Tuesday, March 16, 2010

That's Not Right

I rarely talk about my job, but there was something that I observed today that I want to share. I would like to preface this post by saying that I am not trying to single out this teacher....everyone makes mistakes and it certainly does not mean she is a bad teacher. It just got me thinking and I would like to know what you all think too.

Now onto my observation....

I was in a 1st grade classroom observing a student that was referred for testing because he has temper tantrums and exhibits bizarre behavior in the classroom. I didn't see any of this behavior, but that isn't that uncommon. Even if I don't see the behaviors, I can usually get a feel for a kid, and this one definitely has some issues. Anyway, I wasn't paying that much attention to the lesson because I was focusing on the student I was there to observe, but I noticed something was weird with what she was writing on the board.

I think I witnessed the teacher teaching the students something that was wrong. The lesson was on greater than and less than and she was writing numbers on the board and then having students put the numbers from greatest to least in blanks she had drawn. So for example, she might have written 65, 72, 43 and then ____ <____ < ____.

But that is wrong, right? She should have used > (greater than) signs if she wanted them ordered from greatest to least. Once I realized the mistake I kind of panicked. I became confused because I wasn't sure if I was wrong, but after thinking about it for a few minutes I realized it definitely was wrong and then I felt uncomfortable, and then I thought about bringing it to her attention, but then thought that would be embarrassing for her and that she would hate me, and then I was thinking about how the kids were learning something incorrect and how that is bad, yada, yada, yada. Basically, a million things were running through my head as soon as I realized what was happening. The activity was over before myself or any of the kids mentioned anything, but I am still stewing over the whole situation. I am sure it was just a mistake (at least I hope so), but it got me thinking....

How often do you think something like this happens? I would guess we all operate under the presumption that students are taught everything correctly, but what happens when that is not the case? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?

17 comments:

  1. My poor little brain stinks at math, but that was DEF. wrong!!!

    Yikes...I wonder how often that happens!! Maybe now I have an excuse for my inability to do math?? :)

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  2. As a teacher (but highschool) I say, speak up! I think any good teacher can realize once in awhile that he or she might be presenting something incorrectly. Though that is a particularly egregious error - I bet if you were like, hey, I don't want to be terrible but I noticed a little something.... she would, at the very least, not make the same mistake again. (But maybe that is a case for why I'm terrible at math! )

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  3. Oooh, yikes a mil. Given the fact you seem so conscious of your presentation and delivery of the error, I think the teacher would have taken the news alright.

    I never thought about whether teachers are teaching the information correctly, I mean, it makes sense they'd teach the kids incorrectly at some point, because we all make mistakes, right?

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  4. Lucky for me, I student teach in fourth grade, and if I make a mistake that kids LOVE to correct me. :)

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  5. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, she was probably distracted with her students (or maybe nervous with an additional adult in her room, I used to get nervous). If first grade math is the same as it was when I taught it 3 years ago, then those kids will be beat over the head with that process and will figure it out...or at least be retaught it in every grade until high school. Speak up next time! I'm sure she would have rather laughed with you than realize later that she was wrong and be worried that you think she doesn't know 1st grade math.

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  6. like everyone else i'm sure it was an honest oversight. and i believe teachers teach incorrect things ALL the time! either because of human error or popular belief at the time. remember when they taught us metric because supposedly the US was converting? or how about the whole "2 spaces after a period" rule, that's total BS. it happens.
    if she was teaching them the entire lesson wrong it would be one thing but just one backwards alligator isn't a big deal. i'm sure it was confusing for the kids but they'll figure it out : )

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  7. I'm hoping it was a mistake! I was coteaching with another teacher about the phases of the moon and I COMPLETELY messed it up! He jumped in and corrected it before I went any further and I did feel a little embarassed, but was SO greatful that I was able to then correct my mistake and teach the kids the right way!

    I think if you approach it in a way that isn't criticizing her or making her feel bad about it, you should say something.

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  8. It doesn't make any difference which way the symbols are written even if she says to write the numbers greatest to least, it only matters that the numbers are put in the correct spaces in the correct sequence. For the first example you would be writing them in backward order 72, 65, then 43.
    43 < 65 < 72 or 72 > 65 > 43

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  9. That was toootally wrong!! Maybe anon is right, but in my mind, if it's greatest to least, it goes in the order of left to right. Maybe next time it happens, raise your hand (hehe, polite participation kiddies!) and share that it might be incorrect, or ask what she's requesting them to do because you're confused. Then maybe she'll catch her mistake. Either way, sorry you were in that situation!

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  10. You know that we both have the same job-- and I've observed very similar things. :)

    I know some teachers who have a lot of difficulty with spelling and who often spell things wrong on the board. I usually don't say anything, but it happens a lot.

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  11. It's crazy that such a small mistake can affect so many little minds! I bet you it happens all the time!!!

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  12. I have memories of teachers coming in to class and saying, "ok, totally did something wrong yesterday" and reteaching something. I suppose it's because we all kind of lose it a little bit sometimes. I think the key is for the kids to understand which numbers are greater and smaller moreso than the < and the >... but in time, they need to understand that > is greater than and < is less than, so maybe it's something to talk to the teacher privately about and maybe she can correct it later?

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  13. because i SUCK at math - i genuinely stared at that for a long time wondering if it was wrong. but even i'm pretty sure that's wrong. :) i wonder how wrong our teachers were. i'm pretty sure they aren't as smart as we remember them being & kids ask a lot of crazy stuff. it always seemed like our teachers had the answers but there's no way they knew everything. i bet they made a lot of crap up :)

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  14. Anon is right if you are compaing numbers, but so are you. If you are just putting a string of numbers, they should be in the correct order. Does that make sense? As a teacher, I would definitely want someone to point out a mistake I made in the classroom. I think any good teacher would!

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  15. I'm teacher and i have an assistant in my class for a kid and It's so good to have someone who can "with discretion " or not correct some "mistakes " i could make ... for the < really i'm not sure because it's about the relativity of two numbers one with each one... LOOK : 3 < 5 ( 3 is less than 5 but 5 is more than 3) ...

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  16. I know I have made mistakes, unintentionally, in the classroom. I would want someone to tell me, nicely, but I admit I would be sooo embarassed.

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  17. You know what? It never really even occurred to me that teachers probably sometimes - maybe even often - teach things incorrectly. Wow. I don't know whether I even have any advice - that's a tough one. I think it might be best to tell her...

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