Weeks 2-3: An ending, new beginnings

Playing some honestly-I’m-behind catchup on my course journaling here, I’m going to sum up what I’ve got in mind so far and maybe add more later to actually properly finish the assignment.

It’s 3:09pm after the first day of a new semester. Today went *great* but I feel like my tension levels are running too high. I need to figure out how to make this more manageable for myself without compromising on what matters – student engagement and building a culture of expecting-to-think.

Quick summary of the last couple weeks: four of my five courses wrapped up, with a mix of ‘Thinking Classroom activities coupled with straight-up commonplace review packages. Of those four, one entire class ended the year with exit interviews instead of an exam; one class was a mix of exams, projects, or interviews; the other two were mostly-exam with a couple of exceptions.

Exit interviews were great, but they would NOT scale well, at least not like this. For interviews, I went through each content unit and asked questions; I had intended to ask some high-level, open-ended questions and let the student guide me through what they learned, but quickly found that neither of us were quite sure how to make that work, so I fell back on specifics. My goal was to be able to gauge their understanding in each area on a 4-point scale; not trying to cover every kind of question an exam would have, but hitting on some concrete example of the main ideas.

Foundations 12 interviews took about 20-25 min; the few PreCalc 12 interviews I did ended up 45-60 min each. This would not have worked out well for me if they weren’t such small classes (under 10 each; they were a combined class in my timetable).

I had a couple of summative projects; they were all right, but again my initial criteria were high-level questions, and the students didn’t have enough experience working at that level in a large-scale way. Not a bad idea but needs to be built up towards next time if I want to repeat it, I think.

So, today. Two new math courses, all started off with students at the whiteboards and windows on some good problems (Pirates and split-25). The classes ran well, but at some point I noticed my tension levels rising. I think(?) what’s going on is I’m just nervous watching them all without either sitting down or talking! I don’t want to sit because I need to circulate and hint/extend – I don’t need to talk a lot unless a group is stuck, and they weren’t often (yay!).

Gonna keep at it for now – I’m committing all my powers of stubbornness to see this through properly and not let fear pull me down …

I have a lot of homework to catch up on for this course, and other questions to discuss in this journal entry, but now off to class.

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