Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Words have Power.

Words have power. Use them for Good. I teach 7th grade math. I was an elementary school major and a mathematics major in University.  I was driving a bus, raising my two girls and going back to school in between my bus runs and sometimes at night. My husband worked a lot and had no patience back then (he's much better now) so he wasn't much help back then. I worked hard. I had note cards that I studied while waiting for my students to come out of the school. I would fall asleep at night trying to study after cooking dinner, helping with homework and putting my girls to bed; so I had to get up extra early in the morning so I could get through my studies before I went on my bus in the morning. Did I say it was hard?
Flashback: 5th grade. I remember saying to my teacher that math is my best subject. I don't remember what my teacher said to me but I know that she essentially said that it really wasn't. I walked away and dismissed what she said. I remember thinking, "she doesn't know". I attribute this to my oldest sister Donna that always told me how special I was. (Back then it was a good thing, trust me.) In my sister's eyes I was the best thing ever. I had the potential to do anything. I think she fed me that message from the day I was born at least it felt that way. So when my teacher inferred math was not really my best subject I just knew she was wrong.
  See words have power. My sister gave me a powerful message that I was capable, I was special and those words transformed my life. She did not just say words to me she actually spent time with me, listened to me and poured into my life. My 5th grade teacher made one negative comment that could have been devastating to me if I listened to it. But I didn't. If I believed I was not good at math would I have kept working at it? Would I have given up in college when I was always at my professor's office hours or always the last one finishing the test?  I could have missed out on the joy I had when I finally figured out the projects in Abstract Algebra. I definitely would have missed the joy of teaching maths to students and hoping to pass my love of math onto my students.
  So this message is probably more to me than to anyone that could possibly read this but I want to ask you (and me): What do you want your words to do? Will your words discourage your children and students or will they give your children, students, family,  power and life? I've been guilty of both, I know it. But today I choose to pour life into my children, grandchildren, and students. I think I will bring a picture of my sister into my classroom this year. I need her to remind me when its the end of the day and that child is tweaking my nerves for the umpteenth time, I will see Donna and remember that my words have power and I want to use them to fill my students with confidence in themselves so when those inevitable negative comments come their way in the hallway, or school bus or where ever ...they can walk away and think "they don't know".

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Confessions of a Math Teacher

 So its been years since I have blogged but I am so inspired this year and .... well lets face it I really want to be a part of the Twitter community of teachers because you all inspire me to to do better.  I read a few teaching books this summer like most summers I am always looking for something that will help me in my classroom. But nothing has inspired me like Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. I have read different people on Twitter tweeting about problem solving; letting students struggle. A piece here, a tidbit there but not enough for me to get it. You know how to actually implement it in my classroom. Then I read  Mathematical Mindsets and my eye were opened (cue music and singing animals here). I was so excited that I went to YouCubed and signed up for the course on How to Learn Maths for teachers. I really am a visual learner. Seeing the videos really helped me.  But the real excitement for me is learning about a growth mindset. I see so many of my students faces from the past few years and now I know one of the reasons I could not reach them was they had a closed mindset. It bugs me that I let them down. I did not make math open and show them the beauty of it. I tried but I know I let them down. No I am not beating myself up, I am going to use those faces as a reminder NEVER AGAIN!
   My students and I will be on a journey this year to learn about Growth Mindsets. We will celebrate mistakes not gloss over them. I will give my students time to delve deeply and allow them time to struggle. I cannot totally throw out my pacing guide but I can creatively ignore it as much as possible. I have never been one to teach to the test. Yes I am guilty of teaching memory tricks but only after hands on learning and really teaching the math. I love math. I want to share my love with my students. So I am blogging again because I want to be accountable. I also need your help, this is new for me. But let me tell you I am sooooo excited for this year.