Maybe our job as educators includes doing what we can do to give every student a reason to come to school. I think that reason begins with making a personal connection with our students and letting them know they have someone cheering for them. We can also make school a place students want to be by engaging every one of them in interesting, challenging, and often relevant tasks and expecting them to assume increasing responsibility for learning, producing, and communicating about their work. In doing so, we have an opportunity to help them build the knowledge and skills it takes to succeed in life after they finish school.
Cathy Seeley (2014, p. 46)
The profiles in this book show how teachers can implement to Seeley’s vision of a school where students want to be by engaging students in ways that motivate them to come to school. The teachers demonstrate a process of teacher-to-student interactions that yields insights into how they might reach multicultural students and hence all students. Just as important, the teachers are correctly implementing the NCTM/CCSSM Standards documents while providing multiple opportunities for their students to engage in solving culturally relevant problems for which there are no quick rules. As with real-life challenging problems, no hints are given that say, “Use this very quick way to solve it,” unless the students discovered it. The students have to read, research, and analyze the problem; decide on plausible pathways for a solution; do the work to solve it; and then present and defend the work. Throughout this process, students quickly apply their basic skills, previous understandings, and use technology when appropriate. As students struggle to find solutions, the teacher or friends help by facilitating when necessary. Equally important, small groups work in teams to solve the problems, thus building students’ capacity to listen and to appreciate different ideas as they too try to communicate their own ideas. It is through such processes that students develop the awareness and persistence and hence a strong mathematical identity to help generate multistep approaches to solving problems, not just in mathematics but in all areas of life—school, work, family, and community. Such productive engagement with collaborative problem solving provides the tools for productive thinkers to engage in society as productive citizens who also embrace diversity. (I wish to remind readers to be mindful that the strategies, although based on research, are suggestions that should not be used to limit the learning environments of any group of students.)
For specific advice, guidelines, and recommendations on how the education community can help students realize their potential, I recommend these resources:
- 1. The research recommendations given in the chapters of this book
- 2. The Life-Long Learning Laboratory concept described in Chapter 12
- 3. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All
- (NCTM, 2014)
- 4. NCTM’s Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices series for grades Prek-5, 6-8 and 9-12, examine in depth what each teaching practice would look like in a classroom, with narrative cases, classroom videos, and real student work, presenting a rich array of experiences that bring the practices to life.
- (NCTM, 2017)
- 5. It’s Time: Themes and Imperatives for Mathematics Education
- (NCSM, 2014)
- 6. Smarter Than We Think
- (Seeley, 2014)
I hope this book helps readers to visualize how the role of classroom leader can promote an environment that supports all students’ creativity I also wish readers joy and success in their productive struggles for providing the best education for our children.
I end this chapter with another e-mail from my student, Mark.
From: Mark Newman
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:23 a.m.
To: Yvelyne Germain-McCarthy Subject: Re: greetings from an old student Hi Yvelyne,
(Using your first name will take getting used to.)
You asked what prompted my praise of you as a caring and fantastic teacher. I was very fortunate that basic and honors mathematics came very easily to me. I never had a moment’s trouble solving any classroom problems through the end of high school. But I knew that most kids had no idea how to proceed, and were often paralyzed. The strongest memory I have of your class is that you were always calm, soft-spoken and cheerful, and very empathetic. Nothing was ever presented as “obvious.” You made the subject very human. I could see that made a big difference to everyone.
As I went through college and graduate school, of course I encountered many subjects that completely baffled me. Abstraction takes work! Along the way, I tried my hand at teaching and tutoring. These days I try to get my daughter to enjoy math. When I decided to make a business of helping people use math, it meant spending most of my days around people for whom math is opaque. Teachers like you gave me a great example to model: when trying to tackle difficult material, be kind both to myself and to others.
Hope that gets at some of it.