This week I read an article titled, “No Gold Stars for Excellent L.A. Teaching,” where a few teachers within the L.A. Unified School District were applauded for their effective teaching. The award for best teaching was contingent upon their ability to be statistically effective teachers. This sounds a bit uninspiring, until you realize that many of these teachers aren’t teaching by the books. Zenaida Tan, an L.A. elementary teacher, challenges her math students in creative ways by getting them to practice multiplying large numbers in an activity called “Monster Math.” An effective teacher pushes their students outside their comfort to achieve more than they would left to their own devices!
The classroom can be a great place to get students thinking collectively. What can we achieve with this many people? By making learning a concerted effort students are more likely to participate or help out. Too often students give up when they struggle independently. By recognizing the potential in my students to solve bigger “problems” as a class I can facilitate more academically rigorous discussions. By posing small-sized questions we sometimes forget that we are sending students the message that we don’t trust their ability to achieve higher standards. I would like to plan for some of my discussion questions to require a higher caliber of critical thinking (perhaps labeling them difficult) for the times that I want to challenge my students to reach beyond their comfort zone.