LEARN, PRACTICE, TEACH, REPEAT: My first experience in a P-Credit Course | New Visions for Public Schools

LEARN, PRACTICE, TEACH, REPEAT: My first experience in a P-Credit Course

Sarah Sanders is a third-year Algebra I/Special Education Teacher for grades 9-12 at Mott Hall High School in the Bronx. Sarah recently completed Instructional Activities for Algebra I Teachers, a New Visions Micro-certification course taught by formative assessment specialist David Wees. Registration for our Spring 2016 Micro-certification semester is now open. Check out our course offerings and register now. 

I never thought I’d be an algebra teacher, but I love it, especially at Mott Hall High School. Mott Hall is the reason I became a teacher. I worked here first with Americorps and fell in love with it. I’m one of three algebra teachers at my school and we don’t all get a chance to have common planning time so when I saw the p-credit course by New Visions just for algebra teachers, that really drew me in.

As a Special Ed teacher, I’ve been taught how to modify things for general teaching practices but I didn’t learn content-specific modifications. So I was really interested, especially when I saw that the course was being taught by David Wees, who’s done so much work on formative assessments.

I’ve really, really liked this class. I didn’t know what my experience would be like. So many people advised that I shouldn’t take a p-credit class right after finishing graduate school because going to classes in the evenings was tough. It was really hard to sit through class, knowing that I had lessons to plan for the next day and the time commitment was exhausting.

I can honestly say though, that I leave this class every week feeling really good because I can go to school the next day and implement something I’ve learned right away.

Everything we are learning is applicable in the moment for exactly what I’m doing in class, which wasn’t always the case with graduate school classes.

I’ve seen the greatest impact of what I’m learning in my self-contained class.Those students generally feel very defeated by math when they walk into my classroom. Imagine that after 10 or 11 years of these students not feeling successful at math, I used one of the routines we learned, “Contemplate then Calculate” and I could see lightbulbs going off.

In this routine, I briefly introduce a math problem and students try to figure out methods for solving the problem without using a pen and paper . Instead, they share their thoughts with one another on how to solve the problem and then reflect in writing on what they learned. They were actually having meaningful conversations about math and working together to talk through solutions to the problem!

That was one of the best classes that we’ve had this year.

The really nice thing about that routine is that every time someone states a strategy someone else has to restate it, so everything about this class has forced us to become better listeners.  You’re not just thinking about what you’re going to say next, you’re listening to someone else’s thought process. The students are learning the idea of “process over product,” because at the end of it, whether we get to the right answer or not, is not the point. The question is: Did you think strategically when getting to your answer?

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to sit, weekly, with other algebra teachers and think through these things. David models the teaching for us, so seeing it being modeled and then being able to practice it many times and brainstorm with other math teachers is invaluable.

This class gives me a chance to anticipate the pitfalls and the potential misconceptions before I bring it to my students.

If you’ve taken PD before, you might have had this experience too. You learn a new teaching strategy but you don’t necessarily get the chance to test run it so many times before you try it out with students. If you try it with your students and it fails, you are hesitant to go back and try again. This class has changed that experience for me.

The more I rehearse these routines, the more I do them with my students. The more I do them, the better my students get at math. It really is thrilling to see my students get so into math!