On my campus the fear comes from rampant rumors and retaliation as if the adults are still in high school and have to protect their nonprofessional reputations. I truly believe that all parts of the COVA model are beneficial but my biggest challenge to overcome will be my choice and ownership. I have seen growth mindset and choice really help the students (and myself) reignite engagement however, progress is stiffed at times in very high stakes situation when politics, friendships, relationships (inappropriate ones) and cliques amongst the staff are creating a place for the children that is really not a school at all. My choice to do what is in the best interest of the students could come with a hefty slap on the hand or being thrown under the bus when a scapegoat is needed. I struggle with feeling safe or being able to be authentically vulnerable daily.
I am working on the courage to create a blog as a part of my voice for my ePortfolio but in the mean time I will post (and have shared) Eduardo Briceno’s Ted talk, a website with 25 ways that teachers can connect better with their colleagues, several of my ideas and products of the growth mindset work that I have been trying in my classroom. Even though I get mostly positive feedback it tends to be dead end to the conversation so it is not spreading anywhere near as rampant as the latest gossip. The COVA model is essential and I am attempting to tackle the rejection in the traditional learning model by engaging in it with more than my assigned students. I have been able to employ the COVA model within an after school tutorial/enrichment program where the director allows me jump off the page more and more as she sees how the students respond to the methods that I use. Most of my methods come from what have learned here in the master’s program since I have actively working on learning and teaching the growth mindset and modeling the COVA model.
I hope to use this new found courage to bring positive change to my organization and the overall focus back on the students. Passion, purpose and positivity is possible as a teacher so that we can all ignite sparks within learners.
Over the years I have seen and almost tried it all but every time I got to problem solving it didn’t matter what new model I was trained on it wasn’t as effective as I thought that it should be. I spent a great deal of my time trying to convinced the students that they could not only remember the problem solving process presented but that they could eventually flow through it on their own. I realized that it was like pulling teeth with the students because I couldn’t get them to connect to or buy into the process. I was also battling previous required rote skills that meant nothing to many of them. I started to talk with the students about the processes that they have tried and the strategies they remembered to use. Many teachers use and swear by the examples below and I’m all for reaching every learning so by all means if they work then allow students the success in using them. I just could not get them to draw it, fill it in, remember it or use it successfully.
I knew that there had to be something else that I could do to best reach my students and bring a little joy back into the problem solving process. I watched the student frustrations, listened to misconceptions and looked through their attempted processes to assist me in thinking about a possible solution.
It’s my first year and teaching chose me so I am a nervous wreck trying to make sure that I learn everything to successfully teach each student. I have read every book that was suggested and assigned in my alternative certification class. I survived the first six weeks of being a 6th grade math teacher but I still feel like I’m not reaching every learner. So, I requested a half day from my principal so that I could observe veteran teachers to try and discover any strategies that may help me reach every student. However, I left my observations with no bright ideas to add to my tool belt. On top of being a nervous wreck, I was now confused.
I saw each teacher teaching the material per our required schedule set within our administration department meeting. I saw each teacher using the material that was discussed and suggested as a supplement to the adopted textbook. I saw some students learning and engaged but many were not as they seem to be the highest and lowest students in the class. One particular teacher ignored off task behavior and told me that she addressed it by answering questions from those who paid attention to the lesson first and if she didn’t get to the others then it was their fault. The higher students were done with the independent practice and were content doodling or talking amongst their friends. The lowest students (whether paying attention or not to the lesson taught) weren’t attempting to complete the assignment on their own and when the teacher did not address their hands up then they checked out. They talked, doodled, asked to go to the restroom, etc. There was one student that took her hoodie and folded it within itself to appear to be a bundled new born baby and she laughed with her neighbors as they made cute baby noises.
I understand that one glimpse into a classroom doesn’t represent all day or everyday since each class and student in it is unique. Therefore, I made sure to debrief with each teacher after the class to make sense to how it functioned, asked questions to clarify observations and of course asked for any candid advice that they teacher would be willing to give. I learned a great deal that day. The most important thing that I learned that day was that it was impossible for every teacher to teach the same content using the same book, worksheet/activity, class management and personality. We are human not a robot – even after presentation practice (the lesson). This discovery made me really think about downfall of even trying to make everything “aligned” between the 6th grade math teachers. Every student is different, each mix of students in a class is different, the reception of each set of content is different for each class, learning time is cut short for some classes due to school and federal holidays, etc. It goes on and on. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the difficulties that were presented to me rather I was frustrated with how we were constantly given directives that clearly didn’t consider these things.