Thanksgiving Observations

Over my week-long Thanksgiving Break, I spent 1 1/2 days doing observations of other math classrooms. A bit of background: my major in college was Special Education - Deaf Education with minors in math and english. Basically, though, I was treated as an Elementary Education major, with the addition of some ASL classes. All of my observations and practicums, as well as my internship placements, were in elementary classrooms. I *did* observe in a public middle school program for d/hh students at one point, but other than that, all of my exposure was to elementary teaching methods.

Tune into now, my 2nd year as a high school math teacher. I realized that the only high school math teachers I have ever observed were my own, and that was long enough ago that I don't remember specifics about what they did (let alone, while I was in high school I didn't really think I would ever be a high school math teacher...I started college majoring in music education with a minor in math thinking I could maybe teach middle school math if the band directing thing didn't work out).

Needless to say, I thought it might be a good idea to observe some other teachers at work with my "teacher goggles" on, looking at things like classroom management and structure, lesson organization, how to handle notes/homework, and just generally what other people's classrooms look like.

I went to Wisconsin School for the Deaf to look at Bilingual/Bicultural teaching philosophy, as well. I was able to observe a HS geometry, HS simulated budgeting, middle school, and several elementary classrooms. I was a little disappointed that my schedule wasn't exactly as it had been planned, but it was good to see what was happening at another school for the deaf. One of the major things I took away from those observations are ideas that I hope to bring to a personal finance class in the future. The simulated budgeting program that they have is very detailed and organized, and gives students real experience! I'd love to see something like that at my school. Something that surprised me, though, is that I only saw one student all day write anything on paper (as in, notetaking) other than their homework assignment. I spend a lot of time making guided notes and "worksheets" to allow the students to work through problems and then keep them as a reference in the future. The classes I observed did not do that. Problems were "through the air" or students worked them out on the board.

I also went to see @JackieB for a day! It was really fun to meet her in person, as I've been learning from her blog and tweets for about a year now. I got to see her integrated classes of freshmen and seniors, and her Algebra 2 class, as well as an AP Calc AB class. We also had the opportunity to go out to lunch and talk math. If only we could change the world...and the system...and kids' motivation to learn math. Something that I learned from Jackie is to highlight *every* opportunity to connect equations, graphs, tables and situations. In certain types of problems, I just forget to look at one of those 4, I now realize that the connections that can be made across the board might make at least a little easier for students to build connections and understanding of concepts. She asks really good questions, and makes her students squirm sometimes by refusing to tell them if their answer is right or wrong, but continuing to ask them questions like, "why?" and "how did you get there?" Keep it up, Jackie, and thanks again!

Contrary to popular belief (my friends and grandparents in the Chicago area), I am not looking for a job for next year. I'm just looking to get ideas of how I can improve my teaching, what I can do differently, and affirmation of some of the things I am already doing well. I wish I could take more time to go observe at different schools for the deaf across the country. There *has* to be someone out there that is having success teaching math to students who are d/hh. I want to steal every bit of wisdom I can!


  1. We got to have a PD day this year for visiting another school. It was such a great opportunity. Good to see what other teachers are doing. Glad you got to do that!

  2. Wait wait... you were in Chicago but didn't see me?! I would like you to know that I am *completely* ok with that :) I'm kinda horrified at the thought of people who have known me for years seeing me in that environment. Strangers? Totally fine. Friends? Weird.

    (Did you see Mr. Kelly while you were there?)

  3. It was great to have you. Wait, you know Paul Kelly? Drat. Wish I'd known that, we could have gone to see him.