This past week was the worst week I have had as a teacher this year. Teachers returned from spring break on Monday to district in-service and the students returned on Tuesday. Our state testing starts the first week of May and so, like so many other teachers in my shoes, I am feeling the pinch of the material I have yet to "cover" before the testing begins. I am a math teacher for those of you who did not know and I have spent this year implementing a standards based grading system that is new to me and my students. I have also worked to make my math classes more about problem-solving and thinking rather than teaching rules for students to follow. I work everyday to build student confidence in their ability to use their brains to think through problems.
I fear that all of the time I have spent this year empowering students to create foundations for their mathematical thinking and understanding was demolished this week. Even though I worked to provide discovery learning activities for the students, they were confused, frustrated, and questioning their math ability and understanding. The culminating event was my last period of the day on Friday when one of my higher level math students was brought to tears as he struggled with the content he thought he understood and was feeling stupid and incompetent of which he is neither.
As I consider my plan of action for the next two weeks, keeping the events of the past week in mind, I have decided to change course. Instead of cramming material down my students throats and causing an erosion of their confidence, I will take a different path.
These next two weeks will consist of me reminding my students how smart they are, what great problem solvers they are, and working to build their confidence back up by reminding them that they already know so much about mathematics and mathematical thinking. My only hope is that they still have faith in me and believe me when I tell them they can do this and anything they set their minds to. I have to make sure my students understand 1) I trust in their ability and 2)I know and believe the last thing they as students want to do is fail.
I really HATE standardized testing because of the way it makes my students and me feel about ourselves. Even though I will be re-planning this weekend, my heart feels lighter because my classroom will be one of celebrating and reinforcement instead of cramming and discouragement.