How I Teach: Jon Barker

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.

Jon Barker is a colleague of mine here at our school in Cleveland. He teaches Algebra I, Precalc, AP Calc BC, and Multivariable Calc. Our rooms are right next to each other, and I will often pound on the wall to taunt/complain. This guy seriously loves learning, and to prove it is he is taking AP US history along side students this year (in the past he took AP Modern European History).

Location:
Cleveland, Ohio

Current Job:
High school math teacher and coach

One word that best describes how I teach:
Collaboratively

Current mobile device:
iphone SE

Current Computer:
on-the-fritz macbook

What software or tools can’t you live without?
Desmos
mathxlforschool
Active Calculus
Pick Me! (iphone app)
Geogebra

What was the last tool that you adopted that was a game changer?
Desmos Activity Builder!!!!

What’s your workspace setup like?
Incredibly neat and organized (lie)

How is your classroom set up?
Stand-up desk for me, tables of 2-3 for the students

Where at your school can you hunker down to get shit done?
Math teacher’s office, stand-up computer lab (after hours)

What non-math stuff do you do at your school?
Academic Challenge coach, tennis coach, Brain Brawl Tsar, cool-math-teacher-handshake developer

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Brush teeth in the shower?

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
Errands (iphone app)

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
Vitamix. Because Vitamix.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Ping-pong. Making grilled cheese sandwiches.

When it comes to work, organization, teaching, what do you need to work on the most?
Transferring grades from my grade sheets to the computer. Sooooooo bad at that. Also, not taking for granted that students understand everything that I understand.

What is the key to good classroom management?
Keeping things moving and the students active and on their toes

While you’re teaching, what do you have in your hand (if anything)?
Iphone for Pick Me! app

How do you manage the flow of paper in your teaching? How do students hand in paper? How do they get it back?
They turn into their class bins. I put graded papers on a table and they pick up when they walk into class. No human-to-human exchanges.

What do you use to plan? Do you use a different tool for the bigger picture (unit/course)?
Have my “notes templates” set up for the year. Developed them over the past 15 years.

How do you manage your time in the classroom?
I know what I want to get done and I just try to keep it moving. Sometimes (often?), we don’t get it all done. That’s mostly ok.

How does your grading system look different from anyone else?
“Smile points” are a thing

What do you listen to while you work? Do you play music in class?
LOUD music before 1st period. Also while I grade, to prevent the almost-unavoidable grading-sleepiness effect

What are you currently reading?
Exploring American Histories (textbook from the APUSH class)

How do you recharge?
Phoenix coffee runs. After-school workouts.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Thin. Unhealthy, I know.

I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions:
Bruce Myers and Dan Carlson

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Life is too important to be taken seriously. (misquoted Oscar Wilde, I think)

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