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#TeacherThoughtsTuesday: Student Engagement


Student Engagement

Student engagement. Those words are the dream and the nightmare for every school teacher no matter what subject or age group. Everywhere.

Engagement is easily one of the hardest parts about being a teacher. Getting students to buy into what you’re teaching, without questioning the purpose or disagreeing with the usefulness, is the ultimate goal. Teachers dream of having students engage themselves in the content. Our goal is to have students who want to know more about the skills and ideas being taught.

Student engagement is the dream and the nightmare for teachers of every subject & age group. Everywhere.

I know, some of you are thinking, “When I was a in school we just had to sit, listen, and take notes. No one cared if we were into the lesson or wanted to know more about a given topic.” While that may be true (to a point), there is tremendous value in having a lesson where students can clearly see the point, the ‘why’, and have the desire to learn the about the topic or master the skill.

Without engagement in what is being taught the subject, whatever it may be, becomes stale and boring because there is no personal involvement. You can’t make students love math but you can make them want to find the answer to an engaging question. For instance, most of my students could really not care less about how to solve a system of linear equations, but if I ask them which cell phone plan is the better deal for a certain contract time they want to find the answer because they can see immediate pay-off in knowing how to find the answer.

Algebra is all around us, hidden in plain sight as normal, day-to-day consumer decisions.

In an age where many students can’t see the value in learning something that isn’t immediately applicable to their lives finding something they can relate to is vital. I’m not saying there aren’t going to be lessons (or even whole units) that won’t be immediately useful to them, but the more you can bring in the day to day usefulness of math the more likely they are to believe you when you tell them that they will, indeed, use math after high school. (Even if they don’t solve the problems the same way…)

Algebra is all around us; hidden in plain sight as normal day-to-day consumer decisions.

As a fourth year teacher, I’m really just starting out on my journey to becoming an effective teacher. I think if I can add a few great, engaging ideas to my lessons every term I’ll get there… 


Though, I’ve heard the really great teachers never believe they’ve mastered it all!

Do you have ideas about day-to-day consumer topics you think fit well into the math classroom? Have some of your own teacher thoughts to share?


I want to hear them!
♥♥♥ Leave me some comment love below. ♥♥♥


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Summer is Coming

Summer is coming
Summer is coming. Slowly but surely, little by little. 

Twenty days and counting.

Friday… one day closer.
For many people their favorite day of the week.
As a teacher, I have a love/hate relationship with Friday’s. It’s the last day before I have some time away from full-time teacher duty but it is also the day I get the least amount of focus from my students.
It usually starts out pretty well, but by the last class of the day if I can get them to stay on task for half an hour I’m doing pretty good.
By fifth block today, I was tired and a little frustrated because my fourth-hour students weren’t understanding the skills we were working on as well as I thought they would. So instead of getting them started on the activity and walking around to check in with each set of partners I ended up running all over the room answering questions for which I knew they should already have the answers.
After about ten minutes of constant questions, I started asking myself, ‘Why don’t they understand this concept? What did I forget to teach them? How can I help them learn this concept?’ And on and on.
Then I stopped to reflect on what I had done to help them learn these skills.
My thought process went something like this, ‘We have been working on these skills all week. Each day I added a little more complexity and a couple more vocabulary terms that fit into the big idea. Building up ideas a little bit at a time. I’ve given them a notes page each day to fill in important information as it comes up. I’ve even looked at and provided feedback on all their practice work in a timely manner. What else do I need to do? Why aren’t they getting it?’
I went into fifth-hour with these thoughts at the forefront of my mind.
Just like in the previous class, I explained the activity and broke my students up into random partnerships. At this point, one of my students decided that she would have nothing of working with a person I chose and walked out. (Par for the course on a Friday…) After that brief interruption everyone got started and, as before, I expected to just make leisurely rounds checking for understanding occasionally and making sure everyone was on track. (Fingers crossed that my misjudgment was isolated to just one class.)
I was hoping to hear some good mathematical discussion about how to solve the problems.  What I got was a repeat of fourth-hour with the added fun of indignant, disrespectful comments about how long it took me to get to each group with their hand up.
After I got off my soap box about patience and disrespect, I went back to the questions at the front of my mind.
‘Why aren’t they getting it and what can I do to help them?’

In a brief epiphany, I realized that I was the problem. I wasn’t making them try hard enough on their own. I was encouraging their learned helplessness. Rather than first asking them if they had checked their notes, read the problem again, and consulted their partner I just answered their question.

