First Week

Although this blog is for my own personal reflection, I have to pretend I have a vast audience that is chomping at the bit for regular postings.  Perhaps this can be another avoidance strategy to lesson planning on Sunday nights.

What’s different and wonderful about this first week of the school year?

To begin, I know nearly all of my students already.  Those that I don’t know, know a fair amount about me and how demanding and strict I can be.  I gave an exit slip on the first day of each class asking for questions about me.  I didn’t give any spiel about who I am and how I teach.  I figured if they were interested, they would ask.  When the question, “are you strict?” came up, I was in a great position to explain how I am strict, but I’ve gotten very good about not being a jerk.  Yes, I will hold you to a high standard.  No, I will not let you pass just because you’re sucking up.  But there’s just no good reason I would need to be mean while enforcing my rules and standards.

Also, It’s wonderful to know the curriculum I’m teaching.  I taught Algebra II last year, I taught PreCalc two years ago, and this is my third year teaching Physics.

I’m very excited about standards based grading.  The concept is not new to my students.  Most of them have had SBG in their language arts classes for the past two years.  The shift for them is from pieces of evidence to make the grade, to multiple assessments.  I’m not grading homework, and I won’t accept homework as evidence of learning.  There has been a strong culture of copying for the past several years and I’m not going to forget.

Finally, it’s wonderful to have a student teacher to work with.  I couldn’t help but step in when he was leading an activity on the first day, but I do think that we’ve established to the students an expectation that we are partner teachers.  As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll need to step in less, and I think that’s appropriate.  Planning the first days of lessons was incredibly productive.  We’re both tossing out ideas, we’re both weighing in on what we think will be effective.  I still have the final say, which again will change when he takes over the class.

Goals for curriculum:

– Make something cohesive out of the first semester of Precalc (before trig)!

– Document the heck out of Physics, so someone else can step in and take over next year.  I just realized that video is going to be important there!

Right.  Enough procrastinating.  And check out Baths – Cerulean, excellent working music.

thank you teaching for…

totally stolen from dan meyer.

Teaching has taught me when to be a leader, and to be extremely good at sussing out true motivations of behavior.

Outside of the classroom, I used to take charge simply for the sake of leading.  This has lead to some hostile situations.  Now I’m much better about hanging back, waiting until the moment when someone taking the lead is actually necessary, rather than simply what I want.  (not perfect, but much better)

Because of teaching education, I had a fairly deep theoretical background in adolescent psychology and counseling.  But in the classroom, I had to figure out something to do for the millions of times “i don’t know” comes up.  Now I’m pretty good at asking “is [blank] what’s really going on” without being a total dick about it.

There is plenty more, but time management definitely isn’t one of them yet.  Sorry teaching, but I’m good with the first two.

Treading water

“This year I feel like I’m not even treading water, just barely keeping my head above water lying on my back.”

“Well have you improved your teaching from the beginning of the year?”


“Then you’re swimming, because treading water means you’re not making any forward progress.”

This was a conversation I had around march in my 2nd year of teaching (yeah, that was just this year).  It was a conversation with another science teacher who has more than a decade on teaching than me.  He creates the impression that he’s jaded and stuck in his ways.  But this conversation pulled me right out of my funk, and over the past two years I’ve watched him quietly adapt and change his teaching style.

You could turn this into some cliche about seeing how much farther the shore is or whatever.  Cut the fluff – progress is measured from a fixed point.  If you’re moving from that point, you’re making progress.