Here is the post she mentioned; I had to go read it myself to see which particular identity crisis I was having at the time (pretty mild compared to my year 6 crisis lol) Make sure to read the comments- I got a lot of support and encouragement before the #MTBoS was officially a thing.
*How cool is it that I can reflect on something from 7 years ago?*
So some of this crisis was addressed by the natural effects of continuing to teach through all the sucky years:
- Summer breaks
- Classes change
- Principals change
- Staff changes
- You change
- You learn new things
- You try new things
Experience over time makes the bad times feel smaller.
Practical things I did to address retaining information:
- INBs- these helped me focus my teaching because I had to include all essential information to fit on a two-page spread. Then I gave them practice activities with different problem types. They don't need every problem they've ever done to look at! So as long as I cover the essentials, that helps me limit what goes in the notes since I know they will be getting plenty of practice.
- Curriculum- I didn't actually get this until 2015-2016 but this helped align what I was teaching, build routine, and take the load off of me to create the work and then design how to use it. If you have any power over this, it is my #1 recommendation for how to help teachers.
- Questioning- I think a combination of WODB and Estimation 180 with good questioning made the following things happen: students got used to being observant, noticing unique characteristics, feel confident in guessing, and explaining their thinking. My go-to questions are
- What do you notice?
- How do we start?
- What is different about this problem?
- What is the problem asking us to find?
- How do you know?
- What do you think?
- Does the answer make sense?
- Binders- I actually don't remember if I did binders back in 2011 because it feels like I've always done them but I mentioned that the kids aren't organized so maybe I didn't? The binder has a pencil bag inside and I give them a mechanical pencil and dry erase marker. Then we put in three dividers for handouts, quizzes, and tests. We label the spine with cute masking tape and each period has their own shelf. INBs go in the binder pocket and binders stay on the shelf in my room. I do have the rare kid who won't put anything in the actual binder rings but at some point in the year it usually falls in the floor and then I make them organize it in front of me.
- Keep Learning- I'm always looking for new ways to teach and new activities and that keeps it in perspective that teaching isn't hopeless; there is always the possibility of finding a new way to make it work. I paid special attention to the lessons I really hated or that they really struggled with and made an effort to break it down more or better or just fix it in general.
And the number one way I worked through those frustrations?
I quit caring about pacing and test scores.
Illinois switched from ACT to SAT for our state test 2 years ago. This year, out of my 25 juniors who took it, only 1 student met the benchmark score for the state. My previous post mentioned only 15% met which means.....I'm getting worse and worse as a teacher! Hooray!
I am not going to let a test I've never taken, that I don't get to see, that I don't receive any data to know what they missed make me feel less valuable.
I'm sure it takes different amounts of time for everyone and I can't exactly say how long it took me but basically I took all those nice comments to heart and internalized it.
Here is how I am successful as a teacher:
- Students enjoy my class
- Students change their thinking about their math abilities
- I rarely have a problem with students not doing their work or participating
- Students are organized
- Students actually remember things from previous courses
- Some students keep all their notebooks and/or use them for college
- I continually have students who choose to take trig when they could have had no math as a senior
- Students are going to nursing school, graduating college, getting jobs, having families, etc
So while my pacing guide is forever too long and my test scores are forever too low...I haven't ruined anyone's life that I know of! My students look back on their math experience with...some degree of enjoyment? I am getting better at teaching every year. I am sharing my knowledge and encouraging others...I'm helping other teachers help their kids! I'm growing! I'm getting more streamlined. I learn from my mistakes. I take risks.
And if nothing else...I super care about my kids and I super show it. I love myself and them.
I created a teacher that I love...and it's me!