Meghann Hogan: Changing the math classroom to change student perspectives
Meghann Hogan, a math teacher at Louisville’s Central High School and the liaison for Verizon’s Innovative Learning program at the school, has always loved math and discovered her interest in teaching it during her time in high school. One of her math teachers, Dan Temple, took a relationship focused approach that inspired her to pursue it as a career. “When I came in there, I felt seen and I felt I mattered,” she said. “That’s what really stuck with me.” She now also has a classroom of her own where relationships are the focal point.
Meghann recognizes that many of her students don’t share her love of math. However, as a teacher, she has the opportunity to change their opinions and this is what keeps her motivated. “I’m going to be the one who changes that,” she said. “I’m going to make kids love math and I’m going to show them that math can be cool.”
When trying to change her students’ perspectives, Meghann came to a realization. The math wasn’t the problem. It was more so the math classroom. In response, Meghann has carefully curated her classroom. It now includes not only traditional desks, but also bean bag chairs and other sitting areas. “No one wants to sit in a desk for eight hours,” she said. “Kids should be in an environment where they are comfortable, so I created a space where they can do that.”
The way Meghann teaches math reflects this flexibility too. “I used to think that a classroom that is quiet and kids are working means they are engaged in their learning, but that is not the case,” she said. She prefers her classroom noisy with kids up and collaborating with one another. There is an emphasis on team building at the beginning of the year to set up with the goal being to make it feel more like a coffee shop than a lecture hall.
With less time spent on direct instruction, Meghann has more time to observe her students to gather data about them. “I am walking up the aisles checking in,” she said. “I make a point to talk to every student every day.” As a result, if you name one of her 150 students, she can tell you exactly what their level of understanding is and how they are progressing. She also uses the time to establish relationships and get to know how her students are doing in their lives outside of the classroom. In combination with what she learns from formative assessment, she uses this data to inform the way she groups students, to adjust the challenge level of the problems she uses, and to know which students are struggling and need more attention.
She hopes her students walk away from their experience with her with a new found sense of stamina. Doubts about ability are a barrier in the way of success for many young people. Meghann wants to prove to her students that they do have it in them to struggle and succeed. “If I can help [them] build stamina and not give up and work through a problem whether it is a literal math problem or a personal problem, then I feel like I have succeeded,” she said.