First Week of School 2018-19

First week of school can be nerve-racking for teachers, parents, administrators and students. This first week of school is quite challenging for me for a number of reasons:

  1. It was my third week in a new country where I understand very little of its language and culture.
  2. Because of that, I don’t think I know my students well enough to plan lessons that are appropriate (needs review) for them.
  3. I am starting in a new school that is relatively young (fifth year operation).
  4. I am adapting to a new curriculum (IB-MYP) that I still have minimal understanding even after reading a handful of documents.

Now that I survived my first week, I’d say I’m pleased with how things turned out. I used Noah’s Ark problem (courtesy of @fawnpnguyen) on the first day with my 6th grade classes, and they instantly loved it. Most of the students are able to get to this point:

Noah's Ark

Most students came up with the idea that one polar bear weighs the same as two kangaroos, or four seals (refer to second deck from top). We spent some time discussing it and clarified our understanding. That’s where we stopped on the first day.

As for my 7th grade classes, the students get to work on four fours. This task was surprisingly challenging for them and I wonder if they had the opportunity to play with numbers in the past. Looking back, I could have presented the tasks a little better by modeling how it looks like to play with math and experiment with different operations using four 2s or four 6s.

The next few days are filled with other tasks like Good Group Work and Visual Numbers from Week of Inspirational Math (YouCubed).

On top of that, I also tried name tents with feedback and “What is Math?” from Sara Van Der Werf. I really loved name tents with feedback and will definitely do them again for the rest of my career (though I’m not sure about doing it with my 7th graders next year since I had them this year). The name tents provided an opportunity for me to connect with each and everyone of my students. I’m particularly glad that I got to understand the quieter students in the classroom because of this first-week routine.

I am glad that I did an activity on “What is Math” with my 7th grade classes. My two classes gave me very different responses about what is math to them, and I’m glad we now shared a common understanding of what math is for this year.

This poster serves as a powerful reminder for me to provide opportunities for students to do that each and every single lesson. Credit: @saravdwerf

All in all, I am very thankful for all the energy, kindness and grace my students gave me this week. They were very eager to participate and share their ideas even though they have to work extra hard to find the word to express themselves. I’m thankful that they are trying to involve me in the conversation by switching it to English when I’m around (even though I’m comfortable with them speaking Russian in class).  I’m thankful that they accepted me to be part of their lives and made me feel belonged.

Random Fact: Since every Russian public school starts school on September 1st every year, only 70% of my students showed up in the first week of school (a week before September 1st).



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