Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Poor Teaching

Test prep.

I am currently teaching four sections of AP Calculus.  My students took the exam this morning.  I am thankful for this, not because it means that we can stop doing math (sorry kiddos, tomorrow we begin with some graph theory), not because this marks the finishing line of an intense race (sorry kiddos, I really don't think you're going to talk me into watching Stand and Deliver), and not even because this means that summer is right around the corner (although I can't say I'm disappointed by this). The reason that I am happy that the AP is over is because my teaching has really gone downhill in the past month.

My suckage.

It's been about a month since we finished the AP curriculum, a little longer for my AB classes and a little less for my BC classes (those AP Calc teachers who are now wondering how in the world I managed to do this, my students began Calculus midway through the year of their junior year). So part of my decent into mediocrity is due to lack of freshness.  A month is a long time to review and I didn't develop ways to approach old material in new ways or synthesize material in ways that aren't possible earlier in the course.  Why?  Time constraints?  Lack of will, creativity, or resources? My physical stature?  Who knows.

I fell for the song of the Direct Instruction Sirens with refrains of "teacher assigns problems/students do problems/teacher does problems students can't do."

I was less patient.  I was less willing to let kids struggle and internally frustrated (and probably externally frustrated) when kids did or said things that exhibited misconceptions "they shouldn't have."

I said yes and no much more frequently, interrupted kids when they took false paths, and even found myself saying "Don't worry about that. It's not going to show up on the AP."


Here's the thing I can't explain. Why did this happen?  I don't think I succumbed to the pressure.  I really don't care how students do on the AP (at least I don't think I care).  I see myself first as a math teacher, second as a Calculus teacher, and third as an AP teacher.  I care most about sending kids off to college excited about math (with some success), second about exploring the beautiful tool that is the calculus (with some success), and third about the inter-workings of the debt ceiling. The AP is way down on the list (or at least I think it is). It's a 3 hour snapshot with lots of uncontrollable external variables that have little or nothing to do with calculus (in both directions...if everyone got a 5 it would not change my view that all of my students are still at different stages of learning calculus).

It is the end of the year. I am leaving for a new school. All of my students are leaving for college. Maybe it's just laziness. All I know is that this thinking is making me tired...time to go take a nap.

1 comment:

  1. My colleague Dave and I are constantly reminding each other that it's okay and sometimes desirable to be mediocre. Lately he has been shifting towards the language of sustainability. It's wise to know what you have time for. I think a factor you may not have included is that the AP calculus client is often strongly expecting the old 1-2-3. Your awareness of what you did, what you might want to try, and the fact that you have the energy to teach another year might have been the best solution. For now.