussion about an orangutan and his red butt
And the best
  • Hemmingway-esque student with economic use of words and understated style of speaking tries to help low-energy-work-avoidant student take responsibility for his actions.  This particular scenario caused our outside presenter to become so frustrated with the lack of resolution being brought about that he declared "this kid needs help desperately" and the entire role playing group laughed and said "ya think?"

I'm thinking I probably will not find and everyday use for this particular training, but I did come out with a few labels/terms that may help me articulate some problem solving in the future.  My favorite term was in the materials on what escalates conflict.  Conflict archaeology is when a student throws in stuff that happened from the dawn of time causing an increase in the complexity of the current conflict. This often derails productive conversation because they are no longer discussing the present issue. I have been victim to this.

Maybe our presenter doesn't know what Bullying Awareness means.  Or maybe some lines got crossed and he misunderstood what he was asked to present.  Either way, I'm thinking we will be having some professional development on Bullying Prevention and Awareness as this is a state required topic to be addressed yearly.  Perhaps it will be the same day we review procedures for blood-born pathogens.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What's in a name?

New Blogger Initiative

A group of experienced folks in mathmagic land decided that it would be awesome-sauce to help kickstart others into the world of blogging and put out a challenge. I responded to that challenge committed to the new blogger initiative to help get me on the road.  Each week for four weeks newbs like me will respond to a prompt (or prompts) emailed to them.

This week the prompt I picked was: Where does the name of your blog originate? Why did you choose that?(Bonus follow up: Why did you decide to blog?)

I originally set up my blog last summer (2011), but as I generally feel more comfortable keeping myself to myself, I really never got up the gusto to actually put anything out there.  My original intention was to use my blog like a personal journal of sorts to help reflect upon what was happening in my classroom.  I thought that by documenting what was or wasn't working in my classroom, I would be able to improve upon my practice.  Also, I felt that the act of writing (typing) things out might help to clarify my thinking.  
image from

With the intention of the blog really meant for personal reflection, I wanted a name that incorporated that idea and was mathy as well.  The blog is like looking in the mirror at myself and looking at the reflection with a critical eye.  This idea made me think about axes of reflection in geometry.  And so a blog was born and named.  

And that was all the blog was for a loooooonnnnnggg time. It wasn't until Made 4 Math Monday that I actually put anything into the blog.  I felt that I had been lurking and reading and benefiting from the marvelous mathtwitterblogosphere and that perhaps it was time to contribute something back to that community. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Magazine holders and Binder Clip Labels

It's been a very busy week.  Along with some changes in my job and some new job titles I have a new office.  I will be coordinating all the testing of students and of course all the testing materials.  I inherited a crazy mess and with the help of Pinterest (here and here) have tidied it up.


It did not occur to me to take a before picture until I had emptied most of the shelves, but these two shelves are pretty representative of what was there.


The top two shelves were organized using magazine holders from Ikea.  At 5 for $1.99 they were a steal.  I made labels in Photoshop elements using digital scrapbooking paper.  I love the coordinating, uniform look of them!


Underneath I organized materials using a Fellowes literature organizer.  Each cubby is labeled with a binder clips.  We use alternating forms for many tests, so year 1 is green and the alternating year is blue.    Tests without alternate forms have black binder clips.  I used Avery 5366 file folder labels and modified the word template so that they were only 1.25 inches wide (the width of the binder clips) and then I trimmed them with scissors.

In addition to the clearing of the shelf, I've also cleared out and organized a file cabinet full of stuff.  It feels much better now that everything is organized!

Edited to add:  The other great thing about using the binder clips is that the last copy of any form is clipped to the shelf so that no one can claim they "accidentally" took the last one.