“Thank you for being their teacher.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to lead my first Parent Teacher Conferences. Most teachers dread these, or at the very least, they’re definitely not excited. I guess I’m not most teachers. For days leading up to them, I couldn’t help my excitement. I think that parent-teacher interaction is so important and I was excited to be able to tell parents what I had been seeing in their children.

Much of my conference time was spent with my not icings of students. I told parents how their students were doing both academically and socially in my classroom. I made sure to not start each session with the student’s grade. To me, grades really aren’t that important. And, they aren’t the best indication of students’ learning. So, I began with each student’s positive contributions to class. And I had a lot of them. Throughout this process I found out just how lucky I am to have every one of my students. They each contribute something so unique to class and it was easy to tell their parents what positives they brought each day. These qualities ranged from the fact that students were vocal in class with their ideas about mathematics, they worked well in collaborative groups, they brought a positive energy and interest each day, etc.

One of the most amazing things about PT Conferences, though, was hearing from the parents about my students. Some parents shared their concerns about their student with me. Since I teach all honors mathematics courses, it was typical to hear that students were striving for an A that they didn’t quite have yet. But, what I found to be the most amazing thing was hearing parents say that this was their student’s first honors class, that they never expected this track, and how proud they were. It was inspiring hearing parents talk about how happy they were at their child’s success. A lot of the parents thanked me for what I had been doing in class, which was so rewarding.

My entire life I have wanted to be a teacher and it’s the most amazing thing to hear the words “thank you for being our son/daughter’s teacher.” My goal in this field is to help students be successful, no matter how they define success. For some of my students, success is that A. For others, it’s learning what they need to know to be prepared for their future careers. For others, it’s to just do their best, no matter what grade that brings. I want to help all of them get there. PT Conferences really hit me hard. They made me realize how important what I’m doing is. I’m affecting these students, their parents, and their lives. I don’t take that lightly. I also realized how special each student is. Everyone says that, but I never really knew what it meant until I got the opportunity to discuss each of my students. They are all such inspiring individuals and I’m proud that I get to be a part of their lives, even if it is only for a semester.

Road Trip Across the USA

Last week, my students worked on mastering the distance and midpoint formulas using a really amazing lesson, linked here:

https://livelovelaughteach.wordpress.com/category/midpoint-formula/

My goal in this lesson was for students to practice using the distance and midpoint formulas while staying engaged, working in collaborative groups, and applying math to real-life scenarios. Students worked in groups of four to plan a trip across the United States. They were given a map with a coordinate plane and were required to travel through ten states over a 5 day period. Students were to find the distance traveled each day using the formula. Then, they had to stop each day exactly halfway between their start and endpoints for gas. They were to find this pit stop point using the midpoint formula.

Students in both of my classes were incredibly engaged throughout the lesson. They were discussing mathematics and were actually excited to do the project. Students were on task, focused, explaining mathematics to each other, working together to solve problems, and getting a lot of practice with the concepts. My favorite lessons involve controlled chaos and this one had a lot of it. As it became one of my favorite lessons to date, I wanted to know what my kids thought. Were they as excited about this lesson as I was? Here’s a sample of their feedback:

“I really enjoyed this project because it wasn’t just boring problems.”

“I prefer packets over projects like this because I can work independently and I can solve things problem by problem without having to pull many things together.”

“I enjoy the bookwork because everyone gets the same answer, but I really like a break once in awhile with a fun project that applies the math with the real world”

“I enjoy doing bookwork because it is very orderly. But I enjoy projects because they allow me to do math differently and be away from the norm. I like both equally.”

“I like this activity because it puts math into real life and it is easier for me and less boring.”

“Well I like the project itself because it’s a more interesting way to practice the concepts. I really don’t like how we had to work in groups.”

“I liked this better than packet work because there were far less problems, but I feel I learned the same info.”

“I enjoyed doing the map because it was a lot more hands on and the book is not. I feel like I learned more and in the book I would not understand things as well.”

“I love working on projects like this. I understand what we are doing better and I love to work in groups.”

“I prefer doing activities like these because they help me use real things which help me understand the info better.”

“I find doing an activity like this was fun. But I also learn well by writing notes and trying examples in class. So, I think I would like doing both (like doing these activities every now and then).”

My favorite response is the one that said that they had far less problems to do, but learned the same info. Isn’t that the point? Students in math are so used to getting drowned by repetitious practice problems. Instead, we should be giving students problems like these. Ones that give students an opportunity to learn the material, practice the material, and master the material without feeling like they just did 100 problems. My CT even mentioned to me that I should ensure that students had actually learned the formulas, as opposed to just skating through the activity. The next day, part of my warm-up asked them to write down the formulas without looking in their notes. Almost universally, every single student had the correct formulas written down and knew how to use them.

I couldn’t imagine how much my students’ responses would impact my teaching. So many teachers just do their jobs without realizing that we really work for our students. We are there simply to ensure that they succeed. How are we supposed to do that without asking them what they need and what they prefer? I could spend every single day of an entire school year doing activities like this USA activity and be perfectly happy. Some of my students probably could too. But not all of them. We need to be listening to students and seeking out their input. In this case, I was thankful that my students loved this lesson as much as I did.