Management or Math? Both!

Be sure to read the recent New York Times Magazine article, Building a Better Teacher, if you haven’t already. The article features two approaches toward improving instruction: Uncommon Schools founder Doug Lemov’s taxonomy of 49 effective teaching practices (Teach Like a Champion) and University of Michigan School of Education dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball’s Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching.

Briefly, Lemov focuses more on classroom management, while Ball focuses more on content. As for which camp I’m in, I can honestly say both. On the one hand, like Lemov’s taxonomy, my work as a teacher and coach has always reflected meticulous cause-effect analysis and intentionality when it comes to teaching decisions that transcend content. But like Ball, I also focus on developing teachers’ knowledge of math and how kids think about it.

What struck me most in the article was the extent to which Lemov has identified key teaching behaviors. And though I’ve yet to see his list in its entirety, it sounds promising, since examples cited in the article coincide with strategies that have worked for me and teachers I’ve coached—e.g., “don’t do two things at once” (I’m always cautioning teachers about multi-tasking); and “Cold Call,” where teachers choose who to call on from the entire class rather than calling on hand-raisers (see my earlier post, Assessing Through Asking).

And then there’s #46 on Lemov’s list, which includes injecting joy in the classroom by giving students nicknames. I did this too, and it was great for classroom culture. Be forewarned, though, that some parents may object, as was the case when a mother took exception to me calling her daughter “Blizzard.” (Hey, what do you expect when you name your kid “Winter”?)

Again, read the article!


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