What’s the Delimma? An insight on why my students don’t remember and how to fix it

I can hear the sighs, the groans, and the silent cuss words as the students stare blankly at the test that lies in front of them. 40 minutes in and its obvious they did not retain the information being tested. They’re racking their brains trying to remember any tidbit of the information that could possibly help them. I watch as Sally’s eyes wander over to Tommy’s test hoping to see something that will trigger something in her brain as to how to solve this. I see John staring at the clock, watching the minute hand tick. Other students begin to fidget in their seats. Then a look of panic sets in when Michael comes up to turn in his test, the others wondering how he remembered so much. What’s causing this? Why isn’t the information sticking with them? Are my teaching methods failing? Are they not paying attention? Is the classroom atmosphere to distracting? Am I a bad teacher?

I stop the blame game and I think back to my grade school days and the teachers I had. The goal at hand is to help my students succeed. The way I go about teaching impacts my students’ success rate. The way I plan and design my lessons determines how the students learn and retain information. I need excitement. I need a variety of methods. I need to ensure that the students continue to use the previous information so they continue to use it. I need to plan my lesson so my students are engaged and making connections between ideas and life. It’s my job to get them to understand and learn. They need to retain the information for more than just the test. I will succeed so they can succeed.

My lessons will change. They will no longer be the same boring, repetitive PowerPoint presentations so many teachers fall into. I will vary my lesson styles. The activities will become more engaging. I will find more hands on methods so students can learn by exploration. I will find real world connections so the information is relevant to my students. I will help them make connections so they will remember this information for more than an hour.

I do not want to teach answer getting. I do not want to teach memorization for a test. I want students to love learning and look forward to it. The more excited students get about learning, the easier remembering will be. If they are truly passionate about something, then remembering it will come easier to them. I will learn about each of my students: their hobbies, interest, and likes/dislikes. Knowing these will help me plan lessons that excite them about the lesson. My students will shout, “Yay” and “Hooray!” instead of grumbling at the idea of a new lesson.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Each lesson will be learned, but it will not go away after the test. My class will keep reviewing old skills, building new skills off of them. This information will not only be used until it is tested on, but it will be used all year. We will continue making different connections to old standards so students will remember them over a period of time instead of learning for the test.

With the use of different methods, multiple connections to the real world, and practice students will learn and remember. Remembering. That’s the most important thing. In doing these things, I will help my students’ succeed. No longer will the groans and cuss words slip from their mouths on test. My students will be prepared for whatever is presented to them. 

Life of the Middle School Math Teacher: Blog #1

Difficult to handle won’t begin to describe my time in a South Bend Intermediate Center after I graduate. Being an attractive female, teaching math, will probably be distracting to most the pubescent boys. Most the attitude driven females will probably develop hatred as the boys swoon over the older, pretty teacher. As emotions rage and friendships crumble only to rekindle a day later, finding a way to keep the attention of 80 students will be a difficult tasks. As a teacher, it becomes my job to drown out the everyday drama, and teach something more important to the youth.

By this time I know, most the students at this age are not concerned about learning for the art of learning. They have other things going on at home to worry about. Some are living on the street, some have gang affairs, some have medical conditions, or family situations causing their attention to stray. My job is to find a way to break through the worry and concerns to make learning fun to each and every student; to make a difference in their hard life, if only for the hour they are in my class.

The first year will probably be a train wreck, as I try to learn to manage my time and emotions. Stress will overtake my body as I slowly piece together my plans for the year; Planning and re-planning to perfect each and every lesson trying to gather everyone’s attention. Trying to motive students in different ways. Not every student will care about the “A” on his or her report card. Not every student will push himself or herself because they want to succeed. For my learners who struggle through the formula presented before them, for my learners who try so hard to be told they are wrong, for the kid in the back of the classroom embarrassed to talk, I will encourage and applaud all attempts. I will create a positive learning environment, in which students want to learn. I will teach and reteach so my students can understand. I will go over previous skills if that helps the student understand the new concept better. I also will provide other means of learning, via Internet games, websites and other resources to enable my advanced learners to continue learning.  I will bring in treats, only occasionally of course, for a job well done. Most of all I will be the comfort, strength, and support each of my students need.

My lessons shall not be boring but intriguing and fun in nature. My graphics will grasp the attention of the sleepers, gazers, and daydreamers. I will relate to things they are interested in, never revealing my age to a show they do not know. I will assign only necessary reading, and assure that it is not to long. Every reading, worksheet, and project will serve a purpose; something I strive for my students to see. They will not be tied down with busy work; only work to enhance their minds. I will strive to make my lessons relate to the real world, in order to show the importance of the concept. I will put forth my best effort to create an environment that encourages learning through trial and error. An environment that facilitates learning by allowing students to struggle, only to be there to help in the scaffolding process. Without struggle, there is no progress. I will be there to help and to mold them, but I will not hover like an overprotective mother. 

I have big dreams for this classroom that will someday be a reality. I have hopes in changing students’ lives. I have faith in my abilities to structure engaging lessons, using appropriate tools to facilitate learning. My activities shall be fun, almost energetic. I will show my enthusiasm, and never let my students see me fail. I will be the example I wish for them to be. Always striving to do my best. I will use appropriate grade level materials, be humorous when needed in pictures and graphics, and use appropriate vocabulary. I will help my students get through the struggles they face in my classroom, but more importantly I will be there for the struggles they face outside.

*Disclaimer: All my ideas about lesson, graphics, and what my learners will be like came from chapter 2 in our book. While I did not quote specific page numbers, I took it all into context to imagine myself in a classroom setting with these students.