ARCHIVED—Exemplary Practices 2008
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I am Room 4
Students 'feel' math in Jean Murphy's classroom. She has tons of manipulatives, motivational posters, a word wall, games, learning centres, group worktables, a computer centre and much more. Murphy teaches grade 7-9 Mathematics at Long Range Academy in Cow Head, Newfoundland, a K-12 school. "When you walk into my classroom," she says, "you see, you think, you feel math."
Creating a warm classroom atmosphere, Murphy contends, emanates out of respect. Respect that students have for her and the same that she has for them. "(My classroom) "is a place where students have to feel safe enough to take risks and ask questions," she says. Murphy encourages her students to make mistakes, "I encourage them to falter because when they do, they learn, they learn to fix it. They're not going to go through life without making a mistake. It's no big deal. You fix it as you go through."
Along with mutual respect and risk-taking comes encouragement and praise. Murphy believes in offering continual encouragement because students respond to positive comments but the praise must be sincere. "We really have to mean what we say," she says. "They pick up on it."
And while that's all great, Murphy adds that "if the students aren't coming in to engage in learning then I've done all of that for nothing." In Murphy's class, students engage in the process of learning and have input into what goes on in the classroom. Student learning comes in all forms, auditory, visual, hands-on etc. "We develop new ideas through discussions, charts and activities. I always tell them there's more than one way to do math."
Furthermore, at the end of the year, after an enormous amount of work has been completed, Murphy asks her students how things can be improved. "I took what they said seriously," she says. "I did what they told me to do and I'm always saying, how can we make that better?" And as a result, from one year to the next, test scores go up.
Success, for Murphy, isn't about test scores, however, it is about relationships. "We've got to remain student-centered because the child is the focus, caring is the key and good teaching comes from the heart," she says.