Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lessons learned 2010

A different kind of bunny, but same Martinelli's for 2011.

It's been quite a year for me, personally and professionally. I...
- armed myself with my newly forged credentials and...
     - job hunted my butt off and...
          - still worked at part-time jobs until...
               - I got a job offer overseas! But...
                    - agonized over the decision and...
                         - buckled down for the harder, longer road which...
                              - turned out fruitful in the end, landing me my current teaching position!

Much, much better than 2009 was, hands down. And I see better things in the future too, so there's much to look forward to. I'm looking forward to watching my current students walk at their 8th grade promotion. I'm looking forward to a summer vacation full of nothing doings (can't get enough of those nothing doings apparently; I spent the past four days doing just that). I'm looking forward to (possibly) another year of teaching at my school.

Here are some things I learned in my first 4 months of teaching:

- The almighty CCTC (CA Commission on Teacher Credentials) doesn't really care what happens to you after you pay your fees and receive your online certificate, even though they seemed to care Ever. So. Much. During all the time before. I'm ok with there non-follow through caring of their graduates, actually.

- It might be just me, and the fact that I was part of a high school graduating class where 99% of the people I knew applied to at least 5 colleges, but the idea of quantity in applications seemed really logical to me. The chances of hitting one that will accept you increases with the number of applications you do. It's quite mathematically sound, and for me, it worked. I applied to over 100 positions, received four interviews, got two acceptances, and chose one.

People (that is, I) will still say all you really need is that one. However, it's hard to hit one jackpot just from a small sample set.

- If having materials and being on time is such an important part of my philosophy, then I better hold students accountable to it. I've been pretty lax about taking tardies (my rule is you have to be in your seat, NOT wandering around the classroom or rushing in through the door, when the bell rings) and I haven't done a materials/binder check since October. I just need to be more hardass with the tardies thing, but I haven't done binder checks because they are just. So. Time. Consuming. Of course, as I begin to slide in discipline, my students will slide as well.

So I've come up with a new way of doing binder checks! I'll just randomly choose one or two sentences and have students copy it directly from their notes onto their chapter quizzes, since these are open notes anyway. It puts more of the work on them (I no longer have to collect their notes and flip through them - MAJOR time suck, by the way) AND they become more familiar with their own notes, developing the skills to recall and hunt through their own writing at the very least, even if they don't choose to use that skill, they'll still have it in their tool belt. Plus, it cuts down on students being lazy during note taking time. I've caught several of them only jotting down the example problems we do and not all the definitions. And teaching vocab is a HUGE thing I need to improve upon. Sticking to simple, non-time intensive solutions? Yes, please!

I do have to transfer all the Algebra 1 hard copies of quizzes into digital format though (because Dept. Chair doesn't have them in digital format, boo). That's a time investment though, as opposed to a time suck, and I'll willingly do it because it means I can edit these assessments really easily thus tailoring them to the needs of each year's group of students. I don't have to do this for Algebra Readiness, since Leadership Colleague (the only one remaining at my school who had taught AR previously) is a 4th year teacher and knows her way around a computer, AND had the foresight to put her tests into digital form.

- Oh my freaking poohcow. I love my Teacher Web page! The possibilities! I don't expect technology to make teaching easier, but it sure makes it that much more fun. Oh yeah, and better learning for students too, um, yeah, that's right.

- I haven't talked about the topic of cultural/generation gaps since I started teaching middle school math, but it's definitely been on my mind constantly. Especially at my school where 60% of the staff are either over 50, or have been teaching for more than 20 years. Also, 80% of the staff is white while the student demographics are split 30% white, 35% Asian, 15% Black and 20% Hispanic (approximate, of course we have smatterings of other ethnicities too). I would also make a conjecture that half of the staff who are Asian (all 6 of us) are, in fact, white (I'm so going to hell for that statement, but seriously, you would agree if you knew them too).

I would like to bring this topic to the forefront, especially since my school struggles to teach the "minority" students, who are not actually minority in numbers. That goes for EL students as well. I deserve a good forehead-smacking because teaching these minority/low SES students was supposed to be my area of speciality. And I've just, well, kind of forgot.

No more though. If only because slogging through Kozol's The Shame of the Nation took long enough the first time around.

- The biggest lesson of all: KEEP STICKIES ON HAND because damn it to hell I certainly won't remember whatever stroke of teaching genius I had earlier in the day once 3pm rolls around!


Yeni said...

Nice post Bonnie! Really enjoyed reading it!

bun2bon said...

Thanks! =) I enjoyed writing it.