Monday, October 19, 2015

Looking for Solutions

I teach math, for years I have taught math.  This year, I also teach Spanish.  I absolutely LOVE teaching my Spanish class.  Why?  My Spanish students believe they CAN LEARN Spanish!  What about my math students?  They are convinced that MATH IS TOO HARD!  Wow, what a difference.  It is really hard to change that conviction.

So, I am looking for solutions.  I know they have this great need to be social, to talk, to work together.  I know that they can learn.  I know I must make it somehow more relevant and fun.

Strange, for me, learning was the fun.  Knowing something today that I did not know yesterday just seemed the right thing to do.  I struggle with the apparent apathy of my students.

So, I search for solutions.  I love the idea of "gamifying", but I cannot seem to find the time.  I have my own daughter, my own life as well.

Little things work for a while:   group worksheets that are easier to do with a "trick", poster sized worksheets, movement.  But I believe that the problem is intrinsic ... many of our lost students have lost the desire to learn.

That is my dilemma, and my challenge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Frustrations and a lie

So, I teach in an alternative discipline school, and my students do not attend on a regular basis.  My frustration for years has been in Algebra 1.  Many of my students are there for the second or third time, and they still do not understand.  We rush through curriculum for the state so students are ready to test, and many are.  But there is that handful that is just not ready, and we move along, just as maybe they might be getting a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Lately, my biggest problem is talking.  I teach, I breathe, they talk, because, well, I was breathing, not teaching!  I give them time to talk to each other about what we are doing, and they do not, they are silent.  I fill the silence with music, they are silent.  I try to teach in the silence, and they talk, and not about the math.  If I give work they can work on together, they visit, but no work is done, because no one knows how to do it, and as I try to explain/reteach, they talk.

I decided to experiment.  I am given presentations to go with note taking handouts.  I began to fill out everything, and told my class they were to copy, no talking.  They copy, they complain, they look engaged.  Are they thinking?  No.  Are they learning?  No.  One student said, "Miss, I don't learn by taking notes."  I asked what he had learned from participating in class while I was teaching, and his reply, "Nothing."    Then he said, "But you don't teach me!"  What he meant is, I do not stand in front of him, teaching only him, doing work for him, ... well, you get the picture.

I was sad.  They look engaged.  Anyone walking in would think what well-behaved, engaged students I have, and it would be a lie.