When September Meets December

Responding to a staff meeting discussion and an all-staff email by another teacher (referred to as Mike, because that’s his name), I sent out an email of my own. A slightly blog-edited version of it follows:

I taught a whole bunch of kids Geometry A during the first term and I have about half of them again for Geometry B this term, along with two new sections of Geometry A students. So I have a group of geese that have been under my wing for 13+ weeks now, and a brand new gaggle that only hatched a week and a half ago. Part of my day I spend struggling to teach the hatchlings how to eat and perform other basic skills. During the other half of the day I get try to teach my fledglings how to fly.

I don’t pretend to greatness, but the evidence is there for me every day that my students have learned something during their time with me. I’ve always known that in December students can do things that they couldn’t in September, but it’s more amazing the way it occurs now. It’s a little like time travel; essentially I get to experience September and December at the same time. There are pros and cons in that, to be sure. But one of the things I love is looking at my new students, seemingly confused about nearly everything I ask of them, and realizing that in 12 weeks they will be able to complete a two-day team project from start to finish–solving multiple tough problems, making posters and presenting them to the class–with barely any direct instruction from me. I have been teaching for 19 years and this is the first time that evidence of student growth has been so clear, the difference between rookies and veterans so stark. And it is a direct result of the trimester schedule.

As we have heard so many times over the last couple of years, no schedule is perfect. Like Mike, I am still working on adjusting to the 3×5, but I am glad to say that for me there has been at least one positive result of the schedule change that came completely out of the blue. Regardless of your overall thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down view of the trimester schedule, I hope it’s brought each of you at least one positive change, maybe even one you never expected, as it has for me.