Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Things to Change

My first year is now completely, and officially over.  So it's time to reflect on what it is that I need to change to make next year a bigger success.

1.  Adapt to Common Core
As the year ended, more common core resources emerged, and I was able to incorporate them into my lessons.  This up-coming year, I plan to teach common core Geometry, even though my curriculum does not have to be aligned for another year.  I figure that by aligning early I will have the opportunity to work out some kinks ahead of time.

2.  Plan Efficiently
I've been in a permanent state of exhaustion all year long.  When the weekend finally arrived, I would sit in bed with my laptop in my lap and the TV on.  This completely slows down my planning, but to me this was "relaxing".  (At least it was the closest to relaxing I could get.)  This year, I need to force myself to sit at my desk, with the TV off (and the music on), to plan.  This will allow me to spend less time planning, and give me some time to actually relax.  Also, I do not want to conduct my internet research during my planning.  I need to do it at a separate time.  Otherwise, I end up spending hours searching through resources.

3.  Adjust Test Corrections Policy
This year, students could submit test corrections to earn back half of the credit that they lost by completing a test corrections form (on sale now in my TPT store).  This ended up being too easy.  Most students just found another student to copy from, and did not put any effort into re-learning the material.  For next year, I don't want to abandon this policy completely, but add another component.  After completing the test corrections form, I want to have students retake the test (a different version of course) to make them accountable for re-learning the material.  After they retake the test, then they can earn back credit.  I haven't figured out yet if they get back half credit, or if I should average the two test grades.

4.  Start with Policies and Procedures in Place
This sounds so simple, but for me this year it was not.  Starting out this year, at the end of August, not knowing everything I needed to know about the school I was working in, or the student population there, I had to add policies and procedures as I went.  This was a challenge.  Students were already accustomed to the original policies and procedures, and I was not consistent in enforcing them.  This year, I need to be on top of it all.

5.  APPR Binder is a Must Have
I was so overwhelmed by everything else I had to do, that I did not heed the advice to start collecting evidence early.  This summer, one of my projects is to put together an APPR evidence binder so that I can collect evidence continually throughout the school year.  Google Docs was recommended to us, but that didn't work for me.  Even living and growing up in a technology age, I still need to write stuff down.  Plus, after seeing the end result, I will know how to organize such a binder.

6.  Pencil Borrowing Procedure
After complaining to my students about my pencils disappearing at an alarming rate, they suggested that I make people borrowing the pencils write their names on the board so that they have a reminder to return my pencils.  Once the pencil is returned, they can erase their name.  Simple.  Efficient.  I don't have to add keeping kids accountable for a measly pencil onto my already too long to-do list.  I love it.  We started this toward the end of the year and it was working pretty well.  I just need to move where I store my pencils to borrow.  I'll look for a magnetic pencil cup and keep it up at the board to make the procedure smooth. 

7.  More Activities Please
This almost goes hand-in-hand with common core, but unfortunately my Contemporary Math class isn't exactly common core compliant.  I have to stretch the standards to make them fit what I'm teaching in Contemporary Math. (Most of the class is financial literacy, and there just aren't any standards for that.)  This class needs more activities for sure to make the class more robust.  The plan is to find these activities over the summer so I don't spend hours on the computer searching for them throughout the year.

8.  Emphasize the Geometry Website
I spent this year hunting additional videos and resources for my students to use outside of class, and laid everything out on my website.  I also listed upcoming tests, quizzes, and all of the homework assignments.  I'm fairly certain this was a waste.  For next year, I want to start with my students understanding that this a tool for them to use when they need homework help, extra practice, forgot the homework, etc.  This year I want to upload homework worksheets (when I give them) so I don't have to deal with students asking for extras. 

9.  Establish Routines
Not for my students, but for me.  I need personal routines to help me stay sane.  I need a good, solid weekly routine for planning, relaxing, working out, cooking dinner, cleaning, and managing my life outside of school overall.  I was working on routines toward the end of the year, but this year I want to start with them right away so I don't burn out too soon.  When I do this, though, I need to remember that the key to a good routine is to be flexible (something that I'm always working on).

10.  Classroom Management
I gave the whole "don't smile until Christmas" method an honest try.  It's just not in me to not smile.  I know that as a student, I didn't want to be in the class of the teacher that didn't smile.  I managed to not smile for the first month of school, once I relaxed, the kids relaxed, and then they relaxed a little too much.  I need to find some kind of balance, which will require some summer reading.  My kids weren't out of control all year, there were just a few moments (or a few students) where I didn't know what to do.  The kids in my school are amazing in general, which is why I let my guard down a little too soon.

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