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.
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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.
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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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