Michael Rubin – Some wins and Progress Update
Hey make math moments community! Mike Rubin here (after a looooong time away) and wanted to share some wins. But first, some context:
Being out of the classroom due to health issues for three years gave me much needed time for growth and reflection regarding my teaching practice. Maybe a bit too much time! I saturated myself with knowledge, a large part of it which came from Jon and Kyle and this community. Some big strategies/ideas I came away with were curiosity, teaching through task, and spiralling.
I returned to the classroom in August, with wipebooks set up and ready to go, prepared with a fairly detailed spiralling plan, templates galore, and eagerness in spades!
Then school started…and it was chaos. 3 of my five classes are designated for English Learners, about 20 percent of which speak no english, and the rest have limited to basic conversational english. About 50 percent had less than a 5th grade education from their countries of origin. About 90 percent of them have experienced or are experiencing traumatic events. I’ve been tasked with teachign them freshman level course 1 (algebra and geometry).
My well laid-out plans, my expectations of who my students would be and what they were to accomplish, and my faith in task-based learning, spiraling, curiosity, and the idea that all students can achieve to high levels all came into question. My faith in myself as an educator came into question.
Part of why I haven’t been as involved in this community was because I’ve been so busy troubleshooting work. The rest is that I’ve felt like a huge fraud.
But I knew things would get better. They had to. And they have in the last several months, so I feel ready to share some big wins! In no particular order (except the first).
1) My most difficult class has become my best. I dreaded 5th period for the first several months, and now I can’t wait to see them every day.
2) I’ve been able to make a habit, when class goes terribly or students behave awefully, of not blaming students. I ask myself now, “what are potential causes? what could I do better?” That reflection pays off tremendously.
3) I’ve learned to make more time for myself and my family. It’s hard, but necessary. I’m happier as a person and I’m way more positive with my students. Teaching is one of the most important parts of my life, but it isn’t my entire life.
4) I’ve learned hard truths the hard way, but instead of resigning myself to them, I’ve never stopped trying. For example, 3-act tasks were a disaster. The language barrier has made them nearly impossible. But the components of a 3-act task are still brilliant and I can use them independent (I’ll continue as wins below!)
5) notice/wonder increases engagement a TON. Students have learned that they can all participate, even if writing in their home language.
6) Estimation really does work. Give students something to estimate and the entire class will erupt in cheers and shouts when finding the answer…even if the problem is quite mundane.
7) Students, when given new problems they can access, do learn the most when they do the work.
8) My spiralling process was terrible, but after multiple revisions it’s working so much better.
- I spiral by days now. One day one topic, next day another topic, third day, the last topic. Thursday is relatively amazing as students work together to complete problems from each day in review for the Mastery Day.
- I have had to spiral in bite-size pieces. And I’ve learned with English Learners formatting is important. Anything new is overwhelming.
- I introduce contexts with curiosity, then WEAR the contexts out. I am routinely amazed how students with almost no math background complete tasks.
10) While I haven’t been able to figure out how to consolidate with the class (again a language issue), I’ve had tremendous success in having students work with each other to explain concepts. And I’ve had success having students lead the class.
11) Speaking of students leading the class, I had a win yesterday while the student kept asking for answers. And every time a classmate gave the answer he would respond with “how do you know?” or “can you please explain why.” They all laughed at first, but then gave answers.
12) I’ve learned again and again that the less I speak the more students learn.
13) I’ve learned (again and again) that procedural math makes much more sense when learned in context.
14) I’ve learned it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay as long as I keep trying to get better.
15) I’ve learned to be okay with doing the best I can do. Even when it’s heartbreaking when I can’t do more.
16) I’ve learned to rely on other teachers and support staff (wellness counselors, adminstrators, nurses)
17) I’ve learned that there are no absolutes in teaching—that the number of variables on any given day can change classroom dynamics for great or terrible results. From that I’ve learned to be flexible.
18) I’ve learned to be more compassionate—to realize that when a student is acting out, they truly are seeking help.
19) I’ve learned (am learning) to let go of lingering self-importance and elitism about math education.
20) I’ve made progress in letting my ego go. I’ve been cussed out, yelled at, walked out on, had doors slammed on me—usually for asking a student to return to their seat or to take their headphones out. At first I chose to let it go, and now it happens more naturally. At first I pasted the smile on my face when the student returned to class the next day. Now I genuinely smile at them—knowing that my unconditional care does mean something to them.
21) I’ve learned that community isn’t built in a day. I’ve learned that showing students you care is more effective than telling them. I’ve learned to honor their relationships with each other, even if they don’t conform to my norms. I’ve learned to redirect students instead of punishing them or telling them they are doing the wrong things.
22) I’ve learned everyone is unique and different. And that there is no one strategy or approach that will work 100 percent of the time with everyone.
…Really I could keep going. But I signed up for a webinar with Jon and Kyle and must go. If you’ve read this, thank you for taking the time =)
I am excited to see what this year has to offer and am already making plans for next school year where I can take what I’ve learned my first year back and push myself forward.
Sorry, there were no replies found.