Celebrating small victories

Today was a good day.

Anyone who takes the time to read a blog like this probably doesn't need me to tell them that teaching can be a frustrating job. It often feels as though you're fighting against pressures on all sides, and every time a student doesn't progress as far as you'd hope, you question your own ability and wonder if the effort is really worth.

But for me, today was not like that. Despite Monday being the busiest day of my week, I had many things go right. Not earth-shattering moments, just little moments of success for me and my students. I think it's important to note these small victories and celebrate them. If we really think we're in this profession to make a difference, it's a good idea to have evidence of that difference for the times you can't see it.

So these were my small victories today:

  • I'm continuing to experiment with SBG. Today I handed back a quiz from Friday. One student had not achieved a 4 (max score) yet and didn't expect to, but he did this time He was so excited - and so was I!
  • One student who had been struggling with expanding, and was disappointed with her quiz results, asked for extra help to understand it. She re-took the quiz, which she checked herself using my answers, and was able to identify why she made the few mistakes she did. She then asked for extra questions she could practice for homework. She would never had done that in the past. The way SBG focusses on improvement over scores is already making a difference.
  • "I think this topic is my favourite thing we've done this year," said a student while doing algebra.
  • "It's Monday New Things - better get my coloured textas out!" and "Mr. Carter, you and [the English teacher] have the best markers!" (Many of my lecturers insisted maths looks best on chalkboard. I disagree. Maths looks best in Sharpie.)
  • The problem solving task I gave led students to move around the room to discuss how they were doing it without me having to tell them to. I think they're starting to get how to do this type of lesson. I'll write a post about the activity some other time (edit: here. Here's a sneak peek:

  • My class can still expand binomial products. They still don't know what FOIL is.
  • Today I introduced factorising. I had students make up their own expansion problems, for which they worked out the answers. I had some students give me answers, which I wrote on the whiteboard. Then the rest of the class worked out what the question possibly was. When faced with 10x + 2x2, there were a few different, yet correct, questions given. But after a discussion (with next to no involvement from me) they all decided 2x(5+x) was the best because "it makes the inside of the brackets the simplest". I hadn't even told them what factorising was at that point!
  • One of my classes was away playing basketball, so I took PE extras with Year 2/3 and Prep. And I survived. :)


Shaun used to be maths, IT and ocassional physics teacher at a small P-12 school (primary and secondary) in rural Victoria, Australia. He is currently in the process of starting his career again in the United States.

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Shaun Carter
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