Tag Archives: old

End of the 2014-15 school year

Classroom Spring 2015

-1. Several weeks ago I began thinking about the end of the school year. I suddenly realized the startlingly amount of reflection that awaited me. Today is the last day of school and the only way for me to systematically get it all out is in a list. Here goes.

0. Leading up to this year, my school had a solid four-year stretch of low-turnover and highly stable school atmosphere. 2014-15 not only broke that streak…it was shattered and thrown it under a bus. Things were quite eventful.

1. With any change in leadership, one should expect adjustment in the day-to-day happenings. I found that I had grown too comfortable under previous leadership. Things and people change and I need to evolve with these changes so my productivity doesn’t stagger.

2. During and after vast transformations this year, my optimism was put to the test several times and, in some cases, folded. After scarring disappointments early on, it took a good amount of time to rededicate myself to the school’s mission. I let my frustration get the best of me at times – which I don’t regret. Live and learn.

3. What kept me going? What kept me from completely disconnecting from my school community?

4. The incredibly inspirational people around me. My students. My colleagues (in and out of my school). People I’ve never met. My family.

5. Teachers at my school are an awesome bunch. Despite the disarray abound, somehow they found a way to use their collective strength to keep us moving forward.

6. This was also my first school year blogging, which had a great deal to do with my naturally reflective nature this year. It framed my teaching like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I gained serious perspective by reflecting on my own practices via my blog.

7. I implemented standards-based grading. In terms of assessment, it’s one of the best moves I’ve ever made. I committed to it mid-year, which was tough, but it worked pretty much as planned. I had students assess their own retake exams, which was great, but I need to make a stronger push for retakes next year.

8. I helped plan weekly district-mandated professional development sessions for colleagues at my school. I found it both more engaging and challenging than I imagined before the year began. Professionally, this was an area of growth I didn’t expect. Thanks to MfA, I’ll be taking that a step further next year with my video club.

9. I absolutely struggled with four preps in the fall. The quality of my teaching was stretched thin and my students were shortchanged immensely.

10. I was entitled department chair in the spring. The math department had a tough year and we have a long journey ahead. I hope I am able to provide whatever leadership we need. That said, I passionately hate titles and the connotation that often comes along with them. They are hollow and irrelevant. I just want my work to be meaningful, collaborate, and help all of us reach another level.

11. Our robotics team made progress this year. We performed noticeably better than during the last two years of the program. Next year I hope to use class time (versus after-school) for competition preparation. This should afford the kids more time to build and tweak the robot. My robotics class expanded to include introductory arduinos along with the usual Lego Mindstorms.

12. My students did rather poorly on state exams. This is very disappointing given the amount of work both the students and myself have put in this year. So much so that I began questioning myself. How can I adjust to improve this result?

13. A woman leading a PD once told me “When my students don’t succeed, I look in the mirror and ask What could I have done differently?” This has stuck with me all year. It’s not about all the issues, setbacks, and lack of prerequisite skills that students bring into the classroom that hinders their learning. Instead, all that matters is what I do to meet their needs and get them to succeed. It’s a hard pill to swallow. But this perspective is key for me in my hopes of one day becoming a great teacher.

14. I could have been a better mentor. Despite many shortcomings, I have experience and insight that is conducive to the growth of colleagues new to this profession. I did a poor job this year mentoring a new teacher. She is wonderful and would never tell me so, but inside I know I could have had a much better impact on her.

15. I tried many new approaches this year to teach my kids. Just as importantly, I also implemented new ways to reach them. Whether it was friday letterspersonal notestwo stage exams, plickers, speed dating, problem-based learning, exit slips, or others, I can say that I have definitely made an effort to improve the happenings in my classroom.

16. Following up on a new year’s resolutionintervisitations played a significant role in my development this year. I discovered the need to not only get outside my classroom, but outside of my building, and explore the work of others. It helped motivate a colleague and me to apply for the 2015-16 NYCDOE Learning Partners program, which we were accepted. More to come!

17. I relearned how to be patient with my students. Big ups to my AP for pushing me to slow down the pace of the class and remind me to provide more scaffolding.

18. Goal for 2015-16: highly effective. Focus for 2015-16: to be better than I was in 2014-15.

20. Every school year seems to fly by when you’re at the end of it. This one was no different. It was a bumpy flight, but it was over before I knew it. Another one in the books.

