This year was a good year. I think I learned more than the students learned. There were a number of things we did right as a classroom, but I want to mention the three things that I think made the biggest difference. These are as follows:
Make the classroom a safe place to make mistakes. We would celebrate the mistakes we made in math so that students would not fear making a mistake. I would make mistakes and instead of trying to play it off, I embraced the mistake and thanked the students for noticing them. It was hard at first because I was suppose to be the teacher and teachers are not suppose to make mistakes, right? When I was cleaning out my classroom for the summer, I had a student come by the classroom and was looking around the empty room. He turned to me and told me that he liked the classroom the way it was. It was homey and relaxing and a fun place to hang out. I never felt that way about any classroom I had ever been a part of.
Another thing we did right was instead of concentrating on the correct answer, we paid attention to the process. How did they get that answer, regardless if it was right or wrong. My highest students were not use to having to explain their thinking and this step was really the most difficult for them. They would give me the answer and say something like, I just did it in my head. The students that were not use to getting the answer correct were the ones that tended to excel in this step. They could tell me everything they did to get to the answer and often I would find that they were just off due to a computational error. This was a big boost to their ego when they realized that they were on the right track and just missed the answer because of a small error. This was an easy fix.
The third thing we did right was we got rid of homework. The students were so extremely excited that we were not going to assign any homework. As the semester moved on, I found that the students were doing work at home and were asking me if they can work on this at home. Of course, I made everything available for them to work on at home as well as the classroom.
I know that there were many things teachers are doing to make a difference in their classrooms. I would love to hear ideas that makes your year a good year.