I’m sitting on the living room floor surrounded by paper right now. Specifically, everything I have about Producing Data, Chapter 4 in my current AP Stats text. I’ve taught Stats before, but not for the past two years. My binder organization is a post-AP two yearl old relic. “Great, hole punch everything, stick notes, everything else, then quizzes and tests. Done.”
I’m pretty sure I didn’t look at it all in the intervening two years. And while making binders perfect can seem like a waste of time, I think its about a lot more than that. I hope to be always improving and changing and growing. I get a lot of resources, I see things on blogs or pinterest or at a PD that I like. And I want to be able to use it. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how best to set up everything I have so I might be able to use it again.
As I work with my two resident teachers this year, I am realizing all over again how hard it can be to keep track of what you’ve done so you can use it again. That’s really a shame, because I think of one of the things that contributes the most to great teaching is having more time to make things great (instead of ok) as your career progresses. The first year I teach something, I’m keeping my head above water. I don’t have the best idea how everything fits together. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with the curriculum. I may happen upon a couple of great ideas, but there is a lot of, “I should have _____. Next time.” involved.
“Next time” is when the real fun comes in–when you get to start tweaking and changing and refining. That process is individual for everyone, so I could use someone else’s rockstar activity and need to tweak it so its a better fit with my personality, the way I’ve taught past topics, my students interests or whatever else.
Anyhow, I can’t tweak anything if I can’t find it. And I can’t use a great new idea if I no longer remember it or if its too much trouble to find once that topic rolls around.
This is a really big topic (for me at least) so I’m starting micro–with Stats. Its more of a closed system for me–most of my materials fit in two huge binders and overlap to other courses is minimal.
…and yet I haven’t broken out my binder once this year. I’m teaching the course from memory. That’s not impressive. It’s just dumb (with some disorganized mixed in). I have great resources, both my own and others–and I owe it to my students to use them.
Which is where I am now, sitting on the floor, with an open binder (just the first five sections of my master stats binder) and pages (the upcoming chapter) spread all over the rug.
Consistent order is good, although I’m not sure I like mine–the things I would look for should be in the worst spot, not the best, since I’ll look for them anyhow. Things I should try get first and last spots, where I can say, hey, whats this! And the most recent copy of that chapter’s schedule (which I revise yearly) always is the first page.
But is that enough? I think I should have some kind of a cover sheet to each chapter/section, where I can list what’s in there and also refer to other places (like blogs etc) where I saw something. If I know I pinned “Experimental Design foldable” to my Math Ideas board, I might go look for it, but if I have to sit there wondering if I’ve seen anything else good for experimental design, I might make it nowhere, even though something amazing is out there.
Stats seems like a good place to start, since some of the things I want to keep track of are done for me–like the suggested AP questions my book lists for each chapter.
Any brilliant ideas for keeping track of great teaching ideas in one manageable place?