I started off this week writing a blog about staying positive, which I am having a really hard time doing. For several reasons:
a) some of my students, and some of their parents
b) confidence in my ability to be teaching this subject
c) my desire to be wanting to teach this subject
d) the demands of my job not related to the classroom
As I started the week telling myself I was going to be positive. I was able to put a few things into perspective and I think it helped. Even coworkers have made comments on the change in my attitude. I know that October is a really bad time of the year for me. I let the decrease in day light really effect me, and I don't start to make a change until it is too late. I upped the amount of vitamin D that I take and I tried to recognize when I got down.
As this week went on I realized that I am doing ok. Of course, there is always room for improvement, and I know that. And I keep going back to advice that Miss Calculate got from one of her readers, Emily..."You want to be the best teacher that you can be, and that won't happen if you spread yourself too thin. Remind yourself that you only need to get half way to perfection this year, the rest can happen next year."
My connections with students are improving. There is a more carefree attitude in my classroom. There is more laughter. I had a boyfriend in grad school that went to Africa for a time a few weeks. He came back with a piece of cloth that the women there wear. On it was written in the native language (I can't remember which country he went to, so I can't remember the official language) "Your laughter puts me at ease". And even though that relationship is long over and we have both moved on with our lives, on completely different paths, I still have that piece of cloth in the bottom of a tupperware bin, not because it was from him, but because it was really cool! And I still think about it occasionally. This being a perfect time to talk about it. When my students are giggling, when I can giggle...there is so much ease in my classroom.
We started parent-teacher conferences last night. I was really nervous, for several reasons.
a) I didn't want to take to the parents that I have talked to several times via phone or email. I mean what else do I have to say?
b) I didn't want to talk to a mother of a boy that I recently suggested that he move back to Algebra, even though the boy als0 felt he could be more successful if he went back (this student took Algebra as an 8th grader, and was a freshman in Geometry)
c) I was worried that there were going to be conversations with parents about my need to differentiate, in both directions
d) I was afraid I was going to hear that students really disliked my class.
At the end of the night here's how I felt.
1) I enjoyed the way PTCs were set up at our school. Rather than teachers being in their rooms by themselves, secluded from the heros that would sweep in if you were getting chewed out by a teacher, we were all in the commons together. All the round tables of the school were put in there and teachers were only separated by 4 feet or so. Which was awesome. I could watch the interactions happening at the other tables. And I felt safe if an of those "crazy" parents decided to try to corner me.
2) I saw those parents that I have communicated with via phone or email walking around...they didn't come see me. Which is FINE with me! But I was prepared to say several things to them, to defend my teaching style, methods, and philosophies. To let them know that I am well aware of their students copying answers out of the back of the book for homework, and that was probably why they were doing well on quizzes/tests. I was also prepared to invite them to my classroom to join class any day if they had a question about what was actually happening in my classroom.
3)I did speak to the mother of the boy that went back to Algebra...she was totally on board!
4)I did have a few discussion that centered around "what are you doing for my gifted child". One father said to me "Well, I'm an engineer, and I understand this stuff, so why aren't you doing this. And isn't geometry about tiling?" My response, "Oh, I'm and engineer too, undergrad and masters..." Him "Here in Colorado?" Me "No, I went to Syracuse UNiversity. And yes there is Geometry involved in tiling, but this is a proofs based Geometry class, so that is what we are focusing on." And he went on and on about needing to see the book. I said "Go-go gadget ear muffs!"
Another mother suggested that I allow her student to have a journal inclass. "Wouldn't it be great if she could journal about what is going on? I know that you are teaching to the low students in that class...juniors and seniors...she is getting bored." Me "Well I believe it is important for all students to be part of the discussions. Geometry is very unlike any other math, because it is based on proves and the students aren't quite sure on the process yet. Even if she thinks she gets it, there is always another theorem or postulate to learn. I am happy to challenge her more on the homework, but she needs to learn to be attentive in class." So I am sticking to my guns. I am not going to make more work for myself.
5) I had some great discussions with parents about how the kids like my class. I was surprised...but happy. And several students that I didn't expect it from.
All in all the first night of conferences went well, I can only hope that tonight is as smooth.
Lastly, I am feeling really good about my decision to grade on a 5 point scale. I think it is going to make my grading a little easier. And this way I don't need to try to figure out point value prior to the test, I just say "All problems worth 5 pts".
All in all, it has been one of the better weeks. I hope I am not jinxing myself!