Finding the Good in a Weird Year

I’ve been trying for awhile to write a post about this school year. It’s been a very strange year for so many reasons. That’s a lot of why you haven’t seen as many posts from me this year. I’m trying to finish out the year strong in the spirit of #onegoodthing and finding the silver lining moments in all that has happened. So, first, a brief outline of why this year has been weird:

  • moving classrooms up a floor
  • two new math teachers in our department of four
  • district cuts of 85 teachers and many support staff members (including one of those new math teachers, and moving the other one)
  • seven snow days, six shortened schedule days due to weather, resulting in:
  • an extended schedule beginning in March with 20 minute longer days
  • removing our student early release Wednesdays for staff meetings (so we haven’t had a staff meeting since February)
  • new standardized testing completed on chromebooks for the first time this year
  • finishing grad school
  • Various district level issues
  • downtown being at major flood stage for a record breaking 51 days, and breaking Flood of 1993 crest records
  • implementing standards based grading practices, including being the only school in the district to do so for Algebra 2 and Geometry this year
  • our school being named a comprehensive school in need of improvement by the Every Student Succeeds Act

So. To my good things.

I finish my master’s in July! I am so excited to be done, but I can truly and honestly say that I have learned so much in this program: lots of mathematics, and lots about being a better teacher. I have really enjoyed most of the classes, even though they’ve resulted in at least one major mental breakdown every semester I’ve been in the program due to all the added work and stress. I also have many new teacher friends across the state that I hope will be lifelong partners in this teaching journey. I’m really looking forward to walking across the stage with a bunch of them in December and celebrating our hard work and accomplishments.

I’ve gotten to teach our little alternative high school’s first ever section of Pre-Calculus this year. We’ve sent a couple kids to other schools in the district or done independent studies before, but it’s the first time we’ve had enough students ready for advanced math to offer a class period of it! I’ve enjoyed the challenge of teaching new, advanced material, and the group I get to teach it to are just delightful humans. When I’m teaching that class, I really feel like we’re a team, instead of me being the teacher and them being the students.

Although the ins and outs of things like actually putting scores into Campus, getting used to how to score things consistently with rubrics, having rubrics and assessments that don’t really match up quite yet, and explaining a new grading system to students and parents have all been quite frustrating in our standards based grading implementation, there are DEFINITELY amazing things happening because of it. First, even if students are super grade focused, it’s eventually sunk in for most of them that their grade represents how much they understand of the content. So they know that if their grade is lower than they want, they need to ask for more help. Second, they can try again! It’s building a growth mindset in my students. And, during fourth quarter, I’ve been running mini reteaching sessions during our intervention period and students have been earning 3’s on standards they got 1’s on originally way back in first quarter, all because they have shown me that they understand it now. And the fact that now I get to give them credit for that is awesome. My Algebra 2 kids are even really starting to take responsibility for self monitoring their learning and making sure they ask the questions they need and get help before retaking assessments, and being able to identify their weaknesses really well. (Still working with the Algebra 1 kids on that)

With all the teacher changes in the district, we are down to 3 instead of 4 math teachers next fall. Myself and one other have both been at Mid City the whole time I’ve been teaching (she’s actually been there longer than me). The third is a new to us teacher who has been teaching at the other alternative program in the district, which is for behavior disorder students and students in extenuating situations with the courts. He has been part of our group for several professional development district wide math days and we love him! He’s super enthusiastic about teaching and getting better at teaching, and he definitely has the heart for our population. So I’m excited for him to teach in our building next year. Also, I’m very excited that the schedule for next year worked out so that for the FIRST TIME EVER in my teaching career, I will be teaching the same courses next year as I am this year. I’m very excited to not be constantly preparing brand new materials, and to get to focus on developing the weak points in my Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Pre-Calculus teaching!

Also, throughout this year, I’ve gotten to watch several of my former students achieve great successes in their lives. One is at college majoring in aerospace engineering (literal rocket scientist!!!), one continues to have a great welding job at John Deere and is great to chat with whenever I run into him, one was named to a list of 100 high schoolers to know in the country, one has been saving up money and is planning to go back to school in the fall, one I run into all the time with her almost three year old child and she is a great mom, and more and more. I love seeing them all pop up on facebook or running into them around town and seeing how they’re forming their own journeys. I’m very excited to see where some of my seniors graduating in a couple weeks go next and continue to just be so proud of them every day.

Now it’s time to push through to the end of this strange year, hit reset over the summer, and come back ready for more next year!

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Author: missmastalio

Math teacher at an alternative high school. Living the best life.

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