Workshop Wrap-Up; Week 1 Worries

Last week I couldn’t wait for the first week of school to start; today, I can’t wait for the first week of school to be over and done with.

It took a good deal of time during workshop last week to finish writing my learning goals and creating tracking sheets. I finally got to a point where I feel satisfied enough with them that I will be able to distribute them to students (although I have since made some other minor changes). I was also feeling good about my other, more traditional chemistry class in which I am working with a couple of other teachers to plan; I always appreciate being able to share ideas and responsibilities with each other.

Today was only the 3rd day of class, and I’m more than ready for this week to be over. I’m ready for the students (and me) to be settled into our routines, for the daily schedule to stay the same from one day to the next and to have some consistency in the flow of day to day proceedings.

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I’m worried about cramming 35 students into a class that is built for 28. It’s crowded; transitioning from large-group to the lab stations takes longer than I would like it to mostly because of the tight spaces where students have to shuffle past each other. There are only 7 lab stations – and 5 students to a group is more than I would like.

I’m worried about using SBG (or SBAR, if you prefer). After the initial talk about the grading system (learning goals, assessed on proficiency not points, etc.) there was not a SINGLE student that had any questions about it. I was really surprised – I’m not sure if it’s a good sign or if I should be worried… or maybe they just weren’t really listening.

I’m worried about having enough time to do everything. I think this is on every teacher’s mind, but this week it’s especially prevalent.

I’m worried about the students that I’m teaching – they are the “bottom of the heap” in terms of our different tiers of chemistry. I want to keep them engaged, I want to connect with them and I want to gain their respect. I just worry that classroom management issues will get in the way and undermine these things.

I’m worried that I will get burnt out. On top of my teaching responsibilities, I’m taking 2 grad school classes this semester. I’ve found this week that when I get home, I’m not really in the mood to think about school anymore… so when will I do my homework?

I could probably go on and on, but I think those are some of the major concerns that keep on surfacing. I’m not expecting solutions to these from anyone or anywhere, I know with time they will work themselves out. For now, it’s uncomfortable and uneasy – I guess I just need to live with it. It would just be nice if they would work themselves out soon.

The Process Pt. I

Writing standards is hard. Writing out clear, well-defined, broad-enough-but-not-too-broad standards that will describe an entire year of chemistry in one concise list is hard. The MN science standards for chemistry are not much help. They are definitely broad, but (in my opinion) most are neither clear nor well-defined. Not only that, but I’m trying to mesh them with the IB’s science criteria1.

I think the most difficult part is that at the moment I am trying to formulate all of these standards on my own. Having input from colleagues would make the process much less painful, but as of now I’m the only one that’s been at school working (workshop isn’t until next week, so I can’t blame them). I would love to have district-wide chemistry standards in place; last spring our district science curriculum specialist had asked for volunteers to work on it (which I gladly said I would), but it hasn’t happened yet and the word around the department is that it won’t happen until sometime during the coming year – not exactly great timing for my current preparations!

The perfectionist in me wants to have perfect standards – which I realize is not realistic. I knew this would not be an easy transition, so I just need to be optimistic and keep working at it! I think just working with what I have for the time being will allow me to get more of my daily instruction planned out, and I can adjust as I go – right? Right! (At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself).

1 Even though I don’t teach IB-specific classes, all of the classes at our school are supposed to be “IB affiliated”. The criteria are the same ones used in biology in 10th grade, so students are already familiar with them.