If I only knew then….

“So when kids come to your class, are they learning math or math class?”

There’s a question for you.  Are kids learning math or math class?  Ignore the content area.  The question remains the same.  Not something I had contemplated before.  But it really rocked me back when I heard the line.  So I started thinking back to the math classes I taught.  Or the language arts classes.  Or the social studies classes.

Did the kids learn math…or math class?

I tweeted this line out a while ago.  One of the replies came from the twitter account of Teacher2Teacher.

They asked a fair question:

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My answer was, “I guess I think about what kids are doing. Are they DOING math? Or have they simply figured out how to do your math class? Are they up to their eyeballs in math or up to their eyeballs in the math class routine. And I know one doesn’t automatically exclude the other.”

That answer is fine.  It’s close to what I could express within the limits of twitter. A better answer would focus on of what constitutes the majority of the kids’ learning?  Do they primarily learn math?  With joy, creativity, challenge, open ended thinking, collaboration?  Or do they primarily learn math class?

I know the kids learned math class because I had my routine. Get out your homework while I take attendance. Maybe a bell ringer activity.  Any questions from last night’s homework?  No?  Ok, switch papers.  Correct.  Turn them in.  Get out your notes.  I give some notes about the next thing in the math book.  Any questions?  No.  Ok, the assignment is page 48, 2-40 even.  Go ahead and get to work.

Ugh.  As goes the old saying, if I only knew then what I know now.  That model would be blown up.  Way less teacher.  Way more kid.  Way more interaction among kids.  Way more talk, questions, strategies, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

Nelson SLMS(Back when I didn’t know what I know now)

The line also made the me think about ‘classroom management’.  Such an awkward phrase.  Like teachers are managing a classroom.  They’re not.  The classroom is fine.  It’s a room.  The ‘management’ is of students.  Kids.  And usually the ‘management’ is focused solely on behavior.  And more specifically, sadly, kids being quiet and orderly.  Again, the old saying.  I’d rework the entire classroom management conversation. Something more along the lines of, “How to we maximize our learning time together everyday?”  “What does it look like and feel like in here when we’re learning?”  And 5 bucks says the answers wouldn’t all focus on quiet.

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One little line disrupted my thinking.  That’s a darn good thing.

Author: Jeff Nelson

Jeff Nelson Fife School District Assistant Superintendent:Teaching-Learning-Innovation 39 years as an educator. 16 years teacher 3 years assistant principal 12 years principal 8 years Assistant Superintendent BA, Washington State University MAEd, Washington State University Previous member of AWSP Legislative Committee Previous member of UW Tacoma PEAB, Administrative Certification Established and maintained Fife’s first website for 7 years Present work includes establishing the first Teaching/Learning/Innovation department in the Fife School District. Examples of responsibilities include: teacher/administrator professional development, assessment, TPEP, curriculum/materials review, 24 credit requirement, technology levy leadership, teacher/administrator bargaining. Initiatives underway in Fife, as a result of new TLI Department: AVID, OER, Curriculum and Materials reviews, Student Perception Pilot with CSTP, Google Expedition Cofounder of Educational Internet Communications, LLC. Marketed and sold one of the first online grade checking programs in the US. Consulted with Seattle Educational Internet Company for 2 years. jnelson@fifeschools.com twitter.com/jeffnelsonTLI

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