Lots went on today.
A new-teacher colleague with mixed emotions after finding out a student she called home to report misbehavior was homeless.
Students so excited to research careers related to computer science that I had to drag them on to the next activity.
A fight in the cafeteria during lunch time.
A fire drill after lunch.
Our principal coming on over the public address system to say (as transcribed by another teacher, who posted the below message on facebook):
“I need this message to be translated in every language we have in this building.
We all have to be here, and we have to be here together, so we might as well love each other. There is enough violence in your lives at home, and where you come from. We do NOT need that violence here at school.
We are all here together as one family. Every staff person here, every teacher here, loves you. We all want you to have a chance at life.
With that being said, everybody take a deep breath.” He paused. So he could breathe. So we could all breathe.
“Everybody take a second to think about somebody they love.” Again, he paused.
“Now let’s send that love everywhere, to everyone.”
After school, ten students stayed for coach class / tutoring help, a possible record for me for after school coach class (though not for after school clubs, nor for lunch coach class).
Day 8, over and out.
Today was a fun day in every class!
AP CSA – Students had turned in a simple Java class (program) yesterday with five print-line commands, in which they print out the traditional “Hello, World!” statement, then their name, then 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves. Today they stood up at the front of the room, read their 2 truths and 1 lie, and we had to guess which was the lie. 🙂 A fun get-to-know-each-other type of activity based on the new programming language we’re using. [Thanks to Jerry, our master teacher this summer at training, for sharing this idea/activity!]
AP CSP – We did the “intelligent paper” activity from the CS Matters in Maryland curriculum, in which I make extravagant claims about a piece of paper being more intelligent than any of the humans in the room, because it will never lose a game of noughts and crosses. We get to discuss algorithms and artificial intelligence, and what intelligence even means!
CIM – As a team-building exercise that also connects to manufacturing, students work together in an assembly line fashion to mass-produce origami balloons. Here are a few of them in action:
After school – Seven students showed up for after-school tutoring / coach class! On the third day of school!! I think that’s a record in my time teaching. Maybe I make the class too difficult… or maybe I’m just an awesome teacher who inspires his students to really care about learning… (the truth is probably somewhere between those two extremes). This is the first year I assigned summer homework, for both of the two AP compsci classes, and I’m giving students a couple days/weeks to make sure they are caught up with the summer homework, while also basing the first few weeks’ quizzes on those topics, so that probably has something to do with it.
I got home and cooked a good meal for supper, so all in all, a great day!
I’ve been doing this with a few classes for the past two years, but this year made the move to all: I keep a Google Doc with the day’s agenda for each class. This is useful as a central location from which all of the day’s activities can progress, with links to assignment documents, links to online quizzes, links to videos, and links to resources all embedded in there. In review surveys at the end of each class, this has consistently been a highlight and something they really appreciate. For example: “The links on the agenda and the directions that gave us to do what we had to do”, and “Somenthing that I really liked about this class was the agenda because if by any reason you was absent you just have to go to the online agenda and you can make up from your home.”
Because of these reviews, this year I’m moving to all classes having an online agenda. Combined with the fact that I’m a fan of the tinyurl.com website for shortening and choosing your own url, I was laughing with a few of my students this afternoon that today I had my students use 5 different tinyurls for these agendas (and of course have to keep them straight in my head):
[Year 12, Day 2 post]
First day went well, got to see many students I know already, plus a few new ones (teaching in a pathway means I get to know the same students over 3-4 years).
The first task for my first period computer science students was to set up all the computers:
Then we reviewed multimedia versions of the course syllabi:
Links for syllabi for AP Computer Science A (shown above), AP Computer Science Principles, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing.
This week teachers headed into school to prepare for next week and students’ return. This will be my twelfth year!
My teaching this year will include more computer science than ever before:
- AP Computer Science Principles (full year)
- AP Computer Science A (full year)
- Foundations of Computer Science (spring)
- Computer Integrated Manufacturing (fall)
- Precalculus independent study (fall, three students, three separate periods)
I’ll also be working with our new engineering teacher and our librarian+new-computer-science-teacher to help them with their lessons, and collaborating with two geometry teachers around standards-based-grading.