Not only did I answer the question but I told them why. I didn’t make them figure it out.

I was the problem.

This is only my third year as a teacher, I learn new things every day, but I think that my discovery  epiphany Friday afternoon was one that will be a game changer.  I knew that learned helplessness was a problem but I thought I had been doing a decent job of trying to combat the issue in my classes. My frustrating Friday told me I was wrong. I had been doing a little bit, but I wasn’t doing enough.

I know it’s not something that can or will change overnight. That’s not a good way to make changes in a teaching style, not if you want it to be permanent and effective. It will take time, but summer is coming.
Summer is coming.

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Count Your Blessings: My Unexpected Night Off

Count Your Blessings

Life has been pretty crazy at home lately. Trying to teach full-time, be a full-time graduate student, wife, and mother all at the same time is taking its toll.

In addition to being more sleep deprived than usual, I have been having some serious attacks of the ‘Mom-Guilt’ persuasion lately, so when my evening unexpectedly opened up I took full advantage of the family time that has been so rare lately.

The original game plan had been to get home from school at about 4:00, hang out with Dragonling for a half an hour or so, and then retreat to my desk to do school work until supper. I planned to eat supper with Dragonling and Science Lovin’ Papa and then return to my school work. I had hoped to finish the assignment that was due at midnight before bedtime (8:30) so after I put Dragonling to bed I could start the training for the distance standardized test scoring that I will be doing as a short little side job. Last time the training took a couple hours so I expected to be up till 11:00 or midnight to check that off my ‘to-do’ list.

But Someone must have known that this Momma needed a night off to spend with her family because the stars aligned and I suddenly found myself with none of the deadlines I had anticipated.

When I went up to my desk after school I opened up my online portal for my graduate classes and saw an announcement from my professor. The due date for the assignment that was due tonight had been extended. Knowing I had a few more days I decided to start my test scoring training to get it out of the way, so I went to my email to find the link to the training page only to find that instead of starting on April 6th I had misread the date. Scoring training doesn’t start until April 16th. As I let this news sink in I suddenly realized that for the first time in many days I had a night where I could actually put things off and not make it worse in the end.

I took full advantage of this small blessing.

Science Lovin’ Papa cooked dinner, then we all sat at the table and enjoyed a relaxed supper. We had time to talk about our day and I could sit and enjoy the time without thinking about how late I was going to be up to finish my homework.

After supper, Dragonling and I played with Play-Doh. Mostly we just smashed it because Dragonling is only one and a half, but it was the most fun I’ve had with Play-Doh in years. Watching her eyes light up when I molded the dough into a cat face or a caterpillar warmed my heart.

When she was finished with the Play-Doh, Dragonling looked at me and very sweetly said, “Car?”

“Where do you think we should go?” I asked.

Shhlide? Shlide.” she replied.

“You think we should go to the park and play on the slide? Ok. Let’s find your shoes.”

All I heard after that was excited squealing and frantic running about looking for anything she might possibly need to get that show on the road. She found my purse, Papa’s hat, her shoes, and her coat.

We piled into the car and headed for the park.

At the park, there was only one other child on the equipment and he took off after his parents soon after we arrived. I followed her up the steps, over to one of the slides, then she sat on my lap as we went down. Then she hopped off and raced around to the stairs to do it again. We did this over and over and over…

Most nights I would have been ready to stop after the fourth or fifth time down the slide with her, but tonight was different. The weather was beautiful, a little windy, but sunny and not too cold. All I could think about was all the times I had missed taking her to the park already and all the times in the coming months that I would have to do homework instead of spending time with my baby. (Cue Mom-guilt.)

My night off wasn’t planned. I didn’t spend it doing the things on my ‘to-do’ list. It was spontaneous and it was perfect.

When we got home from the park, I Dragonling and I showered and then she had a bath to play a bit in the water. Bath time is usually a task taken on by Papa Dragon but tonight I really wanted to do it. I let her play in the water longer than usual and Papa came and watched her while I got the after bath things ready. We got pajamas on and then went downstairs for a small snack, one episode of ‘Puffin Rock’, and snuggles.

Then it was bed time. We read a book and then we cuddled in the rocking chair. When I laid her down in her crib she looked up at me and said, “Wuv you, Mama.”

“I love you too, Aurora.”

I kissed her forehead like always and she grabbed my face and kissed my cheek.

A perfect end, to a perfect unexpected night off.

Count your blessings. Savor the moments, especially the ones you didn’t know you were going to get.

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