Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Yearly Ah-ha Moment

Once again, I never have time to blog anymore but about once a year something happens that just makes me start typing.  Last year it was the ingenuity of a couple kids that made me realize that I should quit trying to teach concepts and start teaching kids to be more inquisitive.  I have to admit I did a pretty bad job at that.  Sometime around December I started having splitting headaches and when my doctor told me in January that it was stress, I pretty much focused on getting myself straight and not so much my curriculum.

I have only had the opportunity a few times this year to do something that I considered to be really interesting to the kids.  Most of the times it's a Mathalicious lesson or something I also use in AP Stats.  And I already have a great idea in the works, but today it happened again.

Yesterday we found out our proficiency rate for our classes that took the District Wide Benchmark tests.  These tests are made by our teachers in the district but they are terribly unreliable and they definitely don't measure what they are supposed to.  You'll never guess where the questions come from....Schoolnet (owned by Pearson).   I could go on and on but everyone knows where that road leads.

It was just wild that the day after I found out 33% of my kids are proficient in PreCal, one of my kids calls me over during the chapter test to ask me if he worked a problem correctly.  It was a standard arc length problem but instead of giving them the radius and central angle, they had elapsed minutes on a clock.  Most kids missed it because it made them think which they don't like to do.  Many more asked me what to do because they didn't know where to start.

But one kid just figured it out.  Instead of finding the angle formed by the clock hands, he found the circumference of the circle and then found the ratio of the minutes to 60, then the ratio to 360 degrees.  Then he applied the ratio to the circumference to get the solution.  He didn't need the formula (although he knew the formula for circumference) he just needed the drive to get the solution and a few tools.

It reinforced that I need to spend less time covering objective after objective to make sure I cover the benchmark minimums and spend more time trying to get kids to be inquisitive.  So many of our kids nowadays just want to get the answer, get it done and get the grade.  It's not their fault.  They get tested to death and they even get paid to test (as much as $1000 in our district if they test well).  We have ACT Prep classes on our schedule and a 28 will get you free tuition at most state schools.

It's an epidemic that no amount of technology or curriculum will fix.  It's only going to get better if we stop testing our kids constantly and give trust and autonomy back to teachers to do what is best for the kids that sit with them each day.  I promise to make my kids think more and be less helpful.

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