Today was both better and worse than yesterday.
A small part of me was suspicious that all of my students had somehow read my blog. 1/2 Block and 3/4 Block came in, sat down, and most of the them started working quietly on the bellringer. I had not said a single word about my frustration from yesterday. 6/7 block also came in and did their work, but that class is bigger and sometimes takes a little more wrangling and a little longer to settle down.
One of my colleagues, A (I will not use her name unless she tells me later that it is okay. Hi, A!) came by room this morning and said “I read your blog. Here’s what I do for my bellringer.” She has a seating chart where she checks off attendance, bellringer, and homework all at once. She tells the students that she will be coming around and they need to have at least started their work in order to get credit for the bellringer. It doesn’t have to be right, just attempted. I liked this very much and used this exact strategy today to a good effect. Also last night a math teacher from my alma mater messaged on Facebook and offered bellringer sheets that I remember so well from my time as a high schooler. I greatly appreciate the help from both of them and plan to use both suggestions at the same time. Thank you, A and J!
The rest of the lesson did not go as smoothly but it was not terrible. I had the students do quiz corrections by handing back the graded quizzes and then telling them to find a classmate who knew how to solve the questions that they had missed. Overall I was pleased with the result of this. I heard students arguing animatedly about solutions to various quiz questions. However this did not motivate all students. Several of them wanted to just come up to me and ask. I kept redirecting them to their classmates and then walking around the room, listening and chiming in when I felt some re-direction was necessary. This explanation of course makes it sound more smooth then it really was. Some students did not talk to anyone at all and others merely chatted about anything but math. I did my best to come around and put them back on task or encourage them to engage but this method was a big time suck. I did not get to all of the activities that I had planned for today.
I am moving the first unit test to Monday. I know that this is really a bad idea but I feel that I have no choice. Tomorrow is too soon–we really need at least one review day cushion between new material and a summative end-of-unit test and Tuesday would be too late. Some of the other teachers are giving their tests tomorrow. I feel that I am going too quickly and too slowly all at the same time. Only thing to do is keep going.
Today one of my students asked me “Mr. Belcher, why did you become a math teacher if you failed a math class?” (I got a C in a graduate course, which I consider failure–I mean it really is for a master’s student. But I let them think failure meant F. It’s also true that I have failed several math exams during my time as an undergraduate and graduate student. I have been using those failures and subsequent recoveries and successes as a way to connect with my students, who have experienced math failure often.) I told him that I didn’t let it discourage me and that I had already had my heart set on being a math teacher before I had failed that course. During lunch someone asked how I was doing and I replied “Not bad! Just tired” and they said “Living the dream, right?”. And actually I think I am.
I enjoy this job.