Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grading System

I have been reading a lot in the blog world and there has been a lot of discussion about grading. The big debate seems to be since we have to give students a grade, what should that grade represent? Just like in any debate, there are two major parties -- SBG and I'm not sure what to name the second (traditional? I think that almost has a negative connotation).

I am very interested in trying SBG, but as a first year teacher I am taking one hurdle at a time... I also feel as a middle school teacher it is my job to help model and guide students to become responsible and organized. These are life skills that they need -- I think everybody agrees on that. How much should responsibility and organization play a role on a student's grade?

There a couple of internal conflicts I am having with the school I am teaching at now.

The first conflict I will call the "parent syndrome." As a homeroom teacher I am required to check students' agenda books, binders, and lockers weekly. It makes me feel like their mom! I see some value in it, but it seems like my school has taken it to the extreme. I will note that as mundane as the locker checks can be on a weekly basis, the real purpose is preventative -- we need to make sure that students don't have food/trash in their lockers, because we have lots of critters that will make a locker their home.

The second conflict is the restriction on grading. It is district policy that my grading scale is 10% homework, 40% classwork, and 50% assessments. This allows students to pass on effort alone by completing all homework and classwork (ideally receiving an A in those categories) and failing every test. The grading system is set up to value responsibility, organization, and effort, but where is the value of mastering the content?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Classroom Management

I have been overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to start all over -- a new school year and a new group of students. However, it is only March. Plus, what will I do differently when I do get to start over in the fall? I have no idea.

This last week I tried to pay attention more to what is giving me this feeling, is it something I am doing or my students or both?
It seems that what bothers me the most with my classroom management is the talking... and it fathoms me on what triggers them to work quietly, and what triggers them to talk to their neighbor.

I am not scared of a noisy classroom. I knew from the beginning that I want my students to have a voice in the classroom. I do not want them to be scared or anxious about speaking in my classroom because enough of them have enough negative feelings associated with math as it is. I figure the one thing I can control is my classroom environment, and yet I can't even control that.
I don't think I "trained" my students at the beginning on when they can talk and when they can't. Instead I have to constantly remind them, and that is tiring! Also, I have failed to establish that the talking and noise in the classroom should always be revolving around the task at hand. Which seems impossible with middle schoolers...At least I have time to figure out how to do it better next time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

my rollercoaster ride

This week was full of ups and downs.

I have been struggling with my algebra classes. Overall my students are doing fine, I'm just not happy with the flow of class and how I present material to them. I have two algebra classes, one high group and one low group. I feel like both classes are bored and struggling for different reasons.
I did try a group activity this week on graphing. Each student graphed a quadrilateral with one vertex in each quadrant. Then, in groups of four, students had to guess the vertices of the quadrilateral. It kind of worked like the "who sunk my battleship" game.
Considering this was the first time doing something like this, I think it worked pretty well. I do have to figure out how to hold all students accountable for participating in activities like this and what to do with the groups who finish early. I ended up with groups who were finished way before the others, so they just ended up talking.

I have survived this school year without any major mess-ups until this week: I passed out the benchmark exams with the answers on it! The benchmark exam was decided by the district and it was out of a workbook. There was two pages on one page, so when I photocopied it I had to enlarge it. I failed to notice the small capital letters next to each question; however my students noticed! Thankfully I was able to collect all of the tests, and we had a good laugh over it. Also, thankfully I had a lesson planned that I could teach, since they weren't taking the test!

The past couple of weeks I have been dealing with some nasty emails from a parent. The principal responded and completely backed me up. At times I feel very disconnected from my school, but it was great to have the support from my principal in these situations and I am very thankful for it.

I guess I feel thankful today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brand New

I feel like a newbie when it comes to blogging, but I recently joined the twitter world - and I'm trying to become more technology savvy. Time will tell...
I am in my first year of teaching. I have always loved math and it has always been my dream to be a teacher. Now I am a math teacher, but I'm not sure if my dream has really come true. I am taking it a day at time. There are moments I love teaching and there are moments that I completely beat myself up over my failures.
I am teaching middle school. I always told myself I would never teach middle school, but here I am teaching Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. My students are a lot of fun because they have so much energy and enthusiasm, but that is also why I find them difficult to teach. They never want to stop talking!

Two months into school, I finally feel like I am starting to get into a routine. Now that I think about it though, I am still changing things, so I guess routine is not the right word. Comfortable is the word I mean -- I am finally starting to feel an inkling of comfort. Maybe I am doing something right?