One thing that I really miss from my experience of studying mathematics in college was the feeling of preparing really well for, then taking (and acing) a tough exam.
There was just something supremely satisfying about having a concrete metric for where my hard work over the course of a semester had gotten me. Getting an A on a final was a ribbon to wrap up a few months of study. Afterwards, I could file my notes and tests for the class, put the book on the shelf, and feel good about taking a winter (or summer) break.
Now that I am teaching, the story of my semester ends not with a nicely wrapped denouement but with a mostly awkward pause at best. After the tough, no-break-in-sight months of October and November, December kind of snuck in and snuck back out without much fanfare at all. We learned some new things in Precalculus and Algebra 2 Trig Honors, we reviewed some, and then exams were upon us (with the math exam given last Tuesday.) Since then, I have proctored, planned, graded, and quietly made my way back to Nashville.
Despite the myriad items still lingering on my to-do list for break, it’s time to force myself to hit pause and try to evaluate how this semester went. And as much as I might crave the simplicity of someone stamping a letter grade on my work so far this year, teaching is never going to be that black and white. Instead, I am forced to be reflective about my teaching, and seek opportunities for honest feedback.
(note: apparently I couldn’t hit pause long enough to actually finish this post while on break. great.)
I spent about two hours over the break working on a list of good things and bad things from this semester. Many things to be proud of, many more places where I need to seek improvement. It’s a little bit too personal (and specific) to post here, but it was an absolutely worthwhile endeavor. Now that someone has hit the play button again (all too soon) I think I might be ready for the hard part: making changes where I reasonably can.