Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Semester Ending

Semester 1 of my first year of teaching is coming to a close. An interesting one it has been.

I have spent the last three or so weeks counting down the end of this semester while looking forward to new and exciting things to come. It is not as much that I want this Semester to end, and more that I cannot wait to finally get to start classes that are my own from day 1! It has been quite the challenge to take on students that had already fallen into routines with another teacher - I am just looking forward to a new challenge that is my own (and more realistic to what I will experience for the rest of my career).

I have found that especially the older students I have (at the level of course they are in) had lost interest in large parts of the course long before I arrived at their school. Many of them were content to aim for a 50 to get their last mandatory credit in Mathematics. Some strove for better and worked sometimes...but it is hard to say that any of them really put their hearts into it. But I still loved it - getting to see students for who they are and having some open up about their struggles (whether it be at home or school). It is hard not to appreciate people who are trying to be true to be real. I only wish I had found a way to motivate them better.

We are in Exam week right now, so classes are finished and the final marking and report cards are all that are left for my responsibilities. I am spending time starting to prepare for the next Semesters classes (I am only repeating one of my three preps) but constantly find myself reflecting on how this Semesters classes went. What would I do differently next time? What would I continue doing? What would I stop doing all-together? Despite the fact that I will not be teaching a 1P course this Semester it is the one I had the most trouble with this time around so I am thinking about it a lot.

How do we reach such an eclectic variety of students? There are so many unique needs, despite the fact that some of them have similar backgrounds. Many are misplaced in the P stream and lack the core math skills that are needed. Most are motivated only by marks (and even that comes and goes) and all of them were pretty much shut down by the time the performance task and EQAO came along...never mind when they write their exams this week. I honestly don't know how that class functioned as a class of 18 before it was split. I constantly needed to be in three places at once and was using the phrase "focus" or "get back to work" at least 40 times per class. I know that when I teach this (or a similar) course again that I will separate from the use of the TIPS books much more often. I would love to be able to create partial notes for students like this that they can fill in during a short lesson and use as a model to complete their work. Page after page of application is, frankly, useless to them if there are no examples.

Now I will go back to writing reports and preparing for the upcoming Semester. All the meanwhile trying not to take it personally that too many of my students were unsuccessful this time around. I will focus on how I can make a difference for and motivate my next group. I will take what I have experienced so far and use it to make myself a better teacher.

Personal Goals
- Bring back goals students set for themselves throughout the Semester
- Use Student Conferences to check in with students about their progress and get them to talk about their goals and fears
- Teach students to self-evaluate their struggles and successes and give them the tools to figure out and execute their next steps
- Keep My Class Sites updated throughout the Semester