About a year ago, in August 2015, Mr. Taylor Howe was preparing his room for his first year as a geometry teacher at Lift For Life Academy, having just completed his student teaching during the previous school year. While Mr. Howe knew that his teaching experience at LFLA would be different than his experience at a school district with more available resources, he still didn’t know exactly what to expect.
“Before coming here, I knew that some of our students were coming from tough circumstances,” explained Mr. Howe, “but I guess you can’t really understand what that can mean until you witness how these circumstances can affect a student’s behavior. Whenever someone is not paying attention or goofing off, you have to remember that they might have something going on at home and that they have to wake up before the sun is up to get on the bus. I’ve learned to appreciate a student just for being in a classroom in the first place, because the fact that they are there shows that they care.”
While it might not always be easy to get students engaged in learning math, Mr. Howe creates a classroom environment that best reflects the students’ interest in interactive technology. Whether taking online quizzes on the online Kahoot! application or drawing graphs and creating proofs on apps like Desmos and GeoGebra, Mr. How believes that a multi-platform, visual approach to learning is more pertinent than ever in today’s classroom.
“Technology changes from year to year, so it’s important to have my students familiar with how to learn across different platforms and use trial and error techniques to get familiar with new technology,” said Mr. Howe. “These students get immediate gratification on different social media outlets, and they’re used to multi-tasking, so a traditional classroom setting with a lecture and note-taking isn’t always the best option for them.”
Another method that Mr. Howe uses in his classroom is posting review questions around the classroom and in the hallway when they are reviewing for a test. Rather than just going over review questions on the board with students sitting in their desks, this method allows the students to be moving around and working with one another while they solve the problems. While these reviews encourage LFLA students ti use teamwork in the classroom, Mr. Howe also encourages teamwork out on the field as an Assistant Coach for the baseball team.
“Something I learned from playing baseball in high school and college is that you are going to fail a lot,” said Mr. Howe. “If you go three for ten as your batting average, then that’s actually pretty good. The mental side of dealing with that failure is one of the biggest skills you have to pick up. You can’t get used to failing, but you can’t beat yourself up too much about it either. You just have to realize what’s wrong, work on it, and strive to be better next time.”
Mr. Howe finds that the skills to overcome failure and focus on the future are not only useful on the field, but also in his classroom.
“You get the question all the time: When am I going to use the Pythagorean Theorem in real life?,” said Mr. Howe. “A lot of times, I’ll just tell the kids, frankly, that they probably never will. However, the thought process and problem solving skills that goes into solving these problems are the same type of formula you will need to solve problems in real life. You need legitimate facts and proof to support any argument you make. I hope my math class instills a sense of defending your ideas with strong evidence.”