I have always taken great pride in being the type of teacher that really listens to my students. The kind of teacher that believes and teaches my kiddos that there is more than one way to solve a problem.
Today, I was humbled.
I learned a valuable lesson from one of my students.
Just last week this student did a subtraction problem at the back table with me. The number on the top in the ones place was smaller on the top and so regrouping would be required, right? Well, not for this student. He proceeded to “flip,” the numbers in the ones place and subtract. Well, of course, I immediately stopped him and corrected him, to which he replied, “I can do it, and I get the same answer.” Of course, I quickly replied that it was impossible. Well, today he proved me wrong.
I must digress just a bit. Also last week, my amazing and talented friend Deanne was visiting on her spring break from Kansas. She is an incredibly gifted instructional coach there. She brought me lunch at school and then came back to check out my classroom. She asked if she could try something with my class that she really wanted me to see. It was something called “Number Talks.” If you haven’t heard of Number Talks, stop what you are doing and search it on YouTube now. I’m not kidding. Life. Changing.
I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY and we have been using them as our math warm up ever since.
Back to my humbling experience. Here is a picture of today’s Number Talk and how my kiddo who “flips,” his numbers tried to talk me through it.
It worked, so naturally I though that he just got lucky. The big test would be if his strategy works with other problems. So, I gave him another. It worked again. And another. And another. I still couldn’t quite grasp how or why it was working, but it was. I took a picture of the board and emailed it to two other teachers who are much more gifted with numbers than myself. After an explanation from them, and trying a few more on my own, I figured it out. He was using negative numbers without really knowing about negative numbers. It made total sense in his head and resulted in the correct answer every time.
Later, after talking to him some more he said, “Mrs. Wood, that is why I get frustrated when you make me regroup. I can do it without regrouping and it makes sense to me.” Lesson. Learned. They way I learn and the way I think about numbers isn’t the only way. It isn’t even always the best way. I never would have learned that without our daily Number Talks.
I am humbled.
And I am blessed. I am blessed to have a friend who takes the time to teach me new things and challenge my thinking. I am blessed that I teach kiddos who can teach me new ways of looking at things. And I am blessed that they forgive so easily when I have made a mistake as their teacher. I know that not all students learn the same way. I know that in my head and I always thought that I truly taught that way. But today that lesson made it’s way to my heart. I will never put my students in a box and tell them that the old fashioned way is the only way or even the best way. They are all different. I need to make certain that I am treating them that way.