As I look back at the first five weeks of the year this far, I am pleased with many things that are happening in my classes, frustrated by others, and disappointed in the number of posts I have made to my blog! Blogging is hard. The importance of reflection in the teaching profession is underrated, perhaps because it is so challenging to fit in to the daily schedule. Despite my lack of blog posts, I am fortunate to work in a school and department that is highly collaborative. While writing and reading blogs is a fantastic form of professional development, I am fortunate to work in a department that collaborates and reflects on our practice regularly.
This year I teach Algebra I, Strategic Math, and AP Calculus. Since there are more sections of Algebra I than the other classes, this is the largest team I am on. There are three math teachers and one special educator teaching Algebra I this year (the special educator in a co-taught class). We are fortunate enough to have common planning time every other day, that we use diligently. During this time, we plan lessons, discuss student work, reflect on lessons that went well and brainstorm ways to improve lessons in the future. We have a lot of autonomy over our curriculum, so although it must be aligned to current standards and other math courses in the progression, we are able to speed up or slow down as our students need us to.
One of the things we are finding challenging this year is the balance between teaching for depth and moving a a pace that will allow us to teach all of the concepts in our curriculum. Our first unit is on Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities, a unit that we think will mostly be taught in the middle school once our district is fully aligned to the Common Core Mathematics Standards. Throughout this unit, we are trying to place an emphasis on problem solving. We use many word problems from the Philips Exeter Academy texts, as well as those from the Mathematics Assessment Project and Illustrative Mathematics Project. This is a rewarding as well as frustrating process because it seems that many of our students have not been asked to think about math as much as to memorize rules and procedures. Because of this, we are finding not only that our students struggle with the content, but also about applying and thinking about that content beyond the most basic rules. As a result, my CLG (our school's version of PLCs) is going to focus on problem solving. I look forward to doing more research on this topic so I can try new ways of teaching problem solving in my classes.