Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Field Trip Day (Day 82)

This post fulfills my monthly requirement for Tina Cardone's "Day in the Life" project. My monthly posting day is today, the 18th, and for once, it's not a weekend or holiday break.

But today is, in fact, a field trip day. You may recall our first field trip from my September monthly post -- my posting date was a Sunday, and the trip to the LA Country Fair was two days earlier. So that post was pure reflection post, but as the field trip occurred on the last school day before the post, it figured prominently in my reflection responses.

Today's field trip on the other hand, occurs on the actual 18th of the month itself. I could say that today, just like the PD Day on November 18th, is also not a real school day, and so I should just answer reflection questions. But instead, I think I'll actually do a "Day in the Life" for today, since I do actually interact with students. I'm sure Cardone didn't have a field trip day in mind when she came up with the project, but how could I've known there'd be a field trip on the 18th of a month?

The field trip is to see the movie Hidden Figures. I've already watched the movie on the 6th, the day it was released -- and in fact I blogged about the movie that day. I wrote that day that it would be a good idea for our students to watch it, and voila! That's what they watch today.

It's still January and the period of Disillusionment, but how can I be disillusioned on a day when my students are watching a movie? Actually, my disillusionment today has nothing to do with anything the students do.

7:45 -- I arrive at my school.

8:00 -- I report to the playground, where many students are beginning to arrive. The students are told to gather in a circle for the flag salute.

8:20 -- We don't even bother to send the students to any class. Instead, the students sit on the benches while we teachers check their permission slips. Students are required to wear uniforms on the trip, but many of them aren't wearing them. They are required to change into their uniforms or call their parents to bring their uniforms to school.

9:30 -- The fifth through eighth graders at our K-8 charter school have boarded the buses, and we are now on our way to the theater.

10:00 -- We arrive at the ArcLight movie theater in Culver City. We are actually not that far from where the TV shows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are taped, and I tell the students this. Many of the students stand in line to purchase popcorn.

10:30 -- The movie begins. I wrote a full review of the movie in my January 6th post. I'll repeat parts of it here for the sake of Cardone and her readers -- and I'll add in a few student reactions as well. As this review may contain SPOILERS, those of you who haven't seen the movie yet may prefer to sjip the rest of this post.

The protagonist is Katherine Johnson (nee Goble), a mathematician and scientist. She is a real person, and in fact she's still alive -- she turned 98 just after the trailer was first released. We first meet the young Katherine as she is growing up in West Virginia. She is very smart, especially in math, but she can't attend her local high school because she is black. So a high school for African-Americans contacts her family to invite the girl to attend. Her parents are shocked, because she's just getting ready to complete the sixth grade. But the administrators are impressed when they see Katherine solve a complicated algebra problem on the board. As a math teacher, I can tell you that all the math in the movie appears to be genuine. Katherine solves a quartic, or fourth-degree, equation that has already been factored into two quadratics. The girl explains how she used the Zero Product Property to find all four solutions.

The scene jumps to the early 1960's. The now middle-aged Katherine is riding in a car with her two companions, Dorothy and Mary, when the car breaks down. A police car arrives on the scene, and the cop is impressed when he finds out that the three women work for NASA. This is right after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, and thus the Americans are now working hard on their own launch of a space capsule.

Naturally, Katherine faces several challenges due to both her gender and her race. She's assigned to assist her white coworker Paul, who resents her so much that doesn't even want to let her drink from the coffeepot. My own students often ask to go to the restroom during class, and so does Katherine during her work -- but the nearest colored bathroom require her to walk a full mile round trip, in high heels! Unlike my students, though, Katherine carries her work with her. Mr. Harrison is annoyed when she has to leave for forty minutes at a time.

At this point, Runnin', a Pharrell Williams song, plays, and one of my students recognizes it -- from yesterday's music break. I sang its first verse as my song of the day.

We also learn a little more about Katherine's family. She is a widow who has to raise three daughters with only her own mother to help out. After NASA learns that a Russian, Yuri Gagarin, has orbited the earth, Katherine and the others must spend long hours working away from their families. Despite this, she meets a new guy, Colonel Jim Johnson, whom she eventually marries. Jim's ring comes from his parents, whose marriage lasted 52 years. It's revealed that as of 2016, the colonel is also still alive, and the couple has just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary.

At this point, a few of my students hoot and holler as Katherine and Jim share their first very passionate kiss.

