Let’s reshape the search for the perfect classroom.
Do you ever find yourself hunting for the perfect gift? With the holidays coming up, this is continually on my mind. How do I find something that will be the perfect gift? Not an easy task!
Hunting for the perfect gift is not the only search that is going on these days. Many school and district leaders have been on the hunt for better math test results. That means a search for the perfect math classroom, one that they can use as a model for their own math classrooms.
What's your idea of the "perfect" math classroom? Perhaps one where:
We can imagine this classroom wonderland... I'm sure it's out there somewhere. Some administrative and teaching team has to be doing this all correctly, following the script to a T, right?
Well, if you ask me, finding a district, school or classroom that is perfect is even harder than finding the perfect gift. Every classroom has elements of “perfect,” but so few put all the pieces together all the time.
The fact that finding the perfect classroom is so difficult can be incredibly frustrating. It can also be demoralizing for administrators and teachers who are striving to improve. But maybe we are going about this the wrong way.
Let’s reshape the search for the perfect classroom. To do that, let’s think about math education as a spectrum or a number line with infinite points. On the left side of the number line is the math classroom many of us have experienced, with direct instruction, worksheets for practice and strict procedures to memorize. (In a word? Boring.) On the far right side of the number line is the "perfect" classroom described above. In between, however, are an infinite number of variations.
If we think about the math classroom this way, then we can plot every classroom out there on the number line. Some will fall on the left side of the number line, some near the center and a few far to the right. Now imagine that the goal of every classroom is to move to the right, regardless of where they sit on the number line.
This would mean that school district leaders don’t have to search for the perfect math classroom -- they can search for classrooms that have taken the next step and moved to the right. As a result, the hill to climb becomes less steep and the questions we ask change: "How did they start their journey?" "How do they keep it going?" "What do they plan to do next?"
With the holidays coming up, maybe we can reframe how we think about the perfect gift. The goal is doing a little better than you did last year -- putting a little more thought into the gift or thinking a little more about the person you are giving it to. I'm sure the little bit of extra effort will be greatly appreciated, and you won’t constantly feel like a failure because you can’t find the “perfect” gift.
The same goes for the classroom. Celebrate successes, learn from failures, and try new things that will move you over to the right. And then... keep moving!
Peter is an educator with over 15 years of strategy, education, and product development experience. He led the redesign of a university, built new programs, designed curriculum, and worked within the classroom. At Carnegie Learning, Peter works with an amazing team that focuses on the development of leading edge student- and teacher-focused math products and services.Explore more related to this author
The fact that finding the perfect classroom is so difficult can be demoralizing for administrators and teachers who are striving to improve. But maybe we are going about this the wrong way.
Peter LaCasse, COO, Carnegie Learning