Growing Pains

There’s gonna be a lot here, because I haven’t blogged this year, and for that I apologize. Gonna try to do once a week from here on out, because there are so many things I need to get out of my brain that I can’t when I don’t blog.

The beginning of this year had been crazy for me.  I now have a homeroom, which I didn’t last year, which is no small task at our middle school.  I also no longer have a mentor teacher with 30+ years of experience to help me out. In fact, I am helping out another teacher who hasn’t taught math before, I have been working with our curriculum all summer, and I am now on our tech team and heading up a couple of groups/committees.  So, plenty more on my plate, and I am still trying to navigate my way through my second year of teaching.

Some Good

I have had a better start to the year in some respects.  My bellwork structure (shoutout to @iisanumber, for a great structure in her math maintenance!) has been much better and is giving me the opportunity to open my students’ minds to ideas outside of using standard algorithms.  This has also helped with classroom management, so they know whta they should be doing when they come in.  I also use random seating in pairs every day, which was confusing to them at first, but now they seem to enjoy not having the same seats, and getting to work with many different students.  I still feel that I am at my best when we are playing games or working on activities where the students are up and moving around.  We have played a rational number addition and subtraction war game (although my fractions on that were a little too hard), a yahtzee-like game for addition and subtraction of integers, and I have had both 7th and 8th graders using desmos for graphing lines and doing transformations.

Some not so good

I still lecture too much.  I know it’s not true, but I always feel like I just have to explain something in one more different way and it will finally click for all students, even though I know deep down that isn’t true.  I need students doing more of the math and thinking in my classroom.  In the words of Dan Meyer (at least that’s where I heard it first) I need to be less helpful.  It is hard and uncomfortable, not just for me, but for the students.  They seem used to “Here is how to do this type of problem, now do 25 for homework,” and for some reason, they only want to learn that way.  I have to put my foot down and demand more thinking from them.  They need to see that trying something is so powerful, but they are all obsessed with finding the absolute right answer the first time they try anything.  I think this type of learning leads to my other issue I have seen with segmentation.  Students can’t seem to generalize ideas at all.  I know I am working with middle school students, so age may be somewhat of an issue, but it seems like they can learn to apply for a specific type of question, but cannot take previously learned ideas and try to apply them to a new situation.  I am shocked by the number of them who believe the only way to be taught something is to have me tell it to them, explain steps, and then have them repeat the said steps.  I think these are inter-related, and I need to make a more concerted effort to get my students to do more actual math and thinking for themselves in my classroom, and I need to do significantly less “modeling” and “telling.”


In light of this, and several poor quizzes last week, I am going to try out some centers for some different concepts this week.  I haven’t used centers before, although I’m not sure why, because they seem to be a hit with everyone I talk to, but I think this will get me more of a chance to get students to do their own math a thinking every day, and I will get more time to work with them on an individual basis.  Any tips and tricks for this would be much appreciated.

I thank anyone who stops by and reads.  Any ideas about how to help make sure my students are doing more of the thinking are more than welcome.