Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Teaching Resolutions

Okay, so New Year for teachers is really August/September, but it's never bad to reflect on how the year has gone so far and what things I could work on for the 2nd half of the school year. Also, by now I have some sort of groove going with the kids (good or bad), and that gives me more to work with.

1. I'm still not happy with my homework I assign. Ideally I would like it to be 80% or so new material, and 20% mixed review. That's always in the back of my mind, and it seems to have taken up permanent residence there. My issue is that I'm scrambling to create or assign homework at my favorite minute - the last one, so ... Now I'm old enough to know that this is the way I work, so I need to think of something I can do within my limitations.

Idea: While I'm creating the current homework or while I'm entering it in GradeSpeed, jot down 2 similar problems to that night's homework along with topic covered while it's fresh in my mind. If I do this for a while, then I'll build up a store of problems ready-made, and then in my future last minute, I can hunt and peck around this list and just add them to the homework. Better yet, type in or scan in the problems onto my school website, and then just point the students in that direction and tell them which additional problems to do each night.

2. At the end of each class, I really only have a good sense of how a portion of my students understand the current material. There are still too many ways in class to pretend like you're listening and comprehending, but really tuning out in the myriad of teenage ways. I'd like to have a quick easy take on everyone, and have them understand if they get it or not. Problem: I'm usually bell-to-bell, and feel 5 minutes of something else won't happen without squeezing out important content.


Hmmm, no immediate ideas. My original idea was to have them do a problem by themselves similar to what they just learned (with? without notes?), but then I'm sitting here thinking about how I learn best, and maybe like everyone else, part of the process is to go back over what you just learned and try to rephrase it or think about it a piece at a time: what were the important points, what did this or that mean, what would happen in such a situation, etc. Maybe a starting idea to see how it works would be to force myself to stop class 5 minutes early, and have a standard set of prompts related to my thoughts above, and the kids have to silently go over their notes and work and brains and answer the questions/prompts about the topic, not solving a problem, but thinking about what was learned. No talking to others, because then I wouldn't know what they know (even though you learn by discussing, but I see this short 5 minutes as not amenable to this).

3. There are still some students who I basically never talk to. You know how it is. A handful of students in each class seem to dominate the time or attention or are the boisterous ones that always engage you in conversation. Then there are the quiet ones who sit there and behave and, well, are quiet. Sure I'll call on them, and they'll answer the question, but that's the extent of our interaction.

Idea: List such kids, and make it a point to engage in conversation with them before class starts at least____ times a 6 weeks. I don't know, I'd have to make a list of all such kids and cross them off or "check" them when I converse with them, then I could probably engage, say 2 per class, so 4-6 per week (block schedule), and then see how many such cycles I could go through. Hmmm, seems calculated. Well I guess it is, but that's what I've got.

Okay, those are not my only concerns, but let's not get carried away and have too much on our plates and end up doing nothing. Happy last day of the year to all of us. Hope 2010 holds all sorts of joy and hope and an enjoyment of at least parts of every day.


  1. I'm about to enter my second year of teaching and to read how you, in your 13th year of teaching, grapple with these issues is inspiring.

  2. Thank you, Tania. I hope you have many moments of joy and satisfaction in your teaching years to come, and learn/grow from the "bad" moments as well.

    Ms. Cookie

  3. OK, so tell my MTM, how did you get your blog to appear as the number one entry when you google "Math Teacher Blogs?"

    I'm trying to find some new blogs and typed that search
    into google and yours came up #1!!

  4. Ahhhhhhh, it's who you know in GoogleLand :) ....

    and maybe the words "math teacher" in my title.

    Have fun with your kiddies tomorrow. Maybe they'll be super funny and make the day end up to be okay.

    Off to dinner,

    Ms. Cookie

  5. Anonymous10:13 PM

    For the end of the period check, I have found that 5 minutes is just the right amount of time. I give the students an exit slip that lists that days objective and skill. They are asked how focused they were in class that day and the respond with a percentage. They are asked to rate their understanding of the objective from 0-4. And then they are asked to help my gauge their understanding by answering a question or two. I can copy 2 per page so they are just half sheets and they provide necessary information that I can use. I will admit that I don't do it every day, but I use it mostly with new material and sometimes with review material to see when I can move on. They hand me the ticket on their way out of the door.

  6. I like this idea it sounds quick and manageable and informative. I seem to be stuck in my ways and have flaked out on this as a priority so far ....

    Ms. Cookie