Physics and/or math, dealing with workload

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by BFGaloot, Sep 24, 2015.

  1. BFGaloot

    BFGaloot Rookie

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    Sep 24, 2015

    I'm a teacher with 9 years of experience--6 at a public school in WI, one at a private school in Brazil, and two years at two different private schools here in California. I'm taking a break this year, tutoring and maybe doing some substitute teaching, because I'm thinking of going back to working in engineering.

    I just got my CA credentials transferred from WI, in math and physics, but I did not apply for any jobs this year. The reason is work load--when I was teaching 130 students (In WI or last year at a Catholic private school) I had a huge amount of grading to do. Every weekend of the school year, with few exceptions, I was grading stacks of lab reports, tests, or quizzes. I would likely have nearly 200 students if I taught at a public school in CA, and I can't imagine how a teacher can deal with all that grading.

    A math position was advertised very close to where I live, but I expect it would likely be 3 different classes with nearly 40 students per class. When I teach math, which I have done most years (along with teaching several physics classes including AP Physics C twice) I grade homework. I feel that students need feedback on their homework and I need to see what misconceptions they have, so that I can deal with that by re-teaching in class.

    How do you secondary math or physics teachers deal with a workload like this? I worked harder as a teacher than I ever worked as an engineer, and I've worked for Silicon Valley start-up companies twice.

    Feedback welcome!
     
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  3. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Sep 24, 2015

    First of all, don't grade everything!

    When an grade lab reports, I have key words that I look for. I can skim a stack very quickly and come away with a good idea of who understands what. This does take practice and it helps if you are are a speed reader.

    For math, I would spot check. Let students check their own work and you check selected problems that will highlight any weaknesses.

    Daily short quizzes can also work well. 3 carefully chosen problems, students swap papers and grade them as you work through the problems on the board (or have students volunteer). Then you can focus on the problems students got wrong.
     
  4. BFGaloot

    BFGaloot Rookie

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    Yes, when I grade lab reports, I pick three things to focus on. I have a rubric that has 6 or 7 separate items, and I'll only grade 3 on any given lab report. I started doing that about 4 years ago once I switched to standards-based grading.

    How many students do you have? Are you able to ever have weekends free? I really do love teaching a lot, and from what I'm seeing, I'm not likely to land one of the really high-paying engineer jobs, so I'll likely make about the same as an engineer that I would make as a teacher.

    If I can convince myself that I can streamline my grading system so that I at least have some weekends free during the school year, I'll apply for CA teaching jobs next year.

    At the private school I was at this past year, they had a school-wide requirement of >2 graded items entered into Powerschool each week, and I found that to be really onerous.
     
  5. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I've usually had around 150 students. I never do work outside of school hours unless I'm really into revamping my materials.

    I plan what I do so I can fit it all into 30 minutes before school, lunch, and planning.

    We have access to standards link quizzes online. Those can give nice diagnostic information as we go through a unit, and don't take me any time to grade. I just have to check results.

    I teach science, not math (this year I'm teaching math as well, but I only have 23 students), so my experience is not going to match yours completely. I know math teachers are my last school all had to stay after for student help exponentially more than I ever did.

    I really feel that in most cases, it is possible to plan well enough to balance your life with doing a good job teaching.

    3 assignments for me would look like: online automatically graded quiz that gives kids instant feedback, a class work assignment that we would grade and go over together, and some sort of activity. Out of those, only the activity would take me much time to grade. I also had a recurring biweekly current event assignment, so I always had at least that grade if we were doing a larger project.
     
  6. BFGaloot

    BFGaloot Rookie

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    I've mostly taught physics, and that has given me plenty of things to grade. Tests, for example, will take a full day out of my weekend to grade, for 130 or so students.

    What tempts me to teach math instead is that students HATE physics, by and large. They have to take it because colleges want them to take it, and I won't lower my standards just to make life easier for them. I use the modeling method of teaching (lots of whiteboarding) which actually helps in reducing my prep time.

    I actually don't mind staying after school to help students, that's one of the things I've always liked about teaching. It's the drudgery of slogging through a huge stack of things to grade that wears me down.

    There is a HS math teacher in a men's group I belong to that I need to contact, he can probably help me figure some of this out. The idea of doing this for 15 more years, until I'm 68...yikes.
     
  7. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Sep 24, 2015

    I intentionally plan things so that it doesn't take me as long to grade. I teach English, and while the nature of it is different, I think you can apply some of the same concepts.

    For example, students write daily journals. On Fridays, I grade all of the journals, but I only grade one of the days from that week, and they never know which one it's going to be. The others are checked for completion.

    I assign essays that are 500-750 words long because that's manageable for me. Whenever I assign essays, I pick one specific aspect that I will be grading for more detail. The whole essay will get an overall assessment, and then I will specifically grade for the supporting details, organization, introductory paragraph, etc. The students know this in advance, so they aren't surprised.
     
  8. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    One thing to remember too is that students have a limited attention span for feedback. I don't waste time writing on papers.

    I keep a list of kids I need to speak to and have mini conferences every week, spread out during independent work. That way, we can cover what I would have written, but I can be extra sure that the student "gets it." Plus, it's extra one on one connection time.
     
