How hasn't my thinking shifted regarding teaching children mathematics?

     I have learned so much over the past 3 months about what it is to be a "teacher". And not learned in the traditional sense of what I read in a textbook and heard during lectures (and spit back out on a test), but through what I actually experienced. We weren't told what a good classroom would look like and how to teach mathematics, but were shown. And that's the key. It's not all about learning what it takes to become a "good teacher", but also understanding what it is to be a learner. As students, we felt comfortable to share our ideas, try new things, take risks, collaborate, and talk to each other. Being able to collaborate with others and the way problems were presented almost felt like we were "getting away with something", but it soon become obvious how affective this method was in learning mathematics. The work assigned in the course was also meaningful and as time went on we gained a continually deeper understanding of mathematics and teaching mathematics. At the same time, we were hearing that all of these things were what we should be doing in the future, but had we merely read or been told about it (like we have in most of our courses) they would have seemed abstract and I would probably still have the same traditional views of teaching and learning.

     It is all about giving children real world experiences and motivating them to be engaged and want to learn. It is also about balance. As a teacher, yes, you need to foster their skills and facilitate what's going on in the classroom, but you also need to allow your students to figure things out for themselves and actually learn, not just give them the answers. I also realized that students can often be the "teachers" and as a teacher, you are always going to be a learner. You will be constantly evolving, reflecting, changing, and improving.

     Throughout the semester, I have formed an idea of the kind of environment I hope to create for my future students. First and foremost, I hope it is a comfortable place where students feel at ease and want to explore, discover, share, and take risks. It will be a safe place of learning and growing, not a place to earn or lose grades. I find so often that as a student, you are so focused on your grades that you forget to actually learn anything, and consequently lose (or never develop) the drive to want to learn anything. And educators seem so focused on giving grades that they lose sight of what is important and forget to actually teach anything. The words "teacher" and "student" have certain connotations that need to be relinquished. I don't know who or what is to blame for this narrow and unfortunately common view of what school is supposed to be about and what it means to be a teacher or student, but I hope to change that in at least the lives of the children I have in my own classroom. I hope to be a facilitator providing the students with the skills to construct their own knowledge. It will also be a fun environment where the children enjoy spending time.

     The past three months in this course (and one other) have made more of a difference than the past three years. I see things in a new light, have a fresh take, am motivated, have a much deeper understanding, and feel hopeful (that I can make a difference). I know what I have learned it merely the foundation of what it means to be a teacher, but I feel that through this semester I have developed a good base to build upon once I become a teacher.

     I'm not sure if this post really encapsulates what I have learned and how passionate and hopeful I now feel, but I hope that it is somewhat representative of my new perspective and how life changing this experience has been. I can only hope to be able to inspire and motivate my future students half as much as I have been this semester. Thank you.

(I wanted to include an image for this post but nothing could quite capture how I feel. I hope words can do it justice!)

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