Math = Love: Algebra 2 Advice

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Algebra 2 Advice

Want to feel like an amazing teacher, mediocre teacher, and terrible teacher all at the same time?  Ask your students to write a letter of advice to future students taking the class. 

Though I asked for advice for a future student, I was actually looking for feedback on how I am doing as a teacher.  I have an entire list of things I know I need to work on.  But, it's different hearing it in the words of a student.  My Algebra 2 class this year was small.  Second semester, I had 12 students.  A large percentage of these students made it clear that they did not want to be there.  It was a daily battle to get them to stop talking, sit down, and get to work.

As a first-year teacher, I made a rookie mistake.  Whenever one of these students would misbehave, I would call them out on it in front of their peers.  I would stop my lesson in an attempt to get them to refocus.  When that didn't happen, I would start to lose my patience.  I made the entire class pay for the unwise decisions of a few.  Instead of disciplining these students, I was rewarding them.  I gave them what they wanted--the attention of the entire class.  No wonder they never seemed to learn their lesson.  I was rewarding them and punishing my other students in the process. 

In one of the books I'm reading this summer, the author talks about how she always asks students to step out in the hall before confronting them.  When I first read this, I thought it was a crazy idea.  After all, if I did that I would spend more time outside my classroom than inside it.  But, then again, maybe not.  When I deprive my misbehaving students of their audience, maybe there won't be quite as much misbehaving.   

Last summer, I spent a lot of time reading about classroom management.  But, I didn't go into my classroom with a plan.  This summer, I want to create a classroom management plan that fits my teaching style and philosophy.  My students deserve a more conducive learning environment than I provided them with this year.     

I do believe I made a difference in the lives of my students this year.  Every single one of my Algebra 2 students passed their EOI exam.  Every single one of them.  100%.  Last year, the pass rate was 39%.  I did some good things, and I bolded them below.  But, I've got lots more to work on. 

Quotes that Made Me Smile or Frown
"Your hard work will pay off and you will learn more then you ever know by the end of the year."

"This class will probably start out as fun and easy, but make sure you work just as hard, as if it were trigonometry or calculus.  Because if you do this at the beginning of the year, it won't be too hard at all to continue to do that to the end of the year."

"Algebra 2 has its ups and downs, but it can be really fun..." 

"It can be really easy, but how easy it is depends on your attitude and your determination."

"Algebra 2 is hard.  You want to pay attention to everything!  Come to class everyday because if you miss one day, you will be confused for the rest of the year!" 

"Make sure you learn to use your graphing calculator really good because it will pretty much save your life." 

"The last piece of advice I have for you is that if something seems easy just stop because you are probably doing something wrong."

"Be willing to think." 

"If you don't know how to do something, don't be scared to ask for help." 

 "Don't backtalk the teacher.  Seriously don't.  It's stupid.  You're just wasting your time and everyone else's.  When the teacher tells you to do something, just shut up and do it.  Again, you're wasting everyone's time."

"Take your Algebra 2 class very very seriously...Do not goof off, or anything at all.  Pay attention and shut your mouth!  Teachers mean it man.  They serious."

"Treat the math book like your personal Bible.  Come prepared and shut up!" 

"First off you do not want to talk.  You should pay attention all the time.  Algebra 2 is very difficult anyways so if you don't pay attention you will struggle more than you should."

"If I had to retake the class I would pay attention in class a little better than I did." 

"You must be an extremely fast learner.  Nothing is easy if it seems easy then you are wrong."

"You must never talk or you will get in trouble."

"DO NOT act like [a certain classmate] in class at all because once you do she will get aggravated and have less patience with your class all because one person.  Remember it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone else."

"Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Everyone asks questions and Ms. Hagan will explain very well and show you what your doing wrong." 

"Also take chance to make corrections on the tests.  Coming in during lunch also helps a lot with learning chapters you struggle with.  You should also keep track of all your homework and turn it in.  They are small grades but they all add up."

"And last piece of advice is keep calm during EOI time and have [patience] with your teacher because she will be stressed." 


  1. I've been reflecting over this year and how well I implemented the Common Core curriculum and wanted to ask my students to do some sort of reflection. This is great! I love how you're putting this out there and I'm sure its very therapeutic as well.

    1. Thanks! It's both therapeutic and terrifying to put this out there for the world to read. I don't have everything figured out, and I'm learning how to be a better, more effective teacher everyday. And, my blog should represent that.