Mission 1: Try and Push

Sam Shah‘s prompt from Exploring the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere:

“What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!”

My gut reaction to this prompt is to do what my students do: worm my way around the question without actually answering it. I’m a new teacher and this question is tricky for me (especially since many students still think last year’s teacher is in my room).

To stall for time, I should add that I teach Integrated Algebra/Geometry to 9th and 10th graders in a small high school full of (amazing) English Language Learners. There’s a strong culture of groupwork and lots of good structures in place to support students from many different backgrounds, languages and countries. So I borrow a lot of structures from my awesome colleagues.

There are lots of things I do in my classroom that make it distinctly mine (some good, some not-so-good, most in the middle). I try and push kids like Rosa* and Lupe* who came into my classroom as very quiet and mostly-Spanish speaking, but now point out things to their group and explain their ideas to the class (with help) in English. I try and push kids like Michelle and Samiha who generally get the right answers quickly and need more of a challenge (all while supporting their classmates), especially if we’re thinking about post-secondary education (which I am and I hope they are). I occasionally get overzealous about rules and fight with kids about cell phones and gum, mostly when I should and sometimes when I shouldn’t. I feel like the fact that I do these things does not make my classroom distinctly mine, but the way I do it makes my classroom distinctly mine.

So here’s what I’m most focused on for this year: creating a classroom that builds on my students and their personalities and quirks (and how that works with my personalities and quirks) (all while honoring and recognizing the successes they’ve had with math) (and shows that even mistakes are a step forward).

If I can do the 1st part, maybe I’ll attempt the 2nd part. If I can do the 2nd part, maybe I’ll attempt the 3rd part. If I can do the 3rd part, maybe I’ll attempt the 4th part.

Easy, right?

Boards and Tables and Wall Decorations

Panorama of My Classroom

*not their real names.

Also, problems I enjoy and would love to use at some point:

5 thoughts on “Mission 1: Try and Push

  1. Your classroom looks great and you took a nice picture. I wish you all the best with your first year, it sounds like it will be a great experience for you! I also try to honor all of the things the students give me and use it to create a unique atmosphere, my classes usually come together nicely using this technique.

  2. Whenever people complain that teachers these days don’t do their jobs, and that they need to work harder and that (insert complaint), I’ll give them your blog address and show them that you are doing MUCH more than your “job.” (If they only knew the challenges teachers face…) Keep it up! I wish you were my teacher 🙂

  3. I really enjoy and respect the tone of your classroom worldview: the way you try to both push and honor your students, the importance you place on kind, personal relationships while still communicating strict expectations of responsible behavior, and the frequently messy results of trying to find the right balance between those two ideas. I have also played with the Painted Cube task, though only theoretically in my student work. Thanks for reminding me of good resources that I forgot I had! Also: very cool photo of a very sweet room. It seems a nice place for math flowers to bloom.

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