Math = Love: Off to Battle...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Off to Battle...

Since I started teaching at Drumright, there has been this poem written on the chalk board in the teacher's lounge.  One can't help but look at it while making copies.  I've googled phrases from it and found nothing, so I'm guessing it's an original poem.

Teaching Poem

My school starts state testing Monday.  And, my Algebra 1 students will be the first students to test.  I actually asked for Algebra 1 to test first.  That sounds like an insane thing to do, but once testing starts, it is possible to go a week or more without seeing certain students.  I wanted there to be as little time as possible for students to forget what we have learned between the last time I see them and the time they test.

I am fighting a "war of numbers, letters, and EOI scores."  As panic and dread start to set in on my part, I have to remind myself that I've done my very best.  As my mother often tells me, "If you've done your best, that's all you can do."  I can't tell you how many times she repeated that to me when I was in high school and college.  And, it didn't stop after I walked across that stage and received my diploma.  She still has to remind me that if I've given my best, then there's nothing more that I can do.  Stressing over what may or may not happen after that is just torturing yourself.

I've done my best.  I've taught my heart out this year.  And, I certainly hope my test scores reflect that.

Last year, 12/12 (100%) of my Algebra 2 students passed their EOI exam.
Last year, 35/41 (85%) of my Algebra 1 students passed their EOI exam.

I fear that this year's scores will compare poorly to last year's scores.  There is no doubt in my mind that my Algebra 2 pass rate this year will drop severely.  But, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.  Oh, I'm sure some people will look at it and think that I dropped the ball, that I didn't do my job this year.  But, a pass rate doesn't tell the whole story.  Our math program is slowly improving after being neglected for many years.  We had a 167% increase in the number of students taking Algebra 2 in one year.  That's major.  Major.  That means more students are passing Algebra 1 and Geometry.  Yes, many have struggled this year.  They've struggled greatly.  Probably over half of my Algebra 2 students lack a strong Algebra 1 foundation.  I can't do anything about the past, though.  I wasn't here then, and the math program lacked rigor.  The Algebra 2 pass rate before I came here hovered between 39 and 43 percent.

More and more, I'm realizing that test scores don't tell the whole story.  Pass rates don't tell the whole story.  They are simply part of the story.  The EOI is a battle.  But, it isn't the war.  The war is greater than a single test.  What is the war?  Getting students to graduate?  Is that my end-goal?  Shouldn't it be something loftier?  Preparing them for higher education?  College and career readiness?  Creating productive citizens?  In college, one of our assignments was to write our Philosophy of Education.  Looking back over mine, it seems all over the place.  I wrote about habits of mind, encouraging teamwork, inspiring lifelong learning, character development, and how teaching should be like teaching a living language.  Now that I've taught for almost two years, maybe it's time I revisit my Philosophy of Education.  What exactly am I trying to do?  Am I actually doing it?  Alas, I'll have to find time for that later.  For the next two weeks, my focus is on a battle, not the war.


  1. First words out of my mouth after reading this post..."wow...just wow."
    Just like pass-rates, I know your on-going story is one-sided, but still I love reading it. I'm challenged to think more deeply about my own practice and my own classroom every other time I read a post.
    Don't fret about the pass rates; you have lots of other evidence to support achievement in your classroom! Still...good luck to you and your students this week.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Matt. I'm glad to hear that my ramblings are of interest to others. Blogging helps me think more deeply about my practice, so the fact that others are challenged and inspired by what I write is awesome. I'd definitely recommend thinking about starting your own blog!

      Thanks for the well-wishes. Algebra 1 testing is over. Results were okay. Algebra 2 testing is to come next week.

  2. Good luck! We are still just under two months out from our EOC. Students take it about 1 week before school gets out in June.

    1. Thanks! Most of my kids did great, and I've got a reflection post planned. As awesome as having two more months sounds, I'm kinda glad we're out for summer in one month! Of course, we started school ridiculously early to make this possible...

  3. "If you've done your best, that's all you can do." Except remember (and believe) that your best can still keep getting better over time.