By Michelle Yelaska, SED 2016
It’s truly amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like only yesterday I observed my first classroom in Introduction to Education 100, moved into a college dorm, and ate endless burgers at Rhett’s. This fall semester, however, is the moment of truth. It’s everything I’ve been preparing for in my three years at Boston University. I packed my bags, moved to London, and began student teaching math to high school students. I’m excited, nervous, and terrified all at once. Despite my apprehensions, I know that my pre-practicum observations at a local middle school and high school have prepared me for this experience. Here are four seemingly obvious items that I learned in my observations and interactions in these diverse math classrooms.
- Expect the unexpected. One week, I had the opportunity to lead a ten-minute class discussion. Although I was expecting tons of participation, I was met with blank stares and zero raised hands. As I started to panic, I realized that I just needed to adapt my teaching style in the moment. Something as simple as redrawing a clean diagram helped spark a discussion. Although lesson planning is obviously important, sometimes you just need to go with the flow and adjust to your learners’ unique needs.
- Hands on engagement keeps students involved. When going over last night’s homework, students were on their phones, talking with friends, or even sleeping. However, when they started a paper folding activity to explore exponential growth, students were wide awake and discussing the task. Although not every class will be hands on, observations taught me the importance of keeping lesson relevant to keep engagement high.
- Know your students. As teachers, we have about ten billion different things going on and sometimes we lose track of who we’re trying to help: the students. I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student who was falling behind in his work. When I asked him to copy the problem from the board, I realized that he was quite intelligent. The problem was that he couldn’t see the board. Knowing my students and their individual needs will prove to be one of my greatest assets.
- Circulate, circulate, circulate! When I substituted in the Honors Geometry class, students were more likely to ask me questions as I circulated than when I stood at the front of the class. Many times, shockingly, teenagers will not ask for help. Some of the best mathematical conversations happened when I checked in with the students first. Although I’m not the most intimidating person in the world, when teaching, I will remember to display an approachable and friendly attitude towards the students to generate a safe learning environment.
My pre-practicum course provided an invaluable learning experience and comprehensive insight into running my own classroom. While student teaching will certainly not be a breeze, these four teacher tips could help my transition into the field.
Michelle Yelaska is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Math Education