Thursday, November 12, 2009

Favourite teacher

I had a student once say "you're my favourite teacher" so I said to him, "I'm a maths teacher - is there a) something wrong with you or b) do you want something?"

I did ask him why and he said, "I can do the work in your class". This class was special as we had halved its size by splitting it between two teachers during the quiet period after the 11's and 12's finish. I'd been given the students that had potential but were struggling or that were destined for courses with low maths requirements. I'd been pretty strict with them in the first two weeks sending some off to isolation, having a number of one sided discussions with the boys, a few BMIS' and a few blue letters to parents.

There's nothing here that would make a student like the class. Yet, I sat back and listened to the student. In fact he went on to say that in other classes he went from 'bored because it was too easy' to 'giving up because it was too hard'. They had come from a class with a very popular teacher that had consistently good results, so I knew it was a student issue.

I explained to the student that in a smaller class it was easier for me to tailor the lesson to his optimum speed of learning - get on his back if he was loafing, fix his errors in a timely manner and acknowledge his successes. He had to work on his resilience too, and had to try more before giving up!

He understood that. I'd go on to say that when classes are getting feral or unmotivated, splitting them and resetting them into smaller classes is a legitimate and positive strategy.

Another yr 11 student at the end of the same day said that he liked our school because the teachers really cared and were willing to spend any amount of time outside of class to fix a problem. I like that students in our school are willing to spend inordinate amounts of time outside of class identifying and fixing up issues in their understanding. It can get a bit wearying sometimes on a full day. I have seen in another school "maths club" work well, where knowledge or skill issues are corrected in a math teacher overload situation (often 5 students to one tutor). This could take some pressure away in the earlier months of the year and give access to alternate learning sequences for topics.

I do love this end of year when we can consider our teaching practices, do some experimental class arrangements, have extra time to spend with students and test ideas for motivating students.

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