Monday, July 12, 2010

My Next Steps - The hiking trails ahead...

So, a colleague recently said to me, "I want to look back on my career and know that each year I was a little bit better than I was the year before." I love that! That defines my professional vision. So, each year, I attempt to explore a new trail in this journey. I wanted to spend a minute articulating which trails I've been considering this year...just to wrap my mind around 'em. Forgive the cheesy hiking analogy, I did just return from a trip downstate and am thinking of a little Appalachian trail jaunt next summer...

I teach on a block schedule, which means three 90-minute classes and a planning period. I also teach in collaborative classes which means I have a partner teacher in each of my courses. While my schedule is still not set in stone, it appears that I will be teaching with three different teachers for my three different periods this year. I have taught with all of them before and am keeping my fingers crossed that the schedule doesn't change. But teaching with different people means the trails I take differ dependent on the individual strengths, passions, interests of my partners. I kinda like lets me explore more of the forest that way. But it does tend to get jumbled in my mind so for clarity's sake:

YearLong Algebra with Partner 1 - So, this is two consecutive courses aligned to cover the Algebra standards over a full year. I taught this class with this partner last year and we really focused on developing a curriculum with a strong scope and sequence that emphasized as many hands on activities and cooperative learning tasks as possible. I know the curriculum has some ways to go, but I was generally happy with it. I particularly think we did a good job on emphasizing multiple representations of functions. I am eager to see how that group of kids does in the ensuing years because I think that gained a lot of big picture knowledge in our class. But for this year, what are the next steps?
  1. SBG or SBA or whatever hashtag makes you happy. This is the big one because I think our focus will be consumed by it. I have created a skills list for both terms which aligns with both our state standards and the curriculum scope/sequence from last year. I have major unit assessments already created, most of which are disaggregated nicely into target skills. I have thrown the idea at my admins who have not yet put the veto down, so I plan to lay low for a while so as not to garner too much attention. I have written a parent letter which is ready to go. WooHoo! All aboard the train! But I am trying to work on some mini-reassessments to draw from quickly when needed. I'll get to those soon. I swear.
  2. Class website. I created a website at the end of last year but we really didn't introduce it to the kids formally. I am hoping that we can do that this year on the first or second day of class. The website will be a place to post videos related to our current topic, foster class discussions, link to resources that might be helpful to students, important calendar dates, etc. I am hoping since these kids are freshmen, I'll really be able to sell them on the idea. :)
  3. Writing. Uggh. I believe in this theoretically. Wholeheartedly. Passionately. I don't believe in artificial distinctions between the disciplines. But! It doesn't mean I'm eager to take on this beast. Our admin is pushing minimal once a week writing in every class, graded for mechanics as well as content. My students uniformly hate to write...learning disabilities and all that. So, figuring out how to balance all this will be a challenge.
  4. I'd like to do a bit more graph interpretation this year. We dipped our toes into some resources from Visualizing Algebra, which I really love...but we need to do a bit more. They seem to go into math mode too quickly and forget the real-life stuff we are talking about.

YearLong Algebra with Partner 2 - Same type of class as above but with a different partner. Makes it interesting. Completely different teaching style and philosophy from Partner 1 which means it is an entirely different prep for me. Which I don't mind. The focus here will be very different though.

  1. I am mostly just working on better collaboration. When I've taught this with this partner before, he was teaching the same class later in the day so I was really hands-off on the planning side of things because I didn't want to impact his other classes. I want to be more engaged with what we plan and execute this year.
  2. New textbook. My other partner and I rarely use the textbook in Algebra, but this class is more heavily textbook-laden. Getting comfortable with the new text and its supplementals will be part of what I focus on here.
  3. More vocabulary instruction. I think this is an area ripe for development in this class. And I think this is a partner who would be open to some vocabulary type activities. My background in literacy studies is getting a little rusty so I am thinking this might be the time to break out a lot of innovative vocabulary lessons...or try to anyway.

Two Geometry Courses/One per Term - This is only my second year working with this partner but I am so completely excited. We had a great first experience together and I am eager to build on it and become more involved now that I've gotten comfortable with his style and approach. I am always pretty tiptoeish the first time I work with a new partner...I don't want to shake things up too much. I wait til they like me and then I become obnoxious and annoying. ;) So, here is where I think we are wanting to focus this year:

  1. A bit more technology. Due to some computer lab troubles last year, we didn't end up using Sketchpad or Geogebra at all last year. I want to work on develop 4-5 tight lessons that we can embed into our scope/sequence.
  2. More hands-on. We have several really great hands-on stuff (OK, my partner has them...I was just along for the ride). Anyway, we did several origami lessons, and a few other activity-oriented things. Hoping to develop 2 more to include.
  3. DIFFERENTIATION!! This is a big focus for me in this class this year. The Algebra course I mentioned is full of lower-achieving students. Our Calc courses are full of higher achieving. In fact, when I think of it, the Geometry class is the most heterogenous class in our entire department. It definitely showed in last year's evals: 1/3 said we went too fast, 1/3 said we went too slow, and 1/3 were content with pacing. We really need to develop more ideas for ways to differentiate - remediate our lower students, challenge our higher.

OK, so there we go...lots to focus on, but lots to be excited about. Now, where do I begin preparing for all of this????


  1. I'm very interested in the origami lessons! And please please please blog about what it is like to teach with a partner. I have always wondered about that.

  2. My Geometry partner loves origami. We usually show a Robert Lang video early in the term. Then we throw a few things at them. I'll post as we do them this year.
    I love my partner teachers. Absolutely love them! (Even on the days when we want to kill each other.) I do think it's a lot like a marriage but I'm not sure their spouses would appreciate it I blogged on that analogy. :)

  3. Are you sure you're not my partner teacher? **g** I am the gen.ed. half of a co-teaching team, and I am really pushing my partner teacher to do SBG. (I have also drunk the kool-aid.) What do you use the origami lessons to teach?