Monday, November 8, 2010

Scientific Adventures

Wow, it is seriously hard to believe that as of the end of tomorrow Term 1 of Semester 1 of the 2010/2011 school year will be over. Midterm marks are due and there is only one term left to lead into exams. And at the same time, this has left like the longest term...I have had many challenges, grown a lot, felt broken down emotionally a few times...Definitely some of the many reasons I have fallen behind on this blog. So much for writing at least once per month!

I have encountered some of the most difficult circumstances of my young life. Working with full-size classes for the first time in my teaching career has brought along with it some interesting challenges - largely classroom management related. I walked into this career with many pieces of advice on the matter, and was told many times that I would learn and create my own style as I went along. I think that hardest part to realize, is that the style that will become my own, will not always be the one I had hoped for. I am not the "hard ass" teacher that I sometimes need to be and sometimes will need to be, especially as I continue to teach applied level course and continue to teach Grade 10 classes (such a fascinating Grade, no longer timid Grade 9s that think they are more mature than they really are).

This was the first experience I had getting to start from scratch with these level courses, and man would I like to take it back and start again. I can now see just how important it is to establish routines that are largely focused in character education and social learning and needs. Boundaries is a word I hear often...and now really understand the value of. It is very difficult to come back and set a tone to reestablish rules that should have been there from the start. And it is amazing to see just how much a 16-year-old will push the gray areas of behaviour. I think that when it comes down to it, the hardest part will be creating these boundaries around students who will always need my empathy and support. There has to be a balance between listening to problems/giving second chances and forcing someone to learn that they have to grow up eventually - no matter what they have had to deal with in their lives.

Enough on the struggles that have made me want to crawl under a rock though...

Being full time in a department that is my second teachable and is not my forte has brought along enough stress to last me a long time. Thankfully I have taught one of these courses already and have an amazingly supportive department. I can ask any of them questions and they are happy to do their best to help. My department head is amazing and provides me with the time and support I need. She has gone out of her way to help me create a major lab for a course that I am new to (and the teacher I work with is not as helpful) and finds ways to create time for me to do things on release days that I need the time for.

Our school is one that is recognized by the Ministry and receives funding for student support. To do this the school has identified 34 students to follow in Grade 10 and has created teams to work on PLCs (professional learning cycles) in certain departments. Science is one of those teams and we are working to develop changes and preparation for the 30% summative. This involves creating transparent assessments around the performance task and identifying true ways to evaluate application of knowledge and develop tasks to help students practice these skills. We have set out to have these 34 students improve their 30% evaluation mark by an average of 10% from their Grade 9 marks.

In any event, it feels like there is a lot of pressure on me to make this happen in Grade 10. Even when my department head will do everything she can (before going on maternity leave) to get the other teacher on board...

I'm sure I could go on for awhile, but I will spare you further digression.
Keep learning!