Sunday, October 21, 2012

What a difference a year makes

I am going to be brief, but I have to say I am amazed at how well my Algebra 2 students did with functions so far. We had an assessment Friday over operations, composition, inverses, and piecewise functions (including absolute value). Traditionally for me, this has been a section that students have struggled with. I am pleased to share that they did well on their assessment. Most scores were 3's, 4's, and 5's - most of them in the 4-5 range. 

When I taught these concepts and checked how they were doing with it, they were doing fairly well. I was trying to figure out what was different - why they were doing so well. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I needed to know what went RIGHT after so many years of struggling. I can only pinpoint a few things:
  • this group of kids has been under the old curriculum a longer time (not buying this one... last year's group only had one less year and they did horrible)
  • I've been highly influenced by the Math Twitterblogosphere and I finally figured out how to explain it well. :-)
  • We had a different Algebra 1 teacher for the first time in 5 years.
In reality, I know that a good part of it is due to the 3rd bullet point. I'd like to think that I've made a lot of good changes since last year, but the reality is, the only major change I made was in how I did piecewise functions and maybe in some of the questioning and wording that I did of explanations. These students have come to me knowing much more than previous years' groups. Now, again, part of that may be that this group of kids may have had teachers who have taken the curriculum we were under seriously and pushed these students to learn the material well. But I think a good part of it is due to their previous teacher.

Their previous teacher was a first year teacher last year. Sadly, he is no longer with my district. He and his new wife have settled in a different area based on where she was able to find a teaching job and he was able to find a job closer to her. I totally get that - I was there once also (took me 5 years to get in the same place as my now-husband). Family has to come first. But I am still sad that he isn't my (direct) teaching colleague anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, he was not perfect. But, he did a great job with teaching the students I have now. His classroom management was quite good for a first year teacher. He held his students to high standards and they achieved them, and retained a good part of the information he taught them. Did they all remember the information right away? No, but with a little reminding, they remembered pretty quickly that they had been taught functions and they understood the notation. 

Quadratics are up next for us and I had hopes before finishing grading papers that I may be able to skip the multiplication of binomials and polynomials. I still have quite a few students struggling with it. However, I am confident with a little more practice, they'll get it again. It is amazing what a difference a year makes. A different teacher, who truly cares about teaching and teaching mathematics to the best of his ability, makes a considerable difference. I am hoping that his successor is as good of a teacher as this first year teacher was. I'll be curious to see how my former colleague develops as a teacher. I am confident that if he continues on the track he began as a first year teacher, he will be a great teacher. I am grateful that my students had him last year and that his students came to me well-prepared.

No comments: