A few months ago, I ordered a copy of Inspiring Active Learning by Merrill Harmin. It has become one of my most used resources for effective teaching strategies and inspiration. My copy of the book is slowly being filled with highlighting, underlining, and notes in the margins. This book has opened my eyes to how students perceive my actions. I wish this is what was taught in my teacher education program.
Convicting Quotes on Caring
"High expectations are signs that you strongly care. When you give up on students or accept halfhearted work, you tell students that you do not care about their welfare all that much."
Guilty. Last week, I covered parallel and perpendicular lines with my Algebra 1 students. We discussed what parallel and perpendicular lines looked like. We discovered the relationships between their slopes. We practiced identifying parallel and perpendicular lines by looking at their equations. We used the slope formula to find the slopes of various lines in order to determine if they were parallel, perpendicular, or neither. Two of the last problems on the worksheet asked students to determine if a given pair of lines was parallel, perpendicular, or neither. However, they gave the students the lines in standard form instead of slope-intercept form. My students are really struggling with converting lines in standard form to slope-intercept form. I mean REALLY STRUGGLING. The majority of my students came to me with little to no background in integer operations or inverse operations. I have tried to fill as many gaps as possible, but some of my students are still struggling. This makes rearranging equations frustrating for them and for me. As I helped some students work through these challenging problems, other students were listening. They weren't listening for the solution process, but for the final answer. Oh, number 14 is parallel. I knew this was going on, and I did nothing to stop it. When I graded those worksheets, I felt terrible. These students were getting a grade for work they didn't do. I was rewarding them for cheating. High expectations were not present that day in my classroom... And, it's this sort of thing that makes me want to adopt standards based grading in my classroom.
"When we can radiate our best selves in the classroom each day, we naturally elicit the best response from students...This inspiring power is especially intertwined with our ability to be caring."
After reading this passage, I wrote the following in the margin: "Convicted. No more bad days. Ever." I am human. I have great days and not so great days. I am guilty of getting frustrated with one of my class periods and letting that frustration carry over into later class periods. This is not right. My students deserve me at my best each and every day. It shouldn't matter how I feel, what day of the week it is, or how my 3rd hour acted. I don't have the answer for how to make this happen, but I'm taking the first step by reflecting on and making myself aware of the problem. After several conversations with one of my students, I have started forcing myself to smile some days when I don't feel like it. And, you know what? Sometimes that simple act is all it takes to start changing my attitude and outlook on the rest of the day.