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updates for 02.12.2011

2 new posts today

Taking Steps

I didn't want to make a second post until I got any more TFA news. So after many weeks of silence: I passed the praxis math exam. Good thing, too, because it was not an experience I have any desire to repeat.  So there is one thing to check off of the list (that I am not actually keeping) of things I need to do before June.  Prepare for some rambling. It has been a long week. The other day when I was walking to class it really hit me that I will not be back here next semester. And that I am almost done with my undergraduate education. I almost got really sad, but then I remembered that since I intend to go back to grad school for history, I will have a good number more years of people telling me what to read and write. Awesome. One of the other things I have been thinking about with all the events in Egypt and other parts of the world is how in the world I am going to find a way to incorporate current events into my MATH classroom. I know that I will have so much material to cover and so little time to cover it, but I will absolutely feel like I am doing my students a disservice if I don't find some way to help keep them informed about and interested in what's going on in the world. Granted, this is probably the job of their social studies or history teacher and not me, but as I said in my TFA interview, one of my biggest weaknesses is trusting other people to do the things that I think are really important. I will have to figure out a way to do this while not sacrificing anything on the math side. Either that or realize this is not the context to make this change, even though I think the lack of awareness about current events is one of the biggest problems for kids, like myself, coming out of the public school system. But I won't even get started on that. With endless comments being posted on our facebook group by other future TFA Delta teachers (boy has technology changed the world), this whole thing starts to feel a little bit more real every single day. Whenever I get bogged down by what is going on at UVa, in Charlottesville, or even in Virginia, thinking about TFA pulls me back into the real world, and I remember how much else is out there. On an unimportant and unrelated note: how has it snowed so much in the South this year? I hate cold weather, and I hate snow (which is, I will admit, one of the (many) reasons the Delta was an appealing region for me). i fully expect the weather to act more like I expect it to next year. Of course, my friend from Little Rock who is a grad student here is SAD he is missing all the snow. Go figure. The semester is flying by.

Forty Seven

Test scores are back from our latest district standardized test, and my heart is broken. I've poured time, energy, thought, and research into my algebra unit this quarter. I worked hard, and since my kids felt like they were learning, they worked hard too. I had kids who barely lift a pencil in math class suddenly writing equations for complicated tables and graphing lines without issue. It's the first time I've taught something and felt like a majority of my kids really learned it. I knew they were making silly mistakes. They were getting questions wrong in my tests, but from looking at the work I could see that it was because they think 11 - 8 is 5, not because they don't understand how to calculate slope. I know standardized tests don't look at the work and forgive, so I was braced for bad scores. I told myself over and over that they learned a substantial amount, and I would be proud even if it wasn't enough to show up on the test. I lied. I saw my scores, sat at my desk, and cried. There's no evidence of all the work we did. It looks like my kids can't do math. Granted, I learned today that my scores are pretty average (and maybe a little above) for the district, but the frustrating part is that my scores were significantly better last year. Last year, when my kids wouldn't be quiet long enough to let me get three words out, it looked like I was teaching more. This year, when I'm teaching my butt off and I get all the way through every lesson every day because my kids listen... this year, it looks like I haven't done anything. What is that?! I don't want to give them these test scores back. They'll never believe me saying that they're good at this but failed the big test. I feel like I let them down enormously. It's worth noting that my kids are the only ones I'm accountable to here. The first thing I did when I saw the damage (before I even started crying) was email our school math coach to ask for help. From there, both my administration and our district math coordinator found out how upset I am. No one has even mentioned that this could possibly reflect badly on me. One told me I'm a good teacher and a hard worker and this doesn't change that. Another talked about what a challenging place this district is, reminded me of the prerequisites my kids are missing, and promised that the kids need me. The math coach told me that she'd been in my room and seen my kids do this, and she volunteered to come spend a day working with them and see why they couldn't show us on a test. They are nothing but supportive and helpful, which is really kind of them in a school where our test scores in April will mean everything. I am beyond appreciative. Everyone I talk to is also quick to offer excuses for me. I've heard everything from "the kids don't care about these tests" to "maybe the answer sheets got switched." While I know that should be helpful, it isn't working. My problem is that I really do believe in standardized testing, and I think if my kids were great at the material, as a whole they would be able to show it on a test. Unfortunately, they aren't showing it. Which means they aren't great at the material. Which means I'm not teaching as well as I need to be. Which is not a great realization.

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