Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"I Was Never Good At Math Either"

Next Tuesday night is Parents Night.  We set up as departments around the school and parents move as grade level groups to each room (so we'll get all of the ninth grade parents together for instance).  We get ten minutes with each group of parents.  A lot of other departments hand out syllabi and describe their courses.  I wouldn't want to just hand out syllabi on my first day of class with my students, so I don't do it with their parents either.

I run a class.  I have a warm up on the board followed by a list of what I plan to get accomplished that day and then their "homework" (to read the syllabus and e-mail me with any questions).  My warm-up is usually something that their children did in the past week, preferably something without a lot of prior knowledge necessary.  I want them to experience the fast-paced energetic focused energy that their kids see every day (or at least I hope is what the kiddos experience).  Most of them appreciate the shift from being talked at, but some are definitely uncomfortable.

"I don't know how to do math," "I don't remember any of this stuff," "We weren't here for the lesson."  These are all common comments that I hear as parents wrestle with algebra and calculus.  I give them lots of encouragement, don't let them give up, suggest that they help each other, but make sure that they each understand the concepts.  It gives the parents a sense of how I help their student when they are struggling in class.

After our warm up, the "In Class" schedule usually includes a section on "Your attitudes about math."  I remind parents that their attitude and feeling toward math and how they talk about it will influence their children.  I implore them to please be careful to give messages of encouragement and not an "I never got this either."

I'm sure that I will have more questions about SBG for the ninth grade and about our connection to UVM for calculus, but I want to keep the focus on how we deal with discomfort and what we want to model for our children.