Trying new things can be hard.
Every winter our district has a full day of staff development. I’m still kind of a newbie teacher, so I usually leave these things feeling inspired and energized. And I know plenty of veteran teachers left feeling that way too. This staff development led me on a spiral of reading different articles and connecting with other teachers (honestly, it’s probably why I started this Slice of Life Challenge). These days also make me feel incredibly guilty about all the things I’m not providing for my students.
This training made me think A LOT about my math block. My math block includes about a 45 minute whole group lesson that follows the district curriculum with a 30 minute small group time earlier in the day. I realized that I had been viewing my whole group teaching as an introduction for when I could really teach the concept well during intervention. And I had been reading a lot about differentiation. And my kids took a unit math assessment and only about 12 out of 25 were proficient. And out of the ones who were proficient, probably about 5 of them would have scored as proficient even without me teaching anything. The writing was on the wall. I needed to change something.
Cue me working A LOT to try to differentiate my math block. This is actually something I’m nerdily passionate about. I like the creative part of teaching. I like the challenge part. I don’t so much like the “this is bombing and I ran out of time to teach any of it and five kids are off-task and three kids just told me their partners are screwing around and I just said improper fraction for the fiftieth time and four kids acted like they’ve never heard it before and I forgot to get that activity ready so now they’re waiting for me…” HALP!
Needless to say, this isn’t going totally smoothly. I might have gotten a little yelly (technical term) about it. And then I might have pulled them all together for a class chat. And I might have gotten a little preachy about it. I know this isn’t going to improve their behavior or make my math time go smoother. But I was just. so. frustrated. Frustrated to the point that I said, “I’m working really hard to help you learn math better. You’re all going to go back to your desk and write me a note about how you think you did today and what you think about this way of doing math. Because if you don’t like it or even think it’s helping you, then we’re going back to the old way.”
You all, they seriously wrote me the sweetest notes. Either they realized I was about two seconds from going off my rocker, they legitimately like this way of doing math, or they are pretending to like me.
The people have spoken. It’s what I knew in my heart (and my teaching knowledge) all along. So when my comfort zone stands like the devil on my shoulder and says, “This is too disorganized!” I have to remember that my formative assessment is telling me that all but three of them know how to decompose fractions. When it whispers, “You better hope nobody walks in here right now,” I have to remember that the student who never talks just asked me a question about what happens when the numerator and denominator are the same. When my comfort zone whines, “You’re getting way behind the pace of the other classes, and standardized tests are next month,” I have to remember that the student who can barely string together a sentence in English was able to tell me a mixed number when I asked him.
It’s difficult. But they’re learning. I’ll learn too. I’ll figure it out with the help of others.
I have to remind myself that in order to grow, you usually have to endure a little pain.