Until June 2016.

 

bp

My feeble attempt at SBG

This past week I attempted my first unit using standards based grading.

Letting SBG be the driving force of my class was one of my new year’s resolutions. I got much of my inspiration from Frank Noschese, Jonathon Claydon, Jason Buell, Shawn CornallyMichael Ziloto and many other teachers I have met in person and virtually met online.

My motto the first time around was to keep it simple. So I did. Here’s my approach.

Before I thought about SBG, I always broke down my units into distinct concepts using standards. So nothing new here. Next, to help simplify things, I decided to give two smaller exams covering 3-4 concepts instead of one larger exam that would have covered 7 concepts.

For each exam question, I went with a four point scale. Each question is assigned a value between 1-4:

4 = mastery
3 = proficient
2 = developing
1 = needs improvement

For free response questions, this is pretty straight forward. For multiple choice questions, I decided to go with 1 for an incorrect response and 3 for a correct response. There will be at least two questions for each concept and I will average the scores earned. This will provide a final measure that determines their level of understanding for each concept.

My biggest issue was deciding how in the world I was going to keep track of all this. Whatever method I finally land on must be sustainable and practical. Well here’s my system as of now. As I grade the exams, I enter each student’s score for each question into a spreadsheet. (We luckily have a scanner that does this for multiple choice questions.) There’s only 3-4 free response questions, so its not terrible. I have the spreadsheet compute the averages and spit out a final score for every student on each concept. The spreadsheet will serve as my tracking system for each student towards mastery of all the concepts we learn.

Their cumulative score for the entire term will be given by:

SBG Fraction

Now for student ownership of their knowledge. When I hand an exam back, I’ve always provided each one of my students with an individualized report that summarizes their performance. Before, the report contained their overall score, the class average score, etc.

Score Report Old

Now the focus is on what they actually understand (or don’t understand). For SBG I use a simple mail merge to print out a report for each student stating which concept(s) they achieved proficiency/mastery on and which one(s) they need to reassess on.

Score Report New

My next step, which will be a doozy, will be to decide how to maintain and organize my reassessment system. I know I will assign Friday as the one day that will serve as a “Retake Day.” This will be the only day where students are permitted to retake the concepts they need. This will help me stay sane and keep organized. Also, I need to get in the habit of creating retake material for each concept.

Of course this is a work in progress. I’m just glad one of my resolutions is coming to fruition.

bp

Change at the top

Change

Today, about one week from the first day of school, I learned that my principal is leaving our school. He came into at our school six years ago as an assistant principal. After a couple years he was promoted to principal. Now he will be promoted to a superintendent position in the New York City Department of Education. He will no longer be my supervisor.

I couldn’t be happier. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking.

Many teachers despise, or at least dislike, their administrators. Administrators are stereotyped by teachers as being overreaching, bossy and dominant. No matter where you work, it can be hard to ‘get along’ with the person who is in charge. I mean, essentially, they have to tell you what to do. They do this by making clear their expectations and goals for the company/organization. Often times conflict arises here for obvious reasons. The same things apply to the teacher-principal relationship.

In that regard, my experiences with my now-former principal has been utterly atypical.

I’m happy because I realized today that during the past six years I have experienced immense growth, both personally and professionally. This is due in large part to my now-former principal. In some unbelievable way, he always pushed my professional career to another level. It was like magic. I don’t know how this guy did it. I swear, just when I thought I could give no more as a teacher, he constantly found a way to maximize my strengths which then allowed me to dig deeper. And there was never any pressure. It was all about development; being a better teacher, better collaborator, better role model for our students. He inspired me to see things differently, be imaginative, and never be satisfied. His tireless drive, constant need for improvement, keen leadership, and overarching transparency will have an everlasting effect on my career. I’ve learned so much. He came through for me in ways that he will never know.

I got certified as a teacher long ago. But I feel like I truly became a teacher under his guidance. I cannot be the only teacher that feels this way. I guess this is part of the reason why he’s being promoted to superintendent.

I will surely miss not having a daily, working relationship with him. But I’m incredibly fortunate that I’ve had one during the last six years. For without it, I am confident I wouldn’t be who I am today.

 

bp