August 23, 2014

End of Year 3

Year 3 with my students was honestly a blast. My district began Common Core implementation, and I saw a significant difference between the "old" and "new" curriculums. Algebra 1 was 100% Common Core aligned (granted, we did not get through the entire curriculum), and I was definitely impressed by how much my freshmen rose to the challenge of writing and explaining their thinking.

College algebra, on the other hand, did not have a new curriculum. However, they ended up doing more writing and analyzing as well because the Common Core bug hit me. It was while teaching college algebra that I realized how much skill and drill these kids have endured in their high school careers. I was dumbfounded and devastated that these seniors (with a splash of exceptional juniors) were seeing concepts like solving equations, graphing lines, etc for the second or third time, and they still hadn't mastered these concepts. I was forgiving on exponential and logarithmic functions, but linear and quadratic functions should be something that is mastered in both algebra 1 and algebra 2. What depressed me more was when it came time for their university or college math placement tests; these kids were not testing into college level math courses.

This devastation is what got me thinking about teaching. I put forth an extra amount of effort during my third year (though I failed to blog about everything) because of the shift in curriculum. I didn't mind that part, because I saw these freshmen grow more mathematically than I had in previous years. But what bothered me was that in some regards we were still just teaching to a test. The pressure was on for the math department, and I think admin expected us to just be able to flip a switch and adjust our teaching style overnight. The Common Core implementation wasn't gradual; the learning curve was challenging and teacher frustrations were high. I tried to stay positive as long as I could, but the negativity finally got to me. I became a jaded teacher after only teaching for three years, and I decided it would be best to take a year (or so I tell myself) off.