Engaging students in critical thinking can be a challenging task. The first step is to establish a clear learning goal. When students know what they need to accomplish, they are much more likely to stay focused on that task. That goal should be something they are interested in and may even be something they are effected by every day. By allowing students to inquire about subjects they are interested in, they are encouraged to take ownership of what they learn. As they dive into the new topic, the discovery situations for problem solving offers the opportunity for students to learn independently or collaborate with a group.
When students are working to solve problems together, they are able to lead the discussions among their peers and will answer many of their own questions through conversation. This helps them to understand whatever misconceptions they may have, and provides the opportunity to spark creativity. Students tend to engage in hands on experiences and flexibility by the teacher to adapt to whatever situation they learn best in. In the professional world of teaching, communication is key. On a daily basis, I have to effectively communicate with many different people throughout the entire day. I take pride in being assertive in the decisions I make.
I must be confident in those decisions, because by seeming timid, the students and parents would feel as if I wasn’t sure of myself and that I may not be making the best possible choice. While I may be confident, I am also very understanding. The balance of the two allows me to keep the perfect boundary with my students. They are comfortable enough to approach me and talk about any problems, but they also know to take the decisions made very seriously. When talking to the parents I can be very versatile. When sharing the data I have about their child, I understand that I may need to use layman’s terms.
For some parents I may need to create a chart or graph, and for others a more effective strategy may be as simple as changing a few professional terms into something they are more familiar with. A slight downfall in my communication is participating in large groups. I struggle to leave my comfort zone and meet new people. This hinders my ability to create relationships in the community. I plan on improving my sociability as I gain experience and get more comfortable in the coming years. As I strive to become a representative. I try to turn more leadership roles over to the students.
As teachers we are consistently taught that students should lead discussions and teach their peers. It can be hard for such young students to become leaders, so it is important to get creative. For example, when learning something new in math, it can be very effective to allow students to discover the solution among themselves to increase interest. It becomes a challenge to get the job done, instead of me just telling them the answer. An example of doing this in my classroom would be when I gave students multiple fractions to group based on any factors of their choice.
Then I would start adding in the guidelines. To help students understand the difference in mixed numbers, improper fractions, and proper fractions, I use many creative visuals. I stood on a desk to help students visualize improper fractions by explaining that it is improper of me to stand on the desk and I am the big number. They can see the table top as the fraction bar and the underneath is the smaller number. Food works great with the other fractions. Candy bars help represent mixed numbers, while pizza helps with proper fractions.
When students repeatedly see the fractions and visualizations, it helps them remember and be able to complete multiple operations. Once students have an understanding of the different types of fractions, they get into small groups to create posters and a song to go along with their type of fraction to present to the group. Creativity isn’t just important in teaching, but a necessity. Talways considered school my “job”, since it was training me every day for my future work experiences. Collaboration was hard to understand as a student. Now, I love working with my colleagues.
Throughout college I worked at Kmart. I was expected to collaborate with everyone to maintain a positive work environment. I also used feedback from my bosses and coworkers to make sure procedures were followed and client satisfaction was at its highest. I was also able to enjoy working with a variety of people to get the job done efficiently. When working in isolation, there was inevitably less productivity. My second job began as I graduated college. I was privileged to work in an excellent elementary school for the remainder of the year, then hired as a full time teacher at that same school.
When I was hired to finish out the year, I worked with a student that had recently become blind. He needed a one on one teacher to help him adjust to his new situation. Daily, I collaborated with the vision teacher and the rest of his ARC to help come up with a plan for him the following year. By working with other teachers, his father, and his ARC we were able to collectively build a sound plan for his future. Being in the classroom requires a lot of collaboration in order to get everything done for the many roles a teacher has.
Of course, parents want what is best for their child, which means part of my job is to listen to their concerns to make them feel at ease. Collaboration not only involved parents, but other teachers as well. When working with other professionals it becomes much easier to create new techniques for different situations. As our school adopts the Leader in Me program, there has been a shift in how we collaborate. I’m finding more of us collaborate with other grade levels to ensure that the curriculum builds properly and students are walking into upper grades with the knowledge they need to continue to be successful in the upcoming years.