Nearly wrapping up the year

This year has been chaotic.

Between courses I hadn’t taught before, class lists packed with struggling students, and hard lessons in student motivation, I was awfully glad to have made it through my one semester contract and go back to on-call teaching for a while. The mixed blessing since has been that it’s been too busy to feel like much of a break.  I’ve had a one-month stay at a middle school, I’m ending the year with what looks to be three weeks teaching Science 9, and there’s been plenty to do in between.  Add to that an unexpected tragedy that simultaneously hit both my church family and the school I’m ending the year in.  Yeah, I’m about ready for summer.

Lessons learned:

  • I need to do more than keep a gradebook that makes sense to just me. I need to improve how I communicate my grading to the students. I need to take stronger steps to get kids away from feeling hit by failure when they see low numbers on quizzes. I’m thinking of stealing Frank Noschese’s SBG student folder structure pretty heavily; I’m awfully tempted to get rid of numbers on assessment results. So sick of points.
  • The first week or two of a course are huge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get those this year – I was hired one week in, and my first week there was basically a scramble. Recovering from that was messy.
  • Courses full of students who don’t care, don’t need the course to pass and are only there because they couldn’t get a spare and signed up to be with their friends are … challenging.
  • I had some good middle school experiences in the second semester. I still don’t know if that’s where I’d want to end up, but I’m less opposed to it at least. Although I think my most likely path to ideal-job is to get hired somewhere to teach math, and then create / expand the computing program once I’m in the door. Not as likely to happen in a middle school model here from what I’ve seen.
  • If I were teaching science full time, I would miss math. I’m two weeks in to a short-term thing right now, and it’s fun, but yeah, I’m more math teacher than science. (Although covering the end of a unit on circuits was pretty awesome.)
  • I need a structure to homework checks from Day One, for myself as well as the students. In my perfect world, kids would figure out that homework matters because of the natural consequence of *actually learning*, not because of my gradebook. But I need to give them structure to lead them to that point, not just toss them in the deep end. (Also, I need the structure so I don’t just toss them in the deep end by default.)
  • The only thing worse than a cheesy textbook is no textbook at all. (Unless you’ve got some other way of generating / finding good practice problems for kids that you don’t have to guard carefully in case they end up on someone else’s test.)

Two weeks to go.

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