Practicum Week 8

Another week down. I can’t believe how fast time is going by, teaching at the high school level, it’s flying by, which is a completely different experience than being a high school student where some classes feel like they’re going to last forever. Funny how that is.

Two big things for me this week. I gave my first test to my calculus students, and I think I smoked them out of the water on it. They’re all high achievers expecting high 70’s at a minimum. I haven’t finished correcting, but it looks like the average is going to be around 60ish with a couple students failing.  It’s a bit of a disappointment for me, it’s going to be even more of a disappointment for them, and I need to re-think how I can give the students the opportunity to make the marks up. It happens I suppose.

Grade 11 math was my “funny” moment of the week. As I previously mentioned, they are all good students but not high achieving math students.   I just finished up systems of equations and the majority of students in the class only have a shallow understanding of them. They can apply “the formula” (substitution method, elimination method, etc.), but they only have a rudimentary understanding of what they’re actually doing. To conceptualize a real problem into a systems of equations is mostly beyond them (like word problems for instance). This would be no surprise to anyone familiar with high school math classrooms.

I’m trying to break them out of this mold, so I designed the best real-world scenario I could think of. I created a scenario where they worked for a company and a computer repair business was billing them for their services, but not putting all the information on the bills. I created real bills with the missing information and told them that their boss, who suspects the company is overcharging him, wants them to fill in the missing information.

I let them struggle for about 10 minutes (a very hard 10 minutes). They were defiant. “This may as well be written in Greek to me, Sir!” , “I don’t even know where to start”, “Is this one problem or three problems?”, “I don’t even know what you’re asking.” I insisted that if they took a couple minutes and thought about it they had the necessary skills to figure it out.  It was hard to back off like that, but I did.

And then a funny thing happened, they started to get curious, they wanted to know the answer.  Some of them started plugging away a little bit. They didn’t go off on their own completely, but their questions became more specific, they were thinking about it, and they were getting somewhere.

And then a funnier thing happened (except if you were me), it turned out I made a mistake when I made the problem and I gave them an unsolvable set of equations. Oops…arrrrgh. They seemed to appreciate the attempt though and said so. I was trying to give a quick fix to the problem so they could continue, and then an announcement came over for all Grade 11 students to go to the gym. One student passing me on the way out smiled and said “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be today, Sir!”. Ah well, right, not today…but next time.

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About James C.

A pre-service teacher about to start his first teaching practicum.
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