8th Grade #MTBoS PLN

**My A.D.D. is so terrible right now, that I swear I thought I already posted when I started it last week. My state test is Tuesday… Hopefully my brain will come back once it’s over. **

 

This idea won’t start out like it’s about 8th grade, but it is… trust me.

I’m going to start this post with a flashback… to 2008.  I don’t even think we had classified “#MTBoS” as we know it today.

Picture this:
School ends around May. I’m teaching AP Statistics and Algebra 2.  I have no one to collaborate with in my district/state, but that doesn’t stop me from collaborating a few days every week over the summer with the amazing @druinok.

What does that look like? Man – I wish I still had screenshots of the texts and emails we sent back and forth.  But here’s an idea of the questions we started with in May (which we revisited every summer):

  • What are the big ideas for AP Stats?
  • What order of those big ideas would make the most sense for our students who seem to struggle with our course?
  • What are the learning targets that go with each of those big ideas? Can we phrase them as questions that we are using our content to answer?
  • What things worked well for us this year? What bombed?
  • How do we put the focus on the classroom content so that the test scores will take care of themselves?
  • What feedback did we get from students that will help us be more mindful of concerns/issues for our upcoming crew of kids?
  • What did we learn from the risks we took this year and the planning we did last year?
  • Do our assessments do enough to model the AP test? Could they be better?
  • What unit was our biggest struggle to teach? What unit was the biggest struggle for students to connect to?
  • What new things do we want to try this year?
  • What’s the new technology that’s currently available that could increase understanding in our classroom?
  • Should we give homework? When/how? What should it look like? Is it purposeful?
  • How do we make students connect the peer feedback on free response questions to the peer feedback they give each other in ELA?
  • What should the big ticket items be on our unit one test? What should that test look like? Can we get the assessments ready for the first few units over the summer and see what adjustments we need to make over the year?
  • What are we forgetting?
  • Wait – did we eat today?

Mind you – a lot of our planning took place from our respective chairs at pools in our different states.   Every day we would take our bag of stuff to the pool to plan.  No pressure.  No deadlines. No worries.  Just brainstorming ways to make stats more and more awesome.

What’s great about @druinok is that I could ask her ANY off the wall “What if…” question and I knew that: (a) she would think about it from every angle (b) she didn’t judge me negatively, even if it was not the best idea and (c) she was SO great at trying to help me figure out where it might go wrong.  It’s great to be supportive, and trust me SHE  IS! But I have “rainbows and unicorns” goggles sometimes, and I don’t always see the train wrecks that are obvious to everyone else but me. She would always help me avoid those train wrecks when I would try to create/modify an idea.

Or she might say, “I saw something that I thought would be cool to build a lesson around. Can we work on that?” And BOOM – the Case of Kristen Gilbert was born (which we used to start the first day of AP stats each year).

We could also say (without fear): “I don’t like this assessment question. How can we make it better?” And it wasn’t a power struggle with one of us trying to be better than the other (because there’s NO WAY I could compete with her, haha) – the focus was always on the best experience for the students.

When I met Shelli, I’d just found out I was teaching AP Stats for the first time. Shelli started teaching AP Stats the first year the test was released, so she had a decade of experience behind her. I didn’t know much and I had NOTHING to offer but ideas and a ton of questions (SO. MANY. QUESTIONS). She shared whatever she thought would be helpful and never made me feel like my questions/worries/wonders were stupid. She’s one of those colleagues that you wish you’d had as a teacher.

Then came the fateful day where Shelli tried to convince me to join Twitter to “talk” to other math teachers. Back in the day, the only thing I knew about Twitter was that Justin Bieber (Beiber? Beeber? Idk) would tweet daily about what he ate, what he saw, what he thought… I didn’t care about that.  She said “trust me”, and I did.  And our little PLN of two stats teachers started to grow as she introduced me to other stats teachers on Twitter.  Before I knew it, there at least a dozen of us bouncing ideas off of each other in the same respect about both courses I taught. And it was something I looked forward to every summer.

I.  MISS.  THAT.  And as much as Shelli loves me, I don’t know that she’s going to move to the middle school and she shouldn’t – she is crazy amazing at what she teaches.

So here’s the my guilty pleasure: I’m a summer planner and learner. I can’t help it.  Give me some sun, my deck (or a pool), and my Gavin DeGraw playlist and I’m gold.  Summer is where I want to build my classes and be selfish about my own learning.

If that’s not how you spend your summer, I am not judging or hating on you at all, I promise. I’m just speaking about what I need to reduce my anxiety over the school year.  I definitely didn’t have this year mapped/planned out when I went back into the classroom and I feel like it ate my lunch every week. (Did YOU think I would quit coaching 1/4 through the school year and go back to teaching? Cuz I didn’t.)

But. I. Love. It.
I don’t want to be anywhere else right now.  I work with the most amazing kids at the most incredible school with an administrator who couldn’t be more supportive.  And this summer I will be planning with Cononiah.  She was one of my favorite teachers as a curriculum specialist, and now I get to work with her EVERY DAY.  And now that Mallory is about to graduate (she has a job on the coast and her principal is almost as awesome as mine), she will be able to plan with us.

As NCTM and MTBoS have begun to work together to bring teachers into this global PLN using social media, I’m noticing more and more 8th grade teachers – many of which are the only 8th grade teachers at their school.  Some are brand new 8th grade teachers, and some are former high school teachers or curriculum coaches who are coming back to middle school and teaching 8th.

And I wonder if they’re wondering about the same things that Cononiah, Mallory, and I are wondering about. (…that’s a lot of wondering, but I refuse to fix that sentence)

So I’m asking: would you like to collaborate with us over the summer?  I don’t care if you’ve been teaching 30 years or 30 days.  But if you’re thinking of building or improving what you have over the summer, we are thinking about that as well and would love to bounce ideas off of you.  You could be a long time MTBoS contributor and blog every day OR have a Twitter account that’s a hot minute old and fear blogging more than you fear clowns.  Or maybe you don’t even use Twitter, but someone sent this to you because you mentioned wanting to collaborate.

If you are thinking about your classes next year, we would love to think about that and plan with you. Those same things Shelli and I would wonder about during the summer are the same things I wonder about 8th.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, here’s a Google Form to get the ball rolling.  School ends for us on May 19th.  I figure that’s enough time to get some folks on board and I’ll send more details then.  Also, I’m planning to use #8thmathpln to share on Twitter and would love to add you to my 8th grade list.

We are excited about this summer and creating some amazing things for our students with you!

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