Update on Tim
Are you still teaching?
I am still teaching. I have now left elementary school teaching and am teaching seventh grade science at Marysville Middle School. I have, however, begun my administration certificate work, so if all goes according to plan, I will transitioning to the role of an administrator in the next few years.
Do you still teach this unit or share it with others?
When I moved to the new elementary school, I continued the lesson and even did it with my class and a third-grade buddy class. It, like lots of things, seemed to get lost in the struggle to have “data points” in our teaching. I am sad about that, but I stand behind the work that we did in those classes at Quil Ceda (now Quil Ceda Tulalip). It is interesting that I now have the children of students I had at Quil Ceda in my class now.
By “data pointsdo you mean excessive testing that causes constraints on time?
Yes, I meant in the world of high-stakes tests with lots of adjustments having to be made.
Looking at the unit, what area do you think could be made shorter so that it might fit into the curriculum’s timeframe?
I actually adjusted it for a couple of things. The biggest is that we have used a water bottle launcher that my brother and I built out of PVC pipe and a tire pressure gauge. It works pretty well. I can take a picture of it and send it to readers who are interested. Kids can then use a two-liter bottle and fill it with about 250 milliliters of water. They then pressurize it and send it off. We get decent height but not as high as the other rockets, though. However, the math still works out. You need a bike pump and water. That seems to cut down on the time aspect of it greatly. Also the cost is a lot less. The kids are happy to bring in two-liter bottles.
Did the adjustments make the unit more accessible for teaching again?
Yes. The reworking has made it more accessible for other teachers to do this type of project as well as myself. The downside for me is that I really like the excitement level brought on by the model rockets, but the realities of the cost just got to be too much, as well as the build time needed to make the rockets successful. The two-liter bottles are much more reasonable in this way. In the early to mid-1990s, there was lots of grant money around that could be used to support these types of projects. As the economy changed, a lot of that money dried up (I am thinking of programs such as the Toyota TIME grants and the Toyota TAPESTRY grants). The other benefit of using two-liter bottles is that they are not as intimidating to other teachers because model rockets, if you have not played with them before, seem awfully scary to some. The two-liter bottle is not as much.
What are your thoughts on the CCSSM?
The CCSSM are a very misunderstood concept in my mind. There is a lot to be said for having standards that run across state borders, much as the NCTM standards did in the nineties. I am a little dismayed at the lack of materials out there that truly meet the standards and therefore see teachers attempting to connect the dots the best they can. The key has always been true mathematical understanding. CCSSM, I believe, struggles from a public relations standpoint. Social media accounts of CCSSM problems make for great click-bait, but the real issue is teachers not fully understanding the standards in a way that allows them to cut through the chatter and get to the heart of what thinking students are being asked to demonstrate. This leads to a case where parents are not fully aware of what is being asked, the teacher can’t fully explain it, so we run back to, “When I was in school we just needed to know that 4 times 5 was 20!”
Do you engage in professional development?
I am a keen reader of professional materials. I attend workshops on a regular basis and am fully involved with the PLCs that are a part of my school and district.
Do you collaborate with other teachers to discuss effective strategies for the teaching and learning of students? If so, when and what are the outcomes of the collaboration?
Not as much as I would like to, but, yes, within the structure of the Professional Learning through Collaboration model, we get a chance to sit down and discuss things deeply. I have done more of that with science of late, since I am at a middle school now teaching science. At the elementary level, it was often the case that I had a deeper understanding of the math thinking—due to work that I have done over the years—so this led me to look outside of my own building for colleagues to work with. The outcomes were at best mixed because of this being the model in which I had to work.
Tim Granger Marysville Middle School 4923 67th St NE Marysville, WA 98270 United States