Rather than attempt to write a handful of posts over the next few days, I’m going to combine some days of the #MTBoS12days challenge into one related post. Hopefully, the following progression will make sense.
My eureka moment snuck up on me during my first year of teaching. When I graduated college, I intended to teach high school mathematics. On a whim, I applied to middle schools just to keep the interview process interesting. Little did I know that I would end up being hired to teach 6th grade. As my first year teaching progressed, I found myself challenged in unexpected ways that I rarely experienced as I taught seniors in high school. I saw firsthand how students needed to learn how to kindly disagree with each other and problem solve in social settings. I had to stop class to address respect and the value of mistakes. I learned that there’s so much more that students need to learn besides mathematics in my classroom. My greatest realization that year was that I do not teach mathematics. I teach students who are learning mathematics. I know the phrase sounds cheesy and like a cliche from a Hallmark movie, but it’s true. Instead of being focused on teaching specific content, I learned during my first year to focus on teaching the students who walk into my classroom each day. This focus includes a dedication to teaching students mathematics by necessity, but the focus also includes developing general reasoning strategies and character traits my students need to become their best selves. Essentially, my a-ha moment was embracing the social side of teaching.
One Thing I Want to Improve Next Semester:
On a related note, I want to focus on improving discourse and mathematical arguments in my classroom. Students are pretty comfortable answering questions in my classroom or identifying errors in work, but many students struggle when I ask for explanations or a reason to back up a simple, “Yes, no, that’s wrong,” response. As this semester unfolds, I want to push students to develop justification skills and become comfortable with offering corrective feedback in various formats. I plan to use partner talks to build confidence with these skills, as well as including more explanation questions on homework or using in-class activities like Middle Bits.