Well, I have finally up and done it. I have started blogging. I suppose this was bound to happen. I suppose I ought to give a bit of an introduction and why I'm here, but it will take some time. So, I'll start with the homework issue that we started with last night.
I have taught for 18 years - all but one at the high school level. I spent last year (08-09) teaching 7th and 8th grade math and I had also taught 8th grade math earlier in my career at a 7-12 high school. I have never been really happy with how I've done homework. In reality, there are a lot of things I'm not happy with at the moment (hence the title), but I'll get into those over the next few weeks.
I had started on Twitter in the fall and winter, but got away from it in the spring - things had gotten too busy and I just hadn't really "figured it out." Couldn't see what the point was. Boy do I see it now - crystal clear! I tried to jump into conversations and I guess I never figured out how to make it work right for me. Looking back, I now see that I wasn't looking at the right time or at it in the right way. But I digress.
My tech coordinator was impressed with my reaching out to him in the spring in terms of being willing to guinea pig stuff, so much so that he ordered me a SMART Board (which I now know is on its way and will be in my classroom for fall). We will have a new school in the fall of 2011 and all the classrooms will have SMART Boards. I want time to figure it all out. So, once he told me that I was getting one, I started to look for any PD I could find. The county offers several 2 days courses and I signed up for 2 - "21st Century Tools" and "Teaching Mathematics in the 21st Century" (or something like that). The week I started 21st Century Tools, I started playing around with Twitter again. Little did I know that we'd be talking about it in class the next day.
So, we went over Twitter and blogs and a few other things day one and I was trying to find everyone's blogs and get them loaded into my Google Reader (something else we learned a little about). Plus, I started followng stuff on Twitter. I jumped into a conversation about homework. Like many others, this has been a big struggle for me. I have always done homework by grading based on completion - usually 5 points, but I've done 3 before. All points mean you completed pretty much all of it. I have done partial credit based on how much was done but in recent years, I've pretty much given half credit for partially done and no credit for not really doing it or just giving answers. I hate when students just give answers. Doesn't help them or me.
This has been the system I've used most of my teaching career. Lower level classes (like my Math 1) I grade HW daily. College prep classes I tend to grade "randomly" - which usually means 1-2 times a week and many times on the 2nd day of a topic. It kind of works for me but I've never been totally happy with it. It places too much emphasis on doing homework for their grade and there's just too much copying. I don't really feel like they are getting it. Like many things I am finding that I do, I am just not happy about it. It's time to make a change.
So after our hour and a half long conversation on Twitter last night, I was just so thrilled with all of the discourse. I'm not going to get into it all - others have summarized it much better. Check out the post at I Speak Math or My Web 2.0 Journey to get a summary of it. All I know is that I walked away with so many ideas floating through my head and an email from my Twitter friend with her policy that I am seriously thinking about trying, not to mention this wonderful feeling that something great had just taken place. In my 18 years of teaching, I have never had this kind of discourse before. I still was on such a high this morning - a morning after euphoria, if you will. The conversation was so intellectually satisifying and I felt that there were others out there struggling with some of the same issues that I am. And I just want to learn from these great people.
I know I could be doing much better in the classroom. I can explain math well. There are better ways of going about the business of learning. Someone said in my class today that we tend to teach the way we were taught. I was taught like many were - go over the homework problems, learn a new lesson, do new homework problems. And I had great teachers who could explain things well. But is this the best way anymore? I'm getting a SMART Board in the fall and I need to figure out how to use it. There are so many things I could be doing in class to be a better math teacher. I want to be a better math teacher. I just don't know how to get there. But - Twitter is going to help me get there in some way, because it has connected me with some pretty neat math teachers. And I need to learn from them. I'm just past halfway (potentially, depending on what STRS does about when you can retire and at what percentage) in my teaching career. I'm at a crossroads. I want the fast car/gorgeous man/fill in the blank of your favorite mid-life crisis object here. But it's a lot harder to make that happen. Can an old dog learn new tricks? Stay tuned...