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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Coaching the Math Team: Students, Parents, and Colleagues

As math teachers, parents, and students, we need to coach each other forward when it comes to student learning.

The Internet gives us easy access to almost all families and colleagues, and this medium can be used to coach each other forward. Yet we don't want to overuse the medium so much that no one takes notice or everyone becomes agitated. This is a tricky area of coaching--when to send an email to all and when to contact a few.

I've decided to err on the area of more than less when it comes to coaching my big team of families, students, and colleagues since I need their help in order to help every child gain skill, confidence, and knowledge. Truly I can't do it alone.

First, I need students to know what's expected. I tell them in class, but we know that many don't hear or listen due to a large number of factors that may range from leftover thoughts about a playground game, an in-class crush, daydreaming about the holidays, physical discomfort, and more. So our team keeps an online document with homework assignments and resources that students are able to access 24-7 to aid their learning and study.

Next, if parents and colleagues understand what we're doing and why, they're able to coach the students well too. For example today I noticed a problem that many were having with this week's homework. It was a minor issue related to how to write numbers when you round. Many students were adding unnecessary zeroes and digits after the place they were rounding to and the online program deemed that incorrect. I wrote an email to all parents and then clarified the email after one parent asked a good question. Even if only 50% of the parents help their child to complete these assignments and check their work, it's still better than fewer parents. Every little bit of parent coaching and support possible helps the whole class move forward with interest, investment, and skill.

Further, when the whole team knows what's going on and their questions are welcome, then I'm able to better work with the team to organize, plan, and present the program in ways that matter.

There's many ways to teach math well, and all of those ways are deepened and enriched when the team is aware of the goals set, learning expected, and venues used. As noted by many, "Education is a team sport."