Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Looking back

Since one of my principals is doing such a great job of reflecting on his past year, I think I should take a few minutes and do the same.

If I look back 14 months ago, before I got hired at L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, I was in a bad state as a teacher.  I think I've noted before on the blog that while I know my calling is to be a teacher, it was not always my life goal and I feel free to leave if it is necessary for any reason.  So suffice it to say that while I have fond memories of my last school and know that being there made me grow immensely, it was time to go. (as an aside, teachers really need to recognize when it is time to leave their current circumstances and seek out a change, too many stay too long)

So when I got hired at my dream school, I was on cloud nine.  To be honest, I couldn't figure out why more science teachers weren't clamoring to get to STEM, teaching science at a school with a science focus, who would not want to be there?

What I didn't realize is that apparently people around the county thought our school was going to be a flash in the pan, gone in a few years.  I suppose that could still happen, but improbable in the extreme.  This is easily the most dynamic, innovative, unafraid to take risks, fail, iterate again place I've ever worked.  I have an amazing leader and work with a lot of teachers who are phenomenal and make me strive harder to excel every day.

Okay...all of that was about the school, not me, I should refocus...

I'll break this in a few pieces (and posts probably).  The year started with immense pressure. I had 4 preps, one of which I hadn't taught in 9 years and in far different setting, and another brand new and an AP class to boot. We are a 1:1 school and I personally committed to using that tech everyday and be as paperless as possible.  I swore I would be much more inquiry and lab focused and way less concerned with plug and chug problems.  I wanted to try out new stuff and have my students show off their knowledge in creative, non-test ways.

So how did I do in these areas: (in mastery grading!)

  1. With the two new classes, I struggled mightily.  I loved my APES class at the beginning of the year, but we had no texts, no equipment and a teacher who was behind the curve despite my APSI training. It took me way too long to get my feet under me in that class.  The other new class, Biology, I will confess I never focused on enough.  I had 9 kids and we could have and should have done amazing things, but I definitely failed those kids.  With 4 preps I just couldn't find enough time to do justice to all of them, and that was the one that fell by the wayside.  That sounds awful, and I feel awful about it.  The odd thing is that they actually did really well, scoring so well I don't want to brag about it on the state test.  I'm going to attribute that fully to them and not myself and use it in the future as an argument against using test scores to evaluate. (Developing)
  2. Technology wise I feel I did a pretty solid job.  We tried a lot of new things and I used very little paper in the course of the year, and most of what I did use is reusable still.  Students used Edmodo to grab all assignments, Notability to do all of their written work and lots of other things on a day to day basis.(Mastery)
  3. Inquiry and lab focus---very hit and miss.  We definitely did more activities of all kinds than I've ever done before.  Actual labs though, I feel like I missed the mark there (as I do every year).  I'd like to blame it on the equipment shortages (I didn't get basically anything until December), but really, it comes down to me having those old notions of....must get material covered....I'm past that now, and I really think next year will be much different. (Beginning)
  4. Kids showing off knowledge in different ways.  Had some of that no doubt. Outside of tests in AP style to prepare them, my APES kids pretty much had every assignment as a video or a short impromptu presentation.  We made stop motion videos in Biology, and my chem classes did videos ranging from explaining kinetic theory to creating hot air balloons.  (developing)

For those areas, I definitely have work to do, but I feel I have a strong foundation for to build off of.  In fact, that's what I've been doing for two weeks since school has let out, but more on that in the next post.

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