Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Day in the South and Grade Recovery

Our second snow day in a row for a "dusting of snow" provides me with an excellent 4-day weekend.  That gives me time today to put together a plan with which I have been contemplating.

I happened upon a fabulous blog over the Christmas Break called dy/dan where he talks about math assessment.  While it would be a major task to throw out my traditional assessment method and replace it with his for the second semester, I want to run a pilot using Dan's system.  I think I have found my answer.

My school district mandates teachers provide grade recovery.  On the surface this seems like a great idea.  Someone was absent a lot due to sickness or perhaps they tried really hard to understand the subject matter, but their best efforts landed them a failing grade.  Now they come see me during Directed Studies, lunch, before school, or after school and focus on those topics they failed.  However, it also includes slackers that do as little as possible the entire six weeks and then are able to come by to get a passing grade.  I am hoping that I at least have some discretion as to who can participate and who cannot.

I will compile a list of the skills they lack (somewhat ambiguous, yet can be determined looking at their old quizzes and tests) and use this as a checklist for what to work on.  It will build self-confidence (as Dan suggests) when the student sees a mounting list of skills they can perform and a dwindling list of weak skills.  It is the same as this snowball effect

I can't wait!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On the Eve of Semester #2

So my goal for the two-week Christmas break was to enter grades using a shortcut given to me by a helpful colleague and to prepare lesson plans for the first week back.  Until a found a blog by Dan Meyer which grabbed hold of me and would not let go.  I think I have almost read his 3-year-old blog in its entirety.  His brain is always looking for a math slant to everything (pedestrian bridges, World Series of Poker (which I just viewed as a waste of ESPN broadcasting time), sit coms, you name it).  All in an on-going effort to introduce his students to mathematical topics without thinking they are discussing mathematical topics at all.

And so, to my dilemma.  How do I get from where I am to where he is?  I have not been formally educated as a teacher, but I do have 15 years of experience as an engineer.  Also, I do not share his interest in filming that he does.  His original plan was to enter film school upon graduating from HS, but he ended up majoring in Math.  His prowess with the hardware and software for filming events (shooting basketballs into a goal, throwing tennis balls into a trash can, plotting pain vs. time while hammering his finger instead of a nail) and putting it into presentations format serves him well as a math teacher. 

My goal for my future in education is to be more like Dan.  Does that mean I will start making quirky videos and entertaining my class with them.  No.  At least, not immediately.  It means that I plan to change my approach with my students about discussing Algebra II and Geometry.  Sure they may not use 65 - 70% of what we learn in these two subjects, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring.

Thanks Dan.