Monday, October 01, 2012

Change is Hard

(Warning - rambling and ranting ahead) I don't feel like I am a very good math teacher. I can explain the concepts fairly well so that many students understand it. I can structure the lesson so that it makes sense. But, I am pretty much a traditional teacher. I have made no bones about that here.

But then I start reading Mathematics Formative Assessment and we had a Waiver Day last week where a lot of the discussion was around formative assessment and now I feel like I suck as a teacher. As it is, I have been stressed and barely on top of stuff and it is extremely easy to revert to my old, established ways of just teaching and students watching, taking notes and then having to work out the problems.

During the Waiver Day, one of the speakers was talking about making formative assessment part of the daily culture of your classroom. I wish I could remember what exactly she said or what triggered the thoughts in my head, but I got to thinking that maybe I didn't need to do my lessons the same way each day. Right now, I still pretty much start with a warm up, go over homework problems, then teach the lesson. As it is right now, I don't have time to do an exit slip - I am pretty much filling the period. I want to do exit slips - I know I need to, and to be honest, I'd like to get to a point that I could try Socrative with my students. But if I don't have enough time in class to get to a paper exit slip, how am I going to have time to get to Socrative?

Another thing that was discussed, albeit briefly, was flexible grouping and differentiation. This is something else that I haven't done before and probably ought to be doing. It was presented to us as a part of using formative assessment to form the flexible groups. They didn't give us a ton of information about it, so I suppose that I will have to go do some research about it in my ever-growing shrinking free time.

One small good thing that I have done in the last week is I did put together a Google Form to survey my students as to what they know/remember about functions, which is our next unit. In the past, I have just taken for granted that they remembered (or guessed what they wouldn't remember) what was previously taught. I did do a pre-test at the beginning of the school year the last couple of years, but I wasn't happy with it. So, this is what I came up with while mowing the lawn Sunday:


(Hopefully this will continue to show up after my students are done with this)

I did like doing the pre-assessment this way. I very quickly got an idea after the first 5-10 responses where my students stood because I had a fairly good representative sample of students with varying abilities. What I did find out that they didn't know a whole lot about functions and function notation. I didn't ask them about the idea of one-to-one and based on what I saw in their responses, I'm pretty sure they don't remember much about it if at all. I am rethinking how I am going to teach functions. Originally I was going to start right at operations with functions, but I think I am going to have to spend a day reviewing what functions are beforehand. At least I know that now. :-)

Back to the original reason for posting... I still pretty much feel like I am totally sucking as a teacher. I am still pretty much teaching the way I was taught and the way I have taught for the last twenty years. I am looking at some of my students and seeing that they are not engaged. I already see a couple of my lower-ability students already not putting forth much effort and one in particular who is starting to become rather challenging - not participating in group activities and bringing down his group in the process, which happened today. He and I will have to have a conversation here shortly I can see.

I am looking ahead to functions and trying to figure out how I'm going to help my students learn the material. I wanted to type "teach" there, but as I was about to type it, I thought that if I said "teach," I already knew what to do. I know how to explain to my students how to work through the procedural stuff. But that doesn't help them learn the material. I'm trying to figure out how to help them learn the material. Me teaching and them sitting and getting isn't going to work. I have been telling myself that for 2-3 years now. The problem is, I haven't done anything about it. Compounding that, I don't really know what to do. What do I do differently? How do I structure class so that my students are learning and I am aiding them in their learning rather than imparting information to them?

5 comments:

justagurl24 said...

I know how you're feeling Lisa. Even for a new teacher, I feel like I'm falling into the same pattern as a traditional teacher. I want to incorporate more rather than just lectures. I want to try other strategies, but like you said it's tough when time is so tight.

misscalcul8 said...

Take baby steps. Take what you would normally do and then do only one example. The next time refuse to speak and make them lead you through the next example. Then give them some to do on their own while you walk around and monitor. Have students turn to each other and ask one of two questions: "Will you help me?" or "Do you need my help?"

Do a sorting activity. Give them already worked out examples and have half of them be wrong. They can sort and then use the correct ones to guide them on how to fix the incorrect ones.

Try doing foldables instead of traditional notes.

Ask them how they would like class to be structured to help them learn better.

Try the Mistake Game.

Try the speed dating game. Use games and activities for practice rather than traditional notes.

Don't feel sucky and don't think you have to change every single thing you do. You try a lot of new stuff, don't give that up! You can do it!

Mrs. H said...

I agree with Elissa. Baby steps. I am a traditional teacher also and I don't apologize for it. This is who I am. What I have done is taken the things I've learned in the blogosphere and tried to incorporate them a little at a time. Too much will be overwhelming and you will not be able to sustain it. Most days my class starts with a short partner activity, a 20 minute lesson where students take notes and then either an activity for our INB or a homework assignment. I think it's a pretty good mix between traditional and new. I try to play a review game every two weeks or so.

I gave up on warm-ups. I need that extra 5-10 minutes to work on INBs or do partner activities either before or after the lesson.

Amy Gruen said...

I understand how you feel . . . The agony of knowing better. You read what everyone else is doing and you start to think that you are the only one who isn't awesome. I love that a few have already mentioned baby steps. It is much easier to make a big change one little bit at a time. Also, you mentioned using class time for answering questions on the previous day's homework. I actually stopped doing this, and I still do not miss it. (I wrote about it here: http://squarerootofnegativeoneteachmath.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-stopped-answering-questions.html)
In conclusion, I think you are a great teacher and you are being way too hard on yourself. As a fellow perfectionist, I am telling you to snap out of it! :)

Anna said...

I certainly don't have the answers, but something I have found helpful is to try to find a lesson or topic that can be developed from students' thinking on a meaty problem. I definitely can't do this every day, but giving them a problem to try to figure out first, and then formalizing this during a class discussion or even via more traditional note-taking can really increase student engagement and provide a richer learning experience. Also, I have found it helpful to tell students why I am doing something non-traditional because they can be just as resistant to change as we are. And, it's really hard not to compare ourselves to the Twitter super-stars, but everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and is working with different student populations, etc. It sounds like you're working hard for your students and they're lucky to have you as their teacher.