Extracurricular activities and competitions:
- Coding Club (app development, cybersecurity, & more)
- Women’s Transportation Seminar’s “Transportation You!” Mentoring Program
- TRAC bridge builder competition
- CyberPatriot competition
- STEM Competition
- possible (in my mind, I want to do each of these this year): Cyber Movie Mondays, Saturday AP & PLTW study groups, Girls Who Code club
- probably several others…
Ongoing projects that will occupy some of my time this year include:
- Comp Hydro (teaching hydrology and flooding through computational simulations & modeling, in partnership with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study)
- MyDesign (engineering design process app and learning management system, in partnership with NSF & the University of Maryland)
- Internet of Things project to measure air quality and other environmental factors in schools (in partnership with Cool Green Schools, Johns Hopkins University, and Morgan State University)
- Continuing work toward my Master’s Degree in Computer Science (taking “Artificial Intelligence ” course this semester)
- Baltimore City Engineering Alliance, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) we created to provide opportunities to Baltimore City students to further their engineering education, and for which I am treasurer
School starts for students on Tuesday, after Labor Day for the first time in my twelve years here teaching in Baltimore. Wish us luck!
[Back today, on a two-hour-delay, after two snow days off, for a start to a new semester and new courses. This semester, by the way, I am teaching Principles of Engineering and AP Calculus.]
Cold classrooms & burst water pipes have been the norm the last few weeks at my school.
I am one of the lucky ones whose classroom heater usually works (noisily, but at least it provides heat). Several colleagues have bought multiple space heaters (paid for out of their own pockets) just to keep their classrooms tolerable. Other teachers have pretty much moved shop for the season into different classrooms, ones that do have heat. I’ve heard of three water pipes freezing & bursting over the past three weeks – one that flooded an entire floor of the building, one that flooded the auditorium, and one today in the aerospace engineering room next to mine (which we’re currently using for equipment storage – I couldn’t imagine teaching in that room with temperatures as low as they’ve been!). While working on the biggest pipe break, water was turned off to 3/4 of the building and restrooms were out of order, for a period of several days.
Students from my school, including several whom I teach, have written letters to the school superintendent (CEO) and local newspaper.
I know we’re not alone. There is a similar situation at other city schools, including Epiphany in Baltimore’s. “This is an education equity issue,” he writes. I wholeheartedly agree.
This comes from a conversation I had recently with a college friend. I thought I’d share my personal reflections on teaching in the below message more widely.
I’ve transitioned slowly over the last seven years, from teaching all math, to half math / half engineering, to all engineering this year for the first time. Over the last six years that I’ve been involved on the engineering side of things, I also helped build, grow, and strengthen the engineering program at my high school.
While there have been some issues with students at my urban public high school (few do any homework; it is challenging to motivate all of them to do engineering and math; poor attendance; one kid swung at me last year with scissors), these are minor compared to my frustrations with administration and with the direction teaching is headed in.
To make a long story short, my dissatisfaction comes largely from dealing with a dysfunctional school administration and an outright evil district administration.
But also, more generally than my own local problems, and tying in perhaps with the national mood, I do believe standardized testing, and the more recent trend to hold teachers ‘accountable’ for student gains in standardized testing, is lessening the creativity and fun of teaching that I really enjoyed five years ago.
This is not to say I don’t still find fun in the job. Last week, I really loved teaching a group of three students some programming and number base conversions they need to compete in a virtual robot maze competition coming up soon. And a few days ago I was talking to a student about the types of bridges for more than an hour and that was great. And a month ago I got to really geek out with another math teacher as we worked together to figure out an explicit formula for the number of triangles of all sizes in a triangle subdivided into smaller triangles with n on a side. And yesterday I brought a group of students on an engineering field trip that was awesome! [Another example not in the original message: the pride I feel in what my fall semester manufacturing students accomplished.]
But still, I am feeling more and more frustrated. I’d say I do enjoy teaching still, but not all the b.s. that comes with it.
Anyway, only one more day until spring break! Yay!