Wearing a Different Hat

Throughout this semester my CT and I have been teaching in our 7th grade classroom in different styles. His style, which I have termed “urban style”, is teacher-centered lessons of lecture. My style, which my CT termed “suburban style”, is student centered and collaborative.

In an attempt to understand where my CT is coming from, I decided to wear his hat for a lesson and truly teach in his “urban style”. In order to accurately gauge the fidelity of my implementation of his style of teaching I choose to teach “urban style” during the second observation of my Professor, Mr. Hasenbank. I also asked my CT how he felt my lesson went in which he replied that it went very well. With my CT’s reply and Prof. Hasenbank’s agreement, I can be assured that fidelity of implementation was high.

Throughout the lesson, Prof. Hasenbank was observing me and he made this graph that mapped out compliance level of engagement from each individual student in the classroom. To help you interpret the table, you should know that all squares without an X through them had a student, and a letter means that that student was observed to not be engaged compliantly during the time coded with the letter in the margin.



As you can see the students compliantly engaged (8-12 students) are mostly in the middle and front of the classroom while those rarely compliant (7-8 students) are in the back and edges of the room.
As a teacher, I find it unacceptable to have 7-8 students so unengaged that they aren’t even compliant. I am positive that those students did not learn anything during my lesson, and that is unacceptable. However, when I asked my CT he said it is the students choice to not learn and that having a large number unwilling to work during a lesson is normal. Hard for me to blame an 11 or 12 year old for being bored during a 30 minute lecture. Is this really part of the “urban style” too?

My CT and I have had some great talks about why we each teach in our styles and my general conclusion is that we have very different beliefs about what it means to do and to learn mathematics. I have concluded that “urban style”  teachers see learning math as challenging for all and to get an A you have to work hard, ask questions, and be persistent. Three qualities that are not prevalent in a lot of middle schoolers. In “urban style”, doing mathematics is having all the procedures/formulas memorized and knowing when to use which procedure for a particular problem.
My “suburban style” math learning is more exploration and paired/group discussions and doing math is done in many different ways by different people but as long as your reasoning is sound and you are thinking logically, then you are doing mathematics.


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