Your teaching practice has an impact on how your kids think about mathematics. Our classrooms are little bubbles and while kids are sitting in them, they are picking up all kinds of signals about mathematics. You might have students leaving a year with you thinking mathematics is collaborative, or that it requires taking risks, or that it is hard but hard is okay. We all have our own unique flavor of mathematics that we are imparting to students through how we orchestrate our classes day in and day out. So here’s the formal prompt: How does your class move the needle on what your kids think about the doing of math, or what counts as math, or what math feels like, or who can do math?
It took me a while to wrap my head around this concept and a lot of different 'flavors' ran through my head. But then I thought about what 'leaks out' of who I am, what students remind me of after they graduate, and what they write to me in their semester reflection papers.
I think my flavor is confidence.
Confidence in your own personality and being 100% on brand. It took me decades years to cultivate my own confidence and now sometimes I think I might be a little on the arrogant side. lol I model this especially through my two nice things procedure- they hate when I make them say two nice things about themselves and I always give a little speech about how you know yourself better than anybody else and you should know more nice things about you than you know about anybody else. I feel like I show this through my work ethic because students come to me with new ideas. I think that shows they know that I go above and beyond in all aspects of my job. Students will tell me when they see chevron stuff they think I should buy, they send me pinterest ideas, they tag me in memes...I think that by being 100% myself, I give them permission to be 100% themselves.
Confidence through consistency. When you have students years in a row, I think this comes kind of naturally but I think students enjoy math with me because they know my rules, procedures and routines. They know I'm going to show up every day and they need to also. I have so many kids who come back after doctor appointments and such 'just for my math class'. They also know they are working every day, all hour, and no free days. Even though they'll never admit it, I think they enjoy knowing they are going to work and learn on a daily basis. Or at the very least appreciate it.
Confidence through finding mistakes. I make an emphasis on finding your own mistakes and fixing them and I think that builds a sense of independence. I make a big deal of not erasing all your work and fixing small mistakes. I post answer keys often so they can check their work and work at their own pace. This helps them realize how they learn and that they don't need me for every little thing. I also hope those skills transfer over to personal life too.
Confidence through freedom. The culture of my classroom is very laid back; we make a lot of jokes, students don't have to ask permission for little things, I have a lot of supplies available that they are free to take, we have a lot of random conversations, etc. Students who finish early casually wander over to students who aren't done yet or struggling and help. I love this because they are hearing different perspectives and the freedom to decide which way works for them. And freedom to learn from someone besides the teacher.
Confidence through creativity. While I am very consistent and routine, students also know I'm going to take a creative approach to things. They might not know exactly what to expect but they know I'm not just going to take the normal route. When they start to expect that, I think they raise their own standards as well. Sometimes their expectations are higher than mine are and we both take turns rising to the occasion. There is always a way to express yourself.
Confidence through risk taking. While I love trying new things and I think my ideas are awesome, I am also really good at admitting failure. I don't think that's something students are necessarily used to seeing from teachers. Right now I'm having really good luck with students being willing to shout out answers, even wrong ones and I hope that in some small way, it's because I've been willing to be wrong.
Confidence through problem solving. While I wish I could say that I mean this in a purely mathematical way, I don't. I mean this in a more practical way. I ask students for feedback often and when I see problems I brainstorm with them on solutions. They constantly see me trying to improve and make things more efficient. After I admit failure, I want to fix it.
Confidence through persistence. I don't give up on keeping them from giving up. I don't give up on ideas that fail. I don't give up on trying to change their attitude and feelings about math. I don't give up on making them say nice things. I don't give up on positive vibes.
Confidence through showing up. I show up to work every day. I show up for them when I can tell they are upset, mad, or panicking. I show up when their grades start going downhill. I show up when they've just had their hearts broken. I show up to their games. I show up for them and I show up for me.