Some days you ride the wave, other days the wave rides you
When I look at my day two reflections, I know exactly what Jeff was trying to tell me here. Being the new teacher on the block is hard, you have to work double on so many things: curriculum, peers, committees (that you get “volunteered” for as the new person), schedules and students. When I first decided what my day two reflection was going to be about, I wanted it to be about something positive students remember about their math class. I also wanted some insight as to how to best engage these students and what their interests are. This year was not a great year to gather that information. Typically I will take pictures of student responses and share what they did- but on this reflection the wave crushed me on the jetties. I will just reflect on what small responses I received.
Questions for Teacher Reflection:
What kind of activities do your student enjoy? How can you incorporate that into your class?
What type of learners do you have in your class?
What are some skills that students still need help on?
What do you need to make sure you do for your students during activities?
I have to be honest, I did not get nearly the feedback I wanted to answer these questions. I will probably hit students with questions surprisingly similar (yet different) to gain more information. I have to not let the wave beat me into submission, I will find my board- paddle out and ride it again.
My students like manipulatives. This doesn’t surprise me, many math classes after primary grades use less and less. We seem to be pushing our students into abstract thought too quickly- they need physical objects to help them visualize and create connections between symbols on a page and their meaning. One thing that did concern me is the lack of mention of group work- my students seem to be withdrawing more and more when they work on academics, their idea of “collaboration” is to either get or give answers to assignments.
The types of students I have in my room are almost 100% concrete, visual learners. They want to have their tactile sense fulfilled with something other than pencil and paper. They want to see color- something other than graphite and white. They like creating a physical product of their work- something that will be displayed either in the classroom or shared with family when they get home. They want to be the kids their age dictates they are, not the supporting parents that their society has thrown them into. I need to find great ways to allow them to be inspired and have fun.
Some of the skills they need to work on is… writing about math. Handwriting, sentence structure and grammar are horrid. They do not know what punctuation is, nor how to turn a question around into an answer. There are gaps in their learning like someone shot a math book with a shotgun, and many of their “rules” they remember is poorly structured and misused. I am starting out with an activity about writing and telling stories from a graph, a safe entry point that will allow us to work on all of these skills. We are also doing our daily Estimation 180, another resource students are loving and they ask about Mr. Stadel daily.
For now, the way I can ensure that my student’s learning needs are being met is to stay out of a textbook for the next few weeks. OpenMiddle, VisualPatterns, Estimation 180, and many of my other problems and projects I have come up with are going to start out this year. I also need to work on designing new problems for Open Middle: I have had friends tell me they really want to implement it in their classroom but are looking for more material from it. I will make a point to hand student work early and refer to it frequently so they build a feeling of pride in their work and their ability to do mathematics.
I have a very long journey ahead this year: the ocean is vast, winds are strong and the sharks abundant. I will ride the wave once again, but hopefully instead of working against it or trying to force it into submission- the wave and I will find a great balance where we both can relax and enjoy the ride.