  9. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    Sep 25, 2015

    For math homework - I walk around the room and check for completion at the beginning of the period while they copy the next day's homework from the board and generally get ready for class - takes 5 minutes or less. Then either they work in pairs or groups of three to correct HW, or I go over the answers, and then I answer questions from the students. Either way, they check/correct their own work. That way they know exactly what they know, and what they don't know, so the responsibility to study is where it should be, on the student. I sometimes collect a homework assignment at random the following week as a "HW Quiz" to see if they are doing corrections. I also have a HW form with the comments I seem to need to write the most often already on the form (fits on about 1/4 of a page of paper) that I staple to HW papers to give them information they need without my having to write it out.
    At the beginning of my teaching career, I started out grading every homework assignment with lots of comments...it didn't help most of my students, because they didn't read the comments and use them to improve their work. Once I switched to the system I use now, grades actually improved. There was another benefit too - a lot less hassle from students. They know the division of responsibilities - it's their responsibility to learn, and mine to teach and be there to help if they need it.
     
  10. leeshis0019

    leeshis0019 Companion

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    Sep 25, 2015

    Exit tickets. Or something similar.

    Basically, it's just 3-4 questions (or less) that cover exactly what it you are looking for objective-wise and they are simple to grade.

    Most people don't even grade/hand-back exit tickets or the like. They use them as a starting off point ie. do we need to spend another day on this? Can I start the next topic tomorrow?

    Grading everything is a drain and a waste. Most students will see the grade, wad it up and throw it away. Even if you reach 10% of the students with your feedback that's not good enough. You need some way to effectively assess everyone that is also quick.

    This is why I always tell parents that classwork/homework grades are deceiving. If your child has anything less than an 85% on classwork/homework it's because they didn't turn something in. I pick questions to look at, but give students a completion grade almost always. There are some assignments that I pick out to grade for accuracy, but I still only pick a few questions to give specific feedback on and then I go over those questions when I hand them back.

    They are deceiving because a 100% on classwork/homework does not mean they will do well on quizzes or tests. It just means they did the work. Whether or not they knew the stuff is what the quizzes and exit tickets are for. I can say "Yes they do" or "No they dont" and work with them. If they know then we're good. If they don't then I do what I can to support them, but the onus is still on the student to learn.

    Anyways! The only thing that should take a while to grade are quizzes, tests, labs and projects. If grading hw or cw is eating up your time then stop.
     
  11. BFGaloot

    BFGaloot Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2015

    That's the thing...I mostly just teach physics, and my method (which I learned from my cooperating teacher while student teaching) is to just stamp homeworks for attempt on the day it is due, then have them staple all the hw for the unit to the unit lab report. I grade the whole thing, focusing mostly on the lab report.

    Even when I just focus on grading 3 out of 7 rubric items on each lab report, and quickly scanning for missing hw stamps, it still takes many hours to grade 4 or 5 classes of lab reports.

    IOW, I really only do grade quizzes, tests, and lab reports, and I found myself swamped when I had 130 students. I'll admit I don't make the best use of my prep periods during the day, but that is often because I had no place to spread out and grade, my office everywhere I have worked has just been a small desk.

    I'm coming around to the idea that teaching math might actually be less onerous, since there are no lab reports to grade, and the tests are often much easier to grade than physics tests are.
     
  12. leeshis0019

    leeshis0019 Companion

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    Sep 27, 2015

    I tried something similar with the stamp sheet, but I thought it was way too structured. It's an odd thing to say, but I honestly think its the high school student's job to keep track of their things. I've had (and have) IEP's that deal with organization and I do help those kids out with notes and reminders, but otherwise you keep track of your stuff.

    That being said I actually haven't had much of an issue. Some students say they've lost their things so I offer them a locking drawer in my room. They can put their work there if they think it will be lost, but that doesn't help when they have homework, but it's still something.


    As for the grading: what exactly are you grading? How are you grading? When are you grading?

    It really is the worst thing about teaching. Grading is horrible. I think next to the cliche of "classroom management" it is grading that teachers hate the most (well and standardized testing depending on your grade-level). It eats up so much time, you get backlash from parents/students that's unfounded, you get parents demanding "proof" so it takes you longer to grade and most of the time students won't actually look at your feedback and reflect. They'll look at the grade, give a shrug then stuff it in their bag or throw it away. Infuriating.

    The only things that I really grade are: lab reports, projects, tests and quizzes. I write feedback on these. I spend class-time going over quizzes and tests to make sure my feedback is read and reflected on. I do not grade every lab that I get. I probably throw away 5-6 labs each semester (keep in mind I do about 35 labs a semester--keep it real in Chemistry...).

    How do I grade: With music, a quiet place and a sturdy desk. This is in my classroom. I turn on some music during planning, sit at a student desk (I often move another next to mine for space) and I grade. I don't allow student interruptions and I try not to get distracted by anything. I also give myself a 5 minute break after I finish grading an assignment for a class.

    When do I grade: During planning (mostly). Before school (rarely). After school (when needed). Quizzes and tests are priority. I usually finish them during my planning and after-school on the same day. Projects are next. Labs are next. Everything else is after that. I tell my students that I try to get things graded in a week. If it takes me longer it's because there's more going on in my personal life then I would like, but that's life.
     

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