So, today one of my colleagues came to talk to me about ways to fully engage his class. He has been told to go sit in my class and do what I do--that I am the best at what I do and his class should be like mine. Now, here's the problem. I teach Dual Enrollment, AP and Honors. My kids panic if they have below a B, and if they don't, their parents do. I do not have behavior problems--an occasional cellphone out, or some off task behavior when the class is working, but in general--no skipping, no defiance, no walk outs, no cursing, all those things. My kids care, and for the most part, want to be there. I do make every effort to make my class fun, but there are days when we read and answer questions. Or write an essay. Or do grammar practice. I am truly blessed, and love my students. He teaches lower level students, many of whom are happy to simply get a D--they don't care and don't want to be there, so being written up is no big deal, and most of them have no one at home to come after them. When I am in a "regular" class, my kids are not all engaged--some are, but a lot are off task, talking, skipping, tardies, what-have-you--my class is not a "model" then. I know what I'm good at, and I have pushed for quite a few years to get this type of a schedule. I don't know what advice to give him. There is no way his class can be like mine--my kids will do their homework so we can do the discussion, or the collaborative writing, or the performance project. His won't. I appreciate that I'm being held up as a model, but am I wrong in thinking the administration is very blind and uninformed to think that he or anyone, can have a classroom like mine without the same types of kids as I do? Any suggestions I can give him?

You sound like you might be a great mentor - you have honest reasons why some good teaching practices might not work with his students that work with your kids, BUT he can also see what those good teaching practices are supposed to look in a more ideal classroom. Teachers with these lower level students can easily burn out and might not be applying these good teaching practices on a regular basis. They might not have seen the results they wanted right away, or might have gotten stuck in the struggle. You might be exactly who is still using good (or great) teaching practices, and the fact that the kids are fine even on your "less than" days doesn't take away from the fact that you might be doing some very good stuff. And just fyi - I have found with my lower level credit recovery students that some of the things you mentioned - collaborative writing, discussion (scaffolded) actually works wonders at getting them involved. And I am NOT a model teacher. He might discover ways to incorporate the tools you give him in ways that work for his kids. And if not, it certainly can't hurt! And be honest, share with him your thoughts and concerns about the difference in your classes and his.

I find it odd that "better" teachers and/or those with more experience tend to get the "best" students and classes. I understand why this is, I just don't know if I agree with this practice. Prior to teaching, I had experience as an engineer (among other things). The toughest assignments/projects were given to the best engineers, not the newest and least experienced. And pay was aligned in accordance with this practice. I am one who believes education is upside down in this regard.

I don't find this to be true in my school. I tend to get the most difficult students, unfortunately, because they say, "you can handle them"! Um thanks, I guess LOL

I agree. In my experience, we give the hardest classes to the least experienced teachers, which I think is why so many burn out--it is so overwhelming that they never truly get their head above water.

Slightly off topic, but I find it interesting that teachers are told to sit in on "model" classes but students are not. I wonder if some of the less motivated but bright students might benefit from working in one of these classes for a day or two. It would have to be phrased differently but if teachers can learn from other teachers then maybe students could learn study skills from other students. This is absolutely the truth! My school also tracks students, and we end up with easy classes of the best and brightest and really tough classes with struggling students. The teachers of the above level students often receive accolades because their students do well on standardized testing. I think that's very unfair. There's probably not a lot you can do at your school to address the situation, except for point out that you do indeed have those classes. This is also true. We can all learn from other teachers, even if the teacher we are observing is not 100% perfect. I enjoy getting to see other teachers teach because everyone's method is so different.

From what I have seen, teachers use seniority to get first pick of classes. By selecting "AP Biology" vs. "General Sciences" for instance the teacher has either intentionally or unintentionally chosen a different type of student and class room environment. The l'leftover" classes get assigned to the newest teachers in the school, regardless of their experience level. You seem to have a positive attitude about your assignments. Just curious, are you glad that the school has such faith in you? Or do you feel like you are being taken advantage of because you are good at what you do?

Sometimes I feel taken advantage of because in one instance me and a few other teachers were told that we had to provide copies of our lessons for other classes that needed "help". It was extra work for us simply because other people weren't doing their jobs correctly. I'm hoping this doesn't become a trend.

keep in mind that the advanced classes require different skill sets and not everyone can teach those students as well as some others. My friend is close to retirement. She always gets the lower level students, by choice. She doesn't appreciate the behavior problems, but she openly admits that she cannot challenge students in advanced classes the way they should be.

At my school, I teach or have taught a mixture of advanced and regular classes. This year, though, I teach all advanced classes because that’s just how the schedule worked out. In the past, I’ve taught Prealgebra, Advanced Prealgebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 1 Honors, Geometry, Honors Geometry, Algebra 2, Algebra 2/Trig Honors, Precalculus, Precalculus Honors, Statistics, AP Stats, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and now I teach one class of Calc 3. Yes, at my school students are tracked, but experienced teachers typically teach a variety of classes and not just the advanced students. For instance, one year I taught Precalculus Honors, Algebra 2, Prealgebra, and AP Stats, while a more experienced colleague of mine taught Algebra 1, Geometry, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC. Advanced students can be troublesome, too, just to a lesser extent. I think it all depends on how consistent the teacher is with enforcing the class rules and not being a pushover. Meaning, they can’t let students talk over them and lose control of the classroom. For instance, I use a call bell that I ring when students get too loud. I also will walk over and stare them down if they continue talking. I use proximity and have students step into the hallway, I document repeat offenders and keep a detailed log of every offense. I don’t ever give students warnings if they make moderate or major offenses. I don’t tolerate foul language, I don’t allow students to make unchecked racial epithets or sexual innuendo regardless of their race or gender, I contact parents as often as needed, I don’t negotiate with students, I don’t tolerate disrespect, etc. Stay consistent and be respectful of students and they *will* respect you in kind. I cannot emphasize this enough. I have literally overheard students say how some of my newer colleagues are pushovers, that they’re too nice, and that they can’t take them seriously. Yet, I’m one of the youngest staff members at my school and I command my classes no matter what kind of student that I teach because I don’t let students get away with stuff. Regardless if the student is a top performer or not, if they eat in class, for instance, I have them set it on my desk. If they talk with their neighbors when I’m lecturing I ask if they can share their thoughts with the class because they must be having a rigorous math debate. This shuts them up. In short, I’m all about consistency, consistency, consistency.

I don't think giving new teachers the AP classes is the answer if they do not have the experience to teach the classes well.

I agree. Even though I did moderately well teaching AP Stats as a first-year teacher 5 years ago, I was kind of thrust into it with no prior training at teaching. However, if there is one thing I’m good at, then it’s teaching and explaining mathematics and I think my employer recognized that, but I still wish I had the formal training I subsequently received so that I had a better outcome at the end of the year. To clarify, only 60% of the 40 AP Stats students I taught passed the AP exam that year, which is low compared to my other more experienced colleagues who teach or who taught AP. Every year thereafter I have had a 98-99% pass rate, but it’s just that I had to build the program from scratch from the get-go, which was challenging as I had no frame of reference. I was lucky in that my school is so supportive and giving of its resources because I probably would have floundered otherwise. A big thing that helped was taking summer prep courses on how to teach AP Stats and AP Calc AB/BC because I learned how actual AP evaluators grade and what material I can really focus on. In my first year, I taught everything in the book because I thought every concept was fair game on the AP test, but I didn’t really need to present so much information to my students. It was just too much for them (e.g. the AP exam doesn’t cover Simpson’s Paradox or multiple regression) and at least now I know what topics I can focus on after having taken said classes.