This year I have taken over a class after a month and a half of being taught by another teacher with a different mentality and different teaching style. It has been a tough three weeks for both the students and myself, but for the most part we are all getting used to each others tendencies. Included in the Growth Mindset approach to my teaching, I am trying to help my students (both that I teach and coach) about resiliency.
In the mixed level math class the students had a test from the last teacher that needed to be done when I walked in. I immediately worked on diffusing the anger and outbursts that the students had towards doing a test after not being properly prepared. We spent a few lessons ironing out any misconceptions, and my main goal was to instill confidence in their abilities. I knew that most of the students would be successful but needed to have the right mindset to do so.
As I anticipated, there were students who were not thrilled with the outcome of their test. I tried to talk to those students individually by letting them know that there is always a chance to improve and a chance to learn from our mistakes. From that day on, I saw a big change in some of the students and saw them fight through the troubles they had before. Just today I saw them face the challenges of the lesson with a positive attitude and with more courage to take risks.
I had a moment of learning resilience myself. I had a few bad lessons where students were not focused and they had a bit of attitude towards what we were doing in class. After having a bit of a hard time after school with what my next steps were I remembered what I told my students when they were struggling with things. I feel like it is something that new teachers often forget, to live by the words we teach our students. I know that after taking a step back and thinking about it, I was able to bounce back and realize that I need to show the same resiliency that my students showed.
This summer I had the unique task of teaching summer school but my class was a split class. I had a Grade 12 Advanced Functions group and a Grade 10 Academic group in a single room. At the start I was really nervous and feeling slightly overwhelmed at the task at hand. Worrying that the students would not be working if I wasn’t watching them all the time and trying to think about how I would give each group of students the time that they deserved were the initial thoughts I had.
The first day felt like a rollercoaster ride, simply because everything seemed to have just happened and I didn’t know how it had all worked out. That night I made sure that I went on to plan the day out better and to make sure I had structured my day to avoid that feeling again. Once the structure was set out by myself, the students felt more at ease and higher learning took place for most of the students. The next week and a half went much better although I know that if I am fortunate enough to do this again next year I will have a better idea of what to do.
Some of the big takeaways I found in this experience were:
- both sets of students developed their own routine in the classroom. Students knew when particular tasks were to be completed and they scheduled their time around it.
- students developed a level of respect for one another within the first day. When I was teaching one group the other would work quietly and not interrupt.
- Grade 12 students were given the opportunity to re-learn topics they may have not been as comfortable with (like factoring) without having to ask in front of their peers
- Grade 10 students could see the applications of the topics they were learning in the new context (I would also vocalize how the skills from Grade 10 were now considered to be skills they knew by Grade 12).
One of the big things I would like to do next time is try to create opportunities for the two groups to work together (have the grade 12′s teach the 10′s a skill, or even have the 10′s talk about what they are doing and work through problem solving). I was wondering if anyone out there has had this experience and has any ideas on how to make it less of two separate groups and more of one whole group.
Today I had the opportunity of supply teaching a history class that was completely self-directed. The students were creating blog posts on a particular topic in World History. The teacher left the link in the supply notes so that I could look at the posts if I was interested. I found that because the class was working hard I found myself captured by the posts and topics that the students wrote about. I even found myself reading these throughout the day because I was interested in the other posts that were available. Some of the students shared their view on the EU, Terrorism, Torture, and Global Warming, based on the research they have completed to show their new understanding. The class made me think about how much we have changed in terms of teaching and learning.
Teaching math I have found that I did not think of ways or redefining my class and then integrating technology into it. I have mainly used it for substitution and modification (through the use of new apps so students can continue to learn outside of the classroom). But from this class and the computer science class at my current school it has made me start to think about how to foster the power of blogging in my math class. I feel that this would be a fantastic way to have my students truly think about what they have been learning.
In my future classes I feel like I am going to use blogging or even forms more often so that we are using the power of technology to positively enhance student learning. I know that this year I have learned a lot about integrating technology and have tried to use it more often but I am still learning and growing like my students are when they learn something new.
One thing I never thought about in my own schooling and on my teaching placements was teaching students the value of perseverance. It is something I became more aware of when I worked at the college level as a teaching assistant and then again this semester when I started teaching the grade 12 college math course.
I think this post links well with my earlier post on growth mindset because I have been trying to implement the idea of “I can” in my students minds. Today was one of those days where I later realized that the teaching I did was more than just teaching math content. I felt like I was able to teach a bit of perseverance to my students today which positively affected those who put in the effort. I had a couple have those “ahh” moments that we hope to see a lot of our students have.
At the end of the class I made sure to let my students know that we did struggle at the start but when they kept pushing through we made it to solving the problem effectively. Before the start of class today I had a student come to get additional work because they were going home sick. This made me realize that I needed to congratulate my students on their efforts because they needed to know that I appreciated their hard work in a difficult task.
