The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

I am always impressed with the passion teachers have for their work. Education in general, and teachers specifically, have received a lot of negative press. The story line seems to be that the system is broken and failing our kids, so let’s throw those bums out. But if you listen to teachers talk about their job and the kids they teach, you would hear a different narrative.

We have been having conversations with elementary school teachers and it has been incredibly motivating to hear them speak of the love they have for their students and the passion for their work. Many speak of a teacher they had as a child  that changed their lives and their desire to emulate that teacher for their kids. Many unselfishly put in additional hours in order to give the kids the best possible education that they can. One Friday afternoon, after teaching all day and spending almost an hour being interviewed about her teaching career by us, a teacher casually mentioned she was off to meet a grade level teammate to begin work on the next week’s lessons. Her comment was, “We do this every Friday and are usually here until about 8:00.” She, like so many others I know, truly cares about the students she teaches and about being the best teacher she can be.

Among the many items on a teacher’s to-do list is looking for better ways to help their kids understand math. Yet, in every class there are always those kids who struggle. When asked, teachers will describe many approaches they have tried to help these struggling kids but ultimately concede they experience limited success. Having spent 20 years in the classroom, I know this frustration personally.  I could motivate and challenge students in my classes that excelled at math. I knew what was needed to advance in their learning and deepen the understanding of those who were on grade level. Students who were a little behind, I could provide an understanding that would propel them in a positive direction. But there were always those few students that were far behind. I tried many different lessons, approaches, and styles with limited success. The worry for these students who are behind is that they don’t catch up. A colleague of mine recently referenced research on this problem in his blog.

The good news is that these teachers, in partnering with AIMS and learning to use the lens provided through the research of Dr. Les Steffe, will be empowered to have a positive impact on their students. Knowing the math of their students, teachers can facilitate growth in ways they have been unable to in the past. They can positively impact the direction of their student’s math education and provide opportunities for success in their future. I am excited for what the future holds for the teachers we are partnering with and their students. My optimism comes from knowing that teachers are passionate, dedicated professionals that want the best for their kids. We can help them understand new tools, which they desperately want, to make all kids successful.

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