First day

I have not written much over the last two weeks because most of my spare time was spent planning my unit.  Because my school does group planning, all the algebra teachers will be teaching from my lesson plans.  This made the planning process more stressful than it probably needed to be, because I have so many sets of eyes judging me.  Today is the first day my unit is being taught.  It also coincides with the beginning of my two-week stint as lead teacher in algebra (yes, I did that on purpose).

During the last two weeks I’ve been helping to teach from lessons written by another student teacher.  I felt like I learned a lot from this process, in that I got to see what kind of mistakes she made and (hopefully) not repeat them myself.  The downside is that because I am not already intimately familiar with the material and how it’s being presented, I sometimes had to think extra quickly to help students with their questions.

Now I am teaching on my own.  Although my co-teacher is still in the classroom, she has said that unless I ask for help, she will not step in.  She wants to give me a chance to make my own mistakes and learn to recover from them.  I am very grateful for this.  I know as a teacher I am going to make a lot of mistakes, and I think the sooner I can get comfortable with that, the better.

We have algebra first and fifth periods.  The lesson (a group task) went pretty well first period.  I figured out pretty quickly sometimes my wording is confusing to students.  I wanted them to think about their strategy before actually solving the first problem in the task.  Instead of saying, “take a moment to think about what kind of strategy you might use to solve this,” I said, “decide with side you want to collect the variable terms on and which you want to more the constant terms to.”  I almost gave the strategy to them, but because I used terms that are still new (variable and especially constant), the students really got stuck.  In the future, I will need to really think about what it is I want the students to do, and then ask them to do that.  Hinting doesn’t seem to be a good first strategy.

During fifth period things went differently.  I decided to tell the students not to worry about strategy or the chart I’d provided for organizing their work.  This removed the block the first period students had, and most of the students came very close to completing the entire task.  I am not sure how I feel about this choice, however.  I think it’s important for students to begin to consider how they are solving problems now, when they are still relatively straightforward.  In the end, I decided to skip this thinking in this particular task in order to help students get further in the task, where they encountered equations with no solutions and infinite solutions.  This is the first time most students have seen this, and it’s an important understanding for students as they move into more sophisticated mathematics.

I will be teaching all of the algebra lessons between November 15th and November 30th.  It is very exciting to see how my own lessons play out in a class, especially since I get to teach them myself.  The mathematics we’re covering represents the first material that students really struggle with.  It feels like an honor to be trusted to plan how we will approach it.

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