Making mistakes while teaching a lesson

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by Sinewave, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. Sinewave

    Sinewave Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 12, 2014

    I'm in the midst of a LTS as a new math teacher. One of the courses that I'm teaching is Pre-Calculus. I never thought that I would be teaching Pre-Calc this early in my teaching career. I sometimes feel like a fraud, like I don't know enough math to teach this course (and I have learned a lot of new teachers feel this way). I work very hard to prepare for my lessons and teach myself what I am teaching. I have also worked hard to build a great relationship with my students. As a new teacher I knew that would be my biggest strength.

    However, yesterday I made a total flub/fool of myself because I couldn't answer a student's question. I fumbled horribly trying to answer the question. Though I work extremely hard, I know that sometimes my lessons aren't the greatest and could be better. All the teachers at my school have been extremely helpful and told me that everything I'm experiencing is normal and first couple of years you just roll with the punches and do the best you can and find what you're good at and what you need to improve on; what works for you and what doesn't, etc...

    I guess I'm posting because I needed to get the fact that I messed up off my chest and two wonder how you recover from something like that? I feel like I've lost credibility with my students.
     
  2.  
  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    Apr 12, 2014

    You go in on Monday and correct your mistake. You stay two lessons ahead, but be entirely prepared for and focused on the lesson you're teaching each day. We all make mistakes, so forgive yourself, but do know that not knowing your content is going to lead to more than just student doubt. Good luck...
     
  4. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,019
    Likes Received:
    19

    Apr 12, 2014

    While circulating as a tutor in an Algebra class, I told a student he had done a problem correctly ... Then realized that night that I'd misdirected him. It irked me for 2 days (we see students every other day). I got his classwork from the teacher and created a sample problem that showed the correct steps so he could see where we both went wrong.

    I think math students - especially in the more advanced classes - appreciate the fact that math is a thinking process and that math problems are to be considered and worked at. You have an opportunity to show the students your error and the thought process you went through to correct it.

    As a matter of fact, when I make a calculation or procedural error in my tutorial, I usually project the incorrect work on the screen and have my students try to find my error.
     
  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,961
    Likes Received:
    1,155

    Apr 12, 2014

    As far as I can tell, I only made one mistake. I teach English and a credit recovery course. One student (extremely bright anyways) asked me about sentence structures, simple, complex, compound. I love teaching this, but I don't remember which is what by heart. I wasn't teaching this lesson by the way, it was just a question he had on what he was working on.
    He insisted a sentence was complex, I said compound.
    I looked it up, telling him I may be wrong, but I don't think so. It was all in good spirit, we made a bet that if I'm wrong, the whole class will get 10 minutes extra free time.
    I was wrong. He may have thought that I don't know my content, it did look bad, but I didn't sweat it. I told him no one is perfect, I got confused, more power to him.
    If I was teaching the lesson I know I would have known it, because my mind would have been refreshed.

    Now, if I do decide to teach this as a grammar lesson, it might come up, so I think I stay away from it this year :)

    The most important thing is to acknowledge that you were wrong and that we all make mistakes. Yes, teachers should know everything in their subject, but we're human.
    If it happens a lot, then you'll have a lot of student doubt, but one mistake is no big deal.
     
  6. Sinewave

    Sinewave Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 12, 2014

    This situation was a little similar. It wasn't directly connected to the lesson I was teaching, but we were talking about special trig angles and a student asked about reference angles and my mind just went blank, even though reference angles are a really simple concept. This is my first mistake, but I've always feared something like this happening.

    I have made a quick write up about reference angles to go over them on Monday. I just always doubt myself though and wish I didn't!

    Thanks for the responses! I appreciate any advice and guidance.
     
  7. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 12, 2014

    Blame it on stage fright, or a brain fart, and move on.

    Actually, watching a teacher make a mistake and recover gracefully is a good lesson for students to learn. We are all human and all make mistakes. Turn it into a teachable moment, give them the correct information, and stop worrying about it. :)
     
  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,304
    Likes Received:
    887

    Apr 12, 2014

    Every year, I teach my kids what to do when I make a math mistake, and I have them practice by intentionally making mistakes and having them find the mistakes. It gets the kids thinking about the mistakes, and also gives me a cover for a time when I legitimately make a mistake on the board.
     
