I have a bit of a dilemma. Three years ago I was brought to a GATE magnet school to teach a bunch of advanced kids.
The thought was, “Rather than ship the really smart kids to high school to take the geometry class, we’ll just bring the high school teacher to them.”
I didn’t mind this idea. In fact, it quickly began to grow on me. I was teaching precalc, algebra 2 and algebra 1 at the high school and figured the change might do me some good. The tough part was that I had no idea what to expect. I was going from 55 minute periods to 94 minute daily blocks.
What the heck am I going to do with a group of middle schoolers for 94 minutes?
So after many discussions with my principal, we decided that since the 94 minute block was intended to allow for grade level instruction as well as time for intervention, I’d just use my extra time for enrichment. But what do you do to enrich them? Do you accelerate the students so that they can be ready for algebra 2 as freshmen? Do you spend the extra time doing all the cool stuff that no one else has time to do because they are worried about pacing guides and benchmarks? We’ve decided to go ahead and accelerate them. I’m still a bit unsettled about it, though. Is it really that important for an 8th grader to complete geometry so she can take algebra 2 in 9th grade? The kid is on pace to take calculus as a junior. Is that better? At this point, I don’t know. In the era of “the TEST”, it seems that as long as I have the data to back up what I am doing, it doesn’t matter what we choose. My kids have the test scores, but I am not convinced that what I am doing is the right thing.
I am definitely in unchartered waters. As a high school teacher, I was simply one of many. My last year there, we had a pacing guide and all common assessments. It was pretty lock step and I was miserable–loved the staff and the students–but hated the system. Now I have a bunch of autonomy because I can keep the powers that be off my back with some good scores, but I am not sure what direction to go.
Last year, the decision was a bit easier because I got to hand pick the students who would move into the geometry class. I taught both advanced 7th grade classes so I knew they were ready. This year–not so much. I have two classes made up of kids from two different teachers. Some are ready to be accelerated and others look like they are going to need to spend some serious time with the algebra. My question for you all is this: how do you plan for these classes? Half of my students have already been through algebra, a quarter of them have been exposed to it and the rest look like they may not know what a variable is. I’ve never been here before, so I don’t know what to expect. If you’ve ever considered commenting on a post here, now’s the time. Hit me up.