My budding love of teaching, stemming from my larger love of math and learning

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Starting Off a Busy Week Positive

I have been struggling a lot lately with my decision to be a teacher. At first it was just the thoughts of "Why did I take a $10,000 pay cut?" or "Man it would be wonderful to go out to lunch to day and have a beer." (which I did often as an engineer). But then it turned to really doubting myself and my ability to do this job.

Three jobs in three years, with no guarantee of having a job next year, starts to play with your mind. The students that make your job even harder, the doing your job during every waken moment...this is the story of my life right now.

Am I meant to be in this job? Do I really want to be doing this job? And then the idea of teaching Geometry...AAAAAHHHHHAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Last week I started the week being pretty miserable. But this week I am going to try to stay a little more positive. I know that the problem students are not being a problem because of me, they are a problem for everyone. I know that everyone is stressed. I know that I am doing a good job, per my observation last week, and that I won't ever be perfect, so why try to be. I still know more than any student in my classroom, and really do they know a bad lesson from a good lesson. I need to make more time for myself, and things will get done. Probably not on the time frame that I have been trying to hold myself to...just a little longer.

I need to stop letting students control the decisions that I make, and not to let their comments effect my plan going forward. Of course they are going to bitch about the number of homework problems that I give them each night or that a quiz is 50 pts, "That's more like a test!", although quizzes are 20% of their grade and tests are 40%. These students are not my peers, their parents are not people that I socialize with and are not the ones making the decision about my job.

I know I can survive, but I am not sure that I want to. Do I really want to teach?

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Way of Grading?

Ok, I think I am going to try something new with grading. Not sure that I should be doing this at the end of the quarter, but I don't see what the difference is really.

Here's the idea: Students earn their grades, right? So why have I been taking points "off" on test/quizzes? Why haven't I been giving students the points that they earned on each problem. In the past I have be subtracting 1, 2, 3, etc. points when they make a mistake, but this time around I am going to give them 5, 4, 3, etc points that they earned with the work they have done. Isn't this essentially the same thing?

I have been reading a few blogs lately that focus on Standard Based Grading (SBG) (Miss Calculate, Pt of Inflection, f(t), amongst a few others), and it is not what happens in my school, but I really believe that it is the way to go, and I am hoping that I will be in this position next year so this summer I could work on implementing SBG in a way into my classroom (right now I am just trying to get the content out to the students in a cohesive, understandable way).

Ok, so back to my new way of grading. I am going to try this:
  • 0. Has not demonstrated any skill or understanding (i.e wrote nothing down)
  • 1. Hasn't completed much work on the problem (tried to start the problem, but really there is no conceptual understanding of the problem)
  • 2. Has completed a little more work on the problem but, still lacking the conceptual understanding of the problem, and is making mechanical errors (i.e. computation errors)
  • 3. More understanding of the concept, but using wrong thing to solve the problem (i.e, used Alt. Int. angles when they should have used Corres. angles, or said that corresponding angles are supplementary when they are really congruent).
  • 4. Has demonstrated mastery of the skill, but is making mechanical errors ( i.e. Set up problem correctly but did 3y = 108, y =39, or forgetting to carry a negative through.
  • 5. THe problem is done correctly, correct set up, correct explanation, no mechanical errors, all formulas shown correctly.
Students can earn half points. An example of this would be the student did the problem correctly but did not write any formulas down (I am HUGE on writing the formula every new problem you do).

I am sure I will get some fights from the students on this because of not really understanding (the same students that complain a quiz is worth 50pts, saying that is like a quiz, but quizzes are worth 20% of their grade and tests are worth 40%, also the same students that would complain if I put $1M in front of them). But I am going on the fact that students EARN grades, and I shouldn't be taking points away from them.

I ask you, readers (if there are any out there): Is it ok to change to this way? I really think I am not doing anything differently, just adding points instead of subtracting. Opinions?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Trying to be more hands on...

So earlier this month I attended the regional NCTM conference in Denver. I am very lucky that a regional conference ended up being so close to me, but not so lucky in that I ended up having to pay for it myself and that I was the only person to attend from my district. But I pushed to be able to go and I am soooooo glad that I did. There were so many great things that I am little by little trying to implement in my classroom. I saw a great response by a reader of MissCalcul8; this reader told her that "this year you only have to get half way to perfection". It is my new mantra!!!!

Ok so on to the idea that I am going to try tomorrow. I went to a great hands-on workshop by Gary Kubina (I tried to google him but not much came up, so no link), it was called 'Hands-On/Minds-On Geometry". One of the activities that he did was called 'Planes & Lines'. You were given two lines (straws) and two planes (index cards) and you needed to model certain situations, such as, 'a line intersects a plane at a point', 'two parallel planes', 'two planes intersect in a line', etc. It was AWESOME, why didn't I think of this when I was desperately trying to get my students to understand a 2-D picture was a 3-D situation. So I am going to try it tomorrow as we start to talk about Parallel Lines & Transversals.

Here is how I am going to implement it (my students sit at tables of two):
Each table will have 1 ziplock bag with 4 index card, with holes punched in two locations (2 per student) and 4 straws (2 per student).
Using the items in the zip-lock each student will have to model the following situations, they may not have to use all four items for each situation:
  • A line intersects a plane at a point
  • two lines are skew lines
  • two planes are parallel
  • a line is parallel to a plane
  • two planes are parallel
  • two planes intersect in a line
  • two lines intersect in a point
  • two lines intersection a plane in two distinct points, the two lines are skew
I think there are some classes that are going to love this. Then I think there will be some kids who wouldn't be happy if there were a Million dollars in the bag too.

Here's hoping it goes well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Struggling with In Class Examples

I am struggling with in class examples. I am not sure what to do. Here's my problem: Algebra examples are easy for the kids to copy because it is usually an equation/expression or a short prompt. Geometry examples tend to be much longer and my students are not quick with the quill if you know what I mean. So what do I do? I have been getting phone calls from parents (ok just one parent) saying that I have not gone over concepts prior to assigning HW, which I know is not the case and typically spread a lesson over two days to make sure that we spend time on examples.
I would love to be able to give each student a copy of the ppt slides (I do this so that I don't have to write every example, and project it directly to my white board. I am toying with the idea of giving each student a half of sheet of paper with the prompts. But in this time of budget crunches...can I really use all that paper.
I don't do the book problems because I have found that students don't pay attention or process the information as well because the answers are right there, so I use the additional examples from the Teacher's addition.

What do I do?

Friday, October 8, 2010

NCTM, Denver 2010

WOW!! 2 fun filled days of math. I learned so much. Hoping I can find the time to get everything up here, but since I have posted since the end of August, maybe winter break will be a good time.