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Back in the Classroom

The teachers in our district have embraced the Integrated Mathematics, but we still have a lot of questions about the task based learning approach of Mathematics Vision Project.  I love the curriculum, but we are changing drastically how we teach students and that takes time.  I volunteered to return to the classroom to teach a few lessons so I could experience the new curriculum.  It is one thing to sit in my office and imagine how great it is and another to stand in front of a group of 16 year old students asking them to create and use mathematics.  Here are a few things I learned from my day back in the classroom:

1.  Teaching is exhausting.  My voice was gone by the end of the day and my feet were tired.   I was both physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.  I forgot this part of teaching.

2.  I love students.  Kids are fun and will say and do the most outrageous things.  I work mostly with adults in my job, so I forget how  refreshing and innocent 9th grade students can be.  (And maybe not so innocent.)

3.  Task based learning requires a different method of planning.  I used to rely on my math skills to make it through a lesson.  I could create a problem off the top of my head and demonstrate it for a group of students.  When we are working a task and a student tries a different approach, I need to know if that pathway is valid and where it will lead.  There is no glossing over a task.  I need to know that task and be prepared for anything.  In other words, I need to work the task myself.  I can honestly say I did not work all the demonstration problems myself when I used to teach.

4.  I need community.  I used to teach with my door shut and in isolation.  I planned my lessons by myself.  I was happy to share what I created online or with a teacher down the hall.  I was also more than happy to steal from other teachers, but I never had conversations with others about what actually happened in my classroom.  This week when I taught Math 1 and Math 2, I invited a group of educators to sit in the back of the room.  It was great to talk with them afterwards to receive feedback.  If we want to improve as educators, we must be open to letting others observe and provide feedback.

5.  I work with some great teachers!  It was nice to see the routines other teachers established in their classrooms and to reap the benefits of teaching a class where the students knew the expectations.  It was so nice to hear the teachers excited about the new curriculum.  One teacher told me that his students, who typically struggled with math, were understanding deep concepts and were able to teach others after the task based approach.  Our teachers have experienced so much change in the last few years and I admire their ability to adapt.

My new plan for my job is to make sure that I step back into the classroom on a regular basis.  I don’t want to forget the joys and challenges that a classroom teacher faces.  I don’t want to create or implement theory that doesn’t translate to practice.  Plus, I really love working with kids.

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