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

Posts tagged ‘Positive Language’

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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