Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Fear of Math

After teaching English Language Arts (ELA) exclusively for the past five years, this past academic school year required me to becoming a Generalist again. This change in position required me to teach Math. My initial reaction to this news was one of horror. I will admit I was absolutely terrified.

Why? Like many Americans, I have not had a good experience with Math. I learned the rules and procedures needed to get by and pass my math classes. I remember sitting in one of my Math classes in fifth grade and the tears were dripping on my worksheet paper. I was so frustrated but I didn't know how to ask for help from the teacher. I wasn't able to articulate what exactly I needed help with. So I just sat there and struggled. When it was time to correct our papers, my paper was filled with red checks. I had gotten all of them wrong. Despite these experiences with Math, I somehow managed to get through high school and college.

It wasn't until teaching Second and Third grade Math that some of the concepts clicked in my head. For example, multiplication is repeated addition! Don't laugh! I know I should have known that concept but I didn't. Why? I learned multiplication in third grade by memorizing the multiplication tables from 0-12. When I taught my third grade students multiplication and division concepts, we explored arrays, skip counting, and using the number line. MY light bulb went off in my head. I thought to myself "Why didn't this type of learning occur when I was in school?" It would have saved me a lot of tears and frustration during my elementary, middle, and high school years.

When I became an ELA specialist, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were not implemented yet and teachers in my state were using state created standards. Coupled with my fear of math and learning the Math CCSS, I was not confident in my math teaching abilities in this academic year. I followed the state Math curriculum program, Stepping Stones, but I will admit I initially struggled to make sense of the new curriculum and to adjust to the state standards. I taught my students the required math grade level standards throughout the year. I adjusted my teaching pace according to their learning. However, I knew I needed to make a change and it needed to happen quickly.

In response to this call for action within myself, I composed a Math Summer Reading List. This reading list is composed of two math books that I hope will help me bring Math to life to my third grade students this upcoming year. Now I know that there may be a whole lot of Math books out there to read, but I am going to start with these two as I need to focus on other educational areas this summer (ex. planning out my curriculum for the year, getting ready for opening of the new school year, reacquaint myself with the Stepping Stones Math curriculum, and planning the integration of ELA with Science and/or Social Studies) and don't have a lot of time to read Math books exclusively.

Here are the titles to my Math Reading List.

Out of these two titles, I am especially eager to read Number Talks. My Math Curriculum Coach recommended this book to me. I hope it can bring me closer to becoming a highly effective teacher. I have many English Language Learners at my elementary school (at least 50%) and many come from low-income families. Being able to verbally articulate Math concepts will help their progress and I am excited to read this book.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Preparing for the Next School Year

You might think I am crazy but the wheels are turning in my head to start planning for the next school year. At this time, May 23, 2015, Saturday, school has not even concluded for this school year. It is the Memorial Day weekend and we have one and a half weeks of school left. I still need to clean my classroom and complete the end of the school year tasks required by my school.

However, here I am sitting in front of my computer writing this blog and mentally planning out the curriculum overview for the next academic school year.  I canʻt help it. I find myself reflecting on how I taught this year and the student outcomes as a result of my teaching. I know I can do better and while I have this inspiration to make a change to my teaching practice I am going to take advantage of this motivation and run with it. I reflect on all of the professional development training that I took this year including my college courses. From Project GLAD to the Curriculum Evaluation course, my mind is spinning with new ideas that I want to implement in my classroom in this upcoming year.

I also think of the physical changes that I need to make in my room. From labels to furniture arrangement, I think about what I could do better in my classroom. It will be a busy summer for me as I will start the process of curriculum planning for the next year, arranging my classroom, and learning about new methods that will help my students learn. In between all of these activities, I will also take time to rejuvenate. But who am I kidding? My personality requires me to keep doing things ahead of time since I donʻt want to get slammed when the school year starts. With taking graduate courses and working full time during the school year, I need to make sure that I spend my time wisely and prepare ahead of time so I can help alleviate the stress that occurs during this time.

I will miss my third grade students but I know they need to move onto fourth grade. All of them have made improvements throughout the year. I hope I did my job in closing the achievement gap as they strive to meet the grade level standards. I made mistakes this school year and I have grown from these mistakes. Each year brings me to become a better teacher and a person.