  9. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2013
    Messages:
    1,016
    Likes Received:
    38

    Apr 12, 2014

    I once taught my students that the USSR was the first to land on the moon. :p I still don't know where my mind was (somewhere on Sputnik, I assume), but I didn't realize what I'd done until the next day when I had 30 kids write on a quiz that Neil Armstrong was Soviet. Ooops!

    It happens. I stumble over my words daily. I just told them I'd flubbed, we threw out that question and moved on with the correct info. As long as you get them the correct info in the end and aren't one of those "how dare you question me!!" teachers, the kids won't even blink.

    Heck, I never realized that I said "deterrence" wrong my entire life until a student corrected me a couple of weeks ago! :)
     
  10. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,961
    Likes Received:
    1,155

    Apr 12, 2014

    Sometimes I mispronounce words. Kids correct me, I thank them, or I ask them how I say it vs. how it's said (depending on how they correct me or which class it is), or laugh at myself. Sometimes, especially of one kid wants to laugh at me, I turn it into a teachable moment and remind them that this is my 2nd language (actually kinda 4th since now I'm learning Spanish). And that I never even went to school for English, I learned it all on my own. And here I am, teaching Americans English.
    I always remind them that no matter what disadvantages they have, they can still achieve whatever they want, if they want it, and I'm an example of that.
     
  11. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,841
    Likes Received:
    51

    Apr 12, 2014

    When I don't know the answer to a question I almost always say "I don't know" And if I have time, and it's relevant, I immediately look it up on my computer.

    There's also been times where a kid told me something and I told them they were wrong (I usually say "I'm not sure about that"). I again go and look it up real quick. If I'm wrong I say "Wow! Well I learned something today, thanks!"

    But yeah, I totally understand what you're saying about not knowing 100% what it is you're teaching. I have 6 preps this year, the least amount I've had in years. And every single year the books we use have changed. This is my fourth year teaching, but it still feels like my first year since I'm still teaching new stuff! So it's really, really hard for me to stay on top of every single subject 100%. There are times when I'm teaching something for the first time and a kid says "I don't understand" and I'll have to go back and re-read the book. Because I'm lost, too!

    It's not that we don't know the subject well, it's not that we're unqualified to teach, it's just that it's the first time we're teaching it. You'll get better. Believe in yourself. :)
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    Apr 13, 2014

    Your books may change every year, Lucy, but do your content standards also change every year? We all get the occasional random question from a student we might have to look up or sometimes just trip over our words, but professional educators should absolutely know the standards they are required to teach and the content area in which they are certified to teach.:2cents:
     
  13. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,841
    Likes Received:
    51

    Apr 13, 2014

    There are no content standards. I have to make everything up. So yes, when the books change, the content changes. For example, last year I taught the planets to fifth grade, now planets are not even in the book.
     
  14. teach1

    teach1 Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2014
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 13, 2014

    It doesn't sound like the OP doesn't know the content. They said that their mind went blank...
     
  15. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2010
    Messages:
    6,392
    Likes Received:
    2,252

    Apr 13, 2014

    OP says, "I sometimes feel like a fraud, like I don't know enough math to teach this course". Sounds to me that OP doesn't know the content well enough to teach it.

    BTW, there is only one OP. Not sure who they are.
     
  16. teach1

    teach1 Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2014
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 14, 2014

    a2z, thanks for TRYING to correct my grammar but I wrote it that way on purpose. I used "they" because I didn't know the OP's gender and I believe "they" is acceptable for a casual forum. If I were writing a formal document, I would have rephrased my sentence. That is what most major style guides recommend because... wait for it... there is no word in English to describe a single person unless you know the person's gender. What did you want me to say? He or she said that his or her mind went blank?

    back to my original point. “… but we were talking about special trig angles and a student asked about reference angles and my mind just went blank, even though reference angles are a really simple concept. This is my first mistake, but I've always feared something like this happening.”

    that sounds to me like the OP knows HIS or HER information but instead just made a mistake.
     
