Looking at what Dan proposes on his blog post about Can Sports Save Math?, or even Real Work v. Real World, there are a wide amount of input and views floating around the MTBoS. The biggest focus for many teachers right now seems to be: what topic can I bring in to get my students interested in the Math I will ask them to do? There is no real magical formula, we have to try and connect with as many students as we can (but we all know that we will miss some). The thing about missing some students is the question: Did the student not engage in my class because of what I did in class that day? There is a big component in all this: the student. They have a ton of things going on in their lives, some we can help with but others we can’t. They bring in a whole multitude of experiences and history with them that most of the time, we barely scratch the surface to find. They also have different learning styles, and if you are not incorporating at least 2-3 different ones into one lesson you are not connecting with a lot of your class. I had a fairly simple reflection question on the board yesterday: Describe what was good (or bad) about today’s lesson. Students cut right to the heart of this situation.
This is what I expected to see from this question:
Students tell me what happens that they enjoyed, and I can make sure to incorporate more of those activities or segments into future lessons to keep things rolling positively. They also tell me what they consider bad- which is really just a code for what things they still need help on. I work with them individually on these points to make sure they are getting their individual learning needs met. This is great feedback either way, and students can give it to me (without names) so I can refine the class for their specific needs. This does not mean I will compromise my professional goals for the year- it just provides me with tools to make that successful.
Like I said, that is what you expect to get back, and what you expect to get in class. Sometimes it isn’t your class, the topic, or even you. We get caught up thinking about how we as educators shoulder the responsibility of classroom environment- but we forget that students make up and shape that environment as well.
This is also what I got from the reflection question:
Some of these things are easily handled, re-directed and addressed. Typically any teacher can take these on, make them a positive, and have a great lesson for everyone. Here’s the thing, all seven of these responses were from the same class. These were the “pretty” ones, there were a few more that I couldn’t post. This class turned out becoming a practice for me in classroom management- and as you can see from student responses, emotions of many were high. The kicker: the class immediately after them was perfect, go figure. I went home yesterday trying to figure out what I can do to make things better for my students. I started today by pulling out individuals in the hall and having a personal conference with them about class expectations, routines and behavior. I have a couple of days to keep working on this (these type of discussions never happen whole group, it never works), and I will check in with how it goes. The bad thing is, once again my first instinct is to think about what I did wrong, but as I talk to students more about this- everything has to do with personality conflicts that happen before they step foot in my door. I have small plans for working these out, I just wasn’t prepared for the bombardment that happened yesterday without warning.
When I talk with students, I keep things focused on them- not me or what others are doing. Make them internalize what happens, their reactions to it- or even their instigation for it. It’s not all about you in your classroom, as long as you can be proactive and make sure your students correctly identify where the problems are originating. Also let them know that you understand that you are not the focus of it, otherwise things could quickly become about you and affect you classroom for the day, week, month or even year.