I take criticism and feedback very personally. While my goal is to continually improve as a person, husband, father, and educator, I am generally very hard on myself when I receive feedback that might be construed as negative, even if it isn’t. I blame myself and think poorly of my performance. Yes, my self esteem is low and I’ve been working on it for years. I am great at what I do, but like a wise man once said, “All of you are perfect just as you are and could use a little improvement.” I strive to grow, which is why I welcome feedback. This way I am continually forced to deal with the fact that I’m not awful, there are just always going to be ways or areas in which I can improve.
Recently, I’ve realized that a student in my class is excelled in math. His abilities in mathematics are incredibly high. He has mastered most pre-algebra skills and is working at an algebra one level in the sixth grade. He is humble about it, but wants to grow. While my STEM class is structured in a very individual way, I only created three tracks based on the Common Core Standards, which my school uses in the Math Department. I have a sixth grade track, seventh grade track, and an eighth grade track. I figured this would cover and support every student this year, even my most advanced students; however, this doesn’t seem to be the case thus far. While we’ve only just begun the year and the first unit tends to be easy as it is review, I’ve noticed, as has this student, that even the eighth grade track is too easy for him. He has mastered many of these skills.
So, now what? How can I best support him to help him grow and develop as a math student? My first instinct was to have him work through this unit and then complete a unit in Khan Academy to further challenge him. But what about direct instruction? How will he learn new concepts? He will need the support of a teacher. Then, my co-teacher suggested having this student complete the Pre-Algebra Placement Exam used in the other grades to see where he falls. If he does well on this, he could take the Algebra One Placement Exam as well. Then we would know what concepts he has mastered and in what level to work with him. This would allow my co-teacher to tailor the curriculum to meet this student’s needs through a one-on-one pullout during Math Work Days.
Brilliant idea. I love it. Then, immediately, I went to a place of, “Why can’t I help him? Why didn’t I generate that idea? Am I not good enough as an educator to help this student?” No, that’s not it at all. By being open to new ideas and ways to best support this student, I am being the best educator I can be. I’m using my colleagues for help and guidance. I’m allowing new ideas to take root. I’m not trying to control every situation. I want what’s best for this student and since I’ve realized I can’t give it to him with my own ideas, I need to seek help. Teamwork is a vital 21st Century Skill which I try to teach my students daily. Modelling this through my teaching and flexibility as an educator allows my students to see the value in it. Everything is not all about me and I’m not always in the wrong. Realizing this allows me to become a better educator and person. I need to take and employ new ideas and suggestions in order to grow and develop. If I want to best support and help all of my students, I need to admit that I can’t do it all. I do need help and do need to try new things even if they are outside of my comfort zone. Dealing with this student has helped me to realize this. I guess that saying about great teachers really is true, “I learn more from my students than they learn from me.”