Month: June 2012

New Teacher Advice

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This is an article that I have written as a response to Bowman’s open call on his website. If you don’t follow him already, you should!! He is doing some really great things!!

I have been teaching for 10 years. For the past 3 years (and the upcoming school year) I have hosted a student teacher in their standard student teaching placement from Syracuse University. I am by no means, however, an expert. The single thing that I have to offer my students, prospective teachers, and “new teachers” is to never stop trying to be better. Don’t ever settle on thinking you are good enough. Go to workshops. Continue to take college courses. Follow fellow educators on twitter. Read blogs of teachers that you relate to. Heck, start your own blog! The list goes on and on.

I have never witnessed a great teacher who is reluctant to change. I had the pleasure of having lunch with a Social Studies teacher who was only a couple of years from retirement. I was amazed one time how he told me that at the end of every year he threw every test and quiz he had written during the course of the year. He felt that he would start teaching to his assessments if he did not do this rather than assess what he taught. I was floored. Here was someone who “outsiders” would assume is just coasting until retirement. What these outsiders don’t know, however, is that he was a stellar teacher because of his constant willingness and desire to adapt to his students. He was willing to change to hone his craft right up until the end of his career. In order to be effective he understood the necessity to be willing to change.

This is the advice I always give to my student teachers; always be changing . Teaching to me is less about the product and more about the process. Is it about the ability to factor trinomials with leading coefficients other than 1? Or is it about the process or the journey that is taken in order to be able to understand how to factor said trinomials? In order to stay relevant, you must adapt the process to the students are currently enrolled in your class even if the end product will look the same. There is a ton of “practical” advice to be given to new teachers, but in my heart, I think it all boils down to the willingness to adapt as a young teacher.


Logarithm Laws

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I killed logarithms this year. My students really understand logarithms. I have not always been able to say this, but this year I was feeling good. I can not for the life of me figure out why the students can not apply the three basic logarithm laws. They really struggle expanding out condensed expressions. They have a hard time condensing expanded expressions. When they have equations of the form:


it doesn’t even cross their minds to combine the logarithms using their logarithm laws. They simply want to “cross off the logs” because there are logs on both sides. Does anyone else have this problem?


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I originally wrote this Tuesday, but failed to actually get it posted:

The principal brought us in and gave us our teaching assignments today. As I outlined yesterday, I have 4 preps. Two of the ladies I work with also have four preps. One of these ladies is out on maternity leave right, but the other one was there giving local finals with me today. I could tell by body language and other comments that she was not happy. I called a meeting this afternoon for everyone except my department chair to have an open conversations about our worries and concerns.

The meeting was really productive. My department chair has openly told us that he is willing to listen to us and consider changes. Rather than just go to him and complain we decided to enter as a united front and we drafted up schedules that would eliminate the need for 4 preps for anyone. We also incorporated the changes that he had wanted to make. We contacted him and have a meeting scheduled for either tomorrow afternoon or Thursday morning.

Regardless of how this all turns out the most important thing that may come out of this is that we came together as a department and truly collaborated. We are a small department (of seven), but we don’t work together all that well. There are a couple pods of three that work really well with one that kind of floats between the two groups. This scheduling issue though has caused us to pull together and work for the greater good of the school. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what it should really be all about?

Times, They Are a Changing

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I’m baaaaaaack! Yea, so this blog thing didn’t quite go as I had planned. I am back with a vengeance, however. Part of the reason for this is that I have time now. Summer is coming and I have much less on my plate. I have some time to devote to this now and hopefuly really get a full head of steam before school starts in the fall. Secondly, my course load is significantly changing and I figured that I may as well blog about it!

For the past couple of years I have been teaching 2 sections of Algebra 2 with Trigonometry, 2 sections of Fundamentals of Algebra and 1 section of Calculus that this is conncurrently enrolled with the local community college. Fundamentals of Algebra is one of those courses that chews you up and spits you out. It’s a burn out course. The make up of the class is all of the freshman that got a 1 on their 8th grade assessment combined with some 10th graders that failed the course the previous year. My department chair figured I had put my dues in and pulled some strings to get me a different course. This is where things got messy. One of the changes coming in NYS Education is that we need to write SLO’S (Student Learning Objectives) for 50% of our course load (there are specifics as to which courses you have to do and what not, but I won’t bore you with that here). My department chair and the principal decided that they didn’t want anyone to have to write an SLO for Fundamentals of Algebra. Long story short, they didn’t give any one teacher more than one section of Fundamentals of Algebra.

Well, there was a wrinkle in this for me; it didn’t quite play out the way I thought it might. Tentatively, it looks like I have 1 section of Calculus, 1 section of Algebra 2 with Trigonometry, 2 sections of Integrated Algebra, and 1 section of Academic Intervention Services (AIS). I am excited to teach Integrated Algebra. I think it will allow me to get a little more creative in my teaching with even more activities, group work, and alternative assessments. I will be leaning on you all (and scouring your ena blogs) a lot for ideas for this course. I am scared to death about the 4 preps. I have had 3 preps for years now and that has been crazy at times, but doable. I will be leaning on you all a ton for support and ideas to keep me sane!!!