Thursday, April 30, 2009

decisions to make

if there are any teachery folk out there reading my blog, i'm curious as to your opinion on the following matter:

for a first year fellow, i think i've done a pretty good job. i have a decent passing rate, pretty motivated students, and a good relationship with a lot of them. my lessons usually go well, too. however, my biggest problem is that the students don't listen to me as much as i'd like them too. they see the AP coming down the hallway and they run inside class. they see me walk down and they continue misbehaving. they're doing something they shouldn't be and one person will say "you better stop or [the english teacher] will get mad." you never hear that about me. i'll tell a student to get back in their seat and maybe on the 5th time he'll listen.

so... next week i'm going to chose which grade i want to teach next year. i have 3 options:

a) move up with my current students
b) teach the new class of 9th graders
c) teach a mixed program of 9th and 10th grade

all of these options have definite pros and cons and i'm having a very hard time deciding.

With option a:
-i already know the students and know what works for them, how to differentiate, their skill levels, have solid relationships with many of them, etc
-i have an awesome textbook that i custom ordered geared towards my teaching style
-i like most of the students
-we won't constantly have new students added every week like there is in 9th grade
-they will hopefully be slightly more mature as sophomores
-i will be teaching geometry which i really don't like
-i want to run a tighter ship in my classroom and it might be hard reinventing myself with the same students that are too friendly/not respectful to me.

With option b:
- i get to teach algebra again, a subject that i love
- i can reuse a lot of my current lessons and powerpoints, just with some tweaking.
- i already know how i would go about teaching the course differently, and think i could do an awesome job
-i can reinvent myself as a stricter, no-nonsense teacher with students that don't know me at all
- 9th graders are horribly immature
- the class sizes will be bigger (possibly 30 per class as opposed to 20.) this is a biggie
- with 9th grade, there is constantly an influx of new students for the first few months and it makes teaching the class difficult when so many people are behind.

with option c:
- i can chose the classes i want to teach from the 10th grade list (ie take the students i want!)
- i can still reinvent myself with the 9th graders
- i can gain experience teaching a new subject while still perfecting my algebra lessons
- i will have to prepare for two different math classes and one advisory every single day.
- half the time i write up my lessons in the morning and i can see myself getting into big trouble if i can't get everything done in time.

my principal is pushing for everyone to stay with the same students but it's ultimately my choice. my AP did tell me that i can chose to teach 9th grade for next year and then move to 11th grade the following year when my boundaries and routines are more defined (so i can get my old kids back and teach trig/algebra 2 which i happen to love.) he also said that if i change my mind in august i can let them know and they'll change the programs. (i'm the senior math teacher in my school; i can do that!)

i think i know what option i'm leaning towards at this point. but i'm second guessing myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

quality review

they came, they saw, *we* conquered.

apparently we exceed expectations, and got the highest grade on the preliminary review. boy, i'd hate to see what a school that merely meets expectations looks like...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

back to life, back to re-al-i-ty

my life ends yet again. tomorrow. ugh.

maybe tonight though, as i don't have a lesson yet for tomorrow's classes.

i truly understand why so many teachers just never come back after school vacations. the freedom is amazing and upon realizing i was going back tomorrow, i blurted aloud that "my job sucks..." which is partially true, but once i'm back in the groove, what other job can make me feel more gloriously bipolar than teaching?

sure, i don't want to go back tomorrow. and right now i feel like a tiny little part of me is dying. but, i can honestly say that i've never had a job like this before, where nearly every day i'm motivated to come in and do things differently than the day before. plus i'm a big time experimenter in the classroom, and i really appreciate the freedom my career offers me, even if they are yoking me back in, in less than 14 hours.

Monday, April 6, 2009

asking questions to the clueless

This morning when I walked into the main office I was informed that they were ordering Geometry textbooks for next year's course... today. The secretary told me there was no core curriculum and she needed to know what book to order within a few hours.

Potential problems:
#1: I have never taught geometry and have no idea what books are out there.
#2: I don't know anyone who is currently teaching Integrated Geometry to ask for advice.
#3: A novice myself, I don't even know what makes a textbook good!
#4: I'm the only math teacher in the department with no AP to consult.

At the advise of the secretary, I visited the math AP from another school on our campus. He suggested a particular book (Amsco), however he didn't seem too thrilled. I previewed that book online and it seemed very cut and dry.

I ruled out the textbook by Prentice Hall, because I currently use their algebra book and my students are routinely confused by the language the text uses. Plus it complicates virtually everything.

I ruled out yet another book that we have a sample copy of. It also seemed to complicate everything.

I went back to the NYS website and see that they recommend one of three books, each of which have published their own pacing calendar aligned to NYS standards. One of them I had never heard of: Discovering Geometry.

I looked up the book and found that it was an inquiry based approach textbook that encouraged hands on learning. I registered for an online review copy, and I was absolutely amazed by the chapters I looked through. The language was thoroughly readable and understandable. There were amazing pictures and interesting facts on every other page. And they weren't just thrown in for a few "real life connections" either; they were actually integrated into the learning thread itself.

I think I was completely sold when I opened up a random section and on the first page of the chapter it said "in your groups, have one member do..." The book is freaking geared towards group learning with actual projects in activities in each section!

So completely clueless and just basing my choice on a few random chapters, color photos, and instinct, I went ahead and told the secretary to order a school wide set of the textbook.

I figured I can't do any worse than I did this year. And if I really need to, I can supplement their text with photocopied problems from one of the crappy geometry books we have laying around, or with pages from the Barron's review book.

I'm really excited to get the text in hand and start planning for next year. I've been kind of torn about whether or not I want to move up to the 10th grade next year, but if this textbook is really as awesome as it seemed, it might make things much more bearable.