The climax of the movie is when astronaut John Glenn is set to orbit the earth. The engineers must calculate the "go/no go" point where the space capsule would reenter earth's atmosphere. Glenn is worried that the calculations are incorrect, and so NASA calls in the only mathematician whom he trusts to find the exact point of reentry -- Katherine. Glenn is launched into space, and he's supposed to orbit the earth seven times, but instead orbits it only thrice. He's afraid that he will burn up upon reentry, but with the help of Katherine and the other engineers, his capsule safely lands in the water near the Bahamas. By the way, the real John Glenn fell short of seeing his depiction in the movie, as he died about a month ago.

As a math teacher, I enjoyed this movie greatly! I recognized more actual math in the movie. For example, to calculate the "go/no go" point, I see Katherine multiply a certain number of degrees by pi/180 -- that is, she converted the degrees to radians. And I also liked seeing actual clips from the 1960's of the Friendship 7 capsule, President Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of the students cheer when they recognize King.

In fact, I loved the movie even better watching it the second time! I like how two fifth graders sitting behind me -- black girls, so they're in the target demographic, pick up on some of the hidden symbolism of the movie that even I missed the first time. The girls notice the scene where Katherine is handed a piece of chalk and asked to calculate the "go/no go" point to impress the white men who are in the room with her. The fifth graders compare it to the opening scene where Katherine is handed a piece of chalk and asked to solve the equation to impress the teachers at her new school.

Of course, both the girls and I notice the more obvious symbolic moments. It's Paul who must run the mile round trip to fetch Katherine when Glenn is about to launch. The fifth graders are upset when Paul never gives Katherine credit for her work, He insists that "computers don't author reports," but after the astronaut's safe landing, he lets her include both their names on the report. And at the end of the movie, Paul is the one serving Katherine coffee.

12:45 -- The movie ends. At our school, this would be lunchtime -- and today it's again lunchtime as my support provider and the fifth grade support provider provide us with pizza and water! I talk to one of my sixth graders. He tells me that this is his first ever visit to a movie theater, and so he definitely enjoys the experience!

1:00 -- The buses arrive to return us to the school.

1:45 -- Wednesdays are Common Planning days at our school. So once the students return to school, they're dismissed -- and the easy part of my day is over. The more difficult part of the day is dealing with the Common Planning meeting, since the topic of the day is the Illinois State math text.

I've alluded to the Illinois State text several times in my "Day in the Life" posts, including back in my August PD day post. That day, I met the person who created some of the projects that actually appear in the STEM text. Well, at today's meeting the actual curriculum developers have flown in all the way from England to discuss the implementation.

You see, the reason that they keep flying in that our school is considered a pilot school for the text, yet we aren't actually the first to adopt it. Another school has already done so -- and its scores on the Common Core tests rose dramatically. And so the administrators keep flying the developers in over and over in order to make sure that our implementation is complete. If our school doesn't show sufficient gains on the test scores, the assumption will be that it's due to the failure of us teachers to implement the curriculum completely.

And so today, all the teachers except those in the middle school who teach English/history are required to give a ten-minute report on what we'll do to implement the Illinois State curriculum. The emphasis is on whether we're including all the extra bells and whistles that are part of the program.

2:30 -- My counterpart -- the middle school math and science teacher at our sister charter school -- presents first. She includes the Illinois State pre-assessment and post-assessments for each unit, but she hasn't given all the STEM projects yet. She's afraid that the first project in the text -- where students are asked to build mousetrap cars -- won't go well.

3:00 -- The dreaded moment has come -- it's now my turn to present. Let me include a little of what I wrote in my written report. Pay special attention to the extra components that I haven't included yet, but am now required to. (Now there's that Disillusionment!)

-- Assessments

Illinois State Level 1 questions will be used for Daily Assessments.
Level 2-3 questions are 50-point quizzes and 100-point tests.

Quizzes and tests will be given on a 3-week rotation as follows: the first week is a Dren Quiz, the second week is a 100-point test covering that week's and the previous week's standard, and the third week is 50-point quiz covering only that week's standards. 

Within each week, here is the daily plan:
Monday: Coding
Tuesday: Illinois State STEM Project
Wednesday: Begin Traditional Content (Illinois State Student Journal)
Thursday: Finish Traditional Content (Illinois State Student Journal)
Friday: Weekly Assessment

Of course, Illinois State daily assessments are given throughout the week.

