Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Timetable update

This isn't big news or even exciting news, but for the sake of completeness: looks like I actually won't end up becoming that female role model in the physics department at my school that I mentioned in my last post. While all our timetables are still up in the air right now, it seems that my school has decided who they're going to hire as the new science curriculum leader (what they used to call a department head), and that the person they're choosing has a physics background...ergo they will not need me to fill in any holes in the physics side but rather on the chemistry side. While I still would like to see some estrogen in the physics department, I'm not really upset at the way my timetable has worked out, since it does have some good benefits to it. (Who knows, maybe whoever they're hiring is a female physics that wishful thinking?)

It looks like my timetable for next year will look like this:

Semester 1: this will be an all-science semester for me.
  • one section of grade 12 college chemistry
  • some combination of the grade 9 and 10 academic and applied science courses I taught this semester, teaching the bio and chem units in those courses (remember, my school makes the students switch to a physics teacher when they get to the physics and weather/astronomy units of those courses).
Semester 2: this will be an all-math semester for me, though I have no idea exactly what courses.

Some pros of this timetable:
  • getting to focus on only math or only science in each semester, rather than the split focus I have this semester
  • this means in each semester I will likely have a classroom to call my own (a science lab of my own in sem. 1 and a math classroom of my own in sem. 2), though I suppose that will partly depend on the timetables of more senior math teachers. The current science curriculum leader has already told me what lab I will have in semester 1--the lab she is currently using. While I don't really mind sharing classrooms with other teachers like I've had to do this semester (and it has actually helped me build a closer relationship with the teacher's I've shared rooms with), it sure does free you up to make the room your own when you are the only person in there all day.
  • it is not all new courses...I will have taught at least the junior science courses before (although I will still have to put energy into seriously improving what I did, plus the bio unit for the grade 10 courses will be different from the bio unit they had this year), and if I get grade 9 applied math again I'll have already taught that also
  • getting the grade 12 chem means that I will be able to pursue my Honour Specialist in chemistry once I've taught for 1 more semester. Getting an Honour Specialist qualification is one way for teachers to move up to the highest pay category for a regular teacher (i.e., not a curriculum leader or principal or any such thing). You have to have taught for 2 years, including 1 year in Ontario in the subject for which the specialization is being sought, in order to pursue your Honour Specialist. You also have to have completed at least 9 full university courses in the subject. Since I did a major in chem but only a minor in physics (and I only have 2.5 full university courses in math), chemistry is the only subject I can pursue specialization in without doing further university studies in the subject.
I will get my final timetable June 20 at the latest. I'm really looking forward to knowing before the summer break starts what courses I'll have next year...that is a luxury I did not get this year, since I was really only hired a week before I had to start teaching at Central Tech (plus I was still wrapping up exams with my students at my adult school during that week as well!). My officemate (who was a new teacher this past September) said he knew his timetable before the summer started, but found he really couldn't do any planning since he didn't know what resources and supplies would be available at the school...I will not have that problem. I already even know what classroom I will be in for the first semester next year. While I certainly won't be able to fully plan everything (for one thing, how you teach a course depends on who your students are and what they're like, and I won't know that until September for sem. 1's courses and February for sem. 2's courses), I will at least be much more familiar with the curriculum expectations of the courses by the time the summer ends, how they can be chunked together, and so on. All in all, that's pretty exciting to someone who heard a lot of good ideas about teaching in teacher's college but has not had the time to properly implement them in reality so far this year.

I also found out this year that it's official: OISE (the teacher's college at U of T) has accepted me into their Senior Math Additional Qualification course for July. As a graduate of York's teacher's college, it will be interesting to me to see if any difference in philosophy comes across in this course versus what I would expect at York. They certainly had different philosophies when it came to who they admitted to their preservice programs (*not bitter*...actually, even had OISE accepted my preservice application, I more than likely would have picked York anyway). Anyway, taking this course will hopefully make me a better math teacher than I was this year, although I think that being able to rely heavily on the notes of some more experienced teachers made me not all that bad a math teacher this time around anyway. I mean, c'mon, I did university-level physics, I'd better have a reasonable handle on math...though I know knowing it and being able to communicate it are two very different things, which is partly why I'm taking this course. I've also never had experience with some of the new teaching tools and technology that is out there for math teachers, such as geoboards and Geometer's Sketchpad, and I only had a very brief exposure to algebra tiles before I started trying to use them this year, so I'd like a little better explanation of how to use them effectively and a little more practice.

