A Snowy April Day: Observations and Question

So, hello again. 

The last two days have been awful. It think it’s the weather. I’ve tried to do this mini paper city project with my kids which basically has left my room an absolute disaster and my kids bored and hating math again (Why don’t we ever do anything fun Ms. G? they ask). I THOUGHT THIS WAS GOING TO BE FUN!! Guess not… Anyway. that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. I’d like to ask as few questions and propose some recent observations.

First the observations…. 

1) I’ve learned that there is NO consistency with my students. Sometimes they work really well with direct instruction, other times they crave stations and independent work. Generally one class prefers certain activities over the other- or so I thought- lately they have just been crazy. So I chalk it all up to this: some days even when I try to cater to a class’s best learning style (or what they ask to do) it will still catch some kids off guard and someone will not be happy. 

2) My kids and I, myself are unhappy when I am not consistent with discipline. I feel like I’ve already messed this up by not setting extremely rigid discipline plans or expectations at the beginning of the year. I find myself letting some students get away with more and taking different action with different student and THIS stresses me out and it stresses my kids out. WHY IS IT SOOOO HARD?? 

3) A smiling face and welcoming demeanor goes a long way. This I learned from the dentist. I don’t know where my kids are coming from or what they go home to. I need to consider my day a success if I can keep a smile on my face an a pleasant voice. Relationships need to always be first- and I sometimes let things (and kids) get to me. 

4) When I’m excited, they are more engaged. (This is not really from recently- but I think it’s definitely worth mentioning) For example, I made two cylinders out of transparencies to help teach volume. I made it seem like I’d turned metal into gold when I showed them the cylinders and they were quiet and intrigued even though it was a mundane subject (amazing). Side note: anytime I tell a story about my personal life, they also fall silent. They love it when I make things personal (to them or to me). 

Okay, enough observations (especially since they aren’t very insightful). Here’s my question:

            Should you let kids work alone when they request it? I have a lot of students who absolutely do not like to work with other students and often cause a behavioral disruption or down-right refuse to work altogether. Since I teach middle school I usually try and fight them on this because I believe working with others is an important skill; however, should I instead recognize that that student learns better working independently and allow him/her to work alone?

            I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this….


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2 Responses to A Snowy April Day: Observations and Question

  1. Pingback: A Question on Forced Collaboration | Productive Struggle

  2. Tina C. says:

    I struggle with forcing group work as well. I think that collaboration and discussion are really important to developing mathematical language, but if a student isn’t working at all then that’s much worse. Most of the time I create activities that students would want to work together on but can do independently and a few times a year I require group work. Maybe you could suggest that a student who didn’t want to work with others pick a task, do that independently and then report back to the group. Then at least they’re talking to peers but also have some space?

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