Reflection on 2018-2019 School Year

A couple days ago I posted my 2018-2019 Teacher Report Card Results. The feedback I got from students was more positive than I expected, actually. This wasn’t the most awesome year, but I’ve come to realize that there is actually more good that happened than bad. This post gets kind of mopey but that was kind of the year I had and it ends up being a more positive reflection.

I reflected on my first quarter here. I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to in second quarter – my Algebra I students did some great stuff with graphing lines and systems. It definitely was a fun quarter with lots of Desmos and lots of learning. My Honors Math II class also got to do my and their favorite unit – trigonometry.

Second semester was where things started to go a bit downhill. My school has decided to switch from an integrated pathway to a traditional one. So this year was the first year that we had Algebra I instead of Integrated Math I. I had to pilot a unit from two curricula to inform the district before they made a decision. We tried a unit from CPM and a unit from Pearson EnVision. I desperately wanted everything to go great with CPM because I know it’s got a great philosophy and great problems and great PD and just seems like the ideal curriculum. But it totally bombed with my classes. I think it was mostly attributed to us just doing one unit in the middle of the year (actually it was the first unit back from Winter Break and was marred by a bunch of snow/ice days/early releases), but the students kind of revolted against all the words and were very expressive of how they didn’t feel like they were learning. I felt pretty down about myself as a teacher because I felt I should have been able to teach my students well with CPM. And then when we got to trying Pearson, I felt like we got more regular weather and also more “regular” textbooks. I didn’t really use the textbooks all that much but I know my colleagues preferred them. I fully believe that with more (than two hours of) training and a little bit better circumstances, we could have been super successful with CPM, but I guess we’ll never know.

I got my first complaint to the district office from a parent. Apparently my playing of the Quadratic Formula Song three or four times in a row to help my honors class memorize it was “damaging to my student’s mental health”. I learned about this about two weeks after the fact from my principal coming in laughing and saying it shouldn’t affect my teaching and that this was one of the funniest complaints he’s heard, but I honestly wasn’t laughing about it. I never heard anything from the student or parent myself and it made me feel like I should put no more effort into having fun. But then I realized that I can’t please everyone and me moping about it wasn’t helping all my other students, some of whom were still singing the Quadratic Formula song to themselves or making up songs to other things.

I also had a really tough time with relationships this year and especially second semester. I felt like no matter how hard I tried to connect, I wouldn’t get any closer to having good relationships and motivating my students. The other teachers on my team expressed the same things. I remember saying multiple times how this should have been the easiest year so far in terms of workload and not having lots of outside of work stuff going on, but this year I felt like I was working so much more than I ever had. I ended up having the highest percentage of students failing my class than ever and no matter how many different things I tried, nothing was working. Until I started having my students do Advocating Forms! I learned about these from Sara from her post The #1 thing I did in my support math classes. I will try to blog about those myself some time because they really made a difference!

I also learned right at the start of second semester that three of my students had attempted suicide over Winter Break and that really screwed me up for a while. Even though I was assured that they had nothing to do with my class, I was so scared of doing anything that could provoke suicidal feelings. It still bothers me that I don’t really know what happened, but I also am sure now that relationships are even more important. And not just my relationships with the students, but how the students treat each other. I need to do more to make sure my students treat each other with respect 100% of the time and value each others’ thoughts.

I also need to not get too down on myself if my efforts aren’t working. I know that’s easy to say and not so easy to do, but this post will serve as a reminder that I am putting in effort and that’s what matters. When I fail at something, I need to do what I tell my students every day and have a growth mindset and keep trying. Especially because I really wasn’t totally failing – we still accomplished a lot of great things this last semester and I know my students learned a lot.

 

 

So yeah, in the end, I guess it was a big learning year. I learned:

  • Sometimes there are circumstances that cause something to not work so well, but that’s ok. Recognize when things are out of your control and move on to doing the cool things you’re doing to help the kids.
  • You can’t please everyone and don’t let one student hurt others
  • It’s imperative that all students treat each other with respect in my room. I can make this happen more by incorporating activities where students are valuing each others’ thoughts. I look forward to doing more #VNPS and more debate and CPM group strategies and Stand and Talks (another one from Sara) and some more that I’ll try to blog about later.
  • Even though some things aren’t working, you can’t forget about the stuff that is working and keep trying at those other things.

L’année prochaine sera meilleure!

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