frustration leads to anger, anger leads to… change

One week left to go in the school year.  It was a doozy.  Second year in, and as we wind down the gaps in what I taught are becoming searing points of light.  As much as I talked up how my students were starting to make sense of the math, they barely scratched the surface.  Towards the end, I totally dropped into teaching how to move numbers around on the page.  Math returned to being the mysterious process it was for my students coming into the year.

I am frustrated with how poorly prepared my students were coming into this year.  That lack of preparation doesn’t stem from just one year of bad teaching, but an entire tortured run through the system.

I am angry that I couldn’t do much better than the teachers before me, and that I got so overwhelmed so quickly.

I will not turn this into suffering though.  Every student deserves better than that.  The other option is much better:  change.

Standards-based grading.  It’s not just a fad.  I dabbled with it for the second half of the year, and my students are singing the praises even from the half-assed system I did.  I still kept track of points, holding onto the old system.  Re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Points are going down.  Excellent resources on that:

Mr. Cornally

Jason Buell

Science Goddess – be sure to check out her helpful visualizations

Kate Nowak

No grading homework.  Cornally The motivation has to come from somewhere other than points.  I couldn’t understand this myself.  I liked math.  If I wanted to learn something, I would do the homework.  Points didn’t matter to me, because I’d do fine on the tests.  So when I gave points for homework, the copying commenced.  It was more important for them to get something down on paper than for them to learn what they were doing.

Now, I can post answers to the problems – and no amount of copying will bother me.  I will give a running quiz on each skill/standard two lessons after it was taught (one to teach, one for them to check and fix homework, then quiz) in the same fashion as dan.  This way I’ll be forced to keep up on assessment, and the students will have a good measure of what they are learning.

Real Problems (WCYDWT).  also, from dan.  I tried one of these before the end of the year, on quadratics.  Not dan’s in particular.  I used my fip camera, my pull down graph chart, a ball of clay and a bucket.  I showed the first few frames of the ball toss, and kept my mouth shut.  The quesiton “does it make it or not?”  immediately came up.  It was a struggle to get them using the quadratic forms from there, but we got there eventually.  I just wish I hadn’t started so late.

And there are the projects the district has pulled me for.  Adding global health (ie infectious diseases) into Algebra II.  Adding project based learning (just in time teaching) to Physics.

I’m going to be so busy over the summer and next year my head will be swimming.  And I can’t wait 🙂

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