Tag Archives: Educators

Wow

That’s the first thing that came to mind after reading this blog post: http://emergentmath.com/2011/03/22/what-teachers-want-an-education-parable-written-by-a-math-teacher/

Essentially, the blogger, who is a Math teacher, details how a traditional math lesson would play out. The teacher teaches the content, then supplies work to assess their understanding. The work will likely be similar to the examples that were given in the notes. The teacher is baffled by the many, “How do I do this?” and, “I don’t understand the question.” The student is frustrated by the lack of help, or guidance from the teacher. The blogger ends the blog with the question: “Both Teacher and Student have a gripe. The question is this: Which one has a legitimate grievance?”

What amazed me was how the blogger was able to capture how accurate a typical math lesson would play out. How the student would have felt. The internal dialogue that would have occurred and the frustration he/she would have felt. The teacher, at the same time, feels the same frustration and the internal dialogue is so real that I remember many times thinking the same thing when interacting with students.

I get so caught up in what I want to say. I spend so much time making sure I’m very thorough with my content. With how I present it. How I say it. How I explain it. I pick the right examples. Break it down to teh best of my ability. Explain it. Ask questions to gauge if they understand. Make sure to give them opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Expand on questions that the few brave souls do ask. And then when I give them work, confident that I got through to them, it’s like I was never up at the front. I’m repeating or rephrasing things that I thought I said perfectly well. I’m left, like the teacher in the blog post, baffled, frustrated, and down right confused. What happened? What the heck were they thinking when I was up there? Did I wear something too distracting?

Worse, I’m left feeling insecure without even knowing what I did or didn’t do.

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What is the question, again?

I recently read a post by Michael, a math teacher, who brought up the topic of teaching “smarter” kids. (http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.ca/2013/02/strong-kids-v-weak-kids.html) After realizing that there was whole spectrum of different opinions on the topic, he had this to say:

Can anyone explain how there’s a disagreement this wide across the profession? Why does it seem straightforward to me that teaching students of low ability is harder, more challenging than teaching students of high ability? Why does it seem straightforward to others that this is a pernicious belief that ought to be challenged?

Is it harder? Is it straightforward? Do the majority of teachers feel this way? On his blog, he print screened a number of tweets responding to a teacher’s post. Who are these people responding? Are they even teachers? Is it a biased opinion? How many teachers are on twitter? Maybe some people are better at handling kids with low ability and thus, find them easier? What is going on!??! I’m scared! What if I’m not able to handle kids with low abilities! Gah!

Soooo, these were the thoughts that were running through my mind as I read his post. Mainly fear and the feeling of overwhelm. Once I got over this inconvenient phase, I re-read his post and really thought about it. If someone were to ask me which student would be harder to teach: a high-academic student or a low-academic student, I would have said the low-academic student in a heart beat. I wouldn’t have hesitated and this is why I instantly agreed with Michael. Of course it’s harder! There are so many issues that influence why a student is not performing well, that, as a teacher, can be difficult to handle. But the more I pondered that question, I reminded myself of my own experience in my short practicum.

As an upcoming teacher, I was terrified of my short practicum. I was worried about my ability to connect with the low-academic students. However, what I found was that the high-academic students were the hardest to deal with. They were the ones who resisted me, challenged me, questioned me, and quite frankly pissed me off. At one point, my mentor even had to step in because he could see I was having a tough time with them. Granted, it probably was my lack of class management, lack of confidence, and lack of structure. I can willingly say that my practicum went wonky due to the fact that I was thrown in without a life jacket, without swimming skills right into the deep end. And, in my experience so far, I saw how teaching high-academic students was hard.

BUT, I also have limited experience; don’t really know what I’m talking about; still don’t really know what I’m doing in class. Soooo, what is my opinion on this matter. Do I disagree or agree? What is the question, again? I guess, Michael, the question isn’t so straightforward as you might think.

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