Tomorrow morning a new phase of teach assisting begins. While my first two weeks were dedicated to review and mid year exams, tomorrow we start a new unit. This means I will get to really observe some teaching, lesson planning, and classroom management in these contexts. I am very excited to see first hand how my Cooperating Teacher (CT) works through these things.
To further prepare myself for this new phase, my GVSU Math Content Professor took my through a 20 minute process to cognitively coach me. This was not to prepare me to observe but rather to prepare my mind to transition and set goals for this semester. My primary goal is to get students to enjoy math rather than feeling like it is work or “just another subject”. This goal was set because of the current lack of engagement in the students that I observe. My end goal is for students to be self motivated to solve problems and honestly want to learn the new objective. Similarly the learners would be able to self teach through class discussion and hands on work and would feel a sense of ownership for the class and learning community. The teacher would be there to clear up any misconceptions that occur or disciplinary issues, the teacher may lead the discussion but would not be the center of attention for the most part.
Obviously this end goal picture that I have drawn is going to be tough to reach, and this picture is merely the optimal goal. It will be particularly difficult to succeed with this goal given that the students have already had half a year of doing things a different way whereas starting the year out in this pattern may have given a greater chance of success. Other challenges for this goal are the class discussions, allowing groups to work collaboratively allows for conversations to not be math related although there are many strategies out there to deal with these problems such as assigning roles to each individual in the group or challenging the students with an engaging task so that they actually want to work on the problem.
To help reach my goal I plan on working with my CT and partner Teacher Assistant (TA) to create lessons that are as engaging as possible and to have my partner TA takes notes on engagement levels during my lesson. This will allow me to figure out what works best with this group of students.
My only concern is that what works with these students may not translate with any other students I work with in the future. It is easy to argue that each learning community is different, just look at the different ethnicity, backgrounds and individual stories that come with each student. Thus we can conclude that what engages one learning community might completely fail to engage another. Thus I am concerned that finding an engaging task for this group may not engage any of my other groups and thus time and work is wasted. But perhaps the process of finding what works could be the most important lesson to learn about engaging my students. I will find out soon enough and will be sure to let you all know.