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The Beginning of Year 5

Today was really weird.

So for the past 2-ish weeks, I’ve been at our brand-spanking-new high school building.

I unpacked all of my stuff and made it look presentable.

I put posters everywhere.

I did my pre-planning.

But today the students arrived and it finally became real for me.

This was my new classroom.  These are my new classes.  I have some pretty big changes planned.

Let’s start from the beginning.  4 years ago, I was teaching Intro to Algebra, Algebra and Geometry.  I had just graduated with a Math Ed major and a Physics Ed minor.

The second year was Intro to Algebra and Geometry.  I applied for grad school and moved into the dorms during the summer after my wedding.

My third year teaching, I exchanged Geometry for two sections of Physics and kept Intro to Algebra.  I had a crazy amount of fun learning how to prep labs and be a science teacher, so I added the rest of the science classes to my license via the General Science Praxis test.  Physics itself felt like a gigantic project-based applied math class.  I had fallen in love with it, and I used this new inclination to spice up my math class with more hands-on activities.  (I previously felt very stuck in the assigned textbook, but physics helped me find my confidence to try new things.)  I did my action research for my thesis project and had a great year.

During my fourth year, I was on an extended contract with 2 sections of Physics, 2 sections of Algebra Support and 2 sections of Transmath.  I was surprised at how much work came with teaching an extra class.  I also agreed to assist in noon tutoring during lunch two days a week, and had to finish writing my thesis.  Our teacher collaboration time was moved to the beginning of the contracted day instead of the end, so I couldn’t really meet with students before school as often.  I didn’t think it would be a problem, but I found out that most physics students either leave after 6th hour or have clubs and activities after school.  So I felt guilty about being unavailable to my students who were in a class with difficult content.  It was a really busy year, and in hindsight, I had probably bitten off more than I could chew.

Now at the beginning of year five…I wonder if I’ve learned my lesson at all.  I was offered the opportunity to teach a STEM class.  We decided it would be called STEM: Robotics, and that it would use these nifty robots!  I’m a hobbyist programmer and computer builder, so this is a chance to try something new for me.  The class is multi level 9-12 with no prerequisites.  We still need to order the robotics kits, but in the meantime, I will work on the programming side of things with my class.  Our school went Bring-Your-Own-Device this year, so it grants me some serious tech liberties.  I no longer have to check out laptop carts or reserve space in the library.  I am looking forward to playing with scratch and tinkerCAD with this class.

I also have two sections of Physics, and two sections of Algebra Support again.  I’ve taught these classes, so this should be easy, right?

But for better or for worse, I just can’t leave well enough alone when I get my geeky hands on technology.  I have to play with it.

…so I got it in my head that I would try to do a paperless Physics class in OneNote.

I’ve been doing interactive notebooks in my classes for the past two years and they’ve mostly done very well.  I loved the availability of resources, and the reassurance that someone else had done their classes this way with success.  I couldn’t really find any resources showing how to take that and make it digital…so this has really been a lot of my own work and discovery with the tech.

It’s not something I would have been able to do two years ago when I first adopted the INBs, but now I think I’m seasoned enough to have the confidence to go for it and I have the technology.

To make sure my plans would work, during 10 min classes today, I confirmed that all of the Physics students have devices with either pen/touch input or the means to take a picture to submit their work.

I added a section specifically for students to request my help.  This means I can digitally give them notes when it is convenient for me during the school day, and they will see them when they go home to continue working.  I can also push handouts into each student’s notebook, and then they can never be lost.  Like I said, Physics students tend to be in activities, so their notebooks can be updated automatically so they don’t fall behind.  It’s truly nifty.

But it’s also a little bit scary and unnerving.

…and at the end of the first day of year five, I sat it my desk, and it was clean.  There are no turn-in trays in my room.  There are no handouts or syllabus copies in little piles on a table.  There are no toolkits with markers and colored pencils and tape.  (Of course I still have them, but they no longer need to come out every day.)

Oddly enough, the lack of papers makes the room feel unfinished.

It makes me feel unprepared.

I keep checking my digital notebook.  Yep, the syllabus is still there…yes they can see tomorrow’s bellringer questions, and yes I can see into each and every person’s digital notebook.

I breathe another sigh of relief…it all works…I just need to show the kids how to use the system tomorrow….my system.

I was the math teacher…then I became a bit of a science teacher…now I’m a bit of a STEM teacher.

It’s gonna be a good year;  I can feel it.


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