I keep track of the challenging days, and today was the year's third challenging day--that's not too bad.
What made the day challenging was the large number of details we had to focus on, details that students are not too good at listening to since it's a lot of detail. It's also a turning point in the year--a time when I begin to expect more from the students with regard to attention, completion of assignments, asking questions, and doing what's asked. The standards stretch, in some ways, pushes these expectations. There's a lot to teach and a hefty number of assessments ahead too.
I'm starting a new homework routine which involves greater secretarial efforts to make sure I know who has completed the homework and who hasn't. I am noticing a direct correlation with those that practice and those that do well. I want to give everyone a chance to do well. We're also embarking on a number of expectations that are new or more comprehensive than children are used to--expectations related to math models, mathematical thinking, math writing, and problem solving.
Further I simply have more students than last year. Our classes were around 22 last year and this year we're at 25ish. The bigger numbers make a difference since there's a lot of needs.
As I think over the day, I'm concerned because I can feel the pressure to meet a host of deep and broad standards in what I think is too quick time for many learners, learners who would profit from more engaging, meaningful exploration that builds their math foundation as well as their love of math. Rushing the curriculum means that we resort to the quickest way to teach, and the quickest ways is not always the best way.
It's been a challenging math year as I work to meet a large number of new expectations, expectations that are difficult to differentiate and personalize in the ways I'm accustom to teaching math--ways that allow me to craft the curriculum to meet students in meaningful and engaging ways. I'm trying to still teach in engaging and welcoming ways within these tighter parameters, but finding that it's difficult to do this with the pressure to teach a broad set of both new and old standards.
Tomorrow we'll be back on track. I'll change a few more seats, review material with students, reassure my learners, slow down a bit, and encourage/coach more. Everyday won't be the best day, and a few days will be the most challenging days too. Onward.