Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Student Teacher Interactions

My 2-week training is over, and now all that's left to do is practice, practice, practice and map out what I'll teach when. It was put on by these folks, and everything was so professional and well-thought-out. I also know from other teachers who teach the curriculum that you are well-supported throughout the year.

For 2 weeks I was in a class with 16 other varied-ability people - lots of time for reflection on how teachers respond to students and how different students handle their learning. Two people had their hands in the air basically the whole time - asking for tons of help and being a little gun-shy of exploring on their own. I'm wondering if there was something non-demeaning the teachers could have done to make them more self-sufficient. Maybe something along the lines of, "I'm confident that you can figure out the answer. Try 3 things first to see what happens and then I'll help you." or "Here's a hint, explore it for 3 minutes and then ask me." Instead, every time they went over to help them on the program, the teachers would take the mouse in their hands and solve the problem. To me that just kept the people helpless.

Another 2 students had already had a lot of exposure to the program, so something that would take me all night of homework to figure out, they finished during class. They weren't rude or bragging about it, but it was clear that was what was happening. But. By the 3rd day of our 2-week workshop, the teachers would frequently make comments such as, "I bet R. has it finished and has improved on it.", or "I bet C. has already figured out how to do that.", etc. As a student, that got annoying to hear. I'm thinking it wasn't helpful to either R. or C. because maybe they felt singled out, and the other students (me included) would feel that much slower. Then I started wondering if I did that in my class. I'd better stop it if I did/do.

Okay, one workshop down, 4 to go. Mwa ha ha ha.


  1. Hi, I'm also a math teacher who was recruited two years ago to take, and then teach, PLTW engineering courses. Which course did you take?

  2. Anonymous9:46 PM

    I took the IED course, and I'm excited to teach it next year. Are you still teaching it, and what do you teach?

    Ms. Cookie

  3. Over the last two years, I've taken Computer Integrated Manufacturing & Principles of Engineering. I teach these classes, and also teach geometry & algebra 2.

    The engineering courses have been fun to learn and fun to teach. The students are excited about the material; they like the hands-on projects and the sense of accomplishment they get in designing and building their own ideas.

    I haven't taken the IED course (another teacher at my school teaches that), but have used the Inventor software for students to model their projects in CIM.

    I'm actually going back again later this summer to take Digital Electronics, and am looking forward to learning about Boolean algebra!

    Nick Yates
    Baltimore, MD

  4. I really like your observations of the way teachers respond to varied ability in a group. I think as adults we have forgotten that we saw it all the time in school, ourselves. And your observations about the advanced students - that it helped NOBODY to have the teachers point out that they knew it - really speak to me. I was always the kid getting praised in class, and it sure sucked. In college, I had a class I skipped all the time, because when I went, the professor always pointed out how well I knew the material. It does nothing to build a learning community.

    Your post is making me think again about equitable but individualized ways of helping, training, correcting, and enriching my students's learning.

    Good stuff.

  5. Anonymous3:43 PM


    It's interesting to hear it from the "other side" of the frequent compliments. Thank you for sharing. I try to remember to mention in class, "everybody is learning at their own pace. It's good as long as you're making progress from where you're at. As in life different people are good at different things." But of course, I need a secret camera in my room some day to give me a reality check as to those times when I'm "not being helpful".

    Ms. Cookie