Can you feel the giddiness? The year is over. My grades are turned in. I can sleep.
Well, except for the whole baby-waking-at-like-6am-every-day thing. But I can nap when she naps, and within two or three days, the dark circles under my eyes will be faded.
I actually got through to a couple of my younger students right at the end of the year, and their last test was one of their best all year because they actually paid attention in class for 3 weeks. The three of us were having this talk in which they were complaining how I singled them out for talking in class when I didn't single other students out. I explained that I had to come down harder on the students who weren't really doing their work every day. They didn't like that idea. Then, one of them gave me an opening: "but really does it affect our grades that much?" He could ask that because, despite not doing much of the work, he gets mostly C+ to B on his tests. But this was my chance for a jiujitsu move: "actually, George, yes. I think both of you could be getting A's in this class. You have a good understanding of the big picture, and Charlie, you often come up with creative solutions and notice connections to things I haven't even mentioned yet. So yes, it's affecting your grades." That was the last thing they expected—a compliment and an expression of confidence from me. They thought I had given up on them. I noticed a difference the next day, and their test grades were A and B+. That was nice.
A few students saw a test or two crash and burn towards the end of the year, which is always frustrating for them and for me. In retrospect, I think I didn't provide enough practice time for some of them. It's always so hard to judge what will be easy and not require rote practice, and what will be tricky and require it. More rote practice using the quadratic formula next year, then.
Overall, though, I was pretty happy with the results. I feel like I should have some overarching lesson I've learned from the whole experience of teaching now that I have a daughter. But mostly, I'm just later returning papers and 10% worse-prepared and 23% sleepier. I figure I'll learn how to deal with it, soon enough, and it should get a little easier in a couple of years when she's not as constantly dependent on us.
So thus ends, with a whimper, the diary of this year. Not as dramatic as I expected, but maybe some people found it interesting and useful for their own teaching.
My new project: I've found it quite difficult to reliably find rigorous, advanced math proofs on the Internet that are consistently pitched at a level understandable by high school teachers and (motivated) students. Some sites have proofs of theorem A that are at this level and easy to follow, and then the proof for related theorem B is written by a different author and requires group theory or bizarre, hard-to-follow notation. In addition, I find that most of my readers are more interested in the math than in my observations on teaching and politics (which will continue in blog form, as will the occasional discussion of math above the high school level).
A new feature of Typepad is the ability to create non-blog-type web pages. So I hope to have time this summer to start a series of pages dedicated to advanced, elegant, rigorous results pitched consistently at the high school math level—no calculus, no group theory, only basic complex number theory, and written to include details that teachers and students at this level might not be able to fill in on their own. I hope this will become a collaborative project; I already have one friend I get ideas from (some posts on this blog are collaborations with him), and I will elicit submissions from readers once I get started. The home page for this series is here. I hope you'll like them and find them useful.