Wednesday, May 22, 2019

End Of Year Letter to Myself

Dear 2019 May Self,

Hi! Remember when you were this young? And remember how in the past you have made students write letters to the incoming kids in your class with various prompts of “what would you do differently?” and “what did you like and wish to change about this class?” ? Then remember when you had an epiphany sometime in April 2019 about writing a letter to yourself, your older more rested end-of-August self that will be the “new teacher in class”? Great. Do it.

What do you want to remember about this year and about what to do or change or keep or stress in your 23rd year of teaching next year. Remember that you had on the agenda to teach for 2019-2020:  Algebra 1 preAP, AP Calculus AB, Precalculus preAP, Digital Electronics, and APCS-A. Aaaaah, good times.

Wow. What a year! Is there any year you don’t think this? If you recall, you taught: Algebra 1 preAP, AP Calculus AB, Digital Electronics, and APCS-A. Here are some thoughts and things you want to remember for next year.

Life/General Things/All Classes:
·      No one likes to be “yelled at”. I know you didn’t yell at her, but remember that time you chastised a student in front of the whole class for being on her cell phone. Yes, you were thinking of 5,000 things, yes, you were tired, but it turned out she was done with what you had been asking them to do and was just waiting for the next thing. Then she shut down for the rest of the class. Good thing you apologized properly, but still. Figure out a way to either humorously get the same task done or don’t even go there.
        Remember that you are teaching students and not Information-Inhalers. Make sure to ask after them and check in with how things are. Remember the student with family cancer issues. Remember the student Ms. L talked about who just blurted out in her college essay prep about the horrific things going on at home. You need to check in more frequently.
       Remember how good it felt to choose fun instead of endless work. Remember you soaked up weekend fun and were all refreshed inside and out as Monday rolled around? Remember to not take work home because it’s usually just a field trip for papers.
       Remember to hang around with teachers that are not “mean girls”. Life is too short for that.
        Remember your idea of starting this document early in the year so that you could write these things down as they came up and you wouldn’t potentially forget them.
        After 22 years, I have jumped on the grade for accuracy bandwagon. I let them redo homeworks to build up points, but remember how they worked harder to understand because of this.
·         Answer Banks rule.

Algebra 1:
      They are little puppy dogs who pee on the rug, but they are super cute and fun to be around aside from the constant chatter and off-task behavior. Soak up their cuteness and their ability to be amused by silliness.
      After looking at a kid’s notebook and seeing that it was not helpful at all, you realized you had to do a better job of making notes that they could easily refer to and figure out what’s what after time passes. Hey! Better page titles that specify skill. Hey! If you hand out a “cool” assignment to finish in class that will “solve ALL THEIR PROBLEMS” and are all impressed with yourself, remember the ½ sheets that had them solve various types of special quadratic equations on 4 separate ½ sheets that each had a different color. You rushed them through apparently. You never went back and checked they did it right. You never made them link each sheet to a generic “what type of problem is it”. You never then practiced just that and made sure they went back to use this resource. Winning! Things like this had/have potential, but you need extra time with it.
      Holy Moly, you need to find the strugglers early in the year and FORCE them to come in frequently for tutoring. You can’t rely on your “they are in HS now and have to fend for themselves and learn how to ‘student’ “ attitude. They are babies. They still need hand holding. Don’t be a loser, Dadmehr! Remember how cute they are. Remember how after Z. and E. came in at the end of the year, they pulled up their grades.
      Use the power of parents. A quick email home may get the little kidlet in and doing work lickety split.

AP Calculus AB:
      Who would have thought? You need a word wall or some sort of vocabulary resource. Remember when after ½ the year went by and then you had a student ask you what a word meant. I don’t remember the word, but I do remember thinking, “geez, how did you do so well before on tests and homework when you have no clue what this word means?”. Don’t assume. Don’t just mention periodically, “if you don’t know a word, ask”. They won’t/don’t. You need to push the issue. And do it effectively.
      Remember that around early May, FINALLY 2 seniors, LP and YR who had been struggling all year and never completing homework on time and never coming for help and never asking for help in class finally came in for help on Volumes of Revolution. And how proud they were when they got 100% on a quiz. And LP’s comment, “Is that all it is? I thought it would be way harder.”
      Remember also to force these kids to come in for help. You need a better system other than just putting it on them. What about you once a 6 weeks schedule a 5-minute session to gauge things. And they get individual attention. Then you can see how things really stand and set up a mandatory system for them to get more help. Can you map out class time for one-on-one?
      Oh, and that reminds me. Some of their EOY comments about my tutoring time being so overcrowded that they couldn’t get help needs to be addressed. Can you designate one time a week where it’s only ONE subject and not everyone?
       Remember to adjust the number of hwk problems. It was too much to grade and for them to do.

·         The formative quizzes worked great. Thank you AP Annual Conference Guy who shared his idea. I liked that they could redo. I liked the 6/5 points and ½ page-ness.

·         Remember not to provide worked-out keys. They started to use them for evil and not good. Even the kids who were “good at calculus” got lazy. See earlier comment about grading on accuracy.

·         Oh! Change homework structure so that it’s DUE next class ideally, or within 1 week of handing it out if they want (eventual?) full credit. They can redo, but if the first time they do it is way later, the grade needs to represent that. This seemed to work out well so that they didn’t procrastinate tooooo much and they didn’t stress too much about finishing it in 2 days and then just being sloppy with it.

·         MORE FRQS all through the year.


·         OMG how did you lose so much time and not have time for 4 major topics? Too much time on soldering? Too much time on SSD project? Figure it out, Missy.

·         Geezus, remember their breadboards for the SSD project. Here are some things you need to teach better: (videos? Notes? Other?) jumping, stripping not too much, XYZ switches and how you do NOT attach both X and notX to power and ground, for example, not using the same row to jump for different paths, not using the same row to jump for itself, you can’t jump via columns, Hey, Dadmehr, you should really check their Multisim printout before they start to breadboard. Some kids who didn’t finish in time, printed it out and then way later you found out that they had done the pin numbers wrong or wrote them in or it wasn’t even working on Multisim.

·         Hey! Map out the timeline of the whole year in August. Do it! Do it, trust me …… put in the bajillion days they will be gone for Internship and ARS stuff and life. Then stick to it otherwise you will run out of time.

·         Hey, you did a great job on the SSD ½ sheets that helped them map out pin numbers and gates and chips and such. Do that again.

·         Remember CL and BO and how you need extra scaffolding all the time.
·         Remember WORD WALLS.
·         Remember that homework is good.
·         Remember how you Loved Practice-It.
·         Remember your FRQ scaffolding at the beginning of the year. Do more of that.
·         Projects! Why did you stop.
·         Map out time. You ran out.
·         4 weeks (3?) was great for review. Schedule for it.
·         More Class stuff and method writing.
·         Greenfoot at the start of the year?
·         Love how you are hungry now and are rushing and this last section is “less”.