  17. Math

    Math Cohort

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    3

    Apr 14, 2014

    I agree with Teach1... plus I help tutor my current math teacher tutor after school until 4. I remember a student having a question about geometry and to be honest I do not remember all of the postulates and what have you. I took a stab at it and called over the teacher and she said she did not really remember either. Then she called over another math teacher who had a theory but no concrete answer either and he just left. So the teacher and I started approaching the problem in different ways until we finally agreed on what should be done. Please realize my teacher has taught for 20 years. I know she can teach what course they give her. I remember asking another teacher about content. You are the teacher and you earned your degree and certification. I just think you were simply not expecting such a question. We are human and make mistakes.
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,601
    Likes Received:
    2,711

    Apr 14, 2014

    The fun thing about language is that it's always evolving, unless it is "dead" (I prefer the term "immortal"), and even then a language can still change a little.

    There has been an argument recently to add "they/their/them" as an acceptable third gender to be used when the actual gender of a person is unknown or unspecified. I think that's pretty cool, especially that it can be used as a singular pronoun in addition to its regular plural usage. Many of us use these words this way colloquially all the time already--I certainly do, and I'm a grammar nut.

    It's all about code-switching and knowing when it's appropriate to use a certain word or construction. I would argue that until the rule becomes officially adopted, it's perfectly acceptable to use these words in this way on a message board even if it's not technically correct.
     
  19. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    Apr 14, 2014

    Let's get past online typos and the occasional misstep or verbal flub....teachers should have a good handle on the curriculum they teach. Period.
    Yes, we all have the random occasion to go to the computer and clarify a point or rethink a teaching point...that's what reflective practitioners do. We think, rethink, retool...clarify, review, reteach. But the OP stated 'I sometimes feel like a fraud, like I don't know enough math to teach this course'...that's a problem...not only for the OP, but for his/her students.
    I applaud the OP for reflecting on teaching practices and his/her readiness to teach the required content. Let's offer some advice and support for the OP in getting through the rest of the year successfully for the students....what are your suggestions for that? Surely advice for changes that can be made today will be more helpful than anecdotes that send the message that it's common to not know content. Websites, organizational and planning tips, strategies for differentiating...those kinds of things might be most helpful at this point...for both the OP and more importantly, for the students s/he teaches.
     
  20. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    358
  21. ScienceEd

    ScienceEd Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2014
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 15, 2014

    If i'm not sure about a question, I normally say "that's a really good question, give me some time to think about it and I'll get back to you." or "can you write that down and I'll give you a few extra points for that excellent question"

    then I would take a few minutes from my planning time to incorporate the answer to the question in the next lesson.

    I'm not good with coming up with on the spot answers and it messes up the flow of my lesson.

    I've heard with time you anticipate the questions and have prepared answers, but it comes with experience in the classroom.

    :) think of it as a teachable moment: it shows the students that everyone can make mistakes and they shouldn't give up just because they got it wrong the first time. Instead they should check their answer and make sure they get it right.
     
  22. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    7

    Apr 15, 2014

    I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you don't know an answer. Or maybe it's not that you don't know, but need time to think about it.

    I really like the idea of asking a student to write the question down. It gives the teacher time to think, the student has to process it in order to write it down, and saves everyone from making a mistake on the fly. :)
     
  23. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,949
    Likes Received:
    17

    Apr 15, 2014

    I teach history and I tell my students all the time that I don't know everything and that I can't know everything. I do, however, try not to give out false/incorrect/unsure information that could be disproven later. Also, I review my PPTs the night before I teach them so that I can brush up on any anticipated questions.

    Over the years, I've had kids ask me all types of random and obscure questions or facts. If the question is relevant, I will look the answer up at the end of class or I will write the question down, find the answer later and bring it up in class the next day. I do this so the kids won't think that I don't care or that I ignore questions I don't know.

    OP, we all make mistakes. And life always goes on (unless, its a tragic mistake ...)
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 227 (members: 1, guests: 212, robots: 14)
test