Daily Archives: December 14, 2013

Anita, Math Teaching, and the System

I had coffee today with Anita, one of the year 10 teachers in our longitudinal study. She was in my School & Society course (foundations course) in initial teacher education and I have observed and interviewed her each year since. She is a very strong teacher in every way, but has just moved to a new school and is facing some challenges. She said about 40% of her grade 4/5 class have very low SES backgrounds and the government is reducing special education support, ostensibly to promote inclusion but actually to save money. One thing she talked about relates to how difficult it is to teach math skills and concepts without concerted system direction and teacher training (as noted in my previous posting about the PISA results). She said it will probably take most of the year to teach her class how to do a 3-part math lesson (direct instruction/group work/whole-class discussion), whereas if the whole school was doing it and all the teachers had been trained in it she could have used this approach immediately. We also talked about how the principal needs to provide leadership in getting all the teachers pulling together around such pedagogy, but principals aren’t being trained in this role or receiving a consistent message that it’s a major part of their job. Anita, then, has to fine-tune and prioritize her teaching activities largely on her own (there are effectively 2 PD days a year), hoping to survive and thrive as a teacher and be there for her students. Clive