and My Classroom

Leslie D. Brown

EMT 705

Dr. Olive

During my first year as a high school mathematics teacher I have tried
many different things in my classroom. I have tried lecturing, group cooperative
learning activities, class discussions, and lab activities with graphing
calculators. Now that the school year has ended I am still unsure about
how I should structure my classroom to best meet the needs of my students,
but I will continue to try different approaches to find some things that
work.

*Creating Miracles* shows a very unique way of teaching geometry
in the high school. This approach requires a lot of dedication from the
students in the class, and I believe that it is possible to find this dedication
if they are willing to take responsibility for their own learning. The students
in Creating Miracles all seemed to take an interest in their education,
and even the students who failed the course for the year had confidence
in themselves to retake geometry the following year. These students did
not master the mathematics necessary for the course, but they did develop
some social skills and this gave them the confidence to keep trying. They
learned to communicate with each other and to voice their opinion. They
also had to depend on each other rather than the teacher to find and develop
their knowledge, and they learned to defend the things that they believed
were right. This is a very important and positive aspect of the Build-A-Book
classroom. Confidence is a quality that I would like to see my students
develop for themselves, and a quality that could be strengthened in me as
a result because if my students have confidence in what they have learned
then I will have more confidence in them and in myself as a teacher.

I once thought that as a teacher I was supposed to provide all of the knowledge
necessary for a given mathematics course and teach the students to use the
knowledge. After reading Creating Miracles and after discussions and information
from other sources, I have realized that this is not the best nor the most
effective way for a classroom of students to learn mathematics. Students
should be involved in the learning processing by actively participating
in the development of new material and they should be allowed to discover
on their own, make their own mistakes, and learn from them with guidance
from the teacher. This type of learning took place in the Build-A-Book classroom,
and I would like to develop this kind of learning environment in my classroom.

Being aware of what is going on in the classroom is also a very important
role of the teacher so that he can monitor the progress of the class . Throughout
the book, Creating Miracles, I questioned whether Mr. Healy was always informed
about what each group of students was accomplishing each day, but by the
end of the book I felt more confident that he knew what was taking place
in the classroom. This is especially important in a classroom with a grading
system that is similar to the system used by Mr. Healy. Since he did not
give a grade based on homework or work done in the classroom each studentís
grade was based completely on the tests taken. If you wait until a test
to assess what students can do and what they know, then a lot of time may
have been wasted if they are not having success with the material. I do
not personally believe that this system of grading is appropriate for high
school students. I believe that the work done by students inside and outside
of class should be valued by the teacher, and this can be shown by making
it a part of the studentís grade for the course. I have often heard
that studentís determine what information is valued by the teacher
by looking at the material that is on the test. The same must be true about
student work that is graded.

Assessment should also coincide with the method of instruction that is used
in the classroom. This was not true in the Build-A-Book classroom. The students
in this classroom learned by investigating different topics and discussing
them within their groups, but grades were based on what seemed to me traditional
geometry tests with true/false statements, fill in the blanks, and paragraph
proofs. This seemed to be unfair to the students because they were assessed
on something that they had not practiced in the class. A group test or a
grade based on the presentations given by the groups may have been more
appropriate. A teacher should not teach according to what will be on the
test, but a test or any other type of assessment should reflect the instruction
and the learning that takes place in the classroom. Fitting the assessment
to the instruction is an important part of every classroom.

The class average of the Build-A-Book class remained close to the averages
of other geometry classes which indicated that the experimental class was
a success in most cases. It was very encouraging to know that there were
also many other successes in the Build-A-Book class. Some people in the
class who may not have taken an interest in a traditional geometry class
took an active part in the Build-A-Book class in their own education. One
of the visiting teachers noticed that the students in the class were really
interested in learning about and creating their geometry. The students were
also confident enough about what they had investigated and found to present
it to the rest of the class and to defend their ideas when there were disagreements.
The confidence that was gained in the class affected other parts of the
studentsí lives in at least two cases. Chris seemed to gain more
control in her life, and Edmund felt better about himself and felt more
at ease around other people. Developing social skills such as these is another
very positive aspect of the Build-A-Book class and an important part of
any teacherís classroom.

I am still unsure about what should take place in my classroom to create
the best learning environment, but I will continue to try to find what works
best. Some of my goals are to help the students to learn mathematics, to
help them to develop social skills that they need for their everyday life,
and to help them to learn to think for themselves and to have the confidence
to voice their opinions. Just learning mathematics is not enough anymore.
I have not yet developed my own teaching style, but I will consider the
things that have taken place in the Build-A-Book class as I work toward
a better mathematics class.

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