Rookie Year: Day 84 or New Sweater Vest

Alternative title, Day 1 MOD 83 since I began a new semester today.

My classes today were mostly breaths of fresh air. We finally started the Spring Semester, which means I had entirely new classes. Although I will miss my students and liked them, I was ready for a reset.

All of my Foundations of Algebra classes ended and I ran first day activities for three sections of Intermediate Algebra today. Even though this is still my rookie year I love this mid-year reset and it almost feels like year 1.5. I get to try again with setting class tone, expectation, rules, precedents, everything.

I did have the “first day” jitters again but those mostly went away and all of my classes went relatively smoothly with only a few minor hiccups.

One mistake I made on the first first day last semester was rushing too quickly through my syllabus and expectations because I didn’t want to tire out the classes, knowing it was “Syllabus Day” and wanting to set a tone of “This class isn’t boring or the same-old, same-old”. For this first day I hit the syllabus and expectations hard, backing it up with a powerpoint. In retrospect, I don’t know why I did what I did the first time because whenever I taught college classes I would hit the syllabus hard first day with a powerpoint to back it up and I didn’t even need to worry about classroom management with those classes. So why I thought I could breeze through it like it wasn’t that important is beyond current me. Invent a time machine and ask August Taylor, I don’t know.

So I tried to set a good tone with the syllabus. What is really nice about Intermediate is that you have to pass Foundations in order to progress so I lot of the students who can’t focus have either learned to focus by this point or are repeating Foundations. I’m still teaching freshman but they aren’t AS wild. Of course, it is the first day. Invent a time machine and ask June Taylor how much of an idiot I am, I don’t know.

I also completely reset my room and reorganized it. I did a lot of desk shuffling and seat rearranging last semester and I think the only thing it did was make the students restless and uncomfortable. In my experience our “creatures of habit” nature is intensified when we are learning, so this semester I plan to leave the seats the same way all year, assign seats, and leave the students there–barring some minor moves for behavior.

After the syllabus presentation I used a ball for a “talking totem” and tossed it to students, asking them to share a thing they were good at and a thing they were bad at. This was after I admitted to failing a graduate mathematics course. I like to open with that as a nice shock and to make a point about failing and trying again. After they shared I had them write a math journal about previous experiences.

Finally I began indoctrinating the students. For my Foundations of Algebra classes I had used Glenn Waddell’s Three Fundamental Rules of math heavily and I don’t plan to quit now even though I have almost all new students. I reviewed solving some simple to middling multi-step equations with the classes but emphasized the three rules as our justification. Some of them started to pick it up, but all of them will get it eventually as I don’t plan to stop talking about them.

Then I closed with a course survey as an exit ticket. Tomorrow we will start systems of equations using Desmos Polygraph.

Thanks for reading!


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