When I think back on my first five years of teaching, I can identify big initiatives that I took and tried each year.
- My first year – well, it was my first year, everything was new. But I was implementing stnadards-based grading as sorta my big thing.
- My second year, I was very focused on interdisciplinary work, creating cross-curricular lessons with my colleagues, and implementing all this new 3-Act and other stuff I had just started to find on the internet.
- My third year, I structured my class around math labs and introduce the interactive notebook after I learned about it at TMC12.
- My fourth year, I overhauled my grading system.
- My fifth year, I introduced the Standards of Practice portfolios as a way to grade on those standards and, thus, have them be valued in my class. To go along with that, I had a new way to give feedback, instead of writing grades on assignments.
And this year? My big initiative? I don’t have one. It’s felt weird. Every year these big things I was trying and perfecting felt like steps I was taking towards becoming a better teacher. And if I didn’t have one this year, was I stagnating?
No. (I say it confidently now, but it took a lot of reminding myself.) First of all, my big initiative this year was teaching Calculus and Geometry for the first time. I had taught Algebra I for the whole first 5 years of my career, and the bulk of my student teaching as well. Despite the switch to the Common Core curriculum, I was still very familiar with the ins and outs of the material, and that let me focus on other things. But teaching a new course is a lot! And two, twice as much!
But, even with that…I still tried new things, tuned things, had small initiatives. And these things matter! So I’m writing a list of new things I’ve done, to remind myself. And also to keep looking forward, for new initiatives – as Black Widow says, “There is no mastery, only constant improvement.”
- I greet my students at the door every day with a high five.
- With the other hand, I have them pick a card so they can find their seat with their visibly random grouping.
- I put up new boards on my walls to have even more surfaces for the students, and designed lessons around using them, facilitating group collaboration more than usual.
- Instead of saying “Ladies and Gentlemen” to address the class, I now say “Mathematicians” (or “Computer Scientists”), to keep a gender neutral term.
- I swapped out the Name spot on my assignments for one that says Mathematician.
- I had up a “Good Questions” bulletin board, after going to Rachel’s session on better questioning (couldn’t find a link for this one) for a while during the year.
- And I’ve continued the initiatives from the last two years, which were raw in idea but are now becoming fully realized structures, as I find better and more sustainable ways to do them.
I bet you’ve done a lot this year, too. More than you realize.