Monday, December 22, 2014

How time flies!

I realized the other day that I had not posted a blog entry since school started this year, and almost an entire semester has gone by!  My intent was to capture some of the things I was thinking as I returned to the classroom this year.  Apparently, I was very optimistic about how much time I would have.  Here are some quick bullets listing things I should have written about, and maybe still will ...

  • First week jitters are not just for novice teachers.  Having been out of the classroom for a few years, I was feeling really nervous about starting back.  I also realized, about a week into the school year, that I was having to relearn many of the routines and practices that had been second nature to me prior to becoming a department chair.
  • The amount of time it takes to prepare good lessons, grade papers, and respond to all the stuff teachers are presented with each day takes a lot more time than I remembered.  (And more time than my family anticipated, I think.)  I also feel like I did not pay enough attention to some really important issues:  More students than I would like have been performing poorly in one of my classes; I am apparently unable to write a test that is doable in one class period; and I still feel like I slide into lecture-mode far too frequently.
  • Lots of good things have happened ...  The desmos graphing project I assigned to my 2 Algebra students was successful in getting them to think about functions differently.  A couple of students who had been struggling started coming for extra help, and their grades are starting to improve.  I have developed a pretty good sense of community in my classes.
  • I participated on a panel discussion about the Common Core at the College of DuPage and co-presented a one day workshop on teaching Trigonometry through the Metropolitan Mathematics Club of Chicago.
  • I tutor only a few students (and none from ETHS), and between them and some of my ETHS students, I am (re)learning that students struggle for lots of reasons, but two reasons appear to be almost crippling, mathematically:  serious misconceptions about how numbers behave and a a really entrenched belief that math is impossible to really understand.  Both of these are fixable, but I haven't figured out how for all my students and tutees, yet. 
  • Being "the boss" and then returning to the classroom as a peer includes all sorts of awkwardness.
  • A question I had before becoming department chair has resurfaced for me, now with some serious soul-searching about my role in answering it or not:  Everyone expects teachers to inspire their students; whose job is it to inspire the teachers?  
  • Winter Break is quite possibly as good as chocolate.
I'm sure there's lots more I can write about.  I'm going to try to write more frequently in the new year.