So, I simultaneously feeling like the first quarter cannot already be over, and feel that August was a very long time ago. Is this how every year feels, or is this a first year teaching thing? Maybe a little bit of both.
I also alternate between thinking I am doing well and keeping up and that I couldn’t be more behind and we will never cover everything we need to. I even feel like I am moving too fast i my Algebra I class, although I think polynomials are going to be a huge hurdle for these students, so I don’t think I will run out of content. Again, there is probably some of this that will be true every year, but there will also be some of this that will get easier as I go.
I was reading the great Justin Aion’s Blog and he was talking about wanting students to be self-directed and self-assessing, and I assumed much the same things this year. Of course the students will ask questions if they don’t understand something, I mean, that’s what I would do, right? But, alas, I have found some of the same issues. If students don’t really understand something they have just been going with the flow and then getting 36% on a test, which is then my fault when the parent can’t understand why their student did not do well. I took a step back and realized that what I thought was an opportunity for students to think and learn, the students just thought was marking problems right and wrong on their homework. I realized that I need more direct assessments for them, so I have been doing more quick quizzes at the beginning of class instead of problem solving and brain teasing, which is sad to me, but seems necessary for now.
In my first quarter of teaching, I also have a new least favorite phrase: “What was the answer to number ____ again.” As I stated above, I see homework as a time for them to learn and think. I even believe this about checking homework. I ask them for questions on their homework, and then I have each students read an answer so that I can see if they have it done, and if we have differing answers, we can explore how different people got those answers. I also often ask students to come write some answers (especially graphs and number lines) on the board and we evaluate errors and correct answers. With all of this being said, if someone asks a questions on a problem or we have a disagreement over an answer and I dedicate minutes of classtime to having a student walk me through a problem, I lose it when a few answers later someone asks the answer to the problem we just worked. This just shows me that they’re checking out, and only really care about getting the right answer. I have also found that some of the students have realized the game, and if they count ahead, they don’t have to do their homework, as long as they can answer one problem on the spot pretty quickly. I am still working on the best way to check homework (again because I see this as a learning an thinking opportunity, I only check completion) while also making the best use of my classtime.
Other than that I think I have settled in well. I need to get a little more organized. I need to be a little less helpful and a little more questioning, but I think I am getting better at that. I hope to keep getting ideas and support out of the MTBoS and giving back to it in whatever little ways I can.