Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everyone Failed (and What's Up With Probability?)

In a job interview, I was once asked how I would respond if my entire class did poorly on a test.

I answered that I would look for another way to teach the topic and re-assess the students, but I also said that this was an unlikely scenario in my classroom. I plan to know if my students are struggling (and do something about it) before a big test rolls around. Test scores rarely surprise me . . . until recently.

I had an all-class fail. The words "all-class" and "fail" are a bit of an exaggeration, but the majority of my students scored below an 80% with lots of failing grades. Ugh.

I am content with how I navigated the aftermath. Now I am just thinking about how to avoid the entire scenario in the future. Here is what I have learned:

1.  It is never okay to skip some type of formative assessment. I was in a rush for part of the unit, and I relied way too much on facial expressions and nodding heads and trusted that the students were understanding.

2.  Adjust for extra time with wacky schedules. We had a weird week with in-service and parent-teacher conferences right in the middle of this unit. I saw my students one full day and two half days for that entire week. I kept plowing through.

3.  The importance of #1 doubles if it is your first time teaching a topic. I rarely teach any topics that I haven't taught before. This unit was 100% from scratch. Planning was a struggle. I had no reference point for knowing which parts would be difficult for students, what common errors would occur, and such.

Finally, what's up with probability?

Is the whole permutation/combination/probability thing just really hard to teach? It seems innocent enough on the surface, but I am now convinced of its underlying evil.

Next time will be better, I'm sure.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I got some very sad news this morning. My friend and fellow math teacher might be leaving our school. Her husband (journalism teacher, also in our school) has accepted an administrative job, and they'll be moving. They are looking at options for her, including that she might commute from their new location. She is a great teacher, and I am sure some lucky/closer school will snatch her up when they have an opening. I am afraid it is just a matter of time.

I am happy for the two of them, I really am.

But now I am sitting here with a million things to do and all I can think about is how sad I am.

Colleagues make a huge difference in the quality and enjoyment of your work, don't they?

I can list a hundred reasons why I'll hate to see them go.

So. Very. Sad. For. Us.

In related news, a beautiful newly built school in Tiny Town, Kansas with an award-winning journalism department will be needing a new teacher.

And I might be needing a new math teacher colleague. But not yet.

I'll be in denial for as long as possible.