From the first day of school, I make it clear to my students that I am here to help them, but I will not hold their hands. When they ask me a question, I expect it to take place AFTER they have pondered the question. I NEVER accept "I don't know" or "I can't". The biggest hurdle is teaching the students HOW to ask a question.
When a student raises his/her hand, I go to them and ask them what they need. In the beginning, many of them tell me they don't understand the question. I then proceed with, "Okay. What is YOUR question." The student will then proceed to read the question to me. I then ask again, "What is YOUR question." I tell them that I can read the problem written, but I need to know what they are confused about. Once we get through that, I continue asking them various questions about the concept. By the time, I am finished, the student has usually answered the question they had. I see the lightbulb.
Now, this concept is not well liked by many of my students. Most of my kids tell me that they have heard how hard I am. I always take that as a compliment. This past week, my kids conducted a survey in which they created a question and then had to do different things with the data. One group asked who the favorite teacher was. He thought it would hurt my feelings that I had only received a few votes. I told him that I was not here to be the favorite teacher. Most students do not like how hard I am and that I have high expectations. I told him my feelings would be hurt if they said I was the easiest teacher. I know that when students walk out of my classroom, I have done the best job I can to not only teach them math but provide them with tools they can use anywhere.
We are NEVER finished in my class. We have numerous projects going on in and out of the classroom. The kids are given many opportunities to express and use math in many different ways. I always see such a difference by the end of the year. My kids learn many skills, and that is what they should learn in all classes.
As they were working in groups this week, I was shocked as to how many of them had no concept as to what perimeter and area really meant. Most could tell me what the formula meant, but they had no idea what the concept meant. It just made me realize that not all teachers push the students like they could be pushed. Self-discovery is a wonderful teaching tool. I am always there to let the student know if what they discovered is correct, but they figured it out on their own. That is powerful. As teachers, we must realize that we need to let the students take control of their learning. Let them find out the answers on their own, and we are there to offer support and help keep them on the path to learning. Through life, we will make mistakes, and there are many times in which students arrive at a thought that is not correct. Through effective questioning, we can easily get them back on the right track.
Although it has been disheartening to see how unprepared some of these students are in the self-discovery path, it has also been wonderful to see what happens when they finally get it! I am not saying that every student did not understand these concepts, but many of the students did not. I teach my students as if they were my own child. I can only hope that my son's teachers push him to his highest potential.
Imagine how wonderful our schools would be if we all set and kept our high expectations! It is easy to just go over and tell a student how to find something out, but tomorrow that same student will have the same question. Many students won't be happy about it at the time, but in a few years, the students will look back and appreciate what was done for them. Let's give them the best we have, so they can be the best they can be!
Happy High Expectation Setting!