Sunday, December 11, 2011

When you get down to it, who knows how long I'll be in this profession.

Things that I like:
  • I like the idea that -- for however many hours a day I'm thinking about my job -- I'm thinking about how I can help out some 80-odd people.
  • I like thinking about the big-picture things. I like planning semesters and units in advance, and thinking about the major themes of my classes. 
  • I like planning lessons that really nail what's hard for kids about a new idea, draw it out, give us a chance to talk about it, give the kids a chance to kick it in the face several times and then challenge them to move on to an even more powerful idea.
  • I like designing a classroom.
  • I like designing an assessment system.
  • I like that I'm getting better at getting people to think, just by asking a question. That stuff is like mind control.

    Things that I don't like:
    • The work that I'm doing is really short-term. I plan a lesson, hours later I try out the idea, then I file it away for a year. I have to wait a long time to get a chance to improve on my first drafts.*
    • The kids don't seem to care about the things that I do. The kids, for the most part, don't really know what's good for learning, and their praise for teachers is often weird. His explanations make sense, and he'll take as many questions as you need is praise for a teacher who only lectures. He covers material really quickly means that he moves from topic to topic without going in depth. He makes you work hard means that you have to cram for his tests if you want a chance of passing. I'm not interested in that sort of praise.**
    • I don't like entering numbers into spreadsheets. It's boring.
    • I have a hard time finding things to feel a sense of accomplishment in. The school year doesn't culminate -- it fizzles out, and the last time I see these kids is when I'm collecting their finals. I never feel satisfied after a good lesson or a good unit, because holy cow here comes the next bunch of stuff to teach and I've got to think about that instead of my success.
    • The discriminant stinks. Degree/Minute/Seconds notation stinks. Regents exams stink. Sometimes I feel like I'm playing for the losing team.
    * Part of this is because I teach so many different curricula. I teach Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 (2 sections) and Computer Programming.
    ** When I run a high school, kids are going to take a class on pedagogy and educational psychology during the first semester of high school. They'll know what research says about how people learn, they'll learn study habits, and they'll be able to judge their teachers according to the standards that we want to be judged by.


    1. I like your lists.

      I love it when I know I'm making students think. But more often than not, I'm helping them 'learn material'. (Gag.)

      I don't like the cheating that accompanies testing. Students in all 3 of my classes have cheated recently.

    2. Yeah, I know what you mean Sue -- especially about the cheating thing.

      I had a kid cheat last week on a weekly skills quiz (that he can reassess later). After giving him new questions I asked him why he did that. He said that he didn't know how to do the work, but was tired of screwing these things up.

      I need to give students like this kid something positive and constructive to do when they reach that precipice. What if I gave kids 2 chances a semester to give up on a quiz and spend the time studying instead? What if I built in the option to look at the answers and then try a similar question instead, for less than full mastery credit?

      I think what I'm ultimately moving towards is a way that I can legitimize the self-awareness that leads one to cheat on a quiz or a test and reward an honest reaction as opposed to a horrible one.

    3. I like your energy.

      My students are adults, and I'm pretty disgusted by the cheating...

    4. You will be surprised how much students do care about what you are doing - often they just don't express or demonstrate it well. But they really do notice when you put the effort in or do things that show how much you care about their learning. I used to think my students didn't notice - then I eventually heard second or third hand how they talk about me to their peers. They notice :-)