Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Too Fast Expectations: Math Education?

A colleague commented that a child she was helping had no idea of the concepts related to the math unit. I became sensitive since I have to follow such a tight parameter with regard to teaching the standards, and there is little time to help students who need greater help with deeper understanding. In a sense, it's the conveyor belt of teaching and learning. If you stay on the belt and move with the group, you're okay, but if you are not keeping pace, then the problems begin.

I asked to run an extra help program in a different way to help those students who are not staying up with the speed of the class, but my offer was refused as the predetermined way of helping them will be the mainstay even though reports show questionable results from that method. There are other help efforts in place too, but, in my opinion, there's a synthesis and personalization missing that could really benefit children. Yet I have to go along and do the best that I can do by meeting the expectations set and finding time to deepen the learning and teaching for those who are not keeping up.

At yesterday's DESE TAC meeting the topic of professional judgement with regard to curricular materials came up. In general educators felt that decisions around curricular materials needed to be collaborative, research-based, and personalized too. While one educator's professional judgement may not lead us to a singular, right choice, the educator's judgement needs to be considered with regard to teaching children, and then that judgement based on expertise and experience needs to be a part of a greater collaborative effort to identify, embed, and teach the curriculum in ways that matter.

In general, the following efforts will help us to teach math better:
  • loose-tight curriculum parameters that take into account an educator's professional judgement, experience, and expertise as well as students' personal academic needs, challenges, and strengths.
  • Extra help sessions that are well managed, timed, and planned to really zero in on students' individual needs. Sometimes these extra help sessions are too general to make a big difference with regard to a child's learning.
  • Greater communication and synthesis. When programs are disjointed the learning becomes disconnected too. The better that we can collaboratively map the service delivery to meet students' academic needs, the better.
  • Identifying funding and using that funding earlier than later to staff helpful Title One, Extra help, homework clubs, and other supports. Earlier identification and scheduling of supports leads to greater use and fidelity with regard to those supports.
Every teacher wants every child to succeed. Schools are busy places with many dedicated educators often with little time. We all need to do our best with families to create well choreographed programs that help every child succeed and make progress. Onward.