Four weeks into my first year teaching 3rd grade and I was trudging through our schools’ assigned math curriculum. I wasn’t even sure what the kids were suppose to learn from the assignment and honestly I didn’t understand the math. I copied that worksheets, used the teachers guide to deliver the script. I wasn’t inspired. I wasn’t “a math person.” And… neither were the kids.
I spent most of the weekend before planning a week of integrated lesson plans for a study of the Chicago Fire include reading, writing, and social studies. I was on FIRE about this unit (bahaha, sorry- bad joke). I didn’t have time to plan for math. I figured we had a curriculum so I could just put “lesson 5”, “lesson 6”, etc. into my lesson plans and figure out what I needed to do on my prep before the afternoon lesson. I wasn’t inspired. “I wasn’t a math person.” And… neither were the kids.
Then one day a colleague introduced me to a new way of engaging students in math class through giving them challenging tasks and teaching them the skills for how to grapple and preserver. (Rooted in Cognitively Guided Instruction) I was skeptical, but I gave it a shot.
Next thing you know, after a lot of work and growing my brain in tons of new ways, kids more excited for math than for reading. And the funny thing is, SO WAS I. This person, me, who never thought of herself as a math person… I was spending my free time reading books about conceptual understanding and student-led discourse. I was honing my craft of listening and asking the right question. I even signed up to lead a district wide study group on teaching math from a constructivist approach.
When I started to see how empowered my students I was HOOKED. The funny thing was this was completely different that what was taught of as “teaching”. I gave students a challenging problem and let them struggle. I told them I knew without a shadow of a doubt they could solve the problem although it would be hard. I supported them without ever telling them if they were right or wrong.
This is the kind of teaching that I was made to do. Not the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side.