-- Manipulatives

DIDAX manipulatives can be given the same weeks as the Basic Skills Quiz. It is said that DIDAX is for struggling students, so those who fail the Basic Skills Quiz can use DIDAX in order to reinforce those basic skills.

-- Focus Tutorials

Focus Tutorials are given same weeks as 100-point tests. With at least two standards to be covered, Focus Tutorials can be completed on whiteboards to prepare students for the tests.

-- Die-Cuts

The die-cut can be given same weeks as 50-point quizzes. As of now I don't even know how to use the machine, so hopefully I can figure it out by February 3rd. I've heard that die-cuts can be used for fractions and 6th grade has a fractions lesson then. I also know that die-cuts are to be used for some "art projects." [Note, after I say this, one of the developers shows me how to use the machine.]

-- Centers

I know that with both my support provided and a Bruin Corps member in my room everyday (save Monday, which is for coding), I must divide the class into three centers. I can discuss with the others who exactly will be assigned to each center. We must watch out for behavior issues -- for example, if Bruin Corps arrives late and that group consists of students who don't work well together.

-- Homework

I don't assign the Interactive Homework System directly online for two reasons. First, the students have never been assigned individual TPS passwords. Second, I don't trust them to do the assignments even if they had the passwords -- they'd come up with all sorts of excuses, beginning with "I forgot my TPS password" and going up to "I can't access TPS from home." So instead, I print the Interactive Homework System pages and include them in packets, along with the daily practice workbooks that we were given at the start of the year. [Note, after I say this, the developers tell me that giving the online homework is required, and our director/principal tells me that only two students, a brother and sister, lack Internet access.]

3:30 -- It's our fifth grade teacher's turn to go. Before the presentations, she tells me that neither one of us really has time to complete the report, since we're both on the field trip all day. Still, her lessons meet Illinois State specifications much better than mine, since she incorporates the DIDAX manipulatives, Focus Tutorials, and Die-Cuts into her lessons. Instead of using the daily practice text for homework (since that's not from Illinois State), she uses it as a Warm-Up instead.

4:00 -- After the fourth grade teacher gives the final presentation, the meeting ends. Overall, today was a good day, marred only by my getting a little sick/cold, especially during the meeting time. I go home to type this blog entry.

I obviously don't assign any students any math problems since there are no classes today. But I'll still post the Pappas Question of the Day, written in ASCII:

6 * sqrt(6+sqrt(6+sqrt(6+... = ?

You don't have to be a Katherine to solve this problem. If we denote the square root by x, notice that adding 6 and taking its square root produces itself again, so sqrt(6 + x) = x. Solving this gives x = 3, but we ask for 6x due to the extra factor of six. So the answer is 18 -- and today's date is the 18th.

After the movie, our director/principal gives us a packet for Hidden Figures, which we can discuss with our students. The packet actually comes from the following website:

which I found by following a link from Denise Gaskins -- a teacher whose blog I found during the other MTBoS challenge (the 2017 Blogging Initiative). Unfortunately, this packet is based on the book Hidden Figures, not the movie -- and the book covers so much more than the film. Judging by the questions, we see that the book begins in the 1940's, back when NASA was called "NACA" -- and Katherine doesn't even appear until Chapter 8. The events of the movie all correspond to the second half of the book. Now imagine asking these questions to our students, who of course only watched the movie!

I'll include one of Cardone's special reflection questions today:

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  
First post: What is a goal you have for the year?  
Subsequent posts: What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?
What if each T set a goal of some sort for the yr that they could reflect on? Then we ask: How have you been working toward your goal?

My goal is to become the ideal classroom manager. Well, yesterday an assistant arrived in my classroom to help me reach that goal. She has experience in all grades K-12 and beyond, and she's already helping me establish some new rules and routines with my sixth graders -- and even using Interactive Modeling (as in the Responsive Classroom training, see my November and December monthly posts) to explain the new rules. For example, she suggests that I hold up two fingers on my right hand and place my left finger on my lips to indicate silence.

The assistant goes to the sister charter school today -- which is just as well, since our school is on a field trip. Tomorrow she may return, and it will be just like my second day of school, where I ask the students to come up with rules (and those rules, of course, failed, hence my need for an assistant),

Tomorrow will be my last post for the week, so it's by default my Week 3 Blogging Initiative post. I point out that my next monthly post will be February 18th -- oops, a Saturday!

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