by Geoff Krall, NTN School Development and Math Coach
In case you hadn’t noticed, school is starting soon for many teachers and students. Some have already started! Much of teachers’ inservice time is gobbled up by sometimes-helpful, sometimes-not professional development, new school procedures, supply gathering and those other necessities that come along with having a captive staff for perhaps the only time all year. Some of that time is devoted to planning. At that point teachers often scuttle off into their rooms and begin writing lesson plans or sifting through resources on their first unit.
My recommendation this year has been to not (necessarily) just think about that first unit, but rather to think about the year as a whole: What 10-12 problems do you want students to wrestle with at various points in the year? Let’s spend our inservice time finding those 10-12 problems that encapsulate the near entirety of our course, accompanied potentially with a rough indication of when in the school year you anticipate these problems to be deployed. Portfolio Problems, as it were.
Having these portfolio problems identified might just help keep yourself accountable to implementing rich task throughout the year, rather than getting “behind” and feeling like you have to scramble to catch up.
The last few days of summer and inservice can be the last few days a teacher has to think deeply about the structure of their year. I know that I often didn’t take advantage of that fact and focused instead of the first few days and lessons. That approach may have made my first week more planned out in my head, but I’m not sure it did much to make my classroom in February, March and April any better.
So – once your mandatory meetings on hall pass policies have concluded – think about a Top 10 Problems for My Geometry Class and make a little note somewhere about when you’ll deploy them. Maybe you can put it on your Google Calendar. Maybe you can write in in your planner. Maybe you could even put it on your syllabus. Once those are planned it’ll be easier to move outward from there. And your May self from the future will thank you.