So, to be clear, I love what I do! But, as with any job or calling or even hobby, sometimes you get frustrated. This was one of those weeks.
I teach two different “levels” of the same course – Algebra 2 academic and Algebra 2 honors. As you can imagine, the academic level is for those students that might have struggled a little in math before but are college bound and need Algebra 2. The honors is intended for the more gifted math students and those students (primarily 9th and 10th graders) usually end up in AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC. My honors class is where I’m experiencing the frustration this week.
The honors course is a rigorous one intended to get through not just the required standards (by our state – not Common Core) but also through some introduction to Trigonometry. The material covered goes beyond basic standards at the state but also pushes the student to think beyond that. Its also where some of the gifted students first start to struggle and they definitely were struggling this week. Or at least some are struggling (its way more than I’d like.) My issue is, though, that they aren’t struggling because they can’t understand or do the math, but because they aren’t practicing or asking for help. I have (and believe in) a policy of not grading homework. I don’t grade it for all the reasons other teachers don’t – it should be practice without fear of doing poorly, their grade should reflect their overall understanding without help from others or notes etc. I’ve had that policy for several years and I always hit a spot in the year where I question it. Bam…. hit that spot early this year.
This year is a little different though. The classes overall aren’t doing as well as I think they should. I gave a test on Thursday and Friday and they acted like I had never even mentioned some of the concepts. Well beyond the normal, “I didn’t study so I’m going to pretend I’ve never heard of this ” kind of response. Then I had some less than honest attempts at the test (if you know what I mean) and they didn’t seem to care at all about this until the test came around. I know, its almost the definition of teenager only it definitely seems to be worse. All of this seems to be telling me that they don’t know what’s going on and don’t really know how to go about figuring what they can do to fix it. They aren’t making the connection that practice will help them learn and make better grades, that they need to be responsible to take good notes, access the online materials and to seek help when they need it. And studying for math… how do I do that?
So, where do I start?
Do I go back to grading homework? At what cost – I have 130 students. Grading homework every night means not spending as much time on creating interesting lessons. I still believe all those things that made me stop grading it to start with so why change?
Do I change my grading policy all together and try standards based grading with them?
What are good ways for me to encourage them to take good notes and review and practice outside of class? For me, that’s what studying for math means – review your notes and practice your problems. I’d love to spend more time in class but where do I find it? Flip the class? Not sure they’d watch the videos either.
So MTBoS buddies…. help!! How do you help your students learn to be independent? How do you help them learn study skills and strategies? I’d love comments and suggestions.