My first post!

Okay, so I’m a little nervous posting here. I’m not a blogger, and I’m definitely not a writer, so please bear with me.

weasleyMy name is Kate Whitters, and I work at a small but beautiful independent school in Rothesay, New Brunswick. I love reading, playing hockey (and really any sport), and my giant orange cat, Weasley. You may have guessed from his name that I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan. I’m currently teaching Grade 11 and 12 Math, and Grade 6 Science (quite a shift between age groups!). I’m relatively new to the profession, and am two months into my third year of teaching. I’m in awe of all my confident, professional, passionate and innovative colleagues at the school – I have a lot to learn and I am overjoyed to be a part of Cohort21 for this reason.

One of these amazing colleagues is Graham Vogt, a Cohort21 alumnus, who suggested I join this year. He has had nothing but amazing things to say about the program and its participants. I’m expecting to be pushed. One thing you should know is that I’m not overly confident in my abilities or methods. I question myself all the time. I take it to heart when my students aren’t successful. I worry about not being a “good enough” teacher. I worry that I spread myself too thin teaching, coaching, doing evening and weekend duty shifts, caring for my advisees, and trying to maintain some semblance of a life off-campus. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up with the educational jargon and current research I know will be discussed during Cohort, be it at the Face 2 Face sessions or the edchats. HOWEVER, it’s not all negative. I’m excited to be better, I’m willing to take risks to improve my practice, and I’m looking forward to learning new things and really examining my practice.

I think much of my teaching anxiety stems from the fact that I teach math, and I teach it at the IB level. The struggle with math is that it seems to be sIBeen as the “great divide.” Too often, the academic intelligence of students tends to be measured in terms of their mathematical abilities. In my limited experience, I’ve found that students who struggle with math tend to have a negative self-image across the board academically, regardless of strengths in other subjects. It’s really hard to reach these students who consistently struggle in math class. They’re frustrated, uncomfortable, and often uninterested in the subject matter. This is where I want my “shift” to occur. I want to find a way to reach those students who struggle. I really want to engage every student in the class. I just don’t know how yet. Hopefully some of you can help!

7 thoughts on “My first post!

  1. Welcome Kate! Not to worry about being prepared or having any tech skills. We will take care of all that and support you along the way. There are lots of IB teachers and coaches in this years cohort who can help you with some of your questions. @rutheichholtz and @maragona come to mind right away. Both seasoned IB Math and Chemistry teachers who struggle with the same questions. @gnichols @lmcbeth @ckirsh @shelleythomas @ddoucet Welcome Kate to the C21 family.

  2. “Too often, the academic intelligence of students tends to be measured in terms of their mathematical abilities.”

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s sad to see that our students measure their entire success from our classroom. What an enormous amount of pressure for them and us!

  3. Hi Kate,
    I have found that my students in art class measure their competence in expressing themselves visually by their ability to draw. Being able to draw is helpful, but I spend considerable time disabusing them of their pre-conceptions about drawing while taking care not to devalue the skill set acquired by students who draw well and with confidence. I explain that the latter have likely spent hours and hours over years in the practice because it often supplied self-comfort in early years. When drawing stopped supplying self-comfort is usually when critical voices overtook the joy of self expression. (Age 7-9 in my experience) Nevertheless, I don’t see students making the connection between drawing skills and overall academic success because demonstrating drawing achievement through specific coursework is not a requirement to graduate high school or enter many post-secondary programs (except illustration). Math is a gatekeeper. Learning to draw well as an adolescent requires an understanding of creative process, a willing heart, kindness to self, opportunity to acquire skills, practice and effective feedback. What does learning to be good at math require? Is it possible for a “system” to deliver what is required for success in math?

    I am looking forward to learning from your inquiry journey!

  4. Hi Kate,
    I re-read my post and I didn’t love it. At all.

    Trying again. You have a very challenging subject area that has many hands on “the product” long before you even get a chance to try your hand. Tough row to hoe as they say. I too have some of the same challenges, but with far less at stake. I am very interested in the problems you face and look forward to exchanging ideas!

    Thanks for your patience as I work though the expression of my ideas. Wish I had got it right the first time. Bet my students think that too from time to time.

  5. Welcome Kate!
    What a great introduction! I am envious that you get to work with @gvogt at Rothesay and we’re so happy to have you joining C21! The fact that you question yourself simply means you care and you’re reflecting on your teaching – which is great! It’s common to feel that way especially in your first few years, but your openness to wanting to be better for your students and the fact that your “shift” is focused on their math skills and how it affects them in other ways is very intriguing!

    Justin has put you in touch with some great math educators and through Twitter. Check out this guide to find great math resources via Twitter

    Looking forward to meeting you and learning with you!

  6. Hi Kate,

    Great first post – yeah right you’re not a writer! You’ve articulated a common issue/challenge/perception. I won’t reiterate what others have written. I would point you in the direction of student support though.

    Check this out. Did you know that TVO runs a free, professional online tutoring service:

    It’s just one way to start to get your students to think and learn away from the classroom and from stigmas of “Math is hard”.

    Welcome, and you’ve written a great first post!

  7. Your comments about how students see them themselves as math able or unable was interesting to me. I am a parent of one daughter who struggled with math and one who gets it quickly. The problem is very relevant when applying to university because if you don’t get math, then you can’t take science (even if that is an interest/passion). My daughter who is now at university was very interested in Neuroscience but did not even apply to this program due to her difficulty with math. Fortunately, she is now in a program that she is passionate about, although, the feelings of not being smart enough (because of math) are still there.

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