Friday, March 11, 2011

Put the Book Down (#idesmar)

Coffee Shopphoto © 2008 Dennis M | more info (via: Wylio)

You hear the darnedest things in coffee shops. Today, I overheard the following (paraphrased with name changed):

My daughter, Sally, is having trouble in math.
She brought home a letter from teacher telling us that 3/4 of the students did poorly on the last test. Three quarters!.
Sally says this teacher is never available for extra help after school. She says she doesn’t understand any of what he is teaching. Also, she’s bored.

I listened and immediately started to figure out what the student must not be telling her mom. The teacher must not be too bad; it must be the kid’s fault.

So, my husband went to the parent conference to talk to the guy. The teacher sounded surprised that he is getting lots of feedback about the letter. He just doesn't understand why kids aren’t understanding the math. My husband asked him if he is trying more ways to explain the math. The young teacher says he's doing what the book says. My husband says you have to find ways for the kids to understand. Put the book down. Teach it differently. Explain it more to them.
The teacher got offended. He said he would give up his Friday afternoons to stay with the students. My husband assured him that Sally would be there.
At this point, I’d given up hope for this poor kid. I figured the teacher was no good.

Sally came home the next day and told me that math class was so much better today. She understands what they are doing. She gets it now.
What was different, I asked her. 
He didn't use the book. He talked to us instead. He explained things.
Who'd think that a little pep talk from a parent would be all it took to change this teacher? [said with serious amounts of sarcasm.]
So, there is hope for this young math teacher. Thank goodness.

The moral of this story is…

always listen carefully in a coffee shop.