First Week Tips

I’ve been going to a lot of the MfA workshops this week, especially the ones having to do with first day/week of school and classroom management issues. I have been told numerous times by numerous people that the first day and first week are crucial for establishing a learning environment in the classroom that remains stable throughout the year. Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up.

Tip 1: Shake everyone’s hand on the first day.

Apparently, everyone will shake your hand on the first day, but they will not do so on the second day. More importantly, use your body to block a part of the door, so students have to acknowledge you and shake your hand. If students are wearing hats or have headphones or anything else that is against your policies, ask them in a firm, yet nonthreatening way to deal with it, and nudge them aside so they don’t hold up the hand shaking line.

Tip 2: Always explain why you have the rules you do.

Tip 3: Figure out 3-5 central pillars for what you want students to get out of the school year, and emphasize those pillars as the norm within the first week.

This one is huge. It’s likely that many students won’t remember much of the content 10 years after they take your Algebra 2 course. That’s ok. Math is a journey of thought, and mastering math enables one to relearn old material and learn new material at will. Your pillars should be what they will remember 10 years from now. I’m working on mine, but so far they are:

Be Skeptical ( prove things!),
Writing,
Collaborate with others,
Patient Problem Solving.

Tip 4: Firmly establish the expectations of your class and explain why those are your expectations on the first day.

On a different note, I was hearing some really great things about the new Common Core Standards for math being implemented in all but 5 states. What I don’t understand is why California has to add as many standards as possible to those, inflating and confusing the matter. I need to read more about common core, but what I’ve head so far is great. The standards were developed with the advice of mathematicians and other mathematical professionals, which is how I’ve thought education should work for a long time. There’s no reason to teach the same old ways if it has nothing to do with what actual scientists, engineers, and mathematicians do. There are 8 so-called mathematical practices that serve as the central philosophy to the common core standards including
-Perseverence
-Reason abstractly and quantitatively
-Make mathematical models
-Construct and critique arguments
-Use tools strategically
-Attend to precision
-Look for and make use of structure
-Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Those seem pretty decent. I think precision and mathematical structure are the most important, and would take those further than what is in the common core descriptions.

Well, I’m off!

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