Friday, May 24, 2013

Finishing Strong

It's been fun this week watching the kids work with the new material.  Struggle is probably the more accurate word.  We have been working with rotating conics, writing conics in parametric and polar forms, and finding powers and roots of complex numbers by using DeMoivre's theorem.  None of these topics is necessarily difficult, but all of them are new twists on old material, and the rotations in particular are long and tedious, requiring a fair amount of patience.  And with the inconsistencies in the schedule during this unit, the connections to the old material haven't come as easily.  Couple that with the fact that this unit has a greater percentage of new material than the others and it's made for more struggle than usual for the students.  However, that did not deter the vast majority of them.  Instead of backing down, they dug in.  Admittedly, I have honors level students, and it irritates them when they don't understand something, and yes, I understand that Harkness allows me to use that to my advantage.  However, the fact that they redoubled their efforts to come to grips with several bits of new material has been really fun to watch.

Even more, it has been great to see the progress the kids have made during the course of the year in terms of their willingness to take on the challenge themselves, coming to me for help as their second or third and not their first line of attack.  Most have truly taken responsibility for their own learning, and have learned to work together and rely on one another.  Most are willing to admit when they are lost...quite the accomplishment for an honors student.  The fact that they are not letting this deter them is another accomplishment, since often an honors student, who is so used to things coming easily to them, can actually give up faster than other students when confronted with an academic challenge.  Unfortunately, those who have not reached this point tend to slow down the conversation, trying to force an answer and an explanation out of themselves rather than working to discover or create a solution with the group.  And there are still a few kids that are not preparing for class; however, the other students did not allow that to slow down the discussions, essentially working around the fact that there was a bit of "dead weight" in the group, still including them in the conversation but not allowing them to dominate the group either with questions or with an explanation intended to cover up the fact that they are unprepared.  The good side of this is that the number of unprepared kids dropped drastically this week, and it showed in the discussions.  Which means that, for the most part, the kids are back on the gas and finishing strong, just like I had hoped they would at the end of last week.

Next week will go quickly: Memorial Day Monday, test Tuesday, exam review and a couple end-of-the-year disruptions the rest of the week, and then final exams the following Monday and Tuesday.  Which means that technically I have completed the year without lecturing.  Never would have thought it possible...

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