2010 was a good year, my fifth year of teaching. The year my first calculus class matriculated; my first experience of a very bright (indeed, accelerated) class; and I developed a very good rapport with several middle-year students who I’ll miss next year when they’re not in my class. The first teaching day of 2011 is in 14 days. I’ve had about six weeks’ holiday, enjoyed it, and not done a whole lot of schoolwork. While I’m not aching to get back to it (the beginning of a new teaching year is always daunting), my mind is definitely starting to concentrate on what the new year may have in store.
I have been putting some serious effort into reorganising my desk: building a shelf, moving the computer, and, most importantly, getting rid of reams of paper. I create and use a lot of paper resources for students, and when something is good, I don’t want to throw it away, but it’s hard to keep these things organised at the time due to the volume and slippery structure. (Is a Year 9 algebra sheet more to do with Year 9 or algebra? How to integrate third-party resources with my own?) Digital resources have always been quite well organised, but they’re only part of the picture. I’ve also committed many ideas and scraps of questions to email, Evernote, scraps of paper, text files, and so on. With the experience of five years, it’s time to consolidate.
So I’ve gathered piles of paper that have been sitting in document wallets or binders and am gradually filtering and cataloging them into a Word document that spells out, year by year, topic by topic: what resources are particularly good for the topic; what approach I like to take to teaching that topic; particular lessons or activities that have worked, or not; ideas for future activities; ideas for future resources. This feels like a very valuable thing to do, and something that I couldn’t have done any earlier. I just hope I get it finished before the school year starts again.
Here is a small example:
Plan for teaching percentages (excerpt)
That’s all I have for Percentages at the moment, so it’s very much a work in progress. But the thoughts captured there represent an important idea that’s always occurred to me at the wrong time, which equates to “any time I’m not teaching Percentages”. Having it in writing means I can review it at the appropriate time, and plan my lessons accordingly.
(Note: that Algebra heading is a placeholder.)
Taking time to review my notes before starting every topic is probably unrealistic, but ensuring my notes are good quality and tailored especially for me is the best way to encourage me to do it.