If you didn’t know I attended #TMC13 and presented about my counting circles there.  After my session the GREAT Kate Nowak mentions to me that there was something I said that stood out to her during my presentation.  It was about that “blame game” that teachers LOVE to do when they get students that aren’t at grade level in their classrooms.

Let’s just state one VERY important piece of information about students coming in to your classroom….majority, and I mean > 50% of them WILL come in below grade level.  I am generalizing this for MOST public schools.  If you work at a private/independent school then I don’t really know if this pertains to you or not.  So there’s that.

One of my main motives behind the counting circles in my classroom is that I am TIRED of this “blame game”.  I KNOW students will not be at grade level.  I personally have worked in elementary school level classrooms and know how hard it is to get students to be at grade level and I have personal relationships with most of my elementary teachers at my school (well, old school).  Hence why I don’t really like to partake in the “blame game”.  So I decided instead of being part of the problem and continue to feed this fire of negativity and unsuccessfulness I would be a solution to the problem.  I changed and implemented something in my classroom that allows students to work on these skills.  I have made it a daily routine (only 8-10 mins a day) that helps build kids strategies and the it also gives them a feeling of success with mathematics.  With success comes greater willingness to learn, a feeling of ownership and the courage to try new ideas/strategies.  As students start to feel the benefits of success in math class it will be hard for them to contain themselves to the 8-10 mins of success they are used to getting.  Those habits (for lack of a better word) will be pushed out into other classroom activities.  Eventually you might just get kids who are willing to dive into mathematics and swim through murky waters  in order to learn new things.

Now with this “blame game” comes that ultimate word that just makes my skin TINGLE!  I feel like the Hulk when hearing these terms and I might have sat and shaken my hands in order to try to calm myself from reacting.


(and any other form of this verb)

Below you will find my reaction the last time I discussed this with some colleagues at #TMC13….


Let’s be realistic, why are we calling it “re-teaching”. When I looked up the definition of the prefix re on I get a definition that clearly states that something is being done AGAIN, repetition, a backward motion.

That means that you actually must have LEARNED something in order to “re-teach” it.   I am not sure memorizing is considered learning but if they can’t use it a year later after “learning” it THEY.DIDN’T.LEARN.IT!

So I pose a challenge to you as a teacher….STOP complaining and START doing!  Ask yourself “what routines or daily activities can I build into the culture of my classroom in order to keep myself out of the blame game?”  Counting Circles?  Estimation180?  Visual Patterns? Math Exchanges?  Number Talks?

Stop being part of the problem and instead BE a problem solver!  Cuz we all know:

“actions speak louder than words!”


8 thoughts on “THE BLAME GAME

  1. This is what’s behind calling under-100 level students “developmental” in college instead of “remedial.” It’s a weird word game (that *completely* confuses people who think it has something to do with developmental disabilities…) … unfortunately, what is often retaught, and extremely thoroughly, is some primitive survival strategy that gets a right answer for that worksheet.

  2. Leah Briggs says:

    I LOVE this… I just had a conversation with a colleague about the fact that our Algebra I skills come into class without the basic skills they need. I’m going to try counting circles as a bellringer this year. I’m hoping that it’s a success!

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