1. I took ownership of my own professional development
It all started last summer, when I started taking part in #made4math and #MyFavFriday. Those two things alone made me want to do, create, and share things that other teachers would find interesting. Really, why have a blog and participate if you stuff sucks?
2. I found what I'm really passionate about.
I determined that I love Algebra 1 and Sophomores. Why did it take me 13 years to figure this out? I loved Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus as a student, so I would love them as a teacher too, right? Wrong. I've been forcing myself to enjoy teaching these courses, but the truth is that I don't. My forte is teaching the struggling student. Teaching these students gives me a sense of purpose. The gifted students don't need me, give them Khan Academy and they'll be fine. I find little satisfaction in teaching a talented student. My satisfaction lies in the struggling student who now believes he can do it, and I had a part in that.
3. Teachers Pay Teachers
I decided to give TeacherPayTeachers.com a chance. I signed up in October of last year and thought it would be so awesome if I could earn even $20 for my stuff. Almost $500 later, I am astounded. This extra money has been a god-send and helped me pay for a course for my son that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. WooHoo!!
4. 101 Questions - Super Mario Bros.
I have tried to submit to 101qs.com previously, but felt that I was just embarrassing myself and gave up. But once I made this video to get my students thinking about linear relationships, I decided to submit again. I'm so excited that I created the top video of all time (so far). I knew Super Mario Bros. was a hit!!
This is the first year that I have tried foldables. Some teachers seem to believe that foldables are just a fancy graphic organizer, and they're right. That's why they work though. In previous years, my students would take notes on something and in a later class I would tell them to refer to those notes. But they couldn't find them OR they didn't remember taking those notes. But now when I say Take out your Writing Equations Foldable, they find it and they find it quickly because they stand out, they are colorful, and best part of all - they remember making them!
6. My Colleagues
My department is like no other. We all get along so well, it's crazy. Even parents have noticed and said to our principal, "They play so well together!" Every year we design and sell a Pi Day Shirt as a fundraiser. The students go crazy for them. This year we organized and hosted our own 5k race: Run 4 The Numbers. In the summer we all get together with our families for our annual math picnic.
7. Small Classes
My Algebra 1 classes are small. I mean ssmmaall. Like 11, 13, and 10 students in each of those classes. I really know these students. I know them well. I know how to motivate Suzie, and that Johnny needs extra time, little Mikey needs quiet to be able to think, and if little Betty is allowed to think aloud she'll say something amazing. Some of their parents are now of a first name basis with me because I'm able to communicate with them and remember them.
8. Not Direct Instruction
I don't do direct instruction much anymore. It seems that when I'm not well prepared for class, that's when I have to use direct instruction. Yawn.... Because I took control of my own professional development (see 1.) I have more tools than just direct instruction. I like my job so much more now that I don't expect myself the be the sage on the state every. single. period.
This past year is the first time I've really used games in my classroom. Well, games that aren't get-the-question-right-and-then-you-get-to-do-something type of games. We've played Bounty Hunter, The Tile FACTORy, and Snakes on a (coordinate) Plane.
10. Getting Inside their Heads
I have done more "fluff" stuff this year, than all my other teaching years combined. By fluff I mean things like my prompt poster, and mission statement posters. Things like that. Referring back to number 7 on this list, this is part of the reason I know some of these students so well. And it's not as scary or fluffy as I thought it would be.