As has been my custom for the past several years, after returning to Toronto for a week or two to set up my classroom, meet with teachers, and just generally organize the framework for my return to fall/winter, I head back to PEI for as much of the Labour Day weekend as I can manage. This two-to-three-day getaway allows me to arrange closing up of the house, and to enjoy one final peaceful getaway (no kids, no partner, no dog!!) before the organized chaos of life in the big city becomes the focus for the next 10 months or so.
After a year back in Intermediate, this time in a large middle school on full rotary, I'm eager to do some things differently in order to maximize learning time and quality for my students.
Although I know the research clearly states that how you structure your classroom physically, and how much time you put in up front establishing and rehearsing routines, creating a safe and inclusive climate, and just generally setting the state for a successful school year is directly correlated to how successful, in fact, that academic year will be. And yet, overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of curriculum expectations I had to cover, last year I once again moved too quickly into the math, without fully "training" the students on appropriate classroom interactions. The results were clear: In the classes where I had spent more time up front building climate and establishing routines, students were more successful, generally, in math, whereas the classes with whom I did not spent as much time tone-setting quickly became behavioural nightmares, which ultimately translated into less effective math teaching.
This year I have 5 classes of math and 2 classes of health to teach. In total, I will see 6 different groups of students. Here are a few of the things I have done and will do to manage my classroom effectively...
(N.B. This is part of the new "Math Eyes" category on my blog.)
Some readers will remember the introduction of Sneakers, our family's new dog, earlier this summer.
In an effort to help Sneakers burn off excess energy (a tired dog is a happy dog!), we try to get her to the leash-free park at least once a day, in addition to walks around the neighbourhood.
Because we don't have a car, and because the dog park is a little too far to walk for a puppy who is not yet fully "loose-leash walking" trained, Ms. K decided to take Sneakers in the trailer attached to the back of her bike. Sneakers wears a harness, and this harness is clipped in two ways to keep her safe (and the rider stable!) Then Ms. K heads out of the parking lot and down to the bike path, which leads directly to several nearby leash-free parks.
On the weekends, the boys come with us on their bikes, and we all go together as a family, but during the week, Ms. K usually takes Sneakers on her own after everyone else has left for school and before Ms. K has to go to work.
It's very funny to see Sneakers' furry doggie head sticking out of the trailer, and it's great exercise for the rest of us to go to the dog park, too. Sneakers loves to play fetch, though she also enjoys just finding a big stick and chewing it in the cool grass!
And now, a little Math:
If Ms. K bikes to the dog park and back every day, how much "mileage" (how many km) does she add to her weekly bike-mileage count? (The dog park is 3.1 km away from our home.)
Pedaling a dog to the park builds strong leg muscles! The bike trailer alone weighs about 21 lbs, and there are about 5 lbs of bedding, water bottle/bowl and dog treats in the trailer, along with the dog.
Last week, Ms. K took Sneakers to puppy training classes at Petsmart. While there, she picked up a 30 lb bag of dog food, which she put in the trailer, along with the dog! The trailer has a weight restriction of 120 lbs, and with Sneakers and all her stuff in the trailer, they were 9 lbs under the limit. How much does Sneakers weigh? How do you know?
I've decided to add a new category to my blog. "Math Eyes" will include various visual provocations I plan to use with my kids at home and/or my students at school, based on scenarios we observe in the world around us.
I've been developing my "math eyes" for a few years now, but it really started to come together for me pedagogically at last spring's OAME conference, where I had a chance to hear Dan Myer and various other math educators talking about how best to engage students in the 21 Century.
Here's one to get you started... stay tuned for more, or feel free to contribute your own by contacting me, or by leaving a comment below.
Why, you might wonder, would I be stopping by this dear little bungalow in Etobicoke on my way to school this morning to continue with classroom set up?
Well, dear reader, it's an interesting tale, really...
Why is it that the week before school, when teachers are invariably hauling boxes, moving desks, rearranging seating and running up and down the stairs of non-air-conditioned buildings to consult with colleagues, the weather in the GTA insists on skyrocketing into the 30s?!
This year, I am trying to be very conscious of how the physical plant in my classroom can support inquiry and collaboration; I am trying to create spaces -- given the limitations of the existing furniture and space -- where students can meet as a class as well as in small groups, where they can find a corner to work on their own or with a partner, where they can use their bodies, their pencils or their devices to explore and record their learning.
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera turned her written attention to prolific blogging for some years, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and SMARTbansho . Homeschooling 4 was her travel blog in Argentina. She now spends more time on her Instagram (@schalgzeug_usw) than her blog (pictures are worth a thousand words?!) Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.