I find it incredible to stand back, watch, and listen to students. I record many podcasts in class, and the students are used to sharing their thinking with others. As I listened back to one of my math podcasts from today (I so wish that the other one worked, as it shared amazing insight into student opinions of worksheets versus real world math problems), here’s what I learned:
1) Students are willing to share their thinking (even if they may be wrong).
2) Students are willing to challenge each other. They are willing to say that they don’t agree, and they’re willing to say why.
3) Students are willing to look at alternative solutions. When problems arose with their first plan, they were open to discussing other options.
4) Students are willing to listen to each other. They are willing to build on the ideas of their peers. Even the words, “As _______ said,” tells me that they’re hearing their classmates.
5) Students are eager to learn, and they’re willing to work through the hard thinking that comes with learning.
I could learn a lot from my students. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard lots of talk about math drills — largely Mad Minutes. I’ve blogged about this topic before, and I continue to do a lot of thinking about these math drills. Even though I was contemplating using Mad Minutes last year, I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. What about those students that need additional processing time? What about those students that have fine motor difficulties and struggle with printing the numbers? What about those students with memory problems? How are we differentiating for all of these needs? And how does “competition” and “comparison to peers” factor into this? Are Mad Minutes truly promoting a love of math? Here I am full of these questions — these huge wonderings that I want to scream from the rooftop — but when the opportunities have presented themselves, I’ve said nothing.
On Twitter or in an email, I have lots to share. I can seemingly write forever on this topic. 🙂 I can also talk to some friends and a few colleagues about it, but when in bigger groups, I remain quiet. I wish I didn’t. How do we bring about change if we never speak up in the first place? How do we get into great conversations about pedagogy and the choices we make (inside and outside of the classroom) if we never start the talk? My students can speak up. Now I need to as well! What would you do?
Aviva, I too struggle sometimes with this. I think that we do a great disservice to our fellow teachers, our profession and to some extent our students. We say we want to be treated like professionals but do we really. Doctors do rounds and give each other feedback, the partners in the law firms sit in on court cases and offer feedback. We all want to be better at our jobs so why aren’t we more open to feedback to help us improve. We do it every day with our kids. We ask kids to share their learning in a group (or in some cases in front of the entire class), answer peer questions and receive evaluations but we are so afraid to do the same. Why? Do we think our colleagues don’t have our backs? Do we think their feedback will be destructive instead if constructive? Whatever it is, I truly believe that as a profession we need to get past this thinking and truly embrace feedback from our colleagues. See it as feedback not as criticism. Trust that they are looking out for us, and will only try to help us become better. So if that means we sometimes need to be vocal with our colleagues so be it. We just need to remember it’s not always what we say but how we say it. As the old hymn says ‘fight the good fight with all your might.’
Jo-Ann, I love your comment, and I completely agree with you too! Hearing feedback is a good thing, and it helps us become better at what we do. And our conversations don’t have to be about a right versus wrong approach, but instead, a good dialogue about various viewpoints and where to go next. I so appreciate the fact that you’re always so open to feedback and so willing to give it as well! I’m lucky to get to learn with/from you!
I agree! I’m not a fan of the mad minute. What about suggesting getting together as a division to share math games that reinforce math facts? I did this recently with teachers and it worked out really well! Email if you want some!
Thanks for the idea, Jen! I really like that one. Yes, students need to learn their basic facts, but I think that the game option would be much more engaging than the worksheet option. Even if these games are just played one period a week, we can then spend the majority of our time working through real world math problems: providing the thinking opportunity that I think students really need!