My ninth year in the business fast approaches. The classroom is more or less ready to go, but some unanswered questions remain. Here's nine issues for year nine. Who doesn't love a good gimmick?
I have struggled with assessment structures I like in Calculus. It is the greatest struggle when teaching this course. For whatever reason they just get in the way. But it's still necessary to provide some feedback. How to do so efficiently is an ongoing problem. First I tried an SBG system that was bleh, then I went to A/B/Not Yet, but it was just a little to ambiguous. I don't feel like students were getting accurate feedback from that system. Especially through an idea that was faulty, in retrospect, whereby students only received feedback through my written solutions.
What needs to change here? I have some ideas, I'm not sure what I like yet. Unfortunately this question needs an answer soon.
I am super excited about this course. The group of kids is great and I know they will be super eager. Yet at the same time I'm wandering into uncomfortable territory. I can't say that parametrics, Taylor series, etc are my strong suit. I had limited exposure to that stuff in college and it's been a long time since I thought about any of it. I have spent some time this summer studying thanks to the well written Active Calculus. There have been some rumblings among my Calculus kids for reference material, and this is something I'm finally ok recommending.
The big challenge with this course is finding a coherent approach. I'm close, but I should be closer. Since most of my classroom set up is done, I'm hoping to force myself to focus on this during upcoming work days.
My school is in a weird transition. Our graduating classes are as large as they've ever been, yet average class size (at least in math) has been on a short decline. I was consistently above 150 students each year, but now even with six math classes I might not even hit 130. The standard group unit I spent years developing may be overkill now. I certainly will not need six groups of six. That will change a few things about how I run the show. Ok, really I'm just worried about my dumb game that means nothing. The BC kids (whom I told were in for a tiny class) spent more than a few minutes speculating how it was going to work, with legitimate concern in their voices.
In the works for a year, but only announced recently, I made the tough decision to walk away from athletics. It was incompatible with plans I had for my academic programs. I traded athletics for a sixth math class. If you know anything about the duty time required for athletics, adding a sixth class will seem easy in comparison. With hundreds of hours in new free time available, that opens up some new opportunities. I am going to take some of them for myself and just try to work less, and maybe not make it look like I live at school. I do enjoy being actively involved in my school community, and will be volunteering for things here and there, but overall it will be a big reduction. But previous impossibilities are now on the table, like our state academic math competition. For many years I felt like I should be involved, but just couldn't. I also want to spend some time being more involved in my department. For the last almost decade I've been a bit of a ghost.
5. Going National
I will have the opportunity to present my ideas on curriculum at NCTM Chicago Regional and the NCTM DC National. I've never really attended such a large event, let alone present. I have no idea how will it go or if anyone will come. I'm seeing it as a learning opportunity, and really as a way to see TMC folk prior to Cleveland.
6. Victory Lap
Switching to education was a giant risk. My previous job was something I knew I didn't like, and I was scared to death of what happens if teaching wound up equally awful. I never taught a lesson prior to my very first day of school. On the final work day prior to the start of school I remember having a moment in my classroom of "what in the world have I done."
I constantly worried about whether I knew what I was doing. I had all these unconventional ideas and took a lot of risks. Years later of thinking about this stuff way too much, I was honored as teacher of the year on campus, for my district, and as a finalist for my region (Texas has 1000 school districts subdivided into 20 regions, my region employs 95,000 teachers):
Awards are cool and all, and it's an honor to be recognized. Really these awards are a testament to the kids who do such a fantastic job and keep me laughing. I work with a lot of great people and it takes more than just me to make my school a lovely place to work. Despite the recognition, I've still got to organize my own marker bucket, you know?
Really this awards tour brought confidence and the ability to take a deep breath. The big risk I took has unequivocally been the correct choice. I don't have to second guess myself as much. We had a great dinner conversation at Desmos Fellows weekend about this, actually.
7. College Algebra
Another new adventure. With growing senior classes, we have had issues offering classes that meet the needs of our seniors. It's long been observed by myself and the Stats teacher that having two AP classes shouldn't be the only math electives on the table. I have two very cozy (about 15 each) College Algebra courses this school year. I'm excited because it gives me an opportunity to revisit my favorite experiment from my Algebra II days. Though they won't be receiving college credit, I think it's a good opportunity for this group. There's a lot of freedom to explore some interesting math here.
One other opportunity is one aimed at community building. We have advisory periods that are now twice a week. Last year I crafted one with Calculus kids with the thought that maybe we'd do some interesting things. While we did succeed in building a hall of fame, some of the smaller goals got lost in the mix for a number of reason. I'm hoping to improve upon that.
9. BC, Again
So excited for this group. I'm not even sure what to do say or do with them on the first day of school and I don't have a coherent curriculum yet, but it's just going to be great, I know it. Or it will drive me insane. One of those.
Here's to a good school year.