In the How I Teach series, teachers answer some questions on the tools and strategies they use to get stuff done in and out of the classroom. Each teacher will work off a set of questions (some of which are borrowed from the lifehacker series) and answer what they like.
Many thanks to Julie, who agreed to write up this post in the midst of everyones wildest week of the year. I had the pleasure of getting to know Julie at TMC16 where she would often burst out in song while at dinner. Julie is a Desmos Fellow with me, she blogs at I Speak Math, and tweets at @jreulbach.
Algebra 2 teacher at Cannon School in Concord, NC
One word that best describes how I teach:
Current mobile device:
What software or tools can’t you live without?
DESMOS Activity Builder. I use it everyday and can’t imagine teaching without it. I also love Pear Deck, especially now that they have a self-paced mode. I often use these two things together.
What was the last tool that you adopted that was a game changer?
Snagit. I can make animated GIFS!!
What’s your workspace setup like?
I work in an office with the other teachers of our upper school math department. I have my own desk. I love it because it feels like I’m an adult when I am in there, not just a teacher.
How is your classroom set up?
Tables, students sit together in pairs. It’s not really “my classroom” as we have the math office set-up.
Where at your school can you honker down to get shit done?
If I am really crunched, I will hide in the library, students never think to look for teachers there.
What non-math stuff do you do at your school?
I’m an advisor to 12 amazing Junior girls. They light up my day, every single day. I love them and can’t imagine being at school without them. They are not allowed to graduate! I am on the Food Committee and yes, that is as awesome as it sounds. I am on the Kimborough Scholarship committee, which awards teachers in our school money for education projects. I also help other teachers with Desmos and Pear Deck when I have time.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
The app Tiny Scan. I take a picture of anything I need students to have. Once I take a picture in Tiny Scan, it is automatically added to a shared folder in my Google Drive, so it is instantly shared with my students.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I don’t do list managers. I keep trying, but I never look at them. I do live and die by online calendars however.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
ERASABLE PENS. They are the holy grail of grading. Also, I just got a new iPad and am obsessed with it. I bought a swivel holder so I can hold it on my hand. I can walk around with it and help students when they are working. I can pull up Desmos and iPad notes to sketch examples right at their table! If I write an iPad note, I can air drop or email the notes to my students. I can also take pictures of their papers with Fuse and send them to the projector via Snagit on my computer.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Being really loud? Singing 90’s hip-hop in the hallways? Maybe technology? And I’m definitely not better with technology than everyone, but I really love it, and that makes me adventurous.
When it comes to work, organization, teaching, what do you need to work on the most?
For me, it’s being more efficient. I fall down the rabbit hole of planning and it takes me forever to get an actual lesson completed. (Maybe I DO need a good list manager!). For my students, I would love to have them talk more in class and do more problem solving. I just need more class time!
What is the key to good classroom management?
There are so many keys! Never just one!
I was going to say, “Make your class engaging!” But no matter how engaging you make your class, there will always be the one or two students (or even a class of students) that can be challenging.
1) Organization. Plan every minute, and then plan some more. If you keep the students very busy, they are less likely to wander off task.
2) Never call a kid out in class. Ever. I don’t care what the student said. Ask them to leave the room if you need to, but don’t negatively engage a student in class, in front of all of your other students. Then, the student will feel challenged, and you will lose. It is always better to talk to a student privately when there is an issue. And I know it is hard, but try to always stay calm.
3) Don’t try to talk over a class of chatting students. If they are getting loud, you can talk really quietly and then they usually quiet down to hear you. If they don’t quiet down, you can stop talking all together. They seem to pay more attention to you when you are not talking. I love Elissa Miller’s Quiet Mouse game.
4) You don’t have to answer every question, especially if it is not respectful or is asked just to get you off topic or as a challenge to you. You don’t have to explain yourself to the student, just move on to the next student. Student questions are awesome, attention seeking behavior is not.
5) Keep the talking on the math. High school students love to get you off topic, but very quickly they will just be talking to each other. See #3.
6) Love and respect your students. The more you care for and help them, the more they will work for you. Love can get you through the roughest times.
While you’re teaching, what do you have in your hand (if anything)?
Usually nothing. Sometimes a dry erase marker, or my phone to take pictures, and sometimes my iPad.
How do you manage the flow of paper in your teaching? How do students hand in paper? How do they get it back?
I used Anna Hester’s brilliant suggestion that I actually read HERE last week and have them pick up copies at the back of the room when they come in. I have students hand in papers to a single basket in the back of the room. For graded papers, I pass them back to each student individually.
What do you use to plan? Do you use a different tool for the bigger picture (unit/course)?
I create “Chapter Guides” in a Word document, one for each chapter. It consists of a table with five columns, the day, topic, handouts I will need to print, lesson with links to activities I use, and nightly homework assignments.
I use a Google Spreadsheet to plan out the entire year.
How do you manage your time in the classroom?
I start right on time, if not before, and go to the very end. I assign them an activity so I can check homework while they work. Again, I try to have zero wasted time.
How does your grading system look different from anyone else?
It probably doesn’t look much different. I grade using total points.
What do you listen to while you work? Do you play music in class?
I love to listen to music while I work. I play music in class, but only during student work periods. Expect for Christmas music, which I start early and play non-stop.
What are you currently reading?
How do you recharge?
Via Sam Shah, I try to take one day completely off from work a week (usually Saturday). During the week it’s SLEEP, dinner with my family, working out, and going out with friends from my old school occasionally.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to go to bed by 10pm, but it’s usually 11pm (or later). I get up at 5:00 or 5:45, depending on if I work out before school. I’m only in week 2, so I haven’t had the strength to get up before school and work out…yet!
I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Let it go. I often sing this song in my head, it helps.