I can’t believe it’s August and I’ve had these guys for 6 months now. It has definitely been an eye-opener for me. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Students don’t have to hate maths: Nearly all of these said they hated maths at the start of the year, for a variety of reasons (see my previous post). I am pleased to say that in recent meetings they have expressed that they have been enjoying maths this year. For all the time and effort I’ve been putting in, it is nice to know that it’s working, even though they sometimes don’t show it….
2. Just because something worked one lesson, doesn’t mean it will work the next: This has been my biggest challenge. I have tried different ideas and received comments such as “this is awesome, can we run the lesson like this every day?”, and when I come in the next day and do the same thing I hear “this is stupid. I don’t like it this way”. I’ve had to vary my styles, approaches and methods day to day (I’ll recycle methods at later times).
3. Everyone in my class can speak: and they do. If what I’m talking about is less interesting than Masterchef last night, they are going to start chatting. It’s a talent the amount that these guys can talk! So I’ve been trying to use it positively. Heaps of discussion with their friends and as a class. Homework now involves a conversation with a parent or carer about what they have learned today. There’s pretty much no chance of having them sit down and answer some questions, but a chat over dinner works for them. Not only that but it gives them some confidence/excitement to tell their parents something that maybe they didn’t know. Student recall has been much higher since we have started this.
4. Sometimes you lose: There are some lessons that just haven’t worked, but it hasn’t stopped me trying new things. Nearly every time I’ve learned something about myself, my students, and my teaching. And on the other occasions, it’s been about dusting myself off, and trying again next time. The beauty is that I get plenty of chances!
5. Other people have awesome ideas: If you read blogs then you already know how many great ideas people have out there. I recently got the opportunity to meet Dan Meyer who has long been one of my educational heroes, and it was excellent to chat to him about his methods. I tried out his Pyramid of Pennies lesson with my year 9’s and they loved it. Of course they struggled with some parts, but I allowed them to ask the questions that they wanted answers to. Total buy in right there. Check out other people’s ideas and share them with your colleagues/friends. Most of all share your own!
6. Challenge them to something they can’t do: It might sound harsh, but I offered them a $5 prize that I knew they couldn’t win. After an investigation where students discovered that the angle sum of multiple triangles was 180 degrees, I said that the angle sum of every triangle is 180 degrees. “I reckon I could make one that didn’t” said a keen student, to which I pulled $5 out of my wallet and offered it to the first student that could create me a triangle whose 3 angles didn’t add up to 180 degrees. The whole class instantly jumped in constructing triangles and measuring angles. “I am so close sir” was one response…. Yes you did. Of all the things I’ve taught them this year, I think this is now the one they are least likely to forget.
So that’s my 6 so far. I’ll keep learning as the year progresses and hopefully so will they! If you’ve had any valuable lessons from a similar situation, I’d love to hear them.