I’m about five weeks into the school year, so for about five weeks now, whenever I have a really good day in class I tell myself, “Jeepers, I’m pretty remarkable. I guess I’ve hit my stride as a math teacher now and am going to keep being remarkable from here on out.”
Then, the next time I have a doldrum-y day, I worry and fuss over what went wrong, what I need to do differently. And at some point I reassure myself that “I’m still settling into the role, the new students, the odd classroom situation, etc. But I’ve got really good stuff coming up, so don’t worry — I’m gonna hit my stride and start bringing the house down with my general excellence.”
I’ve been devotedly trying out ideas I get from esteemed math teacher-bloggers, but there’s a limit to how effectively I can implement methods born of experience when I have very little. I still want to try them. I just flounder a bit as I do.
My Trig-ers are preparing for their second test of the year. I accidentally did something funky with this unit, which has complicated the test prep process for them. It’s possible that it could improve their long-term info retention, but I’ll have to see whether the improvement is worth doing it this way again.
I began teaching the first unit (a review of the final material from their last math class) overestimating the amount they’d remember from last year, underestimating the difficulty of schoolwork re-entry, and not realizing that the previous trig teacher (whose reviews and tests I’m using) split this unit in two.
That last error led me to push the students through the entire unit before telling them to go back and review only the first half of what we covered. After reviewing and being tested on that half, they began reviewing the second half, which is recent enough that instruction about it is now boring, but distant enough that they were all relatively lost. I gave a valiant effort at stepping them back through the material, but observed that even the most diligent among them were intellectually zonked out. So I stopped, and set them loose on some review problems.
Cons: the class seems unorganized and confusing. Possible pros: hitting the material twice, with a bit of a break between, could improve their long-term retention. Their test is on Monday and I wish them the very best.
I had some cool math teaching moments last week. Here are two, one from each of my classes (Trigonometry and Algebra 2).
In Trig I’d been running around like a mad woman answering question after question and feeling like I was getting nowhere. So one day I said, “I’m staying here at the front of the room. If you have a question, come to me. If I’m already occupied with someone else, see if you can find someone in the class to answer your question.” The first person came up and, without thinking it, I put her question on the board while we talked about it. A couple more came up while the remarkable moment developed.
I was working with a single student, but as we progressed I could feel students in certain areas of the classroom growing quiet to listen in. They had apparently been struggling with the same problem and wanted their share of the help I was giving. Students who did not join us on that problem were, at that moment, all engaged in quiet group conversations about how to resolve their own questions. Cool, I thought.
For Algebra 2 I show up as a support teacher, meaning that I don’t set curriculum or plan lessons, but I work closely with students to reinforce the work of the lead teacher. Sometimes I really love that stuff. That day they were graphing inequalities on the number line. I began my work, encouraging students to describe their problems clearly, assess their own work, check their own answers. “Is that a true statement?” I asked 30 or so times. “Let’s test it,” I said probably 50. Cool, I thought.