The classroom as a community

We are social beings. We like to connect. (Positive) Connections are affirmations.

I love my year 7 maths class. They waltzed into the classroom today singing the Perimeter song I taught them 2 days ago -they were impressed that I trawled the internet for ideas to make my lessons interesting….for them. They were engaged in the discussion about Area. They rose to the challenge of my prodding questions that required recall of ¬†topics they learned months ago. They glowed from being complimented on their mathematical thinking (use of shape and number properties for reasoning). They revelled in my digressions (granted, most were part of my connectionist approach) – we revised Properties of Shapes, Properties of Numbers, Adding Decimals, Powers/Exponents and Algebra. They bantered with each other but quickly were on-task as required. They were enjoying maths. Most of all, they enjoyed my declaration that I loved the class.

It’s taken me a while but many of the things I wanted them to learn – aside from maths topics – came together today.

  • a classroom is a community; everyone has a voice worth listening to and everyone is a resource for the other
  • use what you’ve learned previously to help with your problems now
  • you don’t need to be an A student to enjoy maths
  • self-reflect and evaluate and then challenge yourself; easy is boring
  • it’s not just about the answers, it’s about the thinking and reasoning
  • notes are reference items, especially if they’re not from the textbook
  • learning requires risk – have a go

It was lively, even noisy at times, but it was a good learning environment.

I thought I’d highlight some of the things I did right today, if only to remind myself later that these are good teaching strategies to foster learning.

The importance of Affirmation

One of the most memorable questions I’ve ever encountered in my life was in a Philosophy class at uni…

How do you know you exist?”

This question encompassed differentiating real and dream worlds – How do I know I’m not dreaming? At the core of every possible answer explored then was affirmation by self (D√©scartes sor sum ergo sum- I think therefore I am – comes to mind) and by others.

For me, affirmation is declaring what is true (perceived or real). It can be a mere full-stop or a full-blown exclamation mark.

As a teacher, I see that need for affirmation in my students’ faces. As a mother, I see it on my kids’ faces, too. It is certainly an essential part of learning as it helps guide learners towards the learning goal. It is an essential teaching and learning strategy.

I recently shared a learning activity with some colleagues. Often I feel insecure about sharing resources because I have little teaching experience. This time, I believed I really had something worthwhile (worth a post in its own right) – self-affirmation. Imagine my joy when an experienced teacher told me how good it was and how her students enjoyed it, too. That was affirmation by others.

Affirmations are motivating – I know because I’ve just experienced it.

Maybe it’s something I’ve always known. Blogging about this now helps me cement it further and add to my ever-growing teaching and learning strategies.

I need affirmations as a teacher; I am a learner after all. This is humbling and empowering at the same time.

I make no apologies for being a beginning teacher – I try my best. I know I have much to learn about teaching, learning, relationships, education/school culture (vs. corporate culture), teen psychology, technology, motivating and being motivated, etc. etc. etc. Every little bit helps.