Your latest blog post got me a little emotional. The vulnerability that you are sharing and the declarations that you are making shows me that you are on the right path to wherever you are hoping to be. Yes, I wanted you to read The Classroom Chef, and I don't apologize for being a nag about it, either ;)
I sincerely respect where you are at as an educator, as a friend, and as a person. My baseball coach at Cal State, Los Angeles gave every senior, among other things, an encased dandelion. Why on Earth would a baseball coach waste a case on a weed and share it as a gift?!?!?!
"Don't be a blade of grass."
Coach Herbold explained that it's easy to be a blade of grass. In any given yard, there are thousands of them. They are cared for, manicured, and fed to maintain their appeal. Almost to the point of annoyance, we were instructed to never be a blade of grass.
To really stand out, however, you need to be a weed; a dandelion, in particular. Their roots are deep, they embed themselves into their surroundings, and they are a spot of beauty among normalcy. And hey, kids all around the world love blowing those pesky seeds all around the yard as they make a wish... All from a "weed" that we want eradicated.
Like you, I hate weeding and don't think too highly of dandelions, but want to offer up an alternate approach that parallels Coach Herbold's. There are certainly going to be some things in your teaching that you hang on to for too long and let get out of control. Why get rid of them? What's so wrong with Direct Instruction, anyways?
Yes, it's true that Algebra II is a beast in and of itself (which has been well-documented through blog posts, articles, politics, and more). Yes, it's true that reverting back to our comfort zones is the easy thing to do when we are in the grind of the school year.
My suggestion, then, for the upcoming school year is this: keep doing Direct Instruction when you feel like it is what is best for your students. You know them, and you know what they need, I have no doubt. With that said, try to take a few leaps away from DI and reflect on what went well, what didn't, and what you would do the next time. We make some suggestions on pages 140 & 141 in the book, but there are going to be plenty more that come up. Then, go back to DI and reflect on that. What was similar? What was different? How could both be improved?
This right here resonated with me:
Maybe what I am perceiving as weeds can be beneficial. Not that I want to keep a whole garden of weeds, but having some may be helpful. Trying to find the right balance will be the challenge.
Happy "Best Dandelion of the Year" Fishing