Happy November! As I approach the midway point of the second nine weeks in Leland, I am reflecting on how I can develop myself to be the best teacher possible for my kids. Personally, I want to build my students’ ability to take risks and feel confident questioning others and solving problems for themselves instead of looking at a higher authority figure (the teacher) for approval or guidance. Engaging in discussions with other high achieving, curious, and risk-taking teachers is one of the strongest forms of teacher development I have experienced throughout my past three years teaching. These discussions allow me to reflect on my pedagogy and give me plenty of ideas for areas of growth in my classroom.
A highlight of my first nine weeks was participating in the “Teaching Math for Social Justice” book club with four math teachers from the Cleveland and Greenville area. Discussions about what kind of material we provided our students, how our students engaged with mathematics, and the culture our students had in our classrooms allowed us to reflect and provide each other ideas for how we could create a classroom centered around social justice for our students. Here is a reflection from Arnisha White:
“Teaching students is fun, but having them build on what they already know and apply it to an activity, that’s where the real learning begins. The students were guided to coming up with a sort of word bank that associated with the relationship of positive and negative numbers. We created a table and begin to brainstorm what kind of words would we use if we’re talking about money with negative and positive numbers, temperatures, sports, etc. Then, they were instructed to team up or individually draw a number line, plotting 10 points of their choice, and then come up with a phrase or complete sentence that is associated with those numbers. Below, is the work of only a couple of my students who showed an excellent understanding of the activity, along with the growth of vocabulary, and sparks of creativity to earn themselves a 100%.”
Arnisha along with the other participants brought so much insight into how teachers can create classrooms that foster student strength, communication, critical thinking skills, and advocacy.
You can sign up for PLCs that will explore math in the context of social justice. There will be offerings in Marshall County and Greenwood soon.
A strong content knowledge and vision for where math students must go is a prerequisite for building math classrooms that develop critical thinking and cultural consciousness among our students. Math is a beautiful subject that should make sense for everyone, teachers included. As a first year teacher, I struggled to build lessons that developed conceptual understanding because I did not have the clearest understanding of the content. Consequently, I was teaching lessons that only developed mathematical skills instead of lessons that developed true mathematical knowledge. Below, is a lesson from my first year; in the lesson I told students what to do. The second document is a lesson from last year, and this lesson allows for more student exploration and creativity to guide students to the same objective, but in a more meaningful way.
The emerging PLCs are a great way to discuss mathematical content and to inform yourself on the specific content you teach. Participation in these groups will make unit planning, assessment building, and lesson planning easier and more productive because you will know where the math road leads, and how to get your students there. I highly recommend that you check out this blog post for more details about PLC options that currently exist, and register to join or make additional suggestions.