January 25, 2013

A Day in the Life: Midterms Edition

All this week students took midterm exams, which meant that they only stayed half the day. Must have been the easiest week ever, right? Not exactly. Here's what a day of midterms week looked like for me.

7:15 am Arrive at school, greet students. Learn who gets to school early since I never see this class first. Some students are anxious so I offer encouragement. Other students ask their peers last minute questions or lament the difficulty of yesterday's exams. Students filter in and I'm relieved to see that everyone is present, make up exams are a pain to schedule.

7:24 am Announcements, I stand for the pledge of allegiance then start distributing reference sheets- I want to get started immediately since the last class needed extra time. Something goes wrong with the loudspeaker and they say the pledge again, finally announcements are done. I explain that there are two parts of the test- calculator and non calculator, distribute the first section and everyone gets quiet and focused.

While they work, I circulate the room occasionally and then try to balance getting my work done with watching them. First I reclaim my desk from the piles of papers that have taken over. Thank goodness for filing cabinets!

For the geometry exam we used scantron for the first time and the scores we got back aren't the ones I will use- admin required that we give a state test style exam, then required that we scale the exams. Scantron only gives a percentage which is annoying to scale. I play with formulas on excel until the grades look reasonable and after I put them into the computer system the class average changes by a tenth of a point. Sometimes I wonder why we bother, I grade by standards all quarter and have a good sense of what my students understand, midterms reflect what I've seen all year so they're rather redundant.

Meanwhile, this class is starting to finish the first section of the test. Every time someone wants to switch they bring me some papers to trade for more papers and I remind them to put their calculator under their desk. Constant interruptions means I don't get the inputting done quickly, but by the end of the exam I've completed grades for two classes and comments for a third. Near the end of the period a student raises her hand. I go over and she is very worried that she failed the test, as I reassure her she starts crying. I promise not to count any question from before she transferred in and wish there was something else I could do to make her feel better.

8:55 am The bell rings to signal the end of the first exam. I announce that anyone who is done may leave and those who aren't finished should continue working. We have a fifteen minute break between exams and a few more students finish but quite a few will need to come back after their next exam. The other precalc teacher and I got too excited adding good problems to the exam and didn't realize exactly how long it would take everyone!

9:10 am Bell rings to start the final exam of the week. I was very lucky and had a prep this block so I only have the exams from this morning left to grade. However, I've been grading and proctoring all week (not to mention attending meetings and proctoring make up exams) so I decide to spend some time prepping first. I have ideas for the next unit (polygons) from last year, but I need to edit one worksheet and create another. I take a break from geometry to put in grades and comments from the other PreCalc class, then go back and finalize the worksheets and my smartboard file.

10:40 am Bell rings to end the last exam. Principal gets on loudspeaker to congratulate students and staff on surviving a tough week. I curse my timing, no chance to run off copies before students return to finish their exams.

Students from earlier work silently finishing their exams. Two students from another class stop by to see their grades and are disappointed. I start explaining how one of them didn't retake a test and they confess neither had submitted a project from last week. In a moment of weakness I allow them to finish the project and hand it in now. Sadly, they didn't remember some key information so they didn't get full credit on the project, but anything is better than a zero. The teacher across the hall needs to leave so I get one more student to monitor. The teacher next door offers to re-scan some of my scantron sheets that had issues. We troubleshoot and find a workaround, then she heads off to the scanner.

I tackle my email. Every time I find an interesting blog post, article or image at home, I send it to my school email. Today I finally went through all those emails and sorted them into the appropriate places on my computer. Also sent emails to parents and ask about a course I signed up for a month ago but have yet to hear back from.

11:30 am Only one student remains working on her exam. I decide to open the package of geoboards we ordered last June and realize they will be a great addition to Monday's lesson. Edit smartboard file to reflect this realization.

11:45 am The last student is done! I can finally make copies.

12 pm The teacher next door and I grab our lunches, head upstairs and inform all the members of our lunch crew it's time to eat. It's strange not responding to a bell for once! Lunch lasts an hour but you'd think we were at a department meeting. We discussed methods of scaling exams (and how to make sure we don't have to deal with that headache come finals) and upcoming lessons. It's great that half our department eats lunch together because whenever I have a question about what my students learned last year or how other people teach a topic, I just ask at lunch!

1 pm We track down my co-teacher and six of us sign up for a self paced course through Cantor. While we're passing the phone around getting signed up another teacher walks in and we convince her to join us too. More discussions on scaling exams, misconceptions, areas to focus on and methods of review.

2 pm School is officially over and for once I'm going home. I still haven't looked at the exams students took this morning and while I have a better sense of my next unit in PreCalc based on the lunch conversation, I don't have a plan for Tuesday. However, I'm tired and I can do both those things from home.

2:30 pm Home, on the couch, reading twitter and blogs.

It's now 4 pm and I've caught up with myself. This evening I will probably work on my blog posts reflecting on first semester and look at fractal projects which will allow students to practice and apply complex numbers. While I'm curious how the exams went this morning I probably won't get to those until Sunday. Even though I didn't do any teaching today, it was still a long, busy day. And even with students officially getting out of school at 10:40, giving me "all afternoon" to work, I still have a backpack full of papers to look at this weekend. Surprise, surprise, midterms week isn't a cake walk after all.

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