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
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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