Big changes and getting lost in the system

So I mentioned that I’m now teaching physics at a very large high school in the mid-atlantic.  It’s the second day of the second week, and there are a few things that I need to put down in writing in a public place.

First off, I gave my students a math pre-test and a few of my students (all are 11th or 12th grade) could not plot points on a graph.  I’m not sure what the whole story is, but I know that all have passed algebra I and geometry.  Unfortunately I haven’t seen too many math classes so I’m not sure what to think.  My suspicion is a mix of grades not reflecting learning and math curriculum that doesn’t work with real data.  I’ll have to see more math classes and find out what I can build upon.

Second, I’m amazed at how hard it is to figure out who is responsible for certain students.  I’m already pining for the days when I couldn’t blame anyone for my physics students not being able to solve equations, because I was the only math teacher they have had!  I’ll say that much for small schools, you can’t really pass the buck when you’re 1/3 of both the math and science department.  Following up on three students involved 10 minutes of walking and visiting 4 different offices.

And yet, despite the size I have less freedom to try certain things.  I’m required to use points and percentages in Honors Physics, because the other two Honors Physics teachers don’t want to try something they heard of just a week before school starts.  Understood, but I fail to see how the grading system is any less of a variance than the vast differences in experience, labs and even homework.  But I suppose it’s mostly about the appearance of similarity, rather than the fact.

Ugh, that’s all sounding rather jaded.  No matter, these are just the things I have to take note of in the adjustment period.  I’ll figure out how to get them kids a learnin’!

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