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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why you need to master the standards.

So for the first time I am teaching freshmen physics. It is going really well so far. They all have had algebra 1 so I think I can do a lot of what I would normally do with modeling, but there are some differences. After pre-testing on unit conversion and sci. notation, etc. I find a lot of their skills are lacking, so I will definitely have to spend a little bit of time on that, but I think I want to move on and just intersperse that in where I need it. Nothing kills the momentum of a science class more than spending days doing rote problems. It is important though so I will be making those standards for my freshmen to tackle.

Whiteboarding is going well though with the freshmen. I think part of it is they are here for the first time in a new building. They knew the school was different than a traditional program and they are just rolling with it. I would say I have nearly 65% of my students already participating in discussions after only a couple times doing it. That is great and makes me very excited for where I can go with it. Not only that, but the thinking shown by some of them based on their comments has already impressed me.
I'm wrapping up my intro to graphing and whiteboarding labs this week and will be moving on to constant motion next week. Can't wait!

The other new development is the new state law that mandates teacher evaluations. I'm really impressed by them. And they are creating something that I think I really have hoped for since I became a teacher. When I did my student teaching I thought it was very valuable when my supervisor or supervising teacher would watch my lessons and give me feedback. After reading this article, I tried to get some colleagues to try coaching without a whole lot of luck. I think it would be great to get outside eyes watching what I do and sharing what they see from their perspective. Up until now our evaluation method was a joke.  Administration would have to announce when they were coming in in advance. I always thought that was stupid. What if health inspectors had to tell you in advance they were coming to check your restaurants kitchen? I bet they'd have a LOT less violations. I never told my administrator a date any more than, "Probably not Tuesday I'm giving a test. Any other day would be fine." I didn't put on a show when they came in. I did my lesson. But the evaluation was usually short and didn't really give me the feedback I was hoping for. I didn't have any benchmarks. My feedback has always positive for what I was doing, but that was sort of the problem. I know I am not the best teacher I can be. I know I will never be the best teacher I can be because perfection is impossible in this profession. Every year brings new students and new combinations of challenges. That is what I love about my job. So the old evals didn't fulfill me. So what about the new ones?

I can't wait to start. As opposed to the old method where I get observed once every three years for about 20 minutes. I will be observed 6-8 times over the course of this year. I will have a pre-observation meeting where I can discuss with my administrator my goals and where I think I need to do the most work. Then throughout the process, I will have additional meetings where I will get feedback on what was observed. Then I will have a chance to change my practices before my next observation. And get this... They gave me a list of outcomes(standards) on which I will be assessed. I will know what standards I'm exceeding expectations and which ones I need to work on! I'm getting standards-based-grading for my teaching. So excited. Yes. I'm a dork.

The downside is now this rubric will be assigned points to judge my worth as a teacher. But as I tell my students, work on mastering the standards and your grade will take care of itself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A new slate.

I began this blog 2 years ago as a means for me to reflect on my teaching. I did not anticipate that anyone would ever actually read it. To my surprise people did find it and I appreciated the feedback. Then I made one post in the last year. Despite that I still run into people who have found this blog and appreciate it so I thought I might as well jump back into it. I am probably back to typing to myself again but that is no matter.  That was my original intent all along. If it helps others then that is awesome. So thanks to those few still here. I plan on posting at least one blog entry a week. Maybe more if I can.

So a new year and a new challenge. My students did not do very well on their IB exam in physics last year. I had a feeling that would happen though. I came in late to the game and found that my students were lacking in many of the basics. IB physics is a 2 year program and they had a different teacher for the first year. She did a commendable job considering her situation. She is a math teacher who was thrown into teaching chemistry and physics for the first time ever. Add to that a new math course as well and I can't blame her for any of the student's lacking. I had hoped to fill in some of the gaps but just ran out of time. But I feel much better about this year's group of seniors. They are a great group and  will do much better this year I am sure. Plus I know now a lot more on how to prepare them for the test this year.

In addition to this I will be teaching all the freshmen in our program introductory physics. I've not taught physics to 9th graders before. There are only 5 incoming freshmen who haven't had algebra so I think I will be able to include some of the math rather than making it purely conceptual. In addition as one of only 2 teachers in the program who have all of the freshmen it will fall onto me to help nurture the culture we expect at the Academy. I have some plans on this. I may have them read a bit of Carol Dweck's Mindset. I want to get them started early and often though with thinking about their thought processes and how they are actually learning. It should be fun!