Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The One with the Goals

I've been labeled as a math teacher.  My students this year can't imagine me teaching any other subject.  My students before can't imagine me teaching math.  Yet I am labeled as a math teacher.

A math teacher in the middle of this great debate known as common core.

I'm sure you've seen the pictures floating around...the one of the first house built with common core math or the one of the tip left for a waiter using common core math.

But have you seen the pictures floating around showing the good part of common core?

Yeah me either.

I'm not trying to debate common core with you.  Like anything else it has its pros and it has its cons.  It's what today's teachers have been dealt.  We have to make the best of it while still focusing on what is most important.

Our students.

It has been said that we don't teach _____ (insert content area or grade level) but we teach children.  

I believe that to be true.

I'm a teacher.  Period.  I teach children.  Period.  There doesn't need to be any other labels there.  Sure the focus of my days is 5th and 6th grade math.

But that doesn't mean I don't have an influence outside of that.

Recently I realized that I have three goals as a "math" teacher.  Funny thing is none of them are exclusive to 5th and 6th grade math.

First and foremost I want my students and all children I come in contact with to feel loved and valued.  I want them to feel safe and important.  I want them to feel like I care about them as an individual.  If no one else in their lives smiles at them or makes them feel loved, I want to be the one to do that for them.  Each morning after we say the Pledge of Allegiance we have a moment of silence.  I take advantage of that moment of silence to pray for my students.  Yes, I said it.  I pray for my students on a daily basis.  Not aloud or with them though I would happily do that if they asked, its a silent prayer between God and me.  I pray my students would feel safe and that they would know that I love them.    Elementary students are still young enough that they sometimes tell their teacher they love them.  I never hesitate to say it back to those sweet kiddos.  They need to hear it.

I am still surprised at how many students in our school who are not in my class will say "Hello Mrs. Weaver" when they see me.  I'm new at my school and have only had the students who are in my class this year yet I'm often greeted by students I've never met.  I don't know their name or how they know mine.  Further proof that I'm a teacher - not a 5th and 6th grade math teacher.  My influence reaches beyond the four walls that make up my classroom.

I want to help my students gain confidence in their abilities.  Yes right now I want them to gain confidence in their math abilities, but that doesn't mean I don't encourage them in other areas of their lives.  They've learned that I may teach math but I am a lover of books.  I encourage them to read and to do their best in every class - not just mine.  I encourage them to give it their all when they are participating in a sporting event or an art contest.  I want them to believe in themselves.  

The best part of my year has easily been watching students gain confidence.  I've been able to watch students who only months ago claim to be bad at math grow in their confidence and are now volunteering to work problems at the board and help their classmates.  It makes me do a happy dance every time.

I began this post by mentioning common core.  My third goal is where that comes into play.  My third goal explains how I interpret common core.  You may disagree with me.  That's okay.  I'm not here to debate with you.  I'm only trying to share my heart and what I believe as a teacher.  To me common core math is simply what math should have been all along.  It's teaching students to be problem solvers.

I always made good grades in math, yet I've always been terrible at math.  I was simply a good student who could imitate what my teacher was doing.  I never understand the why.  I never had good number sense.  Those are things that I'm gaining as I find my way through 5th and 6th grade math.  Because of my childhood experiences I always said that if I ever had to teach math I wanted to be a different kind of math teacher.  I do not believe there is one way to get the right answer.  I am not a "it's my way or the highway" kind of math teacher.  If a student arrives at the correct answer and can explain their thinking to me, I'm happy.

For me that's common core.  Teaching students that it is okay to think about a problem differently.  There is more than one way to get to the right answer.  My third goal is to help my students learn to think for themselves.  I want to give them a backpack full of strategies that they can go to when presented with a problem.  I want to give them as many real world situations as possible.  I want to help them learn to vocalize their thinking and justify their reasoning to classmates.  I want to teach them to question others' thinking and realize when an answer is unreasonable.

This has been incredibly difficult for some of my students.  Some of them are imitators like I was.  They have had moments of frustration when I wouldn't tell them how to solve a problem.  I would have had those moments too as a student.  But some of those same students are some of my best problem solvers now.  

I've had students say to me on more than one occasion that I sound like their mother.  I consider that to be one of the highest compliments I can receive.  It is then that I know I'm reaching my goals to some degree.  

That has nothing to do with common core.  That is teaching children.  

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that I agree with you about how math should be teaching problem-solving. I was always really good at math until I started asking, "Why?" without ever getting a satisfying answer. My grade plummeted in 7th grade when I couldn't wrap my head around why a negative times a negative would give you a positive. And since I didn't understand it, I refused to do it... even though I knew the rule. Yes... I'm stubborn! :)