Where I am in learning about teaching math

Posting a reflection I wrote earlier this summer, just after I started my teacher education program.  For confidentiality reasons, I replaced specific names for current places, people, etc with brackets containing generic names such as [our teaching program’s].  What I wrote here still rings true for me today.

Reflection about where I am in learning about teaching math

My experiences from [our teaching program’s] orientation, as well as my first four days at my summer school placement, and my first four mathematics C&I classes confirms my belief that teaching math to high school students is the right second career for me. Notwithstanding this reaffirmation, I also recognize that I have much to learn, improve upon, reflect on and investigate, continuously throughout my new career.

Being surrounded by nearly 100 youthful teacher candidates, passionate about their desire to teach, energized me the first week in [our teaching program]. Our diversity, academic, geographic, cultural, ethnic, gender, motivational, and age, to name a few, enriches each, and all, of our experiences.  [Our teaching program] provides a common framework and language for our diversity to survive and thrive inspiring all of us to maintain an embracing and inclusive outlook and set of behaviors not only within [our teaching program] but afterwards as we embark on our individual teaching journeys. This allows us to succeed as students of teaching and to remain fervent for our causes as time goes by and when the fires within start to lessen.

The opportunity to observe classes and compare theory to practice, almost immediately at our summer placement, enables us to consider how students, master teachers, pedagogy, curricula, content, environment and many other factors impact the educational process within a school; specifically, studentsʼ ability to learn and our ability to succeed as teachers. The sheer number, frequency and complexity of our teaching teamʼs engagements at our placement, as well as my own individual learning moments, far exceeds my wildest expectations. I am also thankful that I have prior classroom observations with which to contrast and compare at my placement, as well as afterwards during deeper moments of reflection providing me an even richer set of personal distillations, or take aways, as well as questions that need further investigation and discussion.

One specific example at my placement occurred during my second day. It is emblematic of what I believe is my greatest challenge as a teacher: how best to ensure students attain their maximum learning potential while not discouraging them along the way. Specifically, when they need to be redirected from inappropriate behavior and they are resistant, how can I best maintain the momentum of the group, or class, while discouraging, in a respectful manner, unacceptable actions.

I firmly believe that in order to achieve maximal learning, students must pay attention, be respectful, stay on task, cooperate with the teacher and their peers, and stretch their thinking to the greatest extent possible. Disruptive behavior distracts not only the student exhibiting that behavior, but often times the teacher, and class as a whole. It is unfair to all for the unproductive behavior to continue, yet addressing it, in itself, has the potential to be more disruptive turning the situation into a lose-lose-lose one where no one benefits.

Teaching is a delicate balancing act where purposeful compassion triumphs over chaos for the betterment of society; otherwise, we recede towards more primitive times losing the ground for which our forebears worked so hard.

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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