Constructive Struggle

Constructive struggle – as teachers, we know not giving the students the answers and allowing them to find their way through the work ensures more understanding and deeper learning.

Can the same be said of teachers? When we struggle through a year does it help us to learn how to do things better, does it ensure we have a deeper understanding of our students and how to plan better?

Last year, our school changed to the A/B block schedule, alternating “A” (blocks 1-5) and “B” (blocks 6-10) days throughout the year. This was also our second year as an Academy school – meaning the kids are subdivided into the career path of their choice (Fine Arts, STEM, Health, etc) and scheduled classes / advisement that supports that particular Academy. As teachers, we are encouraged to plan our lessons from an “Academy Lens.” In addition, it was my first year as a fully endorsed ESOL or English Language Learner mathematics teacher.

I was not thrilled with the way things went last year. My Analytic Geometry Milestone scores were disappointing. I didn’t see the growth that I would have liked to have seen from my Algebra Two students. I was always playing catch-up on my grading. Our curriculum team unraveled, and my classroom was a cluttered mess the entire year.

Ever had a year like that?

On the other hand, I feel that I learned more last year than in any previous five years combined. And, now that I’ve spent a summer attending some amazing conferences, including the NCTM in Atlanta, reading some very thought provoking blogs, entering the world of Twitter, and getting into a few excellent books I feel that I have a much better idea of how to get this new school year started.

This year, I am going back to the basics. My focus is going to be on planning and instruction – pretty much like it was during those oh so long ago first three years of teaching. It’s the year to cut back on the personal research time and start implementing.

Over the next few posts, I’ll begin discussing the ideas that I’ve put together that will, hopefully, help me, my students, and my curriculum teams get back on the right track.

We’re always telling our students that constructive struggling is one of the best ways to learn. I think that would be the best descriptor of the 2015-2016 school year. If growth comes from struggle this should be an amazing year!