When teachers understand the "why" behind what they are teaching, they can teach it to students in a way that works, helping them to understand and apply what they are learning. When they can put it into practice together in the classroom, real learning takes place.
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Rae Hughart is a 6th grade math teacher in IL. She is also the director for training and development for the Teach Better team.
Teach Better provides online trainings and in person professional development. They also have a podcast called Teach Better Talk. Rae says there is nothing that can compare to being face to face.
What do you wish you had known before you started teaching?
Rae didn’t love school. She wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue, but decided to be a middle school math teacher because that was her least favorite subject. When she got into her first year of teaching, she didn’t know how all the things she had learned fit together. It felt like the best case scenario could only happen if you had all the support and the parent and administrative help. She wondered if she could give her students all she wanted to give without being in a best-case scenario school environment.
Rae says she thinks she’s the only 6thgrade math teacher ever who got a D in 6thgrade math. She felt like if she could overcome that and teach it, she would be able to do anything.
Rae feels like she can bond with her students over struggling with math. When she can sit with a student and tell them that she has made all the same mistakes. It gives her a different perspective of working with students who struggle. She can bond with them. She is also able to help parents whose child has is having a hard time in school.
What skills and tips have you learned that would help other people?
There were many puzzle pieces, but it is hard to put together.
Her students move through 25 internships. They get a fully developed understanding of why this content exists and where they can see it in the community. Students get a personalized approach to what works. This puts the puzzle pieces together by showing the value behind the content.
The Grid method is a specific example. The grid method requires teachers to start with the standard, scaffold the information so that students can progress successfully to lead to mastery. They put it into a learning program to allow them to move toward targets moving at their own pace. Any of the concepts that are developed are framed within the internship idea. One is a Tobin’s pizza internship. In the unit, they learn to work with decimals and long division. They are employed by Tobin’s and learn how to manage the floor and work with customers. At the end of the unit, they host a pizzeria in their classroom. People from the community come and participate. They interact with math and real world skills. Students master concepts and can then help those in the community.
Teachers can do this on their own or with a lot of support. They can build in different pieces depending on their support. All of teaching is a lot of front load work. This might be a little more work because you aren’t just planning day by day. You can get a lot of support and spend less of your own money. It’s different, purposeful work that pays off long term for the teachers and the students.
You have to know the why behind your content. Find the why and find a place where that is being used. It’s incredible the impact that has. Rae says she has former students who are now in college who are deciding their future careers from things they learned and connections they made in her math class.
How are you making a difference with you students?
Rae is teaching them the value of being learners, and to be hungry for learning. She is teaching students where to go to get more learning. If a student is sitting waiting to be taught, they can’t give away that power. Don’t wait for learning to come to you. Don’t give anybody the power to stop your learning.
Strive to teach better today than you did yesterday. Teach better tomorrow than you did today. We should always be working to strive to grow. We’re all in this incredible journey together and we need to support each other.