Edited to clarify: This post is not about the IB but about the Dutch national curriculum
This year I teach almost all of my classes within the International Baccalaureate (IB), so I have only two classes within the regular Dutch curriculum, one 7th and one 8th grade. These are students who have decided to take their schooling bilingually (though the majority of them are fully Dutch and have never spoken [much] English before). They begin in 7th grade directly with half of their classes, including math, in English. That’s a pretty daunting feat and these kids are all very bright. Yet I feel discouraged and sometimes even dread these classes.
Why? It starts with this tweet from David Wees:
That’s an image of the “study planner” that I need to follow for this term. It was made by a colleague, and if I don’t follow it then we end up out of sync and it becomes unfair for the tests, not to mention I don’t get through the material that the students “need to know for the next year.”
We have just two lessons (of 75 minutes each) per week with the students for an 8-week term, but are constantly losing days from our schedule by things like a day off from school, or a test planned during our lesson, etc. So you figure approximately 14 or 15 lessons per term. Times three terms plus one term where we have them only once a week (yes, that is as productive as it sounds), and that means I have to cram 8 chapters worth of material into about 52 lessons.
And honestly sometimes the curriculum careens wildly around. In the first “real” lesson I was meant to do:
1.1 Theory A: Using Letters (Writing Expressions)
1.1 Theory B: Addition and Multiplication using Letters
1.2 Theory A: Multiplying out brackets (Distributive Property)
Just to give a quick example of what sort of problems the students are expected to do in one lesson, it veers from:
“Tessa earns b euros per month. Her sister Sandra earns three times as much. How much does Sandra earn?”
-2p * 3q – 2p * -5 – 3q * -2p – 4p
and finally to:
2/3x(18a – 12b – 3c) – 1/4a(48x + 4b – 8c) – b(c – 8x – a)
What an absolute SWEAT to get through that. My brain hurts thinking about it.
So in the second lesson, a full quarter of my class had clean-up duty, which means that they have to sweep the school after lunch (YES THIS IS REAL, I AM NOT JOKING!!!) so they came 15 minutes late to my class. So I took that time to have the rest of the class work together on this worksheet I made for them on writing expressions and combining like terms:
I’m not trying to act like this is the most brilliant worksheet ever, but I think it did serve a purpose, because I saw kids write abcd instead of a+b+c+d, kids who wrote a^2 + b^2 + c^2 + d^2 instead of 2a + 2b + 2c + 2d, kids who wrote a + b + c + d * 2 instead of 2(a + b + c + d), kids who couldn’t come up with 9 – (a + b + c + d) at all and more. So what that says to me is that kids cannot just steamroll through everything. They need recap, revision, and time to reflect. It is helpful for them if I bring in extra things for them to do and let them puzzle through it.
But no matter because in lesson two I was supposed to do:
1.2 Theory B: Multiplying Binomials
1.3 Theory A: The Remarkable Product (a+b)(a-b)
1.3 Theory B: The Remarkable Products (a+b)^2 and (a-b)^2
After “wasting” so much time on the variables on a map thing, I could hardly get through this and ended up assigning the majority of it for homework.
Sure kids, I know you’re only 13 and you’ve just learned how to multiply binomials for the first time ten minutes ago, but do you think you could please now do this problem for me: (2a + 3b)^2 – (3a + 2b)^2? Because I really don’t have a lot of time to make sure you understand it and give you cool projects around this like Babylonian Multiplication, because in the next lesson I have to do:
1.4 Theory A: Simplifying Algebraic Fractions
1.4 Theory B: Adding Algebraic Fractions
1.4 Theory C: Multiplying and Dividing Algebraic Fractions
1.5 Theory A: Scientific Notation of large numbers (WOW, how is this related??)
1.5 Theory B: Scientific Notation for small numbers
I felt so damn shitty after this lesson (and also my 7th grade lesson, which is even more intense, especially when you consider that these kids are in high school for the first time ever and don’t even speak the damn language of their textbook) and horrified looking at what I have to do in one lesson next week. Basically, what it comes down to for me in these classes is that if I do anything that’s not in the textbook or that takes any serious amount of time for thinking and discussion, I won’t be able to get through the curriculum. I always like to start Scientific Notation with a reading from Bill Bryson but it’s like, AHHH, that will take at least 10 minutes!
I really don’t know what to do about this. I agree with David Wees. I feel like I have to teach in a manner that’s directly counter to what I think good teaching is. So that’s why I’m already discouraged for my Dutch math classes. Any advice?