Last year, I got a good feel for how to work in and out of the classroom in my capacity. I felt like I was growing in this weird math coaching / data analyst / designer / web-type person for the school. Even though we had a few naysayers, I think the school as a whole had the right foundations for building some really awesome pieces, especially on the curriculum and assessment piece. This thrust coupled with the Common Core work and the GE Futures in Education conference empowered me to rethink my whole style of teaching.
Then I learned we were expecting Alejandro.
My personal life started to have an effect on my professional life, so I had to get back to basics for everything I did. Many of the new projects I wanted to undertake in the math department were put on hold, but I made sure of two things: that everything I planned worked for the students in the class and that everything I worked on for the school made sense. With those two guiding principles, I made good progress on becoming a better teacher and a better leader. In other words, I became a much more conscientious teacher.
I also know that in a cooperative teaching situation, I had to be on point. Last year, when I worked with Mr. Johnson, he said at the end of the year that I taught him a lot about math. Whether or not that’s true is really up with him (and Mr. Pasco, who works with him now as the math counterpart). Yet, I probably learned as much from him as he learned from me. For example, I learned that I have to be more explicit about my expectations for the class. I always emphasize trying hard, handing in assignments, note-taking, and studying for assignments, but I also realized that I needed to show students more often what these actions look like. If not, they can fall to the wayside or, worse, completely lose themselves in the material.
Mr. Johnson also taught me that I need to remember that, in order to get kids to higher levels of thinking, I have to help them build more bridges. It means actually detailing how we arrived at answers, and more often asking for students to explain how we got solutions. I needed to help them own the material in ways they couldn’t. Also, I needed to get lesson plans printed and in clear language for whoever I worked with. The stakes are higher when you have another adult working with you.
In a way, by having Mr. Morban there, it assured that I would have to stay on top of my game. I wanted to demonstrate to him that, should I be absent, he can easily pick up where I left off. This would prove necessary for the two weeks I took in January, when my son was born. During the nine school days I had with the new baby, I kept thinking about the students I left in school, too. Class 814 and I formed a bond in ways that I couldn’t with last year’s 815. Thus, when I came back for the math interim assessment, I had a rude awakening: the test was in less than three months and they were already two weeks behind in preparation.
Again, I sat with my curriculum maps, pacing calendars, and lesson plans and said, “What in the world am I going to do?” As I sat there, I realized what many of us do: we have to get back to the basics. I started to emphasize the standards I knew would come up, with some hope that my students would retain most of the information I gave them. I also continued tracking how they did on their assessments, which helped when I created new assessments.
Even when I didn’t do check-ins (unfortunately, I have too many missed ones), I had no choice but to reflect daily on my practice. A few missteps here and there, but cleaning up your child’s poop at 2 in the morning can humble anyone.