There are those days, that no matter what attitude you have, what you have tried, or what skills you employ- that as a teacher you do this.
There are days where I really hate the challenges that come with my particular job. To get students to believe in themselves and their abilities in math, you have to create a strong rapport with them. These relationships can’t be built in a day, it takes time- and I am one to support that and typically I use the first two to three weeks for it. My current position doesn’t provide me with that time, I don’t have a consistent group for a year, a quarter, a month, a week or in some cases a day.
I believe in positive student struggle, and it is weird that @veganmathbeagle made this post- Watching Solitaire in Silence. Students always tell me I’m a “hard” teacher for the first few weeks. It is because instead of providing them answers to problems, I ask more questions. I tell them to try their ideas to see where it takes them, something they do not want to do because they feel it is a waste of time to do something wrong. They love talking, but hate trying to explain what their thinking is. These outlooks always change over the course of the year- and I have many students who have told me that math classes after mine were easier. When I ask them why they tell me it’s because I got them to step outside their comfort zone in math, and that it made them more confident in what they could do. My high school colleagues told me how much of a difference it made when I was moved to the middle school, and thanked me often for my work. Those types of compliments are ones I take great pride in.
The problem lies within my current setting. Every day I could gain or lose 0-6 students. One Monday when I entered my building, we had 10 new students enrolled. The time to create strong rapports is strained here, and it took me to the test yesterday. I have a student who I really enjoy in class. She has been with me for 3 days now, and although she has been guarded she has done very well in my class. That came to a head yesterday when she encountered reflections- something that she considers hard. We talked through an example as a class, where students were describing and presenting to the class what to do when we reflect polygons along the line y=x. This student understood what to do when we reflect over the X or Y axis but became totally lost with the diagonal reflection. I didn’t have time to talk with this student at all before the explosion happened. I am used to outbursts- and typically I have a good feel when they will occur and what I can do to prevent or deescalate them. The paper was crumpled up, thrown across the room and “I HATE MATH” was screamed. A body slammed back in a chair, head slammed on her arms on the table. I had a class of shocked faces looking at me, and I’m sure I had the same startled stare back.
There are options for students who have outbursts, the one our center prefers is the time out room. This is a small room at the end of the hall where students can go to get themselves back in control. While I agree that there are situations where this is needed, it typically is because of a different degree of behavioral problem that I implement this option. This wasn’t that degree, this was frustration of not knowing a concept and being afraid to accept it. The problem was, the time to build a positive relationship with this student wasn’t there yet, and as such I was ignored and rebuffed when I tried to approach her individually to talk. Should I have sent her out? Perhaps. At the time, other than being a physical distraction with her head on the desk, she was not disrupting learning for my other students. She was still in the room, listening to the conversations- and ultimately learning. I will choose this option every time (even though my Administrator disagrees).
She came up to me the next day and talked with me. She apologized about what happened and confirmed my suspicions about what was going on. She also thanked me for not taking her out of class- even though she was trying to get booted at the time. Out of the bad comes good. That day is the day I made a positive connection with her. Now I can start to build her confidence in herself and change the way she approaches math class. If only I could show these kids the end of the tunnel first so they didn’t feel they had to react in the ways they do- if only there weren’t these days.