Reflecting on the two day WMC conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Got back home last night and was just too tired, too overwhelmed from all I saw, too relieved from completing my 2 presentations, just too --- to type my thoughts.
As usual the WMC put on an excellent conference, they brought in good speakers but most importantly teachers stepped up to show what they were doing - which as a small school teacher I am so thankful for. It is a stress to present to your colleagues, to put yourself out there, to prepare the presentation. But the reward for me as a member of the audience is great, I also think there is a huge reward in being a presenter - personally it makes me so much more reflective.
A huge portion of my PLC is this conference, what I look at, what I heard, the networking I do - those things are the catalysts for how I plan curriculum and instruction. I always plan improvements from my two, always seemingly rainy, days at Green Lake in early May.
This year I presented twice; I presented about our school's mission to have a portion (~15-20%) of our class time devoted to mastery of non-negotiables using the ACT test as metric. It was well attend and overall I felt I did a decent job of telling people about what we have done to improve our ACT math score from 1 point below the state average to 1 point above the state average. It is a corner of our philosophy of creating students who are mathematically ready for our world. (Link to Powerpoint)
The second presentation was the one I was more excited and nervous about. It was titled "Making Homework look like it's 2014 instead of 1985." LINK to Powerpoint It was based upon how I changed my classroom from my commitment to a June blog entry. The blog entry reached well beyond the "12 other rural math teachers who occansionally viewed my reflections" (my joke in the conference) and like-wise this presentation was a room "filler." (The only gripe I have about the conference is when a presentation fills up, many of the really interesting titles only have 50 seats and fill up well before their starting times.)
So as I rolled into the room at 11:00 to set up for my 11:30 presentation, the room filled quickly also, and was full at about 11:07. Which was good and bad, I felt good about the interest level, good that I could start early and talk about a couple of things that I decided to cut for time (the number one thing I wanted to do was actually record a flipped video based upon the FIZZ course I took, last year at the WMC conference I heard really good stuff about flipping but I always like seeing, so I "showed" a flip). I felt it went well and I took an hour instead of 50 minutes.
To really simplify the presentation is to say I have done 2 major things - first, no more class time doing homework questions, homework grading or homework chasing. Homework is assigned as a combo of things - Khan Academy, some paper/pencil (NO new material on paper/pencil work, I wait until things are mastered before it is assigned as homework) and adding more projects into curriculum. And secondly, I started flipping my Algebra 1 course - and that has made a difference in how much time we can really do math in my class. It has improved my ability to give better feedback (while sticking to my motto of "be less helpful").
At times it has been hard to maintain, in the presentation I talked about how I went too far in the first semester and let my pendulum swing too far back in the second semester. There is a sweet spot which I will try and hit next fall. In the end, it is not about being "perfect" next year.
You will never hear about 20% improvement in 1 year with me teaching, but all of the work that has been done is making Juda 3-4% better every year, year after year. And that continuous improvement is all I chase; and I believe it is what we all should be chasing.