Writing not publishing

I”ve been writing, but for a number of reasons not hitting the publish button.

I used to know how to fix education, now I don’t so I stopped telling everyone how to teach.

I used to have deep thoughts on what was coming next. Now I don’t.

I’m not sure what I want and I’m not sure what you want, so consequently I don’t have anything.

I have some great ideas, but usually when out walking. This is bad for two reasons. I don’t get out and walk enough; I don’t write them down when I get home.

I have noticed a big thing abut my teaching. It isn’t nearly as good as I want it to be.

When I left the classroom I got into blogging and twitter which taught me so much about the classroom and what it could be, that I longed to get back and try it out. That really didn’t happen for about 7 years. I spent a lot of time in the classroom, but not as the writer of lessons and not as the teacher of lessons.

I’ve been back for 3 years now and I”ve learned a few things.

  1. Teaching without a textbook is not fun.
  2. Writing curriculum while teaching is almost impossible
  3. Focusing on teaching is wrong.
  4. Worrying about the future doesn’t help

The first two are related. I’m using a quasi textbook right now (engageny) and I’m finding that when I’m not spending an hour or more each day trying to create a lesson from scratch that Ijust have so much more time for the students.

Having a curriculum written out means I spend more time critically thinking about that curriculum and making positive changes for my students. Sure next year I might toss 90% of the lessons, but having that starting point is what makes it possible.

Right I can’t make changes to my students, so I have to focus on changes in my behavior. The changes in my behavior are not limited to adjusting the method of teaching. In reality that is just wrong. What I really need to do is focus on building relationships with my students. Then they will adjust to me and I will also start making changes that are more personalized towards them.

I worry constantly about the future. Mostly, “will my students get a good enough education from me?” I might be that one teacher they think about 20 years from now, but most likely not. I’ll just be another math teacher and that means I have to focus on bringing the math alive.

I’m back in the classroom now and relearning how to teach. LIfe has changed, but in many respects life is still the same. Lessons are still a hook, a body, and a summary, but more people are thinking about the overall flow and that is improving teaching. INdividual comments are still king even when people talk about standardized grading or PARCC testing. Students don’t learn until they do and they wont do until they want. My job is to make them want to do math, then give them the opportunity.

I’m starting the next chapter, relearning how to teach. My journey towards National Board certification starts now.

Random Thought

 

education

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Look I understand math pretty well. I like math and tend to get excited about the nitty-gritty details about what is happening and how to teach it at a very granular level.

 

I am not an English teacher I don’t get excited by the granularity of the mechanics of writing I just do it. Examining student work for the exact level they reached and teaching to that exact level is not fun and tends to be a lot of work

 

 
Should our teaching be all about drilling down using data to find out exactly where students are deficient and correcting that? Does that take all the art, all the love out of teaching? Is it possible that the tests are that accurate? Do I need a test to tell me that information?

 

 

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Material-less math and questions

Playing Piano

As a support person I often find myself with a class for a day, or a period, or even just a few minutes while the teacher is gone. I need something to keep the students occupied with something other than gossip. So when the question came up “Need games children can play without any material to improve mathematical skills for thousands of slum area’s children.” I paid attention.

The first suggestions were games of NIM, which is a game played with stones. Any sort of counter will do and they don’t have to be uniform. Basically the game is played by making a pile of stones then picking up a number of stones in turn eventually forcing your opponent to pick up the last stone. Rules can include putting the stones in various sized groups and picking from one group at a time. Having a minimum and maximum number of stones that can be picked up, or really anything you can think of.

The second suggestion was playing “20 questions”. The answer can be as simple as a number and increase in difficulty such as rules or functions, to equations of lines, or just about any sort of concept in math. Imagine guessing a number but not being allowed to ask if it is higher or lower.

When I teach 8th grade math I basically like to make sure my students can recognize each function from the graph, the equations, and the table. So this fits in nicely. Actually anything we define in terms of properties should, theoretically, be a good answer for a 20 questions game. The game can and should be a vehicle for teaching students how to think critically about the properties of an object.

The last suggestion was Bizz Buzz. I’ve played Buzz a lot, which is a simple game. The rules are: students line up or sit in a circle and count up saying Buzz when they reach the number or its multiple. Bizz Buzz is a variation using two numbers and their multiples. Too add even more difficulty try using numbers from different bases. After playing this in the classroom a few times I increased the difficulty one my time by asking students to say Bang when they reach a number that is a common multiple. Playing with factors and common factors should also work.

I might also recommend ideas such as http://www.mathinyourfeet.com/ which I think is a great method to learn math. Creating patterns of dance or stomps with your feet.

I was also talking to a music teacher a few weeks ago. He was trying to teach his students the relationship between fractions and notes using the old pizza method. I suggested he stay with what is natural and use the timing of the notes. Whole notes, half notes, quarter and eights are fractions of time not pizza. Sustained notes are simply adding fractions. Students would obviously practice with their instruments, but drums can be easily created. I would assume that difficulty could be increased with various time measures.

If you have any other suggestions please add them to the comments below.

 

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