Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 22 2010

What can you teach a teacher?

I believe that you can’t tell students how to do math. They will try to memorize instead of understand and will forget it later when faced with a new situation. And if they don’t understand almost everything will seem like a new situation. You must give them a well-engineered learning environment, push them just enough, give them examples and problems that address their misconceptions and make sure they understand the basics well.

What of this applies to teacher education? Can we give a new CM a final exam, a long term plan, a tracking template and lesson plans or must they create them as part of the process of learning to be a teacher? What should we tell them and give them and what must they learn on their own?

I believe that CM’s should be given assessment questions and worksheets that they can edit. Writing good assessment questions is incredibly difficult and I never would have had time my first year to edit and craft assessments that will allow me to really understand student thinking. I didn’t think to add 1 + -1 to a 9th grade algebra assessment until the middle of the year. No wonder they couldn’t deal with negative and positives! I just didn’t know where to start or what to ask. I think that giving CM’s tools like assessments can go a long ways in helping them attend to student thinking and planning more quickly. I still honestly feel like I need help writing assessments. It’s as if I’m far enough along in teaching to know all that I don’t know and how hard it all is. I feel a little silly even thinking about what I could teach a new teacher but I got a few comments from new CM’s and started thinking about it.

Besides resources I wonder what kind of advice that might help new CM’s teach mathematics. I know I spent most of my first year thinking about classroom management, paperwork and creation of plans for each day. One CM was curious about an article I’d read about how students think about rates of change and I was hesitant to even suggest it to a new teacher. I know I’m projecting myself onto this person but how could I have possibly thought of such things my first year. I wonder how it did take me so long to start really wondering about student thinking and if with the proper assessments and tools I could have done a better job earlier. Would increased student understanding have led to a more positive experience all around? Could anyone have told me anything that might have helped my first year disaster go a little bit better. (I feel weird about calling it a disaster when I know that I did help a lot of students but that’s how I felt at the time.)

What types of articles do teachers learn the most from? And I’m wondering what they are learning from these stories. Stories can be powerful and I’m convinced that something is coming out of this blogging community. People aren’t alone. They can let their thoughts out into the world in a safe and confidential way. We have random cheerleaders around the country who care about us and our kids. And little bits of teaching are in here. The progress is in here. The challenges and successes. How do we distill this down into something that will make a difference to all the new CM’s reading it?

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    Learning more about life than math…

    Las Vegas Valley
    High School

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