Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many innovative student teachers and have taken advantage of several blended learning instructional opportunities in my building. These experiences have been the best thing to happen to my teaching practice.
Between the small group instruction and differentiation used in the special education classroom that translated perfectly to my inclusion and general ed classes, the new technologies I’ve learned about from my co-teachers, and my own constant pursuit of professional learning, I have been mindful that even as a 32-year classroom veteran, I must continue to evolve my approach and incorporate new strategies so I can be at my best for all learners.
The challenges we’ve faced as a profession throughout the pandemic have validated my thinking and reinforced the importance of being adaptive and always learning as an educator. With the new approaches I’ve implemented and with new technology, I’ve seen students achieve some marvelous things.
These are four of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about supporting all students:
I’ve learned…to always learn
I simply cannot get enough of new teaching ideas and technologies. The student teachers I have worked with have taught me so much about how to enhance our blended learning goals and, from teaching in an inclusion environment, I learned how well kids respond to well-designed anchor charts and other visual aids. For example, I now make sure each student in my general classroom receives a math portfolio and anchor charts, accompanied by a student data notebook in which they can reflect on their progress, set goals, and monitor their growth. I can create a dialogue with them that highlights their progress and encourages additional growth.
I also love learning and presenting at conferences, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Rhode Island Math Teachers Association (RIMTA) and the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England (ATMNE). I always search out ways to present math vocabulary to my students in innovative ways at these events, and identify what I can take back to share with my students.
As I began to teach math vocabulary in context using math literature, the students came alive to learning. Every Friday, we share a reflection on our math and reading learning. Our Math Literature lessons were constantly a favorite! I remember one student standing up and saying, “Mrs. Barbour, every time you read a book, we know exactly what you’re talking about and how to do that. You are making math magical.” It has expanded to where I’m making correlation charts for LETRS training, keeping in mind the Science of Reading principles and how they can be applied to teaching mathematics.
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