Last school year, I served in a grant-funded role where I mentored first and second year teachers. Over the course of the school year, I had the opportunity to work with ten teachers from a variety of elementary grade levels. One of the first-year teachers with whom I worked taught in an upper elementary grade level that was completely unfamiliar to her as she had worked previously in a pre-kindergarten classroom. During our first interactions, she shared her biggest concern with me-- teaching math.

This was immediately saddening for me. After all, I am The Routty Math Teacher! But, teaching the math lesson each day was HER biggest challenge and caused HER a ton of grief. I can remember going into her classroom during her math lesson to support her and she would look at me with the biggest "Help Me" look, begging for me to intervene. Over the course of the year, we worked together to look ahead at the upcoming units, plan activities, embed problem solving, and integrate stations. I even organized all of the math manipulatives that had been left to fend for themselves in a very disorganized bookshelf. Even after all of that, she still said that teaching math wasn't for her. As the year came to a close, she requested to be moved to a lower, "easier" grade level where the math was easier to understand. The principal granted her wish.

When the school year began again, she reminded me of her dislike of mathematics and desire to team teach so that she could eliminate her worries altogether. Well, team teaching wasn't really an option so she was forced to teach math again. Then something happened. Two weeks after the new school year began, I moved into a secondary math instructional coaching position, a promotion of sorts for me. That was it. I was gone and she was left to teach math all by herself. But then, something remarkable happened.

Two months later, she and I met up for Happy Hour and she had BIG news. She said, "I know that you won't believe this, but my favorite subject to teach now is math." She was right, I didn't believe her. However, when she began to talk to me about the great things that she was doing and I could see the big grin on her face, I started to believe that all of my hard work had paid off. Then, she said it-- the magic words. She said, "I've even started doing Number Talks." That was it, she had me at "Number Talks." I was so proud! Another teacher with whom I had worked was also at the table and confirmed the news-- she was doing them too.

I couldn't contain my excitement. Just when I thought that everything that I had done with that teacher had been for nothing, she surprised me. Even better news-- she recently presented a professional development mini-session about using number talks in the classroom to her colleagues. How's that for icing on the cake! I feel like such a proud momma! One down, millions to go!

Nice reflection, thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy the blogging challenges!

ReplyDeleteThank you! I love participating in these challenges and getting the opportunity to collaborate with new people.

DeleteHow great to read this. As a middle school math teacher of 20+ years (oh, that can't be right!), I cringe when I hear about elementary teachers who say they don't like math, or don't feel they can teach it as well as reading. It really takes a little guidance and positive encouragement which sound just like what this teacher needed. Great Job Shametria! (#MTBoS guided me to your site!)

ReplyDeleteThank you! Reading does seem to prevail as the subject of preference in elementary school. As a math person, it's been hard to navigate that terrain, but that's what got me here-- sharing what I've learned with others with the hopes that it may change their perspective and teaching practices.

DeleteWow! What a great story with a happy ending. Reminds me of having that same impact on students-sometimes it seems they aren't making progress, then suddenly a light goes on and they are sailing along. Thanks for sharing!

ReplyDeleteThanks for reading! The situation definitely can be likened to what happens with students. As a mentor and now a math coach, I am amazed how working with students and working with adults seem to be parallel.

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