Today I wrapped up and checked out, ending my fourth year in the classroom. Unlike other years, there doesn’t seem to be as much of a finality to this year as every other year. I think there are two main reasons for that.
1) I switched preps almost completely in January when a teacher left. I never got all my classes going full-steam ahead. By the time we all found our groove we were gone.
2) I’m going on vacation for the 3 weeks before we start school and won’t be online/able to prep. I’m using June to bust out as much work as possible to make the next year smooth.
Even though it doesn’t feel like it is over, it is. I don’t think I made significant progress on my goals for the year – although others disagree. With that in mind, here are three big takeaways.
- Teaching is teaching. Students are students.
- I moved across the country this year to a school with a majority of latino/latina students, where in the past almost 100% of my students were black. I feared that I’d be starting over and not have some of the same skills – turns out that’s unfounded. Good teaching is good teaching. Students are students. Now, obviously, there are caveats to this to be a culturally responsive teacher and I’ve learned a ton but it was not a challenge this year.
- Problem/Project based learning and performance tasks are pretty darn awesome.
- I spent this year implementing and using performance tasks, which I’ve changed my implementation of throughout the year. My biggest take away is that these tasks have to be CAREFULLY scaffolded – not only within a unit but within a course. I saw students struggle because they were asked to do new work. That’s a growth I’m still working on. Long term, I unintentionally started all projects as group projects. In the second quarter onward, the task dictated the size of the group – and our last 3 projects in Geometry were all independent, and in August that wouldn’t have been possible.
- Awesome parts: Once students begin an engaging project, all I did was manage behavior and answer questions. Students HAD to think differently about the mathematics and apply it. I have to be incredibly diligent about which questions I answer and how.
- Not so awesome parts: Assigning 3 projects in 3 preps simultaneously means 100 projects to grade. That’s a pain in the butt – and I didn’t get caught up for weeks. Class culture of waiting for answers is toxic with projects/performance tasks – and led to some students failing projects and therefore the course.
- Teaching gets easier.
- I’ve probably worked twice as hard this year as any previous year – but I know exactly what I want and find it with ease. I have teacher moves that have become pretty natural – but still need to add onto these and be intentional with lessons. Even though it doesn’t seem possible in year 1, teaching gets easier with time and practice – I just keep asking myself if that’s what I’m best at and what I want.
Back to writing unit plans….a.k.a. scouring the internet to find a place to start.