Thursday, December 20, 2012

Semester ends


Today ... final day of the semester!

My journey back into the classroom after 12 years of administrative duties has been interesting to say the least.  

At lunch the other day one of my current assistant principals asked how this semester has been.  I answered honestly ... it has been good and bad!  She said ... "let's start with the good!"

I have thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in math again.  I love researching curriculum and lesson ideas.  I love thinking about how to teach math so that it makes sense to students.

I love the content in algebra ... and I love the art of teaching!

So you might ask what's been "bad?"  I genuinely like most of my ninth graders.  They are winsome, cute, funny, and carefree!

But in the last 12 years or so there has been a culture shift ... students are less responsible than they were before, less likely to do homework, less likely to engage in student skills like listening, taking notes, studying.  

As in everything those are broad sweeping statements that should not and do not include all students.  But it is the culture shift that I have disliked the most.

In my previous classroom assignment I worked with eighth graders - one year difference.  I worked in a privileged community - more so than my current one.  I had at least one class of advanced students - 8th graders taking algebra 1.

Some days, I think that is what I miss most ... the advanced student who has an inquiring mind, who is thirsty for a challenge.

But even in the typical grade 8 math class, most students completed their homework, participated in class, studied, and understood that they had to work in order to learn the content.

I am dismayed that I have students who failed this first semester.

In the past that would have been a rare child.  In this group ... it is not rare enough!  I am learning, though, that these students need the freedom to fail.  To bail them out by offering fluff grades, padding the averages would be a disservice!  If the reality of failure is confronted appropriately, it could be used as a tool for turning a student around.

The penalty for failing a semester of ninth grade algebra doesn't have the same financial consequence as failing a semester in college.  

It could be a prime opportunity for students to realize their need for study skills.  I need to be ready to demonstrate and provide practice in those skills!

Failing the first semester of Algebra can be remedied.  Our school offers many opportunities for learning - through free tutoring, Saturday school, some online learning as well.

I am grateful that I work in a school that emphasizes continuous improvement.

For example, one young man worked with me most of the morning.  He finished a test he needed to pass to conquer our FIRST marking period!  I submitted the grade change ... and his whole transcript changes with that effort!

I'm celebrating that effort, that grade change ... and especially the knowledge learned!

In my next post I'll share the results of my "mid-year reflection" from students!  They have given me some food for thought.  I want to honor as much as I can their honest feedback.  Just maybe by listening to them, and by making minor tweaks in our classroom, we can achieve the goal of the course ... 100% passing ... 100% solid foundation in Algebra!

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