My geometry students are performing phenomenally well. As I look around after I’ve assigned a problem, I see a real classroom – almost every child working hard on getting the answer – asking each other how they got their answers, and then listening alertly as I go over the problem, or even better, listening alertly and politely as another student goes to the board and reviews the problem.
Last year, I cried after I graded the first unit test. The test was easy and yet, so many students failed it. This year, the test was significantly more difficult – with algebra problems that the students had to set up and solve – and covered more content. And yet, only 5 students, out of the 31 who took it, failed. And those students have very spotty attendance. In my first period class, five students earned a 99%.
There are a number of things that are different this year – I have a year of teaching (and classroom management!) under my belt, we’re on a semester schedule, so I have the kids for 60 minutes every day instead of 80 minutes every other day, I’m giving them partially filled in Cornell notes – which include the geometry figures already on the page so we don’t waste time drawing them, I’m assigning homework every night, I have a system for passing out/turning in papers that saves time, and I’m teaching study skills (like the Cornell notes and flashcards). But it’s definitely not just me and my amazing teaching skills (though I’d love to take all the credit).
Our students just seem more like students this year. They are doing their homework (for the most part) and they are really engaged and interested in doing well. I have had kids at coach class during lunch and after school every day. Attendance is much better (although 1st period continues to be a problem). They are studying for their quizzes and tests. When we played Geometry Jeopardy, they told me that the questions that I made up were too easy and that I had to make them harder next time.
I’ve raised my expectations and the students are not only rising to meet them, they’re asking me to raise them even more. Damn, maybe the first test will make me cry this year too – but I’ll take that kind of crying.