I feel like the two lessons yesterday and today gave them the confidence they required in a task that they usually had difficulty with. I have always strived to create a connection with my class so that they felt comfortable with taking chances, but I am still learning how to motivate them to consistently persevere in math.
In the past unit I taught on graphical models, the course focused on regression modelling using the TI-83 Graphing Calculators. Having used them myself during my high school education I was initially excited for the chance to use them in my own classroom. Unfortunately it was short lived when I went to the GAFE Summit and I decided to use the Chromebooks and the app Geogebra.
The first day I brought the Chromebooks into the classroom my students were slightly confused on how a math class could use the same technology they used in English and the Humanities. I introduced the program, created a help guide with Google Docs that they could access, and walked them through the new piece of technology (while assuring them that I was still a beginning user so we were learning together). After the class ended a lot of discussions arose about the unfamiliarity of the program and how some wanted to use the graphing calculators even though they did not fully enjoy those either.
After the third time we used the tech students who “mastered” the steps were able to help their classmates who did not fully understand how to produce the various regression models. To my delight students were more appreciative of the new tool they were provided and even found that their resilience was paying off. Great discussions in the class began about which model to use based on the situation and the R Squared value. I will admit I was delighted that this was working well and I began to share my new knowledge to my coworkers.
Students wrote their test and instead of the smiling faces or confident submissions I was expecting I found that students were confused and were very upset about their potential mark. I spoke to some students after the class to understand why they were not very happy with the way the assessment went and their responses initially shocked me. “We felt like we could produce the graphs and describe them, but we could not describe a graph that was provided for us”. I thought through the unit and looked at my plans only to realize that I focused a lot of the lesson on being able to use the tech and not as much time as needed on understanding the outcome.
As a first year teacher I realized that I fell into the bad trap of getting lost in the new tech and unfortunately created students who could follow steps instead of thinkers. One thing that I think will help me in my next attempt at using this is writing out a pros and cons list and a next steps list. I also started tracking what points students had difficulty with so I can prepare for these in future classes.
My question to those of you reading it is how do you prepare your students to be clearer thinkers rather than students who follow steps? (and this example above was a college level class that I am looking at helping develop deeper understanding)
Yesterday I attended Edcamp London and went into a session about growth mindset. Not knowing what this would entail, I was wondering if the topic was going to focus on the growth mindset of educators or students. When I went in I was hoping to get the perspective on how we as educators can help students in their mindset. I currently feel that my Grade 12 class would benefit from me educating them on persevering in their education as most are off to college in September. It was my goal to get a better idea of how I could educate my students to have a better mindset in their future education.
Great conversations started from Andrew Kwiecien, Ryan Chisholm, and Jeremie Roselle about the book on mindset from Carol Dweck. The book covers how we can use our growth mindset when we want. It looked at the mindset of professionals in education, corporate businesses, and parents and discussed how their own mindsets affect their life. It is a book I plan to read shortly because it sounds like it will be very effective for helping me inspire my students to take on the challenge of having a growth mindset.
In our conversations we talked about the stigmas and the preconceptions students have about their ability to succeed in a particular subject. For example, if a student has not been successful in math throughout elementary school, they will come into secondary school with the mindset “I’m not good at math, so I can’t do it”. I know that I have seen this in England where I taught and this was one of the challenges we regularly talked about but never thought of the solutions on how to overcome this. In our conversation we also looked at how students take the praise they have been given by parents and teachers and use it to create a “mask” that puts them into a comfort zone in the classroom. We also talked about how students use this mask to shy away from taking chances and asking questions to help their learning.
One of the solutions we started to develop in the session was the idea of modelling the growing mindset to our group of students. This directly linked to a new approach to problem solving I am currently taking. When we are solving a problem in class I talk about the thought process I am going through so that I model to my students how I want them to approach the problem. I also want the students to understand that even the teacher has to think about the problem before coming up with the solution, nothing “just happens” for us to answer a question.
The issue we foresaw with that is that these new “masks” may be created from this new praise, which would defeat the purpose we have for praise in the first place. Although from this point it seemed like a daunting task and one that was a catch-22, we as a group had an interesting thought. If all of us (or a vast majority of us) in a school came to the agreement to start working on this growth mindset, we may start seeing more success and “I can” attitude in our learners in subjects they didn’t feel they could do before. The question that sparks from this: How could we get more fixed mindset people in our schools to adopt to the growth mindset mentality?
We, as teachers, will face these challenges when it comes to having students think about their ability before they enter the class. It is our job to help students “break” the mask they have created and provide them with the opportunities and experiences to gain new comfort levels in situations they usually feel uncomfortable in. My question to you is: how do you work with students to change their mindset and make them feel confident in all areas of their education?