New Bell Schedule, New Curriculum, Collaboration

This post is either background for the last one¬†or “DVD bonus material”. (And possibly just as interesting and useful as most bonus material is. That is to say, not very.)

We changed our bell schedule pretty drastically this year, from 85-minute blocks that met every other day (for a total of 8 classes for the students over two days, 6 different sets of students taught by a full-time teacher) in semesters, to five 70-minute classes every day (we teach 4) in a trimester format (where a trimester is half of a “year-long” class, and a student could for example take 1.5 credits of Math in a year if they wanted to). Geometry A is the first half of the course I’ve been teaching, Geometry B the second. In order to make this work not every student can take A and B of the same course back to back. Some students have been scheduled for A in Term 1 and B in Term 2, others in T1 and T3, still others in T2 and T3. Some may even start in T3 and finish next year (that’s probable, but not set in stone at this point). It may not be obvious, but we end up seeing our students for considerably more time meeting every day in two trimesters than we used to in two semesters meeting every other day. This was a positive aspect of the schedule (often referred to as the “3 by 5”) that everyone recognized ahead of time. (But there was at least one unexpected benefit that came out of the schedule, and that is the topic of the previous post.)

I have been a proponent of the 3×5 schedule pretty much all along, but it’s been a difficult year so far with this big change, as well as a completely new, exploration-driven Geometry curriculum that has caused me to newly prep for every lesson. Thank goodness the program (CPM) comes with pretty decent lesson suggestions, and that I have collaboration time built into the schedule every day with the other Geometry teacher, Alpha. I know I speak for her when I say that we are both tremendously grateful to have that collaboration time available. We don’t sit down for a true “meeting” every day, but we do debrief each other at least a little bit every shared prep period. (Last term I taught Geo A before she did, so I could give her tips about what in our plans worked well and what we might want to change. This term she teaches A before me, and I teach B before her, so we both have suggestions about how the lesson ran this time around, or for the first time as the case may be.) We also talk often before school, afterwards, and at lunch. The change would be umpteen times more difficult if I didn’t have Alpha to work with. We’re both fairly confident that next year will be much smoother, as we’ll be teaching our Geometry A’s and B’s for either the third or even fourth time. We should be able to focus our energies on more than just working out kinks. Hopefully we’ll be able to add more spark, remove some clunky stuff, and improve the continuity of topics and ideas as we’ll have a working sense of how the curriculum builds from start to finish.