I have been lax on checking the work that I've asked my Math 8 students to do, so I gave them a goal and a deadline today. Then, as they worked, I was able to circulate, helping students who needed it. I wasn't in a rush and was able to help them much more thoroughly than I have before.
For the majority of my students, interpretation and getting started are the major problems. The best way that I've found to help them, rather than giving the next step, is to ask guided questions.
What is happening in this problem? What's the story?
What are we being asked to find here?
What do we need to know in order to find that?
How do you know?
What does that answer mean in this problem?
I feel as though I made a good amount of progress with the students whom I was able to help. They showed greater confidence in their ability and were willing to take some risks with their answers.
The rest of the students (a minority in 1st period and a majority in 8th) were off task for the period. When I walked near them, they flipped pages in their books and suddenly put their heads down as though I wouldn't know that they had been goofing off.
I asked if they needed any help and asked what I could do for them.
"Nothing. We're good."
"Great! Show me what you're working on."
"Oh. ...We weren't working."
"I appreciate the honesty. How about you start? Let's take a look at number 1."
"Nah. We're good."
It's incredibly hard to justify spending precious class time trying to bring them around when I have a ton of other students who want my help as well as need it.
I have this discussion with myself frequently.
I don't have an answer and I don't know if I'm even closer to one than I used to be.
What I DO know, is that it tears me up inside to ride a kid to do work when another is begging me for help.
In #MSMathChat last night, I said that not every person likes every movie. We want our students to enjoy what we do and be engaged with it, but when they aren't, we try new tactics. If someone didn't like Frozen, maybe it was because they would rather watch a Shoot-Em-Up action film. If they didn't like Big Hero 6, maybe it's because they prefer romance. If they didn't like Birdman, maybe it's because they prefer not to see Michael Keaton in his underwear.
|You can't unsee this.|
But this analogy depends entirely on the students being interested in movies at all. Some prefer books, or walks in the woods, or staring at the stars, or drawing, or having coffee and conversation.
We need to recognize that school can not, and probably should not, be all things to all students. We have a role, but we seem to refuse to acknowledge what it is, almost as though doing so would automatically exclude some children. Instead, we expect our teachers to work miracles without a basic understand of the needs or desires of our students.
Should James Cameron be held accountable for the fact that I didn't care for Titanic?
Actors and directors are not expected to make EVERYONE love their movies. It would be nice, but they know their target audiences and they play to their strengths.
Teachers have a target audience of everyone. We do what we can do, but we need to be ok recognizing that can't be all things to all students.
I should teach a course to pre-service teachers.