Thursday, November 8, 2012

Key Priorities for Implementing Change

By Sharri Zachary, RME Mathematics Research Coordinator
From a classroom perspective, implementing change for the improvement of math requires that we, as teachers,
1.    Remain Flexible
2.    Reflect on Current Practices
3.    Build Relationships

One thing about TEACHING…Every school year is different!

As we work toward improving the outcomes in our math classrooms, one of our key priorities has to be that we plan to incorporate any changes or additions that are made at the State level into our curriculum and that curriculum should then drive our instruction. The State standards are our “non-negotiables.”  They tell us what students should be able to do upon completion of a grade level.

The flexibility comes in being able to adjust your lesson plans and calendar which is not always easy to do when you have assemblies, pep rallies, and other “special” bell schedules that (while important) take away from your instructional time.  This is why it is important to remain flexible and have a backup plan.  Even with all of these special events going on, we still are required to make sure students know the material.

Second, when trying to implement change for the improvement of math, the greatest thing you can do as a teacher is be a reflective practitioner.  When I worked with teachers, I often gave the suggestion to include a reflection piece on their lesson plans and at the end of each day or at the end of the week, jot a few notes describing how the week went.  Was the activity a complete disaster? Did I spend too much time lecturing?  Did I provide enough opportunities for students to work cooperatively?  How can I tweak this activity so that students are more engaged?  And so on and so on.

It is not uncommon to refer to what was done in previous years to plan out the current school year.  What is useful is to see what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what could be done better.  By making it a priority to reflect, you will begin to make those adjustments to your lessons that will improve the quality of your math instruction.

Lastly, a key priority for me is to always build a relationship with my students.  When I served as a math instructional coach to middle and high school math teachers, I reminded them every year of the importance of building a relationship with their students.  Your students need to know that you care about them and that they can trust you.  When we relate to our students and they begin to genuinely care about us beyond simply having respect for us, they want to make us look good.

So if that means, putting forth a little more effort in class, being just a little more attentive when you are speaking, trying a little harder on that test, they will do it.  When they reach that point of caring, they will understand that what you do is reflected through how they academically perform and when they measure up, you shine.

Summing it All Up
In identifying some key priorities for implementing change to improve math outcomes, I suggest being more flexible, practice being a reflective practitioner, and strive for better relationships.

What are some other key priorities you see are necessary for improving math outcomes?

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