I fill a vacant middle school math position in April

ell, Here I am again.  When will I learn?  I actually retired from the classroom in the spring of 2022.  And ONE YEAR LATER, I am back in the classroom again.  

Here’s what happened:

After retiring, I started this blog and began presenting at conferences.  (Six in 2022). But no one wanted PD.  No one would pay me to help them build a state of the art math program in their school.  So in February, I started subbing to make a few extra dollars to fill in the gaps in my budget.  But I ended up subbing for a week or two for a class that had not had a teacher since December.  Those kids needed a math teacher.  So I talked to the Principal about getting rehired for the rest of the year.  A tough challenge, but I felt it was worth it to make some money and teach some deserving kids.I went off to Costa Rica for a month and came back to start on April 4th.  I knew that I would need to be very strict with classroom discipline in order to get the environment I needed to have a Project-Based Classroom.  I am going to add to this blog every day as either a victory story or a lesson on what not to do.  My ultimate goal is to paint a masterpiece and get an opportunity to be the middle-school math instructional coach for the four new middle schools that will open in 2024.  

April 4th:

I created an essential agreement for the class as follows:


Essential Classroom agreement

1.     Raise your hand to contribute to the conversation

2.   Stay in your seat unless you have permission

3.   Respect and listen to your classmates

4.   Respect and listen to the teacher

5.   Be prepared for class (Book, Notebook and writing utensil)

6.   Be quiet during announcements

7.    Respect and care for school property

8.   Clean and Reset the classroom at the end of class for the next class

9.   No horsing around or running in the classroom

10. Use classroom materials properly

11.  No food or drink in the classroom

12. Use proper study team practices. (Do your job well)

13. Follow instructions the first time they are given

14. Use positive and appropriate language

15. Be engaged in class activities and study team work


I went through it with the students starting with the rules I expected them to violate during the reading of the rules.  And they did not disappoint, They argued an screamed at every rule and would not stop arguing.  So I started taking names for our “silent reflective” lunch.  I thought of it as lunch detention, but it was a lunch period where I joined them for lunch and sat with them in silence.  14 students during the first 8th grade math period.


My essential agreement tends to lean towards rules that are easy to adjudicate.  For example:  If they are out of their seat without permission, that was an automatic.  If they dropped the F-bomb, that was an automatic



April 14 – Yesterday, I began chapter 5 in CPM Algebra, CPM CC3 and CPM CC2.  My goal was to try and introduce some structure to the class along with some homework (check your understanding) problems for them to work on.  I purchased a Composition Notebook for every student and handed them out.  Today, I collected the notebooks to look at and see how they are working.  I noticed that in each class students are identifying the study team roles and know what their roles are.  This is progress.  This weekend I am hoping to come in and attach the rolly desks into groups of four.  I will also put up enough white boards for each group.  

It seems like progress is being made, but some students are very resistant to any change.  Today I had one student who was loud and offensive.  She used the N word many times and yelled at me that she would not do as I asked.  Some girls at her table were playing music on their laptops when they were supposed to be doing a DESMOS activity (Marble Slides).  I approached the table to stop the music and get them back on task.  This student became argumentative and again used inappropriate language.  I confiscated her laptop and she became irate and out of control.  I called her Mom.  Her mom talked to her daughter and them chewed me out.  I thanked her for her support and got off the phone.

We will have a meeting next week to find a solution.  This student has one of the worst attitudes I have seem.  But any progress at all will help the class.  So good news.  This weekend will be me setting up my classroom and Monday I will have my first seating chart.  Many of them will have a meltdown and refuse to sit where they are assigned.  We will see what happens.

April 17 – I spent the whole weekend putting desks together to make tables.  I also checked their notebooks for the first time.  I kana BTC says not to check notebooks.  It says that you emphasize that the notes are for them and not for the teacher.  I agree, but I need to see how they work and better understand them so I can help them through the last month of the year.  The notebooks were OK, but could be much better.  Many students did not do the homework.  I put up enough white boards to have one for each group.  After testing, we will do class projects at the white boards.  The classes are still lacking discipline (except for the Algebra class).  Next year I want to put more kids into the Algebra class.  nearly any student can master Algebra in a year if they do the work.  I don’t want all of them taking Algebra, because their are some who are behind and will need individual attention.  I am going to recommend 30 seventh graders for Algebra and keep less than 20 in the pre-algebra section.  The smaller the Pre-Algebra class, the better since this is generally the more difficult class to teach.  For this year, the Pre-Algebra class will just be a problem.  I will attempt to get them to master single-variable equations and inequalities along with stronger fundamentals with the “Four Dragons” (Fractions, Decimals, Integers, Order of Operations)

April 27 –  I remade the desk centerpieces to hold four desks into a group.  They are sitting in groups, but they don’t like it.  It occurs to me that, if I had started with these methods in August instead of April, they would not complain about it.  Middle school students do not like change.  So I have to use all my management skills to help them accept the changes we need to get to an effective project-based math class.  We are now doing testing, so I won’t be able to guide them for the next week.  I also disassembled the tables so that the desks could be moved for individual testing.  Next weekend, I will put them back and add numbers to the tables.  The I will start doing CPM units with a BTC flavor.  I will share how the lessons go.  I only have four weeks left for them to explore Quadratic Equations.

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