Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Moments of Encouragement

I'm going to be honest. A lot of days, I go home feeling exhausted and defeated not knowing what to do. I teach in a rough neighborhood stricken with gang involvement that is often brought into school. I have 17-year-olds sitting right next to 13-year-olds in my 8th grade classes. The majority of my kids perform 2+ years below grade level. Every day is a challenge. If I had it my way, I'd drop the curriculum and start from the beginning with basic concepts. How can I teach systems of equations when my students can't even add fractions with common denominators?

Every so often, I find a moment that reminds me why I'm here and that even though it seems like I'm running full speed at a brick wall over and over again, my kids are learning.

My fourth block is comprised entirely of students who are overaged. This class also houses all of my EC students. Challenge accepted. Today, while I was helping another student, I heard one of my lower-achieving students teaching one of his peers. He wasn't just telling her "do this, do this, then do that." He was legitimately teaching her. The words coming out of his mouth were the same ones that come out of mine:

"Ok, what do you have to do first? Think about PEMDAS."
"You have a subtraction sign and a negative number. Can you do that? No? Then what do you have to do?"
"Good. Now what do you do when you have a positive and a negative added together? Do you add or subtract?"
"Can you tell me why you think your number is positive? What if we were talking about money? If I still owe you money, shouldn't it be negative?"

I don't know if he knew I was listening so intently, but I was so proud, impressed, etc by him. So much so, that I think I will let that count as his retest for that skill. If you can teach it, you can do it.

Math workshop for the win!!!