Saturday, October 13, 2012

academic optimism

I hate that I missed posting a "My Favorite Friday" post!   Instead, it's time to write a bit more about the transition from administration back to the classroom.

I don't miss being a principal.  While I enjoyed that position, I am glad not to be in charge.  I do miss some aspects though.  I miss the freedom to plan my day; I miss professional conversations with colleagues; I miss working directly with teachers in professional development activities.  And I miss being with elementary children.

As a teacher I am finding working with math curriculum invigorating.   The emphasis in Algebra instruction has changed slightly in the past 12 years or at least my current district requires a different focus.  There is more of an emphasis on concept development; on interpreting solutions in contextual situations.  There is little or no time spent on reviewing pre-algebra skills and little emphasis on manipulation of numbers.  The shift takes a little more planning.  I find that planning activities for teaching and practicing skills is easier than planning instruction in applied problems.  I spend quite a bit of time scouring older math texts as well as the Web for relevant situations to explore.

"My Favorite Friday" thought is that I'm particularly grateful to the online community of math teachers who readily share their work!  And the "Snipping Tool" in Win7 that @druinok mentions enables me to snip here and there to create activities with ease!

My greatest challenge has been in relating to my ninth graders.  I've been surprised and dismayed by their lack of motivation.  I know, I know ... one of the most significant things that teachers do is motivation!   An instructional leader is a multi-faceted job ... it is not just about knowing curriculum, or deconstructing standards, or even planning cohesive lessons but also about understanding and reaching each learner in the classroom.

I have many able students.  Those students are getting the math; and we are working together well.  But I have too many students who are struggling, who enter the classroom with little interest in even trying.   Instead of engaging with any of the math, they wait to see what answers I will give them.   Their disengagement shows up in lack of materials, idle chatter, accusatory statements, obvious boredom.  And it creates a spiraling effect that is challenging to overcome.

Failure does not motivate.  In fact, for many students if does just the opposite!  It reaffirms students' opinions of themselves as poor math students and they give up.

Our first marking period just ended.  Several students were working fast and furious using our school's very liberal tutorial and retake policies.  Those students, though, that needed it the most ... the ones that do not see themselves as successful math students ... did not take advantage.

There was a time when I might have said, "Well, they get what they earned!"  And that thought does cross my mind and yet I am personally dismayed.  Their failure is my failure as well.

In this second marking period I have the opportunity to find that key - the key that establishes rapport, that opens doors of misunderstanding!  I have the opportunity to pursue success ... pull out all of my tools, try a few more tricks of the trade, and even work on my persuasion skills!  I love a challenge!   I am an "academic optimist!**"

**McGuigan, L., & Hoy, W. K. (2006). Principal Leadership: Creating a Culture of Academic Optimism to Improve Achievement for All Students. Leadership And Policy In Schools5(3), 203-229.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean. I feel guilty about thinking something along the lines of “Well, they get what they earned!” myself, but then I feel like it's my failure too. I'm not unrealistic enough to think that anyone can help 100% of students 100% of the time, but I don't think any real teachers will be totally, completely satisfied unless they can. The more you chip away at it and get more students involved, little by little you'll get closer to 100%. Good luck.