Sunday, September 30, 2012

Brain dump

Yup, it's been way too long since I have posted.  Way too long.  I just needed to carve out the time to sit and thing.  So let the brain dump begin.  Here's what has been swirling in my mind the last 3 weeks.

First and foremost, I am concerned about my students.  I am not a perfect teacher.  In fact, I know of a few areas where I am weak.  I am continuing to work on these areas this year.  The biggest weakness is my questioning skills.  I have fallen into the trap of asking whole group questions, allowing students to blurt out answers, and not allowing my students the needed wait time to process.  Curses!  I am working on it.  I don't want to be the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  "We call this blank economics.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Voodoo economics.  V-O-O-D-O-O economics."  I do need to ask those more important thought provoking questions like:  Why do you think that?  How do you know?  What if...?  I seem to do a kick ass job when I question in small group sittings and asking those questions.  Now, I just need to translate those into questions to my entire class.  I brought out the ol' craft sticks with names to help me.  And in my Algebra 2 class, the day I actually made a conscience effort to improve my questioning, the learning was better.  I just need to do it!  Dang it!!!  Maybe I should hang a poster up to remind me.  VOODOO with a big red slash ought to the do the trick.  Task number 1:  Be more effective at questioning in my classroom.  Start writing these questions in my lesson plans so I don't forget.

Still on the subject of my students and my concern for them, this year has been a struggle for me to get the results I want.  At progress report time, my D and F rates were god awful.  If I remember correctly, I had 13 F's in my Pre-Calc class out of 39.  OMG.  This has never happened to my students before.  Of course, this was just a snapshot.  Corrective instruction took place and the students were able to demonstrate they did learn it eventually.  This is why my weeks have been so busy.  Now, I do have 12 students who have skipped a year of math to be in Pre-Calc.  15 that are coming from the regular track of math, 2 repeaters who are improving their grades from last year, and 10 coming in from the honors track.  In years past, it was really 2/3 from honors and 1/3 from regular with maybe one or two skipping a year.  All this means is that I have had to slow down.  Not a big deal.  I'm meeting my kids where they are and bringing them along.  Translation:  What I have done in the past is no longer effective this year.  Let's start looking at my lesson plans and revamping them.  And to be honest, they did need revamping.  Task number 2:  Look at my lesson plans.  What worked well previously and what needs to change to ensure all my students are learning?

Which brings me to my third thought of the blog:  Lesson planning.  Intentionality.  Deliberate.  I am thinking I must have naturally just come across a good way of explaining material and creating lessons.  Wow, that sounds very arrogant and I don't mean it to be.  Lesson planning in the past didn't use to be a chore.  What do I want them to learn?  How do I get them there?  Did I cover what I needed to cover for future lessons? etc.  But being intentional and deliberate about the lessons is tougher than I thought.  It is almost like I am a student teacher all over again with myself as the mentor.  I question it all now.  And of course, where I can place that good question now as well as how do I get the third of my class to see the connections they have missed by skipping a year?  Task number 3:  Really look at my lessons, trim the fat, clean lines all the way... and make sure to include the questioning.

And finally, coming full circle with my swirling thoughts... how do I lead my department through this same experience?  Blank.  My mind goes blank.  Insert crickets chirping here.  Task number 4:  Help expose what's not working in other classrooms.  Gently and with care and support.  And if they don't understand the first time, give them more support and time to learn just like my students.

We have one more week left in the first quarter followed by our week long Fall Break.  Besides getting ready for a garage sale and cleaning my sons closets of the thousands of toys and clutter, I will be chewing on an action plan.


  1. Great reflection! I think the first step is to share all of this with your department. Be honest and let them know what areas you're thinking you need to work on and why. Maybe that will prompt them to share the concerns they have about their own teaching.

    After a good discussion, maybe you can choose 1-2 things to improve as a team. Questioning sounds like a great first goal. I think many teachers would agree that they could use some help with improving their questioning techniques. Maybe you could brainstorm the techniques you're currently doing, then have everyone do a little research with the goal of coming back with at least 1-2 suggestions for how to improve questioning. If you're ever interested, I can share some ideas I have.

  2. Hello, hello. I wrote up some ideas I'd like to share with you. It's a tad long to post as a comment. Send me your email as a direct message in Twitter and I'll send you my thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you think and possibly talking about it more. TGIF (well, almost)!