I’ve survived my first few weeks of teaching – but this is not enough. When talking to people this summer prior to the beginning of school, I jokingly said my goal for year one was, “Do no harm”.
This of course doesn’t really capture my goals (creating a safe environment for each of my students, pushing for not only procedural fluency but understanding of the mathematics involved, and promoting problem solving abilities – just to name a few). Basically I want my students to think. I want them to be able to evaluate their own solutions to see if they are reasonable. I want them to be able to communicate their thinking to others. I want them to think.
I think I’m doing an OK job in meeting these goals in my two sections of freshman. We still have the reading issues , but we’re getting there. They are getting better every day at making generalizations, looking for and describing patterns, and have begun to understand counter-examples. Most importantly, they are beginning to be active learners and are asking questions when they don’t understand something. I really enjoy these two classes.
It is my other three sections that are nagging at me. I have one section of sophomores (pre-algebra) who are…challenging. It is a very small class, which actually may be part of the problem. They all know each other all too well. Homework completion is inconsistent (and I don’t give them much), preparedness is inconsistent (on any given day there is someone without their glasses, calculator, binder, notes…), and focus is generally non-existent. I’m really trying to create activities that involve explorations and connections to the mathematics they will need to be successful in the next course. I’m just not sure they are getting it. I’m not sure they care to. I’m having a difficult time trying to overcome the “what do I need to get a D” attitude.
My other two sections are of “average” level seniors. Things are “fine” in these classes, but I feel like I’m warehousing them. This is the last year this course will be offered and I inherited a lot of material – most of which I just don’t like. I don’t like the order of the textbook. I don’t like the assessments. I considered using Dan’s method, and even got as far as making the concept list and first concept quiz. Then I was told, “why bother, the course won’t exist next year.” I’m ashamed to admit that I followed this advice. So, I’m redesigning the quizzes as we go. The material thus far is mostly a review of what they “learned” in Algebra II. I’m just not sure how well any of it was learned. I need to do a ton of work on revamping this course – I don’t care if it is the last year, it may be these students’ last year to really learn any mathematics.
On that note, I’m scrapping my plans for tomorrow’s lesson for the seniors and am off to try to design a meaningful lesson.