Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Day 12: I'm the Sugarless Gum of Math Teachers

I'm the sugarless gum of math teachers. Four out of five classes have high scholarship. This is a new experience for me. I've had good marking periods before, but never this good. Did I suddenly become a highly-effective facilitator of learning? Or did I just happen to take over a bunch of classes at a school where more kids seemed determined to go to college (or at least get that last math credit)?

Smart money (and empirical data) would bank on the latter.

Granted, I was a little surprised when I calculated the grades. I know that there were some poor showings here and there throughout the marking period (roughly six weeks and some vacation times squeezed in), but most of the people having difficulties only had it in one spot or the other. It wasn't continuous. And the homework and assignments were being handed in (even if there wasn't enough "originality" to that pile on the corner of the desk). It seemed worse that it was mostly because of the noise level in the classroom. Now, I've had APs who like noisy classrooms. If they aren't noisy, then discussions aren't going on. No discussions means learning isn't taking place. However, the inverse of that is most certainly Not logically equivalent. By this I mean that Discussions DO NOT mean learning IS taking place.

Sometimes it's just noise. However, that is on me. That's a classroom management issue, and I have to adjust my approach any way I can. The main way to do this is to establish rules on Day One. However, my Day One and theirs were NOT the same day. I started in the end of October, and I was their third teacher. I was in a new school and I tried to ease my way into my "temporary" role (I wasn't supposed to still be there at this point). That was a mistake, but it's one I'm dealing with. They get a participation grade, and for some it's lower than others, but that's only a small part of the grade. The testing is the largest part, and they are, for the most part, doing better. For this, I'm thankful. And they aren't just squeezing by, they're getting high numbers.

A little true time: the classes with the highest grades are "Financial Algebra", and anything involving logarithms have been dropped. It's math that they can use (although I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's lesson on Life Insurance, which will be even less exciting than Pensions has been), but it's still a lot of compound interest formulas and other computations. And it's planning and thinking about the future. Good stuff. The best part: I don't have to be crazed about the amount of material in each assignment or on the tests.

My Common Core Algebra class is an entirely different situation. I have to push and push and push, and still I'm behind. However, I'm making sure that they know the material I cover. I just keep reminding them that knowing 90% of 70% of the material is 63%, which isn't a good result. So while I'm happy to review to answer everyone's questions, we still have to move along. Today, they were asking me when we were going to start reviewing for the exam, which is less than a month away. I told them the truth: when I finish covering the material.

Sadly, this brings me to the one class that's totally disengaged. I've called parents. I've written anecdotals. I've failed students. "Whatever" is the response. "You're just going to fail me anyway, so why bother?", which is only slightly more annoying than, "When am I ever going to use this?"

They might be lower performing students, but they can do the work when challenged to do so (or mildly coerced by a parent). I've been told that if you raise the bar, the students will rise up to meet that challenge. Not all of them. Some will look at that bar and walk away. Some will want to do a limbo contest no matter how much you lower that bar. There are carrots to dangle in front of them: no summer school, seniors get to go home earlier, hey wasn't there a college you were interested in?

Still working on it for next year. Highly effective? Pipe dream. I hate to say that I'm wondering what next year will bring.

In the meantime, I'm still thrilled by four out of five, and how high they were.

And I'm starting to understand that fifth dentist a little more.

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