I spent the Labor Weekend grading papers, organizing files, and trying to plan ahead. I planned for one day. Boo. But organizing makes my heart happy, so I did make progress.
Tuesday and Wednesday we spent covering new material. I also spent the time trying to prepare for my substitute teacher on Thursday, when I had STI training.
Considering I was a sub for 6 months, I was doing my best to leave a ton of detailed plans so she would know what to do. It took a lot of time, but thankfully another teacher gave me a template to work from. Thursdays are my quiz day so I planned a quiz as usual. (This is where I interject that my teacher friend strongly advised me not to do this and I proceeded to ignore her.) After that a math journal writing assignment and goal setting worksheet.
Thursday I had training all day. The training was very helpful- focusing on improving our ACT scores in math. Illinois uses the ACT as it's high stakes end of year test so we go by ACT standards even though all our material is aligned to Illinois Standards. Smart, I know. So, we talked about pacing guides, action plans, pre- and post- assessing, analyzing data, etc. All things that bring joy to this math teacher's logically anal mind.
Training ends. Talk to my sub. She caught two students cheating on the quiz. One student passes a note with the formula on it to the other student, sub takes the note and shows me. I had already
threatened warned my students that they would receive an immediate write up for anything negative the teacher wrote down. So I had to keep my word. Referral. Assistant Principal says school policy is, give them a 0. Ouch.
Thursday night. Grade tests from every class. They all bombed. BOMBED??? How could this happen!?!? (More on this later.) We only covered two days worth of new material! The other questions were review from last week. Depression sets in. I hit the twitterverse. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive, creative, encouraging PLN. Tons of great advice that I want to incorporate as we speak.
Friday. I have to confront the students about the cheating scenario. They still maintain it was not cheating. 'Cheating would have been giving the answer, not the formula'. They turned it on me. I went over it 'like once' and they couldn't remember. If I was there, I would have told them the formula anyway. My mistake here was in calling them both out into the hallway. One on one, I am more intimidating because I'm the one in authority. Two on one, they are on a team, setting out to conquer me. Bad idea. I explained to them the policy and that if they didn't understand, they could have written a note on the test. It was one question. I explained the 0 would stand but I would give them a replacement test to take. I still don't know if this was the best way to handle it. I don't know what the fair thing to do is. I just don't know. But this was the decision I made. Right after I decided to NEVER give a test/quiz/anything important when a sub is there again.
The rest of the day I spent talking to my students about their goals in life, college, ACT scores, how low ours are, how funding relates to the scores, and about ways to prepare. Some ideas we came up with are:
- Taking timed tests. The ACT is a 60 minute test with 60 questions. We can practice this by doing a shorter version. The textbook provides a 10 question standardized test at the end of every chapter that I could easily give in 10 minutes.
- Multiple choice tests. As a rule, my tests are open-ended. At first, I thought multiple choice tests would make it easier for them to guess. But, showing their work is still a requirement and we decided that working it out and having choices to choose from would help them catch their own mistakes.
- Review. The students asked that I give a sample test that they could work on as homework and that we could go over in class to see what areas we are weak in. As we do this for each test, it becomes routine and another way to study for the ACT.
- Formula Sheet. Students are allowed to use a formula sheet on day of testing which is the Work Keys test. Also, with a formula sheet, I can avoid the cheating scenario. It feels against my nature to give a formula sheet but if they don't know how to use the formula, giving it to them won't help anyway.
Some other ideas of my own are:
- Language I need to phrase my test questions similarly to the ACT and to speak and write the vocabulary they need to do well on the test. Even if they understood everything perfectly, they can't answer questions they can't read or comprehend.
- Posters There are some concepts that my students just need to see constantly reinforced. I think putting up some posters around the room could give them something to look at. Even though that's not allowed for the ACT, hopefully they will see it enough that it will be embossed in their mind's eye for future reference.
Hopefully by starting in early September and preparing until April, we can make a difference!
I feel like I should burst into song.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya...
For more encouragement and reflection check out these posts by my math gurus: