Why did you decide to become a secondary school mathematics/science teacher?
I actually decided to teach math because I understand it, but the reason I continue with the study is because of the benefits of teaching. Teaching high school math offers constant new challenges, there continues to be a high demand for math teachers, and teachers have a schedule that anyone would enjoy.
The primary reason that there are always going to be challenges in teaching mathematics is because few people seem to be gifted with an innate understanding of mathematical concepts. The logic just does not seem logical to them. But, this is helped by the fact that technology has become such a constant in the classroom. "Technology enhances the teaching of mathematics by presenting concepts in exciting new ways. Children learn the concept of place value by reading their textbook, then translating the words and numbers to a calculator or math software" (Tomei, 2003, 115). Of course, a calculator may not be an enthralling piece of technology these days, but there are math programs that continue to make it much simpler to keep the students engaged. "Using technology, students encounter real-world simulations not limited to paper and pencil computations, pointless numbers, or meaningless emphasis on getting the "right" answer" (Tomei, 2003, 116). The technology can assist the teacher with the question every math student eventually asks, "When am I going to need to know FOIL method as a rock star?" Tomei (2003) further states that "Teachers of mathematics should utilize technology to present basic concepts and develop lifelong mathematics skills; simulate real-world situations and promote logical reasoning and theoretical connections; and encourage predictions and problem-solving strategies rather than computation only" (132).
Besides the challenges that the technology will answer there is currently a very high demand for math and science teachers in the United States. "Currently, many school districts have difficulty hiring qualified teachers in some subject areas -- most often mathematics, science and bilingual education" (McLaughlin, 2010). This is good news especially for someone who is looking to get into the profession in the next few years and not right away. Although, it is true that some school districts around the country are letting teachers go because of budgetary constraint, others are hiring more teachers, especially those with math and science teaching degrees. And the good news continues, "there are simply not enough highly skilled mathematics and science teachers entering the profession or committing to long-term careers. The United States will need more than 280 thousand new mathematics and science teachers by 2015" (McLaughlin, 2010). It will be difficult for those positions to be filled by the crop of teachers who are presently graduating from universities, so any who have a teaching degree will probably get first choice. New teachers will also have a firmer grasp of the new technology for teaching math and science.
The final reason that I like the teaching profession is the yearly schedule. Most professions in the United States have a limited number of days off, and year-round schedule. For some professions it is even worse. They have 24/7/365 schedules. Health professionals and those who work in rescue professions often will be required to take shifts at night and on holidays. Teachers do not have to worry about any of this.
2. Describe your own teaching style. OR As a student describe a teaching style that works best for you in the classroom. Reflect on why this particular teaching style works best for you. [Consider how this teaching style ties into the concepts discussed in the course.]
Chapter 12 in the book talks about motivation (Snowman & Biehler, 2008). The way that motivation happens is through external rewards and reinforcement. Basically I learn in this way. People tend to want rewards when they learn something because it keeps them focused on a goal. The reinforcement piece of the way that I learn is from the examples being worked and then being able to rework the examples on my own.
The way I want to teach is the way that I learn. I am the type of student who must have some goal in mind before I can do a project. Of course, right now my goal is to finish college and get a job as a math teacher. However, I set smaller goals for myself that are consistent with the larger goal. I may not always realize what I am doing, but the goal setting is constant. When I am in class, I will sometimes tell myself that if I make it through this problem I will treat myself in some way. Maybe I will just remind myself of what my larger goal is and be satisfied enough to get through the difficulties of the math in that way. Reinforcement and reward cycles are the motivators for me, and I expect that they will be for my students also.
However, this is not always enough. Sometimes, especially when completing the problems in class, it is difficult to focus on the outcome because the present problem is too difficult. So, I regard the best teachers as those who first work the problems on the board. The work itself is difficult to understand many times, and there are different distractions that help my mind, and I am sure the minds of my future students, wander. So, it is necessary for there to be some sort of motivating help to structure the class. If the teacher discusses a new process that we have to complete, then they work a few of the problems for the class, and, finally, they allow the class to have time to work those problems during class time, I get the most out of the process. The teacher, who should be the expert, is there to assist me if I need the help.
This is the way I can envision managing my classroom. Chapter 13 of Snowman and Biehler (2008) talks about some strategies for this. My style will be somewhere between the permissive and the authoritative. I believe that most students act up because they are either bored by a subject, or because they expect it to be too difficult. Math, in almost any form, is one of the latter. Some students just do not feel equipped to look at a problem logically. Thus, they get flustered early in their school career and they are never able to overcome that feeling. It seems that class management is about more than whether the students need a teacher who will come down on them. If the student is engaged in the learning process they will not act up and the class will be easy to manage. The reason I choose permissive and authoritative is because, I believe that a teacher should be liked by the students. they should want to come to the class, and they should be given some freedoms. But, those freedoms should exist within boundaries that the students understand. The most successful classes I have been in are those which have a sort of class government. The students make the rules and they are all bound to live by them. By using this type of class government, using technology to my advantage, and by making sure that every student has the opportunity to understand the concepts, I will have a successful classroom.
9. Ultimately, what would you hope students would have gained from taking your secondary school mathematics or science class?
There are actually several pieces to my answer. It is difficult to boil an entire year, or even a semester, into a few words. But, there are a few primary goals that I would have for my students.
First, they must leave the class with some greater knowledge of mathematics. Of course, I will be partly responsible for this, but most of the work will be with the student. I cannot control how they absorb what I have taught, but I can control how I teach it. because mathematics is a difficult subject, not every student is going to have the same view of it. As I said previously, some are going to get it easily, an some are not going to have any idea what is going on. It is the second type in this group that I truly want to effect. The students who like math and are somewhat proficient in it, will do well in almost any math class with just a modicum of instruction. But the ones who struggle with the simplest mathematical concepts need to have a teacher who understands how to motivate them specifically (Snowman & Biehler, 2008).
One of the ways that a student who plans to be a chef instead of an engineer can see how math applies to their life, is by having a teacher who gives them practical instruction. Math does not have to be a dry subject that students just have to get through. Students should understand that they are going to use…