I just spent the two days before Thanksgiving break working with Mr. Gmerek's class on a concept called Mean Value Theorem. It's a fairly complex rule, and being able to understand it involves using just about every other concept the students have used that year. I enjoyed just walking through the various problems with the students, showing them the ways that everything ties together. It's good to still see the light turn on in people's minds. Overall, it was a successful week, though I know they'll have forgotten most of it over the break. Will be interesting to see how quickly they bounce back.
This week, I helped the students in Gmerek's room on Monday to review for their test on Tuesday, then I spent Tuesday observing in Mr. Limbird's AP Physics room. I take double-block Physics, so we're about a month ahead of the rest of his AP students. It was interesting to see such a large class (30 students) who all learn differently... some students were helping each other, others relied solely on their notes, and others asked Mr. Limbird and I for help. It was another reminder of how important it is to fully understand all aspects of a subject when trying to teach it, because my little experience with it was barely enough for me to explain complex problems to them. Overall, it went well, but I definitely wasn't as helpful in Limbird's room as I am in Gmerek's.
Thursday was just simply working with Gmerek's and Horne's students on new concepts, which they seemed to understand pretty well. Working with Horne's kids on their Algebra 1 skills was key, as they are learning to classify functions but forgetting their terminology and exponent rules. I'm continuing to see how all the courses lead in to each other as I compare Algebra II to Calculus AB and BC. Very insightful.
I also went to a Parent conference for HCSD on Tuesday night with Mr. Wise, director of the ILC, to discuss emerging technology and apps with parents. There was a representative from each school, as well as Doug Maggied from the Board of Education and our Superintendent, John Marschhausen. It was a great chance to see some of the behind-the-scenes debates that occur to inform the district of issues, and hear how the administration makes their decisions. When it was our turn to speak, most of the people in the room seemed annoyed that we were discussing social media at a school conference, and there was only one question from the audience. However, after we answered that question, there were suddenly two more, and then more, and we ended up discussing social media for over an hour. I really like how the parents' attitudes visibly changed from contempt for the ILC to respect as they realized what it does and how it's leading the future of education. It was a great lesson for all of us to open our minds and learn to change.
This week, Gmerek's students have been working on combining all the rules they've learned this year to synthesize complex derivatives. For the most part, I've been individually explaining the ins and outs to them, as well as going over commonly overlooked trivialities. I'm pretty sure that the students are making great progress, but I definitely had trouble this week as they began to head in to methods and rules I hadn't used in a while. My memory was fuzzy, but I was able to still explain things without confusing the students. I tend to make the students explain the problem back to me or tell my why my method works to ensure they understand. As the topics get more and more complex, I find myself having to try two or three methods to explain things to the students, so I'm seeing the advantage of really knowing your topic well before you explain it. This also helps in being able to explain WHY a student was wrong. They often look at their work and understand what the key says, but they don't see why their work got the wrong answer. Being able to not just point out mistakes but EXPLAIN why they're wrong makes students much less likely to repeat them. In general, I'm continuing to learn valuable lessons each week through my observations, despite staying in the same place. From talking to Gmerek and Horne, it sounds like they continue to learn new tricks everyday too, even after years of teaching the same class. I look forward to that as I become a teacher.
This week, I only got to observe once, but I enjoyed it. The students were learning a concept I was a bit fuzzy on, so I had the challenge of reteaching myself something while teaching them. It went pretty well I'd say; the students understood what was going on and began explaining it to each other, but I definitely see the value in filling out student worksheets yourself beforehand. If you have an exact idea of what they're doing, you can just focus on helping them because you know what specifically the questions are asking. Good lesson for the week.