I have three sections of my ‘Regents-optional’ Geometry class. Over the last 9 years, I’ve taught all levels of students in geometry, I’ve differentiated, accelerated, re-taught (if you can actually re-teach something that wasn’t learned the first time around), and rewritten lessons. In this course, however, I am re-designing from scratch; my objective is to engage these students with more discovery and hands-on activities, thus hopefully giving them a connection to the content that they might not get in a more traditional [read focused on two column proof] class. My success in this endeavor is important – critically to me – for another reason: my students are the children who are being directed away from the most rigorous math classes; some members of my school’s administration think these children don’t even need to study geometry.
So if you read my blog regularly, you know I have been planning for this class since last June, and even wrote a successfully funded Donorschoose proposal for supplies. I am implementing Interactive Student Notebooks in all three classes, and have been given a newly renovated classroom with tables (a rarity) for the planned cooperative nature of the learning process. Each section of the class has developed its own personality – what works well in 3rd period may lag during 2nd period, due to its early morning sleepy [and less well attended] nature, and may flop in my 5th period class – the one in which 44% of the students have IEPs, and 35% are current or former English Language Learners (5 students fit into both categories). Clearly this last class presents the biggest challenge, despite the two teachers in the room (we are both math teachers, by the way, neither with Special Ed certification), and has prompted this post. They are a creative and funny bunch, but transitioning from classwork at tables to whole class discussion or teacher-led work has become increasingly difficult – and today was close to impossible. Friday was our first quiz (4 different versions to accommodate the table arrangement); I’m wondering if a ‘grade’ will have a sobering effect on their chattiness. But I’m pretty sure it won’t; it will only reflect back to these students what they have been (and are still being) told – by past teachers, standardized test scores, and the powers that program their schedules.
So as I enter the third week of school (a short week due to the Jewish New Year), I know that I need to implement more structure in these classes. I need to (a) keep the students accountable to me, themselves, and their tables, (b) have differentiated work for the multiple levels in the room, (c) most importantly, engage, intrigue and perplex them, hopefully giving them in the process an appreciation for geometry, and some satisfaction in a math classroom. No small order, but it is for challenges such as these that I carry around such a large mathematical toolkit. I’m sure if I can put my mind to it, I’ll come up with a system with which to successfully teach this course, and win the minds, if not the hearts, of my students.
The problem? It isn’t even October, and I am exhausted. I have spent an entire weekend in a cold-induced haze, with pieces of great lessons floating in and out of my unproductive mind, like puzzles I can’t solve. I keep remembering wonderful ideas that have been generously shared on Twitter and through blogs that I was sure had a place in my classroom, and have already, halfway through the first marking period, fallen by the wayside. This was the year that I was going to maintain balance – I avowed that publicly in this blog barely three weeks ago. Three weeks in which I haven’t been the gym or done any calculus. And I am wondering how I find myself in this school year situation again, so quickly.
Every time I dip my toe into Twitter, I am drawn in by the energy, generosity and creativity by the MTBoS – so I have actually stayed away. The unread number in my blog reader climbs up as I avoid combing through all the ideas that present themselves so delectably. There are days when I wish I had the means to walk away from teaching altogether because this is the annual struggle.
But what else would I do? I’ve been in the non- and for profit worlds, and neither of them gave me any lasting satisfaction. My work never felt nearly as important – to me or anyone else – before I was a teacher. I know that education (and math education in particular) is what lights my professional fire.
Wow – this blog post started in a completely different place from where it has landed – and I apologize for the self-pity.
IN ANY CASE….
Tomorrow is Monday. We will finish the different forms of conditional statements, and begin our Logic Poster project.
Then we will move on to constructions – first traditionally (by hand) and then dynamically with GeoGebra and Euclid the Game. Next week, we will begin talking about Direct and Indirect Proof using the models of Rube Goldberg machines and Logic Puzzles (tip of the hat to Harold Jacobs), and I know there is a great activity in me to bring home those big ideas.
Thanks for reading.