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Omega and Alpha time

posted Dec 31, 2011, 5:12 AM by Michael Reilly
Ending a semester and starting a new one is a great time for teachers.  We get to try yet again to improve our craft, to do it better than we did last time.  At least, that's what I feel, and other teachers I respect.  We reflect on what was good, what wasn't so good, and figure out another attempt.  It's a lot like the engineering/design process, just on a long schedule that's dictated by a district.

What went NOT so well?  While our kids outscored the school average in just about everything, we saw a major downturn since the midterms.  In particular, our "middle kids".  That is, our gifted students did very well, and our most challenged kids did great, but those kids that are above average (but not quite "gifted") sunk quite a bit.  For example, in our 9th grade Math group where they have the same teacher as another similar traditional class, we went from 3 points above to 10 points below!  

What happened?  Well, could be many things, hence that reflection thing.  One factor may have been over-confidence, in that the students were so celebrated at the midterm results, they may not have taken the Final Exam as seriously.  Another factor may have been too much trust:  in an environment that's more like work, where we trust them when they say they understand a concept, we probably should have done more formative assessment in more traditional ways (quizzes, etc.).  We did this with our 10th graders (they had problems earlier than 9th), and the results did climb instead of fall.

Other minor things occurred, but no huge issues. Other things did go well too, and we have to remember them.  We have quite a few students who would like to join us next semester!  Also, as mentioned above, we made great progress in refining our 10th grade Social Studies program for improved results, and saw amazing results from our 10th grade Language Arts.  We had a few news appearances for some fun, good experiences and visitors.

Next semester we will try implementing some lessons from SLA on scheduling and projects better, and add more interim/formative assessments.  We're adding a student teacher for Math, for yet another person to help in this area.  We are changing how the core subjects integrate with projects, for more clarity and flexibility.  On top of all of this, we should have a few guest speakers, a cool field trip or two (hoping for Turner Studios), and maybe some surprises.

Finally, I think we can use our experiences from our Final Exam results as a motivator. (I can't believe I'm complaining we didn't beat the school enough, but you have to have high expectations, right?)   It's like so many great teams:  a loss can serve as a great motivator to future efforts.  The Green Bay Packers were undefeated until recently.  It's my guess that will serve as a wake-up call and they run the table, winning the Super Bowl.  Competitive academics, it's something we do.

So, here comes 2012.  Since we only have until Dec. 21, 2012 due to the end of the world, we only have 2 semesters left to get this right.