Yesterday I blogged about learning a new structure for determining the amount of involvement students could/should have in decision making in the classroom. It’s really hard to figure out what level is really the best, but here were the factors they suggested considering:
- Stakeholder buy-in
- Time available
- Importance of decision
- Information needed
- Capability of team members
Time available, importance of decision, and information needed are the easiest to deal with. Important high-priority decisions don’t give much space for error or judgement, and it makes sense for one person (or a very small team of people) to make those decisions. But stakeholder buy-in and capability of team members require much more thought.
Stakeholder buy-in is important as well. Ideally every student would have buy-in to everything that they do all the time in school. OBVIOUSLY that’s not the case. When it comes to buy-in I believe in a lot of what Dan Meyer talks about – students don’t necessarily need “real-life” examples to have buy-in. You can look up tons of posts on “real-life” examples that are absolutely terrible, and I’ll admit that I’m definitely to blame for perpetuating this when I’m too lazy to adjust or plan better. Buy-in can be as simple as wanting to be right or wanting to understand! Most of my favorite days in my almost-two-years of teaching so far are when I get students to argue. I love it. It is the best. I cannot encourage you enough to get students to argue about problems.
Capability of team members is another issue which I don’t take lightly. For those who don’t know, I teach year-long collaborative Algebra 1 and collaborative AFDA. Year-long collaborative Algebra 1 consists of the lowest freshman (and sometimes sophomores, juniors, and seniors) who are still in inclusive settings. The only other option is a pull-out math class for special ed students who meet certain requirements. AFDA stands for Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis and is either:
- a transitional course between Geometry and Algebra 2 for students who need a boost in preparing for Algebra 2, or
- the third required math course for graduating from high school.
No one else at my school wants to teach these classes. There are multiple times each week where these classes go from tugging on my heartstrings one moment to making me incredibly disappointed or frustrated the next. It is a tough load sometimes, but it’s tough for the kids too. A lot of these students haven’t gotten above a C in math ever. Ever. Some of my freshman failed all of their middle school math classes. So I always struggle with figuring out what they are capable of. I think that sometimes I put too much pressure on them, or don’t provide them with enough support, but I don’t want them to continue down the path they’ve been on. I’m guessing that more than one of these students hasn’t been successful in math because:
- no one showed them really how to do something and/or why that works;
- no one had the patience to let them take a few days, or a few after school sessions, or a few weeks after the class has moved on to three new topics, before finally figuring it out;
- no one wanted to deal with their behavioral issues;
- no one believed that they could do it and so they didn’t think they could either.
Lord knows I could still use quite a bit of improvement in the realm of classroom management and behavioral interventions, but I want to continue to try having this patience with them. I love working with “the slow kids” because their AHA! moments are the biggest and brightest. I love working with “the kids who need calculators” because it’s amazing to see improvements in their mental math capabilities. I love working with “the kids who won’t ever need higher than Algebra 2 in math” because when they do finally pass (or even better, get A’s, B’s, or C’s in these classes) they are genuinely proud of themselves and grateful that they’ve shown success.
So I think that all of my kids are capable. They’re all worthy of a solid math education. I just have to figure out how much control they’re capable of having.