Now that today is done, I only have 10 more classes with my math class (and if I don't get asked to supervise the spec. ed. kids during the two-day EQAO math test, that will really work out to only 8 days with most of my math students) and 9 with my science classes, all not including exams. Summer is so close, I can taste it...hopefully I will survive the lack of sleep until then :).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No longer surplus :). (and definitely taking an AQ course this summer)

Today at the end of the school day the curriculum leader (what used to be called a department head) for science at my school asked me if I'd checked my mailbox that afternoon, and suggested I do so. In it was, among other things, a memo from my principal with the subject line "Next year" and body text solely reading "See me." To make a long story short...I am no longer surplus to my school.

To make a long story, well, long: a retirement happened in the math department which has opened up some breathing room for the timetabling people, so I have been fully called back to the school. My timetable is, however, completely up in the air...I probably won't know for sure for a few weeks yet what I'll be teaching next year. Currently they have me down for senior chemistry, a calculus class and the senior "advanced functions" math class...but my curriculum leader tells me that is almost definitely going to change. She is being seconded to OISE for 3 years, starting next year, so the science timetables are still very much up in the air until we know who will get her CL position and which of the science disciplines (bio or chem or physics) they will teach. If what she is thinking pans out, however, I may move from teaching the bio/chem portions of the grade 9 and 10 courses to teaching the physics and astronomy/weather portions of those classes. This means I would move from my current office into the physics office, where there are currently only men. When I was initially hired and found out we had only males on the physics side, and mostly females on the bio/chem side, it made me a little mad that our subject/gender breakdown was so typical and that we didn't have any female physics role models at the school. Because of this, I kind of hope that my timetable will indeed work out to put me on the physics side, even though it is only my second teachable (and not one I could do my Honours Specialist course in--one way to move up to the highest pay category in teaching). It could also mean that on the science side I could get my very own classroom that I don't have to share with anyone (though I guess I'd still have to share the math room)--and it is a nice-looking classroom, a big improvement over my current chem room. My office would also be right next door to my science classroom (but again, not my math room), which would be helpful. Currently my office isn't adjacent to my math or my science classroom, so if I forget something in my office I either have to risk leaving the students on their own (actually not a problem with my math class as I do have an educational assistant I can leave them with; I also leave my grade 10 academics on their own for short periods of time in these cases as they are a very responsible class) or make do without whatever it is (which is what I have to do with my current grade 10 applied class).

I have decided that this summer I will indeed take the course to add Senior Mathematics to my qualifications list. I am doing this partly to increase my marketability; when I was still surplus and the vacancy postings were still important to me, I could only apply to science-only postings (since I only have chemistry and physics on my Certificate of Qualification), restricting me to only 4 vacancies which were all not ideal geographically. If I had had my math qualifications, my options would have been much broader. The retirement of the teacher I mentioned earlier also leaves my school with only 1 person qualified to teach senior math (as opposed to grade 9 and 10 math, which many of our math teachers are qualified for), so my having those qualifications could help me get classes of senior students rather than the grade 9 and 10s (who are ok in their own right, but it would be nice to have at least 1 senior course on my timetable). However, I am also taking the course because I had to teach math this year (and will more than likely have to teach some next year as well) and need to know more about the theories of math education that are out there now, how math is handled in the new Ontario curriculum (with the 4 different categories we're supposed to evaluate them in now), what new hands-on and technology-based methods exist now to make concepts clearer to the students, and so on. I've been doing fine in the classroom thus far (largely since I've been able to work from the notes of an excellent teacher who is currently on a leave of absence), but there is always room for improvement. I've also decided to do this AQ course in an actual classroom rather than doing one of the many online versions that are available. Yes, it does start at 8 a.m. (which is irritating seeing as I would be able to sleep in all summer if I weren't taking the course), and yes, doing an online course does have the advantage that you can perhaps more carefully ponder your responses before posting them than you could in a face-to-face discussion. However, I think doing the course in person allows for better interaction with one's fellow students, better exposure to any manipulatives and technology-based teaching strategies that are available for use now, and the building of a better relationship with one's instructors. I am going to take the course through OISE to perhaps get exposure to a different educational perspective than I got at York (plus York only offers the Intermediate Math AQ this summer, whereas I've decided to do the Senior course). The course runs 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. from July 2 to 24. If any of you former MSTers are thinking of taking this course as well, please let me know; it would be nice to have the company of someone I know, though of course I will hopefully meet other like-minded people there.

As usual, I have said far too much already, so I will sign off for now. Fellow teachers, hang in there; the end of the school year is coming up fast! Here's to a successful finish to what we started back in September (or, in my case, February, heh) :)!