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Building a Bridge

I am tired of teachers playing the blame game.  I admit that I have done this in the past.  I am ashamed that I did and I am trying to reform.  If you teach math, you are familiar with the blame game.  For example, I teach Algebra II and some of my students can not solve a two step equation if their life depended on it.  I’m sure the Algebra I teacher is to blame.  If the student would have had me for Algebra I they would be master equation solvers.  NOT TRUE!

I know the Algebra I teachers personally and I know that they cover their standards in a relevant and rigorous manner.  So what’s the problem.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you after having my own child, I think I might be the problem (as a parent).  My son enters the 4th grade in three weeks and he does not know his multiplication facts.  I know his 3rd grade teacher taught them and I know he took timed tests but asking him 4 x 8 yields the same response as “What is the air speed of an African Swallow?”  I even did flash cards during the school year!  The solution is for me as a mom to sit down with him this summer and reteach him the math facts.  We will play multiplication games and every car trip will involve multiplication drill.  We have a daily math fact taped on his wall.  Most students don’t have the curse benefit of having a math teacher for a mom.

I met with the math department chair for our feeder middle school and it was amazing.  Guess what, they are teaching the standards.  They are covering the material in a relevant and rigorous manner.  So what’s the problem?  The elementary school teachers?  I think not.  We need to stop playing the blame game and start with the students at the level they arrive to us.  I can’t solve the student readiness problem, but I can build a bridge.  I felt that my meeting today did that.  A bridge has been built between our high school math department and the middle school.  The 9th grade teacher who has a 25% failure rate can no longer blame the middle school teachers just as the 6th grade teacher can’t blame the elementary teachers. 

I do have one suggestion for solving this problem:  SBG.  It changed my classroom.  I went from a 25% failure rate to 4%.

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  1. July 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I’m with you, you can’t blame previous teachers for a student’s lack of skill or knowledge. Nor can you blame the student, or the teacher. At least, you can’t blame any one person (or group) solely. I think the blame lies a little bit in each one. And, perhaps, the blame lies in each student’s natural tendencies.

    I’ve got a whole essay of thought on this matter, and I also agree that SBG looks like a bit chunk of the solution. (My nerdy muscles being flexed here). I’m wondering “why”, why does SBG make such a big difference? Is it the perspective SBG gives to the teachers? to the students? Is it the basic assumptions SBG makes?

    Good thoughts, good questions. Thanks!

  2. July 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for this post. I wouldn’t really blame you though either. I’d primarily say it’s a systems problem both in how math classes are sequenced/segregated and how schools are setup to move kids based on time vs. learning. There are some interesting attempts to fix this, like in Chugach or Adams50 but I can’t pretend to have a good answer for that.

    BTW, us middle school teachers appreciate not being blamed by a high school teacher. And yes, we’re also guilty of blaming the elems too.

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