being a teacher, failure, mistakes, students

When We Admit Our Faults Or When Math Blows Up in Your Face

I admit it; math today was a mess.  I had done my preparation, I had created my lesson, I had everything ready and then in the middle of it; breakdown.  The kids were getting antsy, my explanation didn’t work, and finally it dawned on me ; I was not making sense.  Mortification, terror, and just a little bit of embarresement.  You see, I hadn’t taken the time to fully understand the concept being taught.  I had prepared, sure, but I hadn’t figured it out on my own.  I had just follwoed the prompts of the books and copied the words thinking that I understood when in reality I didn’t.  In fact, I wasn’t even close.

So when students started asking questions, there I stood with a choice to make; do I admit my faults or do I pretend that I know what i am talking about.  I swallowed my pride and admitted it,”Sorry, but I have to figure this out first before I teach it to you.”  The kids went quiet.  “I don’t want to teach it to you because I will teach it wrong, so let’s get back to it tomorrow when I have had some time.”  Then the kids sighed in relief.  “Good Mrs. Ripp, because I was really confused…” and the energy immediately returned to the room.

After school today, I sought out a colleague and I asked them to walk me through it and explain it like they did to the students since the book just wasn’t clicking for me.  And as he patiently explained it, I realized once again how our students must feel when something doesn’t make sense.  I realized how important it is for us to figure our curriculum out before we teach it to students.  I realized how crucial it is for us to admit when we simply don’t know. 

Sure my lesson tomorrow just a got a little more crowded, but in the end, it is worth it.  I didn’t wing it, I didn’t fake it, I presented it as a true learning moment in which the teacher didn’t know, and then I figured out how I would learn it myself.  In the end, when I admitted my fault, I learned more, and that lesson is something worth passing on.

9 thoughts on “When We Admit Our Faults Or When Math Blows Up in Your Face”

  1. Sadly, this is a clear example of why all the curriculum maps, differentiation strategies, data, pre and post assessments, and learning strategies are useless without a thorough and complete understanding of the material. Back in the day we called it experience and it was valued.

  2. Exactly, I spent 40 minutes just this morning preparing the SmartBoard part of the lesson, I should have spent the 40 minutes instead going through the material once again. It was something as simple as using prime factorization trees to figure out the greatest common denominator and least common multiple.

  3. Love it! Not only did your students learn a lesson (and probably trust you more now), but we did, too. All too often, blog posts are only about perfectly crafted lessons. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mrs Ripp, your willingness to admit mistakes and put it out there for all to see makes you a leader. I bet your colleagues look to you as someone they aspire to be.

  5. When I was teaching 7th grade — at a private school — where the classes were contained… math, we got to casting out 9's……and I did not get it…… so we skipped over it.The next day — I had another teacher come in to teach it — and I sat at a desk (as a student) and learned how to cast out 9's. At the end of the year, 2 of my students said that the day I sat in a student desk and learned was their most memorable day EVER in school.I applaud you for letting your students see that YES, we are all still learners. So often, teachers are unwilling to show this — and I applaud you for being a GREAT example for your students.and then also sharing this with us.Well done! Very well done!Jen

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