TPEP CRITERION 5: Learning Environment; the teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of students.
I just spent four incredible days at the NCTM Math conference in San Francisco. Yes, I’m a science teacher, but my teaching position is changing and I will be 50-50 science and math next year. I was expecting to learn a lot about math and teaching math (and I did), but I was amazed by the pedagogy that also applies to science and, indeed, to any classroom. One of the biggest themes that emerged for me was relationships and, no, I’m not talking about the kind of relationship that can be represented by x’s and y’s.
- Karen Hyers, Tartan High School, MN, shared how her team saw marked improvement in students of color completing and succeeding in accelerated math courses. She said, “Relationships keep kids, all kids and of color, in accelerated courses.” Without those relationships, they drop their math class in the early weeks of the term.
- Kathleen Strange, College Park High School, CA, shared that the first step to getting students to engage in student discourse around rich and rigorous math tasks is to ensure that the class room is a safe place. Students have to be able to trust each other and their teacher to share their thinking. “You know you’ve (established a safe place) when students ask you to use their errors for discussion.”
- Dr. Treisman of University of Texas at Austin blew my mind. He shared that a belonging mindset is absolutely critical for student success–particularly for students that have struggled with math. Students need to know that they personally belong and that they are connected to the people in their class. Students need to know that they belong, believe that what they are learning has purpose, and develop a growth mindset.
- From WSU (Go Cougs!), Libby Knott’s MMRE (Making Math Reasoning Explicit) team talked about the conducive environment needed for student discourse–a safe place where teachers know their students and the emphasis is on learning over performance.
This year, I have worked harder than ever to build relationships with my students. I have seen a clear benefit to that effort. Next year I will build on my experience and what I learned in San Francisco as I work with Algebra students that are one to three years behind in math. While we will be grappling with x’s and y’s to understand mathematical relationships, we will start by building relationships among amazing young people that matter even more than math matters.
So. . . .
Married to Larry, an old Coast Guard salt and amazing man.I get to share Larry with our yellow lab, Sherman.