Semester Review

This is a review of my semester so far to help me focus on things I need to change and for me to evaluate our progress by the end of the year. So if you don't want to be bored to tears, go ahead and click around somewhere else.
  1. Achievement Period- The best thing we've started doing is going down to the elementary once a week and working with the students one-on-one during their guided reading time. The teachers adore it, the kids get individual attention, I don't have to do anything, and my students feel like rock stars. I think it unifies them and boosts their confidence in their own ability. We were doing Silent Reading on Tuesdays which fell to the wayside but I will definitely be bringing that back. I need to devote one day to Career Cruising, even if I do think it's useless. That takes up three days a week. I'm planning on doing that on Fridays and having students print out a current event off the Internet so we can discuss that on Monday. Plus we talk about our weekends on Mondays so that will pretty much take up the whole period. That leaves me with Wednesday. I need to find some good character ed activities. Otherwise it will end up being study hall which means chaos.
  2. ACT Test Prep- I started the year with the lowest of the lows and it was miserable. They desperately needed differentiated instruction that I just could not get. My management skills, as always, were terrible. The class is supposed to be a refresher but you can't refresh what they've never learned. Then we rotated and I got the high of the highs. It was lovely. I haven't taught top students in forever. They care about their scores, they try, they explain, they work together, they listen, they know things. They still don't bring pencils and they too roll their eyes and sigh heavily but hey, they're teenagers. It's like a natural reaction. Our routine is to practice problems, the next day take a short test, the third day go over test results and commonly missed problems, the next day is Silent Reading, and the last day is a study hall. My instructional coach had all the materials made from last year so I basically make copies and answer key and then let them loose. I have one more week with them and then we rotate to the middle or what we call bubble kids. The plan was that I would have them closest to the actual test date because math is our downfall and maybe we could push a few into the meets category. I will hate to lose these top students but anything is better than the lows. I felt terrible every day because I knew I was not doing them any justice whatsoever. Nobody needs a daily reminder of their failure.
  3. Algebra II- My favorite class of all! I've gotten some really good resources from another teacher but having only 5 students takes the cake, I love, love, love it. The class runs itself and they do all of the work. I make the bell ringer with five problems and each student is responsible for doing one on the board and explaining to the class. We do a lot of board work or just them working together and I roll around in my rolly chair and help. They have totally blown me away with their reasoning and critical thinking and plus, they are really entertaining. 
  4. Plan- The last few weeks of the semester I started getting to school about 30 minutes earlier and getting all of my copies made for the day and my classroom setup. It started me off in a much better mood and also freed up my plan period to accomplish other things. I'm super proud of that.
  5. Algebra I- I think Algebra II has stolen my love away from Algebra I. I think the class is just a weird mix and since they are freshman, I still think they haven't really got used to me. It's kind of a weird, stiff environment. My other students have had me now for two or three years in a row and so they are waaaay different around me. My pacing guide has really helped this year. Last year I got totally bogged down in linear equations for months and this year, I didn't. I'm proud of that. About half of the class stays with me, and the other half just...show up at random moments. lol I have an extra moody girl, a sneaky girl, a girl that works at a snail's pace, and a boy who thinks its cool to not try and fail. Those are the ones that I'm never sure what's going on in their minds. I have three who are really solid and basically keep the class going. It's a class of 10 which is a good number but...it's just not nearly as fun as it was. I don't even know what to say about it.
  6. Algebra II- My other Algebra II class of 4 students. They aren't academically where my third hour class is and I have some problems with attendance, but the class is run the same way. It's great because these four students easily slipped through the cracks in previous years and now they cannot escape my individual attention. Cackle, cackle. 
  7. Geometry- The bane of my existence. It's strange because any thing I read or hear about, when I think about implementing it, it's in this class. My instructional coach bet me that this would end up being my favorite class since it's my biggest, 25. She was wrong. It's definitely been the one that's made me grow and stretch the most but I still detest it. My management skills are to blame once again. The thing that's worked the best, which doesn't mean it has worked, is giving them another homework problem every time they get too loud. I don't like punishing the whole class like that but then the quiet students are more likely to shush everyone. I have the most success when I play our review pong game. They love it and they do work together. They get a little loud but nothing compared to how they act during regular class. I moved them into pairs and I think that has helped because it creates much more space in the class but students still have someone they can talk to. I've gotten to teacher-centered again and need to start doing more student-centered activities. I also need to quit being a baby and just write people up but I just doubt that's going to happen.
  8. Geometry Lab- This class is a waste of time. No one can tell me what I'm supposed to be doing and there is no curriculum. Basically, it is a class of sophomore Geometry students who did not meet on their Explore tests as Freshman. So we call it Geo Lab but students are supposed to be doing something to increase their test scores. Except nobody can tell me what that is. What I've started most recently is breaking them into groups of three. One group works with me on whiteboards learning a new skill. A second group works independently on their bids as part of their Real World Math projects. A third group works on the computers on ALEKS, which they absolutely hate. I'm thinking of using Khan Academy to replace ALEKS but I just detest those darn videos so much. I don't think he should stutter and I just don't think he explains it in the best way. But unless I decide to make my own (which I will eventually, just probably not this year) I guess I will have to suck it up and deal with it.
  • Extracurriculars- We did Homecoming in December this year so it will be really nice to not have to worry about that in January. Our boys basketball team is awesome this year so I am really enjoying going to their games. I've been presenting almost every month at our school improvement days about technology so I am loving that. It has opened the doors for me to talk to and work with other teachers and help send resources their way. I have spent the last couple years intimidated by others because so many teachers were my teachers. I never wanted to be the new teacher who acted better than everyone and like they knew everything so I really took a backseat. But now I am coming out of my shell! I just love more opportunities to teach! I've also been making our monthly agendas so now they are pretty and that makes my heart happy. We've done peer observations which have been really interesting and I love to have other teachers come and watch me. Our cohort is taking a teaching methods course right now in our graduate program. I have not been impressed with our classes so far. I suppose its because I read so much and blog and twitter but....I haven't learned anything yet. I've already known everything we've talked about and actually done most of it in my classroom. I also feel like there is major grade inflation here. Some teachers seemingly give A's to everyone which doesn't inspire me to try very hard. The only class that was new for me was on observation techniques, but I don't see getting to use them unless I actually become a coach or something. I still need to videotape myself and try the techniques. I officially am not in survival mode any longer. I am no longer panicked and feeling clueless. The amount of preps is tough but I haven't died yet. I'm feeling pretty solid. I'm done with my evaluations for the year and they went well so that's a relief. I noticed that I've migrated back to more teacher-centered and so that's a goal to work on this semester, along with my many ponderings. Also, I stood up for myself in a situation where I felt I was being treated unfairly. And that made me happy.
 And that's a wrap.


  1. Have you heard of www.tenmarks.com? I don't know if it is something you could use but you might want to check it out to use in place of Aleks or Khan.

  2. Jennifer,
    I checked it out last year and like the concept of hints. The videos were so-so and I didn't care for the questions, but maybe I should check again.