Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflections - I think it's week 10?

Algebra 1

I posted about the tweak I was making my my Algebra 1/Course 1 class this week here.   We are one week into it and I'm liking it MUCH better.  I think it's easier to manage, a little less chaotic, and I'm able to work with more of the students individually.

One rule I put in place is that students were NOT allowed to work ahead.  If they were done early, they could work on their "Problem of the Month" or play one of the Algebra games on the iPods.  This meant that every day students started in the same place.  We were able to do a warm-up or class review each day to get everyone on the same page and then the students started their "rotations".

I started each day with Group A/B (my lowest group) to make sure they were getting started and on the right track.  During that time, Group C/D (my middle group) started on the iPods.  Once I was done with Group A/B, they continued the activity and/or used the iPods and I moved to work with Group C/D in person.  It was nice to be able to do a little summary of what they should have learned and make sure they were on the right track.  Group E/F (my high group) did great - they (with one or two exceptions) worked great and were focused.  I spoke with each of the tables in that group on the first day and told them they were placed here because they have shown that they can work without me babysitting them and that I can trust them to be getting their work done.

The results from the quiz this week were fantastic.  In 2nd period, I had 17 of the 32 students who took it get 100%!  I think that also has to do with the amount of time we spent on the concept.  In years past, when solving systems of equations, we would spend 2 days on graphing, 2 on substitution, and 2 on elimination.  We spent all week on graphing.  We spent a day reviewing 1 line graphing, 1 day on an intro/exploratory activity with graphing practice for homework, 1 day on explicit teaching on graphing systems, and then the last 2 days with some application activities and more practice for homework.  By the end of the week, it was well drilled in their heads.  I'm interested to see how elimination goes this week since we will have 5 days on it as well.

Math Analysis

I feel like this has been a really rough year in Math Analysis.  I feel like I get much more easily irritated with these students and I'm not sure if it is due to personal reasons (lack of sleep, not dedicating hours upon hours outside of school to their every beck and call like I used to), placement issues (there are way too many kids who were not successful- meaning A or B- in their last math class and thus should not have been put in Math Analysis HONORS, but a variety of reasons allowed them to), or something else.

I feel like last year, especially at this point of the year, the students were really enjoying their blogs and were submitting quality posts.  This year, it seems like it is such an "annoyance" and many students have hardly done any of them all year.  Since they go in the 20% weighted category, that means some students have a much lower grade than they should simply because they won't do their blog posts.  I've also never had students NOT want to come in and retake quizzes to get a higher score.  I feel like I'm pulling teeth begging the students this year to come in and do the simple things to show me their proficiency (and thus raise their grade).  The same thing goes with retaking tests - I've made it so much easier (in my viewpoint) this year - students don't have to retake the whole test, but just the concepts they did poorly on.

I also feel like I have gone back and forth so many times on what is required vs. what is optional.  I have not been able to find the balance between student freedom and responsibility, and what is needed in order to succeed.  If I give them the choice "do what you need to in order to learn", they won't hardly do anything and they will fail the test.  If I tell them "this is all mandatory", they will write crap down or copy from someone else.  I don't know what to do!!!

In addition, I feel like I have a lot of students who aren't really learning much from the video lesson because they are just going through the motions.  I get the online WSQ submissions via a google spreadsheet so they are timestamped and I have 50% of my students doing them after 10pm at night on most days and 25% of them doing them from 7am until class time (many from my after lunch classes do them during lunch).  They go through the motions to get the WSQ submitted but I'm really not sure how much they learned from it.  I would think that when they come to class and don't understand the class discussion or can't do the practice problems, they would take responsibility and go back and rewatch the videos or watch the extra examples or even ask me a question, but they don't!  Even with my encouragement and reminders, they don't!  This particular unit we are on can be quite confusing - graphing and shifting trig functions.  The required videos were just one of each function (there are 6 of them), although there were 2-3 more for each function available for extra.  Some students are good with one example, but most students need more.  And hardly any of them, despite reminders (almost to the point of pleading) every day, they will just say "I don't get it". "This confuses me".

At this point in the year I have gone back and forth in my head what I want to do or what I want to change.  I have so many ideas for next year but I don't think now is a good time to implement them.  Students have AP tests coming up in 2 weeks as well and that doesn't help - my class is one of their few non-AP classes so I know it's not a big focus right now.  I'm just trying to hold on, stay positive, and hopefully push as many students as possible to finish strong.  And then, start fresh next year.  It's not the ideal situation but that's where I'm at right now.

Speaking of staying positive, I think that's where my struggle is.  I don't want to be overly strict to the point that students hate me and my class.  I also don't want to be overly caring and nice that I don't hold them to rigorous standards.  I don't know why, at 7 years in, I'm starting to struggle with that balance.  I don't feel like I've had the struggle before and it seems to be all over the place this year.  I know that it all comes down to relationships with the students.  Building trust and rapport so they want to work for you.  However, I also know I've put in more strict personal boundaries this year that have affected my normal great rapport with my students.  I am not available after school except one or maybe two days.  If students don't show up on time for test retakes (they must arrive between 7 and 7:15), I make them reschedule instead of continually saying "it's okay".   I also don't have as much patience as in years past, and my sarcasm has come out in not-so-positive ways.  When students ask for the 3rd or 5th or 11th time how to do something, love and patience definitely does not shine through.

I know that none of us are perfect, and that's why I wanted to share that I'm not either.  Having a baby and trying to figure out how that changes the way you do things, your priorities, and your demeanor is tough.  It's definitely been the hardest year of my career by far, but I've learned a ton (a lot of which is still swimming around my brain trying to make sense).  I'm looking forward to starting fresh but what's most important is making sure that every day I still come in with a positive attitude, ready and willing to help, support, listen to, and challenge all of my students.


  1. Crystal, your priorities have shifted this year and rightfully so. You just had a baby. You're a wife, new mom, extraordinary teacher, etc. You've added a new role into your life and that takes adjustment. This is a year of transition, which is never easy. Motherhood is tough and so is teaching. You're just 1 year in trying to tackle both and you're doing great. You have to set boundaries to keep yourself sane and, balance home and school. It really sounds like you're doing everything right. And you realize areas you need to grow in like staying positive (btw I struggle with that too). It's a lot to be there for everybody. Through all of this you must schedule in time for yourself. That's going to help you stay in a positive place and it'll help you better handle all of your roles. I know how frustrating it is to keep giving to your students and wracking your brain to figure out how to best help them and you get nothing in return. But iIbelieve you are planting seeds in them. Sometimes, like in past years, you had the joy of being able to see that seed grow and turn into a beautiful plant, and other times it may lie in the ground a little longer than you'd like and it may take someone else to come by a year or two later to water it before you see the sprouts. Other times it may stay in the ground and you just have to know that you did the best you could with what you had. Priorities: You first, your family and then your job. Do well at the first two and give whatever you have left to the latter. You can only do so much and you're not a bad person because of it. Their parents should really be doing what you've done in past years, which is another issue. You've made yourself available like they were your kids. Now that you have a child your students' role has to shift back to where it's supposed to be: students and I believe that's the struggle you're having this year. Believe me. I'm there right now. I struggled with feeling guilty for leaving work on time so I can be home and not burnt out by the time my 4and 6 year old gets home from school. Isn't that ludicrous? At the end of the day, my family comes first. Anyway I know this is long but be encouraged. You are excellent at what you do. I don't know what changes you have planned for next year but I believe you are doing more than enough this year and these kids, as well as you, need the boundaries you've set in place. It's teaching them responsibility and it's helping you prioritize. Keep being great! And know that you're not alone.

    1. Sorry this took me so long to reply but thank you... your comment was so encouraging and needed. I appreciate you!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...