TeachThought.com has a list of 20 Questions every parent should ask the teacher(s) of their children. I’m not sure when a teacher would have time to answer all of these questions with parents, but I do think they are good questions. I also think they are a good way for me to reflect on my own practice at the start of the coming school year. This is especially true as I’m headed to a new school where the parents, students and my fellow colleagues do not yet know me or my teaching style. So here goes.
- What academic standards do you use, and what do I need to know about them?Here I am reading “academic standards” as “content standards.” For grades 11 and 12, these are those of the IB DP. For grades 9 and 10, these are set by the ISB math department, but closely aligned to many other international standards. These can all be found through the parent portal.
- How will you respond if or when my child struggles in class?I will do my best to figure out why your child is struggling. Is it because of the content? Is it because they have not yet had a chance to access the lesson? Do they need more practice? Then I will work with your child individually to help figure out how to remedy the struggle.
- What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?The concept of functions regarding input and output and how the algebraic representations connect to the graphical representations.
- Do you focus on strengths or weaknesses?This depends very much on the student. For weaker students, I focus on the strengths – finding ways for the student to feel good about themselves in math so that they want to continue working on it. For students who are strong in math, I focus on what they do not yet know and try to challenge them.
- How are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?Students will routinely be asked “what makes you say that?” and “what’s another way you can explain this?”
- How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?I will never tell your student whether their answer is correct. Instead, I will ask them to justify to me why they believe their answer is correct. If the answer is, in fact, incorrect, I will continue the discussion until the child understands for themselves that their is a flaw in their logic.
- How are assessments designed to promote learning rather than simple measurement?All assessments will include questions that require putting together multiple ideas and solving problems in unfamiliar contexts. In order to access this type of problem, students must understand the content, not just regurgitate facts.
- What can I do to meaningfully support literacy in my home?Ask your child to explain how to solve a problem from class to you. As this is high school math, you should be able to understand it and your child should be able to explain it.
- What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?What did you learn from the video? What did you struggle with today?
- How exactly is learning personalized in your classroom? In the school?As you will read about in questions 12 and 13, I used a flipped classroom approach. This means that your student will be watching videos that I have made at home to help them acquire knowledge before class. In class, time is spent solving problems related to the concepts. Each student will choose the problems that are best suited for him/her regarding their level of comfort with the concepts – from very basic problems to very challenging ones.
- How do you measure academic progress, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of that approach?Through daily warm-ups, I will have an overview of how well your student understood the content from the night before. Are they able to start the warm up? Are they able to solve the warm up? Are they able to help someone else? Also, through quizzes, both the students and I will better understand their areas of weakness. Cumulative assessments (tests and written tasks) will form the basis of the measurements.
- What are the most common instructional or literacy strategies you will use this year, and why?
- What learning models do you use (e.g., project-based learning, mobile learning, game-based learning, etc.), and what do you see as the primary benefits of that approach?I am answering 12 and 13 together. I used the “flipped classroom” method. As described above, students have “home learning” that they are to complete before they come into class. This will include actively watching a 20 minute (maximum) video made by me and completing the notes that go with the video. On the following night, students should attempt 3 – 5 problems related to this video. Students should come to class with the video watched and either the practice problems completed or specific questions related to the problems. For example, “I knew how to start this problem, but then I didn’t know what the second step should be.”
Then, in class, students will work together on a warm up related to the content. After the warm up, students will work either independently or in groups on further practicing the concepts and relating them to past materials.
Class time may also be used for mathematical investigations where we explore the content more deeply.
- What are the best school or district resources that we should consider using as a family to support our child in the classroom?Coming to see the teacher for help!
- Is there technology you’d recommend that can help support my child in self-directed learning at home?khanacademy.com and YouTube!
- What are the most common barriers you see to academic progress in your classroom?Being told “it’s ok if you don’t like math, math is hard.”
- How is education changing?Understanding is much more emphasized now rather than rote memorization.
- How do you see the role of the teacher in the learning process?I see myself as a facilitator and ultimately the student as responsible for learning the content.
- What would the ideal learning environment, free of any constraints, look like?Students working at their own pace through the material, asking questions as needed and taking the assessments when they feel like they are ready.
- What am I not asking but should be?