Laying the Foundation for 2013-2014

MSSundayFundayThe first day of school. In less than ten days! Yikes. Clearly there is no time like the present to set goals and lay the foundation for 2013-2014.

Building Block #1: Rapport

The tables were turned in June, as my students completed a Teacher Report Card, evaluating their experiences in my classroom and my performance as their teacher (thanks to @MrVaudrey and his blog post). The results were simultaneously reassuring and humbling. While proud of high marks for “seems to enjoy teaching”, “encourages me to be responsible” and “gives tests that reflect the material in the unit”, it was the mediocre marks for ” shows interest in students’ lives”, “makes me feel important” and “tries to see the student’s point of view”  that left me deflated. Quite honestly, it was a hard pill to swallow. My perception of connecting with my students was just that. And that had to change!

Deciding that connecting to my students must be a top priority was easy. But the devil’s in the details, and right now the details are still a bit fuzzy. For starters, I’m thinking about an interest inventory or survey to kick off the year. Though for it to be meaningful, I still need to figure out how to integrate the survey into the daily life and routine of my classes. Another thought is to delay focusing on the syllabus and procedures for a few days (thanks to the suggestions of my colleagues in the MTBoS). Perhaps I will begin with some pattern problem solving or this lesson. An activity would certainly leave a better first impression than a lecture!

Building Block #2: Patience

Forty minutes. Only 40 minutes to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts. Only 40 minutes to warm-up, review homework, engage in discovery and assess. Only 40 minutes to nurture a relationship with my students and cultivate a community of learners.  By the way, did I mention that on Fridays I only have 30 minutes to do all that? The pressure of time is fierce and it often tries my patience. It’s an impediment to connecting with my students, because connecting requires both time and patience.  When the pressure is on, admittedly my tone becomes sarcastic and my responses short. Neither are desirable traits in an educator.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Be in the moment. Be patient. Those are true words of wisdom and sound advice. Advice that needs to be heeded, though it will be a grand challenge for this working mom and wife with 4 young children. But I know that conquering this mountain will make me a better wife, mom and educator.

Building Block #3: Confidence

Reflecting back on the journey, it is incredible to witness my growth these past 14 years. My personal and professional experiences have validated my beliefs and practices, as well as expanded my teaching repertoire. I am fortunate to have an amazing professional network that encourages me and supports me. I am also fortunate to have an administration that believes in me and my pedagogy.

So, why confidence?

In the coming school year, my role will expand to math coach in some of the lower grades, as the paradigm continues to shift away from more traditional models of math education. Often change fosters nervousness, anxiety and misgivings. There is a fear of the unknown. Through modeling, resources and advice, it will be my responsibility to dispel any fears and eliminate any reservations. Ultimately, success will hinge on my confidence – confidence in my knowledge, confidence in my skills, and confidence in my teaching. Without it, no one will see the value in transitioning and the entire process will hit a brick wall. I am counting on my passion and enthusiasm to bolster my own confidence, hopefully inspiring others’ growth and change.

What are your goals for 2013-2014? What would you like to do better? Recommendations and advice would be greatly appreciated!

About shlager

I'm a teacher and rookie math coach who loves designing tasks to motivate, engage, and challenge, a mom to 4 yummy kids, and wife to a hockey lover. Happiness is getting everything organized!
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7 Responses to Laying the Foundation for 2013-2014

  1. Matt Vaudrey says:

    Thanks for the link. What do you think about providing HW answers when you assign the problems? I’m trying that this year to show students that the procedure is more important than the answer, and I foresee it cutting down on the time spent at the beginning of class to review HW.

    • shlager says:

      Procedure is the most important thing for me, as well! Though checking at home is a time-saver, I’m concerned that students will only look at the bottom line and not take the time to figure out what may have gone wrong. Thoughts?

      • Matt Vaudrey says:

        Our school is piloting a team-heavy curriculum this year, and I’m rolling a “check with your partner” portion into the start-of-class routine. Haven’t even started yet; it may completely bomb. I’m keep you posted.

  2. Pingback: Goals for 2013-2014 | I Speak Math

  3. Mary Dooms says:

    Best of luck with your goals! You’re not given a lot of time; just do the best with the time you’re allotted. I like Matt’s check with your partner idea. I’ve done it on occasion, but not often enough to have established classroom norms.

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