When I look back to the blog post I had written before entering the field, I cannot help but look at questions 3 and realize that I was on the right track with it, but I was only touching the surface. Here is how I responded to question 3:
3. What do you already know now about being a mathematics teacher that is unlikely to change through your upcoming field experiences (i.e. fundamental beliefs, values, commitments, etc.)?
As I enter the classroom for my three week block I know that I have to keep in the back of mind that I was once where these students were. I was questioning the relevance of mathematics (though I still enjoyed it) and wondering where I would use it. I know that my students will be thinking similar things, so I know that it is my job as a teacher to make mathematics connected to their daily lives— that won’t change after my experience. Another thing that I know won’t change once I am finished my pre-internship is the fact that not all students learn the same way I did, or even learn similar to their classmates. I will constantly have to adapt and come up with solutions so that all my students understand my lessons, rather than just a select few. Even though I know these things won’t change after my experience, I am looking forward to the changes that I will see, both in myself as a teacher and in the way I choose to teach.
Now after completing my 3 week block I can look back on this response and know that there was not one or even two adaptations I could have made to my lesson plans that would have worked for all my students in my classroom in order for them to understand the material 100% of the time. I think I was naïve in thinking that I would be able to adapt my lessons on the fly so that I was touching upon each students specific needs. I learned quite quickly that many students do not even learn well in a group setting, I had a few students who needed the lesson re-explained to them at an individual level before they could fully grasp the concept I was trying to teach. As for connecting mathematics to students daily lives, I really struggled with one student who continually told me that what I was teaching (powers and radicals) was useless and that he did not care to learn because he would never need it. This particular unit seemed to be quite hard to relate to real life, so I struggled with making it applicable—especially for that one student who asked me every day where he would see this type of math. Pre-internship really opened up my eyes as to exactly how diverse students learning was and how I would need ten of me, just to teach one lesson in all the diverse ways. The 3 weeks I spent in the classroom really gave me a reality check as to how busy a teachers life is, but how worth it is in the end.
“Working with preservice teachers can be puzzling and surprising, particularly because they are students at the same time that they are learning to be teachers… I offer the following suggestions for teacher educators in assisting preservice teachers to discover their teacher selves. It is important to help students identify inconsistencies between their beliefs and practices and to discover counter examples to strongly held beliefs. In addition, preservice teachers must learn to assume personal responsibility for their actions and performance and not blame the students or others for their problems. To be a learner requires the consent of the learner (Loughran & Northfield, 1996). Therefore, it is essential that the learner is open to learning and seeing multiple perspectives. It is important that preservice teachers acquire a discovery, problem-solving mode that allows them to inquire and examine their teaching and the students’ learning through reflection and inquiry. I have learned that for the inquiry–reflection cycle to successfully become a habit of mind, it is important to help students develop the following attitudes and dispositions essential for reflection: open-mindedness, responsibility, and wholeheartedness (Dewey, 1933).”
Quote taken from: Freese, A. (2006). Reframing one’s teaching: Discovering our teacher selves through reflection and inquiry. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(1), 100-119.
This quote seems to sum up quite nicely what my experience was during my pre-internship. I found that my cooperating teacher was extremely good at balancing me as a student, as well as me as a learning teacher. I felt that during my time in her classroom, she was great at letting me be the teacher who I thought I was in the beginning of the 3 week block, but then she would give me advice and possible strategies that I could try for the next time I was to teach. She never pushed me into any one way to teach mathematics, but she also let me know when something did not work very well so that I did not repeat my mistakes. When I was sick one day, my cooperating teacher left it up to me to still plan for the day, as if I was planning for a sub and I had seen this as something extremely beneficial because it not only put the responsibility of planning for someone else to teach my lesson on me, but it also made me realize how much a teacher is responsible for when they miss one day. Another aspect of the role of my cooperating teacher that I really appreciated was the fact that she let me first reflect on my lesson(s) that I had taught throughout the day first before she gave me her feedback. It was nice to have the opportunity to look at myself as a teacher and say this is what I did really well did and here is how I can improve for tomorrow. She would then share some of her thoughts and suggestions with me to better my teaching that much more. Overall, I feel as though I really got lucky when it came to who my cooperating teacher was. She showed me the value of sharing material with fellow colleagues, how to be a good reflector on my own teaching, and how using teaching strategies different from my own can only benefit me as a learning teacher.