Friday, 4 July 2014

Reflecting on 2013-2014

In the fall of 2013 I started trying a few new things in my classroom. I did counting circles with my grade 9s (MPM1D) and I think that really helped set the culture of my classroom. Some students loved it (perhaps because they didn't consider it "work"), while others hated it. It took me outside my comfort zone, but I know it was a good thing. Making everyone say something every day is big. I try to involve all students every day, but this forced the issue and may have made some more comfortable to share ideas along the way. I hope it helped improve some students' number sense too. I tried to do math talks with that class, but got swallowed up in the "I have to cover this curriculum by this date so I don't have time to do anything extra" mentality. I need to lose that! I did throw in more activities and tried new things, but not enough. In the fall I also had a grade 10 academic class (MPM2D) and a grade 12 Advanced Functions (pre-calc-ish) class (MHF4U). I also tweaked them (I have taught all these courses before) and added cool stuff where I could make it fit, but still, there is much more I could do. In all of these classes there was still way too much of me teaching and them taking notes, then working through examples together. This, I feel, needs a whole separate blog post...

Second semester I had a grade 10 applied math class (MFM2P) along with two sections of grade 12 Calculus & Vectors (MCV4U). The Ontario math curriculum documents are available here: grade 9 & 10 and grade 11 & 12. I have to admit that I didn't do too much to make MVC4U better - a few added investigations, a few more station activities, more use of whiteboards, but not a big overhaul. It works and it is the course that I'm least likely to change in a significant way. The grade 10 applied class was a whole other story. I ditched pretty much everything I had done before and started fresh. I was very luck to have the opportunity to work with Alex Overwijk and Sheri Walker throughout the semester and successfully spiraled through the curriculum with activities. I blogged about it all, starting here, so I'm not going to go into the details of what I did. I will say that it was exhausting and exhilarating and at times frustrating, but it was good. My students learned math, despite not wanting to, in many cases. One student in particular complained about having to do work, said things like "can't we just have a lesson?" and often said that he didn't know how to do whatever we were doing, but with a little nudging always got there. He told his guidance counsellor that I "wring the math out of him". I like that. And it is an apt description of what went on in that class. They often tried to quit but I never let them. They may not have worked as hard as they could have, but they all worked every day. They were not spectators. They learned to persevere. It was not perfect, nor will it ever be, but I think it is on the right path. This is what they left on the board for me:

(yes, some of them called me "b-dawg" - so not me, but I grew to like it)
They were a great class and I feel fortunate to have spent the semester with them.

Next year, I volunteered to have a grade 10 applied math class each semester as I am very invested in teaching this course this way. I am looking forward to actually having some idea what I'm doing from day to day (!) and learning from what I've done. Blogging about it has already proven itself useful to my two colleagues who will be teaching it the same way next year along with me. I'm sure I will also be reading my posts to remember what did and did not work. There are definitely some things that I will change, but I am so thankful to Alex for sharing his time and work with me.

I also want to make changes in the other courses I will be teaching. That goes back to needing a separate blog post so I will leave it at that for now.

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