GCFs and Productive Struggle

Cross Posted from Not an Ordinary Day.

So when Tina (@crstn85) shared the idea of #FailFriday, I never intended on taking her literally. Unfortunately, yesterday was definitely a Fail Friday.

In my Algebra 1 class, we began looking at Greatest Common Factors on Thursday. It seemed straight forward enough and by the end of the block, the majority of the students seemed to understand prime factorization and how to determine the GCF of 2 monomials.

When Friday started, I should have known when I went over the homework from Thursday that they really hadn’t internalized what they had learned. So I spent more time on the homework than I intended (which is a good thing) and then started with factoring by grouping. What I thought was a fairly straightforward process that used the skills they had learned the previous day and we had just painstakingly reviewed, became a situation that I didn’t know how to proceed with other than continuing to try to reframe the material in a different manner.  Nothing I did seemed to work and I became increasingly frustrated.

Thankfully, since I am student teaching, my mentor teacher came to the rescue with a different approach.  Afterwards, when I thanked her for jumping in and saving my bacon, she admitted that the idea had just come to her and that the technique she used she had learned for a completely different context. She was also complementary on the lesson I had taught Thursday saying it was better than she would have taught it.  She reiterated that I would learn these things over time and not to get too frustrated. Easier said than done for me!

The biggest thing I still struggle with is that despite one career behind me, I am a new teacher, plain and simple, and I’m not going to have the perfect, engaging lesson every day. Second, I need to not be so critical of myself and that I need to learn from the mistakes and move on. Most importantly, I love manipulatives and visualizing math (my introduction to algebra tiles was mind-blowing). So, although many of the teachers I am working with currently think manipulatives invite problems in a HS classroom, I need to remember that I can still draw visuals on the board and that when I have my own classroom I can try all the manipulatives I like.

Bottom line, I need to continue to productively struggle as I learn to be the best teacher I can be.


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