If there has been anything I have learned or anything that has resonated with me this semester is to reflect on myself. I need to be the person who can learn from my mistakes and make myself a better teacher. Keep learning and keep moving forward.
I read “Young, Gifted, and Black” by Clause Steele, Asa Hillard, and Teresa Perry. They all had amazing ideas on closing the achievement gap for African Americans, but Asa Hillard’s section was my favorite, no disrespect to the others. I think I resonated with his ideas the most because he talked less on numbers or books, and more on people and success stories. Hillard talks about believing in students and focusing less on test scores and more on learning opportunities. I love his philosophy. I struggle with worry. I worry about being enough for my students; smart enough, funny enough, interesting enough, and so on and so forth. Hillard talks about recognizing the skill in your students. For me this means I also need to recognize the skill in myself. Hillard taught me that as long as I keep learning and growing, its okay to make mistakes, and its even more okay to believe in myself.
I’m not going to lie to you. Differentiated instruction scares the heck out of me. I mean honestly! We have to write lesson plans, but not just to teach our content, but also to teach life skills, and cross-content info, and we need to get them to pass the ACT and the SAT, and we have to worry about what going on in the student’s home lives, and how do we connect with them, and does our lesson have diversity, and does our lesson plan have multiple options in case a student is falling behind or a students needs extra enrichment, not to mention school stuff such as worrying about the bell schedule, or students being late, and students in on-campus-suspension., and etc., and etc. We have so many factors that play into how we plan out lesson, and that is just day one. But as any passionate teacher will say, we are doing for the kids. I bring all this up because I was reading Meier and stumbled across the phrase “intellectual toughness”. Meier was explaining how that even though these students are the least privileged, we have to have high expectations. I believe the most important thing we can do for our students is expect a lot of them, and make sure they know that we expect a lot of them. The power of belief is incredible. Imagine the amount of learning that will happen in a classroom if students believed they could do it. Believe in your students! Expect them to be amazing, because if you expect it and they believe it, the world might be surprised.
Okay, so a typical math tutoring/ helping a student situation for me goes something like this:
Me: (casually walking around classroom while students work on assignment, waiting for someone to raise their hand and ask for help.)
Student: (raises hand) Is this right?
Me: What do mean?
Student: Did I get the right answer?
Me: I don’t know, walk me through your steps……
So, yes, I have taken a multitude of mathemagical classes. Yes, if I looked at their problem for a couple of seconds I could probably figure out if it was correct or not. And Yes, it is always nice to know if you got a problem right, but as a teacher what answer do I give. I have spent a lot of time discussing and thinking about process versus product questions. When I am teaching or discussing a lesson, we are supposed to be asking questions that stimulate thinking, not just asking a student what they got on problem 73. Students need to learn to ask better questions as well. A teacher needs to encourage them to want to understand a concept not a formula for rightness. When discussing social justice, I believe the same ideals come into play. What I mean by this is that the students who are the most successful in mathematics, especially on tests designed to test their higher order thinking skills, are the ones who understand the concepts, and the whys and hows. Not the students who can only plug in a formula. So, in a classroom that has a teacher who promotes social justice, these students will learn about the whats, whys, and hows or social INjustice. This will help better prepare them for the real world/ work-place. A student who can learn about problems and problem-solving, is a student who can help make the word better.
Okay, so full disclosure, I am a white person. That being said, I know I have white privilege. Now, that being said, I also recognize the social injustices other races face in our society. Before, I think I had a “Not My Problem” attitude about racial divide. I thought, “Well, since I am not racist, then I am doing my part”. If I saw racial injustice, I sat by thinking, “it’s not my job to defend them or stick up for them. I am sorry that they face struggles, but there is nothing I can do to help.” I was very incorrect about this assumption. I had no idea how naïve and selfish this was until I hit college. I was more wrapped in the idea that I’m a good person so it’s fine. After a great discussion in class, a point was stuck in my head: A white person is more likely to listen to another white person about social injustices. Wow. What a whopper. I don’t know why this is. I couldn’t tell you the science behind why white people are incapable of listening better to other races. For the record, sorry about that. Now with all these thoughts stuck in my head, I recognize that all human beings are accountable. Well, at least I believe we should all be accountable to each other. Meaning when help our fellow man recognize when something is not right. Yes, learn from others mistakes, but also help them see that they are making a mistake and then you can grow together. As a high school teacher, on day I will have to opportunities for my diverse classrooms to discuss. I will have the opportunity for my students to dispel injustice. I can facilitate relationships built on respect as opposed to competition or hate or frustrations. The world is too small, and life is too short for people to face struggles based on race. There are worse/harder things we should be focusing on, but yet we are stuck in the past. It is time to move forward, and I am learning that I can and will make a better impact, especially in my future classroom.
According to my professors, the workplace is changing. Employers no longer need a zombie to push buttons on a machine or a mummy to mumble answers on a phone. They need innovators, problem solvers, and collaborators. The I see, I think, I feel strategy is a way to teach students to analyze their problems and look for solutions. In college we take course designed for us to understand an adolescents thoughts. We learn that ages 10-14 are a time where they can possibly become self-aware. This is a chance for them to think about others and decipher why they are having problems. This is a chance to help them develop that self-awareness. As a teacher, we are also teaching our student’s life skills. If my student’s can solve an issue in our classroom, then we are opening the door for them to be able to relate to others, have empathy/ sympathy, have respect for others time and efforts, and have a sense of teamwork. Yes, the individual needs to how to succeed, but in a work environment if one fails, the group can fail. When students become adults, when they become members of society, we want them to be able to face problems head on; in the real world, there will not be a teacher to facilitate. I see a lot of potential of this activity in a classroom; I think that students, especially high schoolers, should take advantage of this tool and look at their classmates as teammates, not rivals; and I feel that if people could learn to communicate better with people, the world could be a better place.
A SBL classroom is one that is a learning opportunity, not just a place student’s learn. A SBL classroom uses the diversity in the classroom as a tool; it uses the classroom and content knowledge as a stepping stone to teaching students to be better students. What I mean by that is not that the students will be better learners. I am saying that as a whole person, the students will have grown, whether it be academically, emotionally, or socially. For me, as a future High school teacher, I feel especially obligated to help my students become people who can enter the real world outside of school and be successful. A SBL classroom is not only designed to help students learn better, but to help students learn how to be better learners. A SBL classroom encourages students to evaluate their work and try again. A SBL classroom is designed so that teachers can help students be better rounded individuals and be better learners.