One of the greatest challenges and joys this past year was working on academic conversations with my students. As a school we´ve been working on this for a couple of years. It´s been interesting but not something I tackled hardcore until this year when I worked with our math coaches to prepare for a session we did at NCTM. Working together pushed us all in the best possible ways. I grew more as a teacher through that process than I have in many, many years. It was awesome.
I hadn´t anticipated how much I would learn about my students´ understanding through their conversations. Even when the conversations were whole-group and I did not participate in any way, sitting outside of the group and taking notes, I learned so much. It is the clearest view I´ve ever had into my students´ thinking. Their conversations made clear to me when they understood concepts deeply or when the understanding was more superficial. I also got insights into confusions in their understanding.
Not only were my students far more in charge of their own learning, but I was learning more than I ever had before. It was such an amazing thing.
The downside, however, is that I couldn´t plan ahead. I couldn´t be a teacher who photocopies everything on Friday afternoon for the following week. I couldn´t even really determine our conversation questions/problems/prompts for the week. I could, and did, have possibilities ready for the week, but after each conversation I could use what I learned about their understanding to plan for the next day.
Does it sound exhausting? In many ways it was. It was also quite invigorating. I can´t wait to get rolling earlier next year.