Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blogging from home, on vacation

Yes, folks, that's right.....we have internet at home, finally. Just dial-up, but it seems to be pretty fast.

Anyway, I have 5 days left until I return to school, and the break has been wonderful. I feel as though I have myself back - the motivated, energetic, looking-forward-to-work self. Yesterday was the first day since Dec 15 that I did any schoolwork at all, and I actually enjoyed correcting my level II geometry tests - lots of comments, summarizing where a lot of my kids are still missing some of the basics. It probably helped that most of them did very well. Because I was so burned out before break, I simply used a book test and crossed out the sections that didn't pertain. As I was correcting, though, I realized it is actually a pretty decent assessment. I may look more towards the book tests from here on out.

I also made a list of all the kids that did not do very well, and for each of them tried to figure out why. For the vast majority, it was because they lack the following prerequisite skills:

  • ability to apply the Triangle Angle Sum Theorem (the sum of the measures of a triangle adds to 180 - countless kids are only using 2 angles instead of three, or taking angles from two different triangles)
  • Seeing and using linear pairs (two adjacent angles that form a straight line. Their measures always add to 180. Often the kids use non-adjacent angles along a straight line)
  • Less often, but still a problem, recognizing vertical angles and then realizing they are congruent
  • Using correct symbols to write about lines, segements, polygons and angles. There is no such thing as angle BC, line E, or point ST. You cannot talk about angle H if there are four different angles at vertex H
  • Breaking down a complex figure into more manageable, simpler figures. They do not see the little triangles that make up the bigger figures.
  • Also, some kids still do not get the idea that if two geometric figures are congruent, you can set their measures equal, and write an algebraic equation.

I do not have time to go over this again in class, and I do not think that that would help, anyway. Really what a lot of these kids need is individual tutoring, yet I do not have the time for that. This is a problem in all my classes - some kids really do need individual instruction with immediate feedback. I am thinking of combing the Web for sites where the kids can practice these skills. Once they have mastered them using the Web, I plan on giving them a simple assessment that they must pass, after which they can re-take a similar test on the current topics. We may also have some tutorial CD's the kids can take home and use - I need to see if they're any good and if so, if I can make copies.

Time Management

The above topic leads me to another one, which I have been thinking about a lot lately. There is so much I would like to do as a teacher, but there just isn't enough time to do all the things I would like to do well. One of the things I have been trying to do is set manageable goals, recognizing that as I master more and more skills and gain more experience, I can do more. I think I became so burnt out before break, in part because I had no catch up plan. I felt torn in all directions - as a new mother, as a wife and as a teacher - there just wasn't enough of me to go around. Never mind about time for self.

I have realized that at some point, for each and every aspect of my life, I need to say enough is enough - and this is good enough. I have felt torn about not being with my son during the day - aren't I supposed to be the one raising him? And so every day I make it a point to leave school as soon as possible so that I can pick him up and spend time with him. But schoolwork fell by the wayside a little too much and consequently, I was becoming more and more stressed. A stressed out mother is not good for a child.

So the new plan is this: 2 days a week will be catch up days. I stay after school on Wednesdays anyway for extra help, and so that will be the day to finish any and all correcting that I have accumulated. Hopefully it is possible to get all of it done by 6:30, 7 pm so that I still get enough sleep. My husband will pick up the boy and have dinner with his folks while I am working late. This means that on Wednesdays I do not see my son hardly at all, but I will be more attentive and relaxed when I am with him. (It all sounds very reasonable, and it is the best decision, and yet the guilt and anxiety can creep up. I have to keep telling myself that sharing the boy is a good thing, he is perfectly fine with his dad and grandparents, I give him plenty of time with me otherwise, etc. )

Well, anyway....the other day I will catch up will be Sunday afternoons. I'll correct any papers from Thursday and Friday, and also plan lessons and units. The boy will be spending one-on-one time with his dad, which I strongly believe is a very good thing for both of them. Saturdays is our family day - J will no longer work on Saturdays and I will do no schoolwork on Saturdays. It is our day to spend as we please, without guilt.

This blog was originally going to be simply a reflective journal for teaching, but what I do and how I do things as a teacher is intimately tied up with the other aspects of my life. It would be impossible to separate them, and so there may be more posts similar to this.

The Big To-Do List

Make up midterm review sheet for level 3 Alg II

Make up midterm for level 3 Alg II

Make up midterm for level 2 Geom

(Hope that B. is making up midterm for level 3 Geom)

Correct each and every stitch of paper in bags (it's best not to list these separately as I would likely run from the room screaming, newly relaxed and energetic self notwithstanding)

Record all corrected grades in gradebook

Record all grades in Excel and calculate current student averages

Get lesson plans outlined for last two weeks of semester

Search web for geometry tutoring sites and make up assessment for lagging students

Wish me luck.....5 days and counting.....

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