Wait – I Know That I am Studying to be a Teacher, But How Do I Teach?

By: Sophia Barbanel (Wheelock ‘20)

My career as an educator is rapidly approaching. When I began as a freshman at Boston University, I thought by this point I would be extremely nervous. I have been in school for years, but learning how to teach what I have learned for all of these years still seemed daunting to me. However, my fears began to diminish after I took Professor Lynsey Gibbons’ course ME 545: Methods of Teaching Mathematics: Elementary.

Before taking this class, I thought ME 545 would help explain mathematic practices and how to create practice problems for students to complete. However, I was completely wrong. Throughout the course, we discussed how to diagnose common patterns in student thinking, build off other students’ ideas and how to guide the discussion in a productive manner. Instead of the teacher directing and leading the class, our class discussed how to pose questions that will inspire creative thinking and mathematical ideas from students.

Our class also discussed how to make our lessons accessible. Instead of using modifications or changing our lesson if a student does not understand the material, we learned how to make accommodations. By using multiple exemplars such as symbols (e.g., 1, 2, 3), words (such as, if I add five cookies and receive another five cookies…) and direct models such as drawings, number lines or graphs.

ME 545 taught us how to launch a lesson, conduct the main lesson activity, and to discuss the activity. However, one component of ME 545 that I found particularly useful and interesting were the ten-minute math discussions. Our class focused on three ten-minute math discussions: Choral Counts – where the students and teacher practice “skip counting together and… record the count on chart paper.”

The teacher will engage children in noticing patterns that emerge in the count and in speculating about mathematical explanations for those patterns”, Number Talks and Number Strings – “mini-lessons in a focused, analytic exploration of computational strategies. Each problem in the string is designed to build on the thinking used to solve previous problems”.

We put our work into practice at the Driscoll School in Brookline. Our class was split into partner pairs, where we co-taught a lesson. We went to Driscoll four times. The first time, we observed our professor Lynsey Gibbons teach.

The next time we completed a cognitive interview – where we watched students complete a problem set using pen, and having them dialogue as to how they solved the problem set. The third time we completed a number talk and lastly we focused on a number string.

This practice really benefited our class, as we not only taught in front of our peers, but also rehearsed our teaching skills in front of students. Moreover, we recorded ourselves in order to reflect on our lessons.

So, to answer the title’s question “Wait – I Know That I am Studying to be a Teacher, But How Do I Teach?”: BU Wheelock’s courses prepare you to be the best teacher that you can be. With the informative courses, phenomenal professors and real-life practice as provided in ME 545, I am determined and confident that I will leave BU fully equipped with the skills and knowledge to begin my career as a well-versed teacher.