My Rookie Mistakes

Originally Posted 8/31/2015
Experienced teachers always claimed that if you stay in the profession long enough you begin to feel sorry for the kids you taught in your first few years.  I think I have hit that point.  I’ve begun to realize some of my rookie mistakes.  I’m sure in a few years I’ll have more to add but so far this is my list.

1.     Being purposely vague because you want students to surprise students on tests. 

  •  In physics and math worlds I felt like some of my best questions were the ones I wrote for tests.  I couldn’t come up with anything as good for reviews or examples and I felt like if I used them on anything but the test, they were wasted.  Kids were purposely not be exposed to my beautifully written problem.  The end result: my brightest students left tests saying “wow that was amazing!” while the majority was thinking “we’ve never learned that”.
  • My solution: At this point I have realized that doesn’t work.  I am no longer afraid to show them problems like the ones on the test.  What I was initially avoiding was giving a review that looked like the test.  Now I just give them the beautiful problem as a regular in class problem or for homework.  I don’t say it’s like something on the test.  I just say “Hey check out this cool thing!”

2.     Making agendas and then stop making agendas

  • My first two years of teaching I taught in what would be considered a traditional public school environment.  I took all the advice of all the books and teachers at teacher training school.  I made daily agendas that would be projected on the board.  I would include fun facts of the day that would later be coined as FOTDs.  If I forgot to have an FOTD students would riot and eventually start emailing me interesting facts themselves.  This gimmick was really good for ensuring that I made daily agendas and put thought into what would be accomplished each day.  I then moved to a different school where this was less necessary because the students were highly motivated and a routine could be established without a constant visual reminder of what was to be accomplished that day. I fell out of this routine and habit.  Kids were left wondering what was going on and I started to not really know what was to be done each day myself.
  • Stop being lazy and make a daily agenda EVERY DAY and tell the kids what’s happening.  They are as detailed as I want but so often I would think of great ideas but then forget what YouTube video I wanted to show or what the link was to that one really cool site.  The daily agendas are more for me than for the kids but everyone benefits.

3.     Moving around too much

  • I mean moving cities.  In my 6 years of teaching I have taught in 4 schools in 3 cities.  My first two years of teaching were at the same place but then I moved for various reasons two consecutive years and then I got laid off from public school.  The good part was that I got a lot of life experience and was able to establish what I want in a school.  I experienced various leadership styles, department vibes, and campus cultures.  I learned this while sacrificing consistency in subjects taught.  The thing that makes me feel most comfortable in the classroom is being so well planned out that I can then focus on what the stumbling blocks for my students will be.  I didn’t have this for what felt like most of my career.
  • My solution: Find a school I love and stop moving. I am teaching geometry and IB Math Studies for the second year in a row. I am so much  more organized and can focus on how to improve my courses instead of just survive another year.

I’ve far from perfected anything but I’m basically shocked at how different this year feels compared to others. Reflection is good.

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