Here I am entering my 6th year as a 7-8th grade math teacher in sunny, waterless California. Over the past 4 years you could call me a professional lurker on the web and twitter. I’d stick my head out a few times only to retreat and continue on. So a new year is upon us and I have decided to make a few changes. I think it is important to verbalize and express some goals for this coming year. Since our state has now gone ahead with Common Core Standards, it is a good as time as any to try a few changes myself. So here are a few things to be checked on at the end of the year and see how well I did.
- Provide better Feedback to my students.
Not sure what “better” is defined as, but anything is probably better than what I have been doing. Let’s revisit.
I started to use Standards Based Grading (SBG) my second year and then pretty much jumped in my 3rd year. It changed everything for me. Students had hope. Students achieved. Students got excited about math. Students were talking about math outside of class all the time. After they understood that they were empowered to improve their grade by remediation/reassessing on standards, they fully embraced it. Students who did not like math began to have a change of heart. All was not lost on that test they bombed or bombed twice. They were not out of the game. Once parents understood, and this took a while to explain, they were on board 100%. No longer could “Johnny” blame me for his scores or grades. I could just point to his record of no reassessments on a particular skill, and mom would take over from there. I usually saw him pretty soon on the signup list to reassess skills. Students asked about extra credit, but my answer was extra credit is to reassess on skills. But let’s not deviate. Something to blog on later.
Feedback to students is key to help them understand what went wrong on the quiz. The score alone is a distractor. So I plan to provide only written feedback on quizzes and record their score 24 hours later in ActiveGrade. To master a math skill or standard takes some understanding what you do right and what you do wrong. I have a saying that “Math is a game of failure”.
I plan to use Gradeable in order to help me implement this goal. It is an interesting web based app and we will see. I believe it will save me time.
- Better know the Rulebook.
This comes from my many years coaching baseball. It takes time, but you need to really know the rules of the game. There were many times I won a game or changed the outcome because I knew the rules. The umpires incorrectly applied a rule and had to reverse their call – in my teams favor. But if you don’t know the rules, then you’ll just go along with those you think are the experts. I need to be the expert.
Our new math standards are these rules. It is our responsibility to become the expert in knowing them. Forwards and backwards, inside and out. You will not be swayed by a PD expert claiming you now need to teach this way because it’s the Common Core way. Because you know the standards and you know the rules, you stay on course.
- Collaborate with peers.
I am at a K-8 school in which I am the only math teacher. I teach all the 7th and 8th graders. I have received much help by following bloggers and those in the MTBoS world. Recently someone posted an ad on twitter wanting to collaborate with others who teach 7th grade math. He was interested in starting a PLC that could benefit those involved. In order to bring my teaching to a higher level of effectiveness collaboration with others is essential. It is easy to get into a rut. I don’t want to be in a rut. So here I am to share what I can with some others and receive their feedback. I’m a little nervous about it but am very open and excited. This leads to my final goal for the year.
- Make a Roadmap.
I plan to blog once a week about what I am doing in my classroom. I need to record and summarize in order to document where I have been. Keeping it all in my mind is not possible. This roadmap includes things that work and things that don’t work. I believe it will give me the ability to improve upon my reflection of what is going on and if we are getting there as a classroom. As the year progresses, this can be expanded upon and it will.
These are my 4 simple goals for the coming year.
Here we go…