This school year has been awesome working with students with IEPs develop into self-advocating people who are able to help their teachers help them learn best. I’ve loved it. I get to think about the whole person rather than just a 58-minute math student more so this year than previous years. My main takeaway: The more comfortable the students are with the content, the more variance they will tolerate with the delivery or assessment AND the more comfortable they are with the format, the deeper the content objectives will be mastered. Many people will read this and say “well, yeah” but I promise this takeaway makes instructional protocols really important to think deeply about and purposefully introduce, teach, and reuse. Teachers should really only have a handful of ways to teach new material, review objectives, and assess mastery so students are able to stretch their legs within the method and truly show what they know.
But for the 2015-2016 school year, I will be returning to a more traditional teacher’s role and teaching mathematics again (due to mainly budgetary reasons, not because I wish to discontinue my role this year). At first, I dreaded this move back to mathematics, but now I am more excited about it, mostly because I hope to be able to incorporate the many things I learned this year (about students, my school, interdisciplinary work, educating a person rather than teaching a subject…) into my practice.
At the moment, I am thinking about how to incorporate Mentor Texts and Document-Based Questions into mathematics (particularly Algebra 1) so that students may use the same learning protocol in MANY content areas, rather than just humanities. So, the main takeaway from this year (see above, bolded) leads me to want to try more exciting mathematics through student-known methods. I am excited to collaborate with the teachers who have taught with these instructional protocols for years (and those who tried it out for the first time this year) to build up students’ ability to think critically in all content areas.