“ So, here’s my typical day:
Off to school at 6:30 a.m. Stop at McDonald’s for their $1.27 coffee. It lasts me through the morning, thank goodness. I usually get to work about 6:45 (thank goodness for a short commute) where I copy handouts, check email, talk to a few teachers ( a little adult time!) and then students start arriving about 730 a.m. for extra help. At 8 am, homeroom begins and I teach my four 8th grade Algebra classes until 12:30 p.m. We then have a 20 minute lunch and head to meetings or a little down time to get some work done – that part of my day goes by very quickly.
After school I’m either attending a faculty meeting, a department meeting, meeting with students or running my garden club until about 4 pm. At that point, I head out to tutor some students until about 7ish. A couple of days a week I exercise for an hour.
Finally home, my awesome husband has made dinner for us, and we sit down for a few minutes to relax and talk about our day. I usually work on school work, grading papers or planning the next day’s lesson until about 10 pm.
That’s my day! ”
Love this day in the teacher’s life project. #MTBoS.
'Looking at Data' is the New 'Reflection'
When I was first teaching in the early 90’s, there was a lot of rhetoric about being a reflective practitioner. Of course, like any slogan, the meaning of it varied radically from person to person. The ideal, of course, was that we think about what happened during instruction and come up with ways to respond effectively.
The soft humanity of reflection proved ineffective on a large scale, most likely because of a lack of evidence that it ‘worked.’ Given the various meanings of being reflective, this is, of course, a funny conclusion.
Now we are in the era of teaching as a technical activity. We have graphics showing us how looking at data will diagnose problems that we teachers will simply know how to solve. However, evidence-based practice must make contact once again with the highly uncertain work of teaching. I have no reason to believe that it will shine a light on the true complexity of teaching and learning in a broad way anymore than reflection without good frameworks for action will.
Most of the time, evidence-based practice becomes ‘who will we target for remediation.’ It is a management tool. Teaching, at its best, should be a humanizing endeavor. The humanity of students get lost in our current data schemes that effectively call them names, like ‘below basic.’
It makes me nostalgic for reflection. At least that did not carry the bludgeon of technical labels that too often convince teachers and children that some people are not educable.
I want to go to there.
Zero. A cultural treasure.
A talk I gave at #NWMC13. Aimed at math teacher leaders and coaches, I describe how different collaborative activities like planning or looking at student data can be deepened to support teachers’ professional learning.
Jazz pianist, composer and Physics scholarVijay Iyer has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.
In our 2010 interview with him he speaks of his musical influences:
I’m very influenced by the music of my heritage, and I’ve spent a good deal of time studying on my own terms and coming to terms with carnatic music — the South Indian classical music. Particularly, I’m interested in rhythmic concepts from South Indian music, and so I work with a lot of these elements in my music. And the structures of that tradition are very mathematical, but it’s in a way that is an aesthetic. It’s not just about calculation for its own sake. It’s something that pervades the visual art and the culture of South India.
via Harvard University
The structure of South Indian music is very mathematical….
Only in math problems can you buy 60 cantaloupes and no one asks what the heck is wrong with you.
No wonder I love them so.
Unicorn Preservation Society
Recently somebody challenged my outrage at the current educational policy environment. I was carrying on about how de-professionalizing things like TFA and NCLB are to work that I respect, treasure, and have dedicated my life to understanding: outstanding mathematics teaching.
Here is how it went down:
Yes but you hang out with the unicorns. You know that is not how most of the world is. Maybe these policies make things are worse for the unicorns but better overall.
As any good provocation does, this challenge made me think.
Maybe I do hang out with unicorns: we do not have a clear enough shared language to communicate the exquisite details of how truly outstanding mathematics teachers do what they do. Clearer language, a clearer handle on the nature of their expertise, would help us set up better unicorn farms. So yes. I study unicorns in their natural environments and take careful notes and try to create unicorn farms in universities and schools.
While i have toiled away at this,
some of my favorite unicorns are losing their sparkle. Some have exited the profession, knowing what is possible to do with kids but feeling like their habitat has been taken over by so much policy kudzu. They can’t thrive anymore.
I want to make more schools hospitable to these wonderful teachers so that more children can experience their special brand of magic. Good math teachers instill a sense of competence in their students and joy in learning that can move children forward in meaningful ways.
It speaks to how arbitrary the 6 original ones seem to many students.