It is hard to believe that my time at New Classrooms is coming to an end. As my weeks wind down, it is amazing to see the results of the work that I - along with my co-interns and our supervisors - have completed. As I mentioned in a previous update, my team uses an assessment tracker, which is shared between all of us on Google Docs, to keep track of the math assessment questions we are editing and the status of each question. Prior to working here, I never would have imagined the centrality a single Google Sheet could have in my life, even showing up in my dreams from time to time. The assessment tracker is color-coded according to the status of each question, and the color for questions we’ve published is white. When we started, the tracker was covered in different colors, and it is exciting to see the transformation that has taken place, and how many more cells in the spreadsheet are now white, indicating the large number of questions we have been able to publish.
Over the course of this internship, I have refreshed my mathematics skills, gained useful computer and coding skills, and have had valuable experience working in an office environment. I have spent my time here reading over mathematics questions, rewriting them so that they are useful, understandable, culturally relevant, and – importantly - fun for middle school math students. For each question, I have also written an explanation so students can learn how to solve the problems they might have gotten wrong the first time around. This has required a great deal middle school math, which, one might be surprised to learn, is quite difficult when you have not practiced it in your everyday life. Though much of this was easy to refresh, it also required a significant amount of reading and researching to relearn in order to write down in detailed, step-by-step, concise explanations. I have learned to anticipate what students might have trouble with and find ways to explain this in student-friendly terms.
Following this internship I will be student teaching in an elementary school, and I feel much more prepared than before. Prior to this, I had had many invaluable experiences working with children, but New Classrooms is one of the first experiences I had where I delved into the content I will be teaching, rather than just the methods with which to teach. Not only am I more brushed up on math skills, but I feel that as a result I’ve also strengthened my ability to teach math and explain concepts to students, as well as anticipate students’ needs and questions when planning a lesson, hopefully rendering the lessons more effective from the start.
The process of publishing the assessment questions involves coding the questions into a software that enables the problems to be interactive. The software contains different “interactions,” allowing students to categorize, drag and drop tiles, choose from multiple answers, plot points on a number line, and more. For one thing, these activities have given me a plethora of innovative methods to choose from when planning my own lessons. Though my lessons might not always involve the level of technology that these questions do, I can build from the concepts of these methods to plan my own lessons. Working with this software has also showed me how easy it can be to learn new mark-up and coding languages, and how useful this can be in a math classroom. While I remain conscious of bringing too much technology into a classroom, I am also aware of its ability to open up the learning process and reflect students’ varying needs and skill sets.
Until this internship, I had not spent much time in an office setting. I really appreciated the environment of working and collaborating with others in a highly innovative setting. The people at the office are encouraging and supportive to one another, as well as cognizant of the fact that everyone has more happening in their lives than what was at the office. Meetings felt exciting, as new ideas were constantly being born and expanded upon. During one meeting, I was surprised to find out that this year is the first year that Teach to One (the math curriculum that New Classrooms created and sells) has not been completely revamped. This meant that the people here have been dedicated to reworking and rebuilding Teach to One for many consistent years until they found a successful model, which they now still continue to tweak and improve in order to reflect the needs of schools.
This is the kind of environment I will aim to create in my classroom. While classrooms can easily become competitive environments due to grades and testing, I will strive towards a classroom environment in which students are excited about working together and in which new ideas are constantly taking shape. I want the classroom to be a place where students and teachers alike are seen as whole beings who can bring parts of their lives outside of school into the classroom, and where those experiences are considered during the learning and teaching process. Math, specifically, is a subject that can often feel removed from everyday life. Through my experience at New Classrooms, I feel confident going into elementary education with the ability to make math fun, innovative, and relevant to students’ lives.