The paths to "Eureka" moments: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Education

Posts tagged ‘Character’

Communicating with Parents

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Mentor teacher: Mr. T

In student teaching with my mentor teacher, I have had the opportunity to observe several conversations he has had with parents of his students. Of the conversations that I have observed, all of the parents have come with the same intent: to discuss their child’s grade in the class and determine how it could be improved. Mr. T exhibits an exemplary attitude in discussing students and their grades with parents.

Positive statement

He often begins conversations with a positive statement about the student. For example, “First of all, Johnny is a nice boy. He pays attention in class, and is never a problem. I never have to ask him to be quiet or stop distracting others.”

Addresses reasons for suffering grade

Then Mr. T will address the reason for the student’s suffering grade. “Johnny is too nice. He is rather quiet and is very hesitant to really engage in classroom discussions or ask me questions. If he doesn’t understand something, he keeps it to himself.”

Reminds parent and student of opportunities to grow

Mr. T proceeds to remind parents of the opportunities he gives to students to keep their grades up and provide a safety net so they do not fall too far behind. Each of his opportunities involves students taking ownership of their own education and taking initiative. In this way, Mr. T communicates to parents how he values their child and the future of their child’s academic career. Some of the opportunities he offers include open classroom hours during lunch period and after school for questions and individual instruction, test retakes, additional homework practice, and encouragement to ask questions and dictate the pace of the class by “managing the teacher”.

Assures both of his desire for “A”

Mr. T’s philosophy is founded on the principle that students should get an A if they work hard and grow in their understanding of mathematics. His philosophy gives all students the chance of getting an A, but again, requires that the students take personal responsibility for their own learning.

Story telling: Basketball

In conversations with parents, Mr. T often uses analogies for his teaching philosophy. In one particular case, the student was a basketball player and Mr. T compared his math class to a basketball game. “In the game of basketball, you need to work hard to see results. If you never go to practice, you can’t expect to go to the game and get put in to play and succeed. However, if you practice hard, work with your coach, and use your team as a resource, you will be sure to see much better results and maybe even score!”

Moral of the story: “With work comes achievement.”

Mr. T’s philosophy can be summed up in one phrase, “With work comes achievement.” As he ends the conversation with parents, he has gone through the process of addressing the problem, explaining solutions, and finally, expressing a team-like collaboration with student, parents, and teacher. He has deflected any idea of “Teacher vs. Parent” or “Teacher vs. Student” and has established the sentiment that he wants all his students to succeed and, like a coach, will provide opportunities for them to be challenged and grow.

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Service Learning Project

One of the requirements in my Introduction to Education class was to participate in a service learning project. My own experience took place at Coe Elementary School in a 3rd grade classroom. I was an aid to the teacher once a week for a total of 21 hours.

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Below is a paper written describing how this experience has changed my understanding of the four pillars: Service, Leadership, Competency, and Character.

Service Learning Paper: Where I Was and Where I Am Going

As I reflect upon my time spent at Coe Elementary during my service learning hours, I am able to compare my initial understanding of how service, leadership, competence, and character, are seen in the classroom, to my previous understanding.

On the first day of Intro to Education, I wrote the following four definitions as they apply in the classroom setting. First, service is observed in a classroom when the teacher understands that teaching is not about his/herself, but about the student. A service minded teacher will make sacrifices for the students to promote better learning. Secondly, leadership is demonstrated when the teacher leads the class both instructionally and as an example. A leader recognizes the skills of those who follow him/her, and seeks to enhance those skills. Thirdly, a teacher seeks to promote competence – the ability to understand the subject matter. This involves problem solving and not simply memory recall. Fourth and finally, a teacher develops character in the classroom. Responsibility, integrity, and creativity are all elements important to education.

After having spent eight weeks in a third grade classroom, my views have become enhanced by the experiences I have had and the interactions I have observed.

As a teacher, service not only takes place inside the classroom, but in the community and among educational faculty. This can take the form of anything from an after school program like refereeing a student football game, to spending hours at night working on prepping for an in-class Mother’s Day project. A leader in the classroom knows the abilities of the students. A leader is able to multi-task, teaching new information to the entire class, but also providing individual feedback to students, asking them questions and challenging them at a personal level.

A competent teacher not only knows the subject matter to be taught, but knows it well enough to teach excellently. In order to ensure competence, a good teacher will continue their own education. This may be pursued by working to get a higher degree or through attending educational conferences and classes. Teachers must also promote competence within their classrooms. One way I observed this being accomplished in the third grade classroom was through peer discussions. Students explained to their neighbors what they had learned and their partners either added to or disagreed with what the first student had said. In this way, students were getting immediate feedback as well as demonstrating their understanding of the topic. Finally, character should be demonstrated by the teacher and encouraged within the student body. Teachers can be the example in character, by teaching “to the student”, not the test, and having organized lessons for efficient time management. Teachers can also encourage moral character within the student body through classroom policies and school-wide programs. Respect is one characteristic that must be shown to students in order for them to follow the rest. When teachers have the respect of their students, other important traits such as integrity, trust, and responsibility will follow.

As I conclude my volunteering at Coe Elementary, I plan to continue learning and growing in the four areas of service, leadership, competence, and character. In service, I will grow as I serve as the Sports Ministry Coordinator for Youth Missions International. Through Y.M.I. I will have the opportunity to work at sports camps, coaching elementary and middle school children. While the academic quarter continues, I will seek to serve my peers and colleagues here at S.P.U, striving to live a service-minded lifestyle on and off campus. As a staff leader with Y.M.I, I am constantly being challenged to grow in leadership skills. One particular challenge is how to assign volunteer leaders to the different camps in the Northwest. As the coordinator, I must assess the abilities and gifts of the volunteers and place them where they will work best. I will continue to grow in competence as I finish out my mathematics major and secondary education program here at S.P.U., but my education will not stop here. After I have graduated with my B.A, I will continue to learn about my field and how to be a better teacher. This will most likely take the form of a Masters degree. As a Christian, my education of character is never complete here on earth. As I continue in these last few years at SPU, and look forward to my career as a teacher, I will mold my character after the Greatest Teacher.