Only a few months behind schedule….

After attending Twitter Math Camp (TMC) most people normally write a blog post about their experiences, sessions they attended or whatever they end up writing. I am not good at doing things routinely. So for the past three years I have written nothing. However this year something has been following me ever since #TMC17 in Atlanta, GA. And I finally made the time to get it down on paper. (Literally, because if you didn’t know I write every blog post or email on paper before typing it up. I know I am ridiculous!)

During #TMC17 there was a whole “thing”. I don’t care to give this “thing” energy because honestly it was a waste of time and effort to give it any of my attention [feel free to judge me here, I give no shits]. However, this “thing” did plant a seed in my brain about challenging ourselves…..See for some, TMC is this event where people who have mostly socialized online (via Twitter) are all together, in real life, socializing at a math conference. The online social interactions are normally around ideas/concepts that the individuals both agree on (for the most part). At TMC, you get to meet this person and continue (or start new) conversations around like ideas. I mean it makes sense right? People find commonalities and use those comfortable things to keep their connection.

However, I left TMC this year thinking how to push myself to see things differently. I asked myself:

  • How do I get better at something that is unfamiliar to me?
  • How do I learn about something on the “other side of the fence”?
  • Maybe there is something on the “other side” that would push my current thinking?

This is the learner in me!

Quick side note: I took this strengths finders test a few weeks ago (for work) and guess what my #1 strength was??!! YUP, you guessed it…..LEARNER! OK, now back to the main event!

Visually I see myself as this curious human [highly questionable here] poking around at stuff that is unfamiliar to me. Wanting to put myself in uncomfortable, unfamiliar and weak positions in order to deliberately fail and get challenged by something. After TMC this year, I asked myself why do I do this? Why do I continue to challenge myself? And the answer was right there….

In  order to push our current boundaries we need to know our weaknesses, what makes us uncomfortable, what makes us vulnerable. Then we need to knowingly (and willingly) put ourselves in situations where we are having to face these challenges. That way we are actively seeking new and better strategies to deal with things that are hard for us.

When I think about what I am saying it really sounds insane! Put yourself in situations that you are bad at (on purpose!) in order to get better at them!!???

But isn’t this what learning is all about?????

As teachers, we need a constant reminder of how challenging learning actually is. For the most part, teachers already “know” what they are currently teaching. So how do we remind ourselves of the struggle that our students endure every day. every period. in every content area?

More times than not we forget about this aspect. The true torture of learning. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and often times we feel lost and confused for most of it. But in the end we realize that through that foggy haze of learning we did actually learn stuff. We obtained a new tool for our toolbelt, heck maybe even more than one!

So I guess what I am saying here is, what are you doing to push yourself? What new person are you chatting with that you don’t share commonalities with? What new thing are you engaging in to push back on your current thinking? How are you making yourself uncomfortable in order to learn a new thing?

Pushing yourself doesn’t mean taking on a huge new project or doing extravagant huge things. It might be that you are going to listen to that “other side” or allow yourself to taste a new food (for more than one time) or maybe just smile more often. The main thing is that you are putting yourself in uncomfortable, unknown or vulnerable situations to challenge yourself. To learn and be a role model for your students, who every day face their own challenges in every period in every content area.

Come to think of it. Maybe they are our real role models!

Advertisements
Only a few months behind schedule….

My reason for teaching

I have never been very personal on my blog about teaching but if you’ve ever chatted with me (on computer or in real life) you have gotten a little clue into how much teaching students (math in particular) means to me.

There is no question that I should be in this profession.  There have been times where I have asked myself: “Maybe I care just a little too much.” But as I think about every single student I have had contact with there is no way I can live with myself if I held back on the amount of caring I have for each and every student that I encounter.

These students that come into our lives are our future.  They are the ones that will be our neighbors, our engineers, our congress people, our voters, they are the future of my community, my island, my state and this country.

I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to help mold our future generation.  If not me, then who else? I remember reading one of Fawn Nguyen’s post that we are lucky to do this job.  We are lucky to get the chance to educate some amazing human beings.  Are they amazing when they come into my class?  Most likely NOT!  Are they better people because they’ve taken my class?  DAMN STRAIGHT!  But overall, am I a better person/teacher/human being because I’ve had the honor to teach them?  This is a given!

Each and every student of mine knows that every move I make inside or out of the classroom is for them.

Three years ago I had the honor and privilege of having a squirrely (like all freshman are), sassy (to keep me on my toes) and yet loving and sweet boy in my class (which I will call IPA).  He had that attitude towards math class that gives me my drive…..to be the best teacher I can be! Which pretty much means he hated math.  Well….let’s just say it wasn’t his strength.  Every lesson plan, every activity, every move I made in class was to get him (and any other similar students) to start SLOWLY changing their minds about math and learning in general.  I was DETERMINED to get him to at least appreciate math for its functionality, beauty, structure, or any other awesome reason people are attracted to math.  He was my drive, for the past 2 years, to be better.  To look for and write better lessons, to have high expectations, to break lessons down so all students have access to the content.  Without IPA (and many other students like him) there is no way I would’ve pushed myself as hard as I did.  There is no way I would be as determined year after to year to write better lessons.  There is no way that I would be where I am today in my profession.  We all have these students.  We have the hardest ones that we are pulling our hair out over but if they weren’t here where would we be.  We have those students that challenge us EVERY DAY but still they are in our rooms at recess and after school and we think “I thought he hated my class and math.”  We have those students who we see grow into young adults that we are proud to say “I had the privilege to be his teacher.”  IPA was one of these students.

A week ago we lost IPA in a car accident and that is the reason for my overly personal post here.  Since his death, I’ve been reflecting on all the great teaching moments he has given to me: toll booth conversations, math arguing, arguing about the quality of his work, arguing about him being smarter than he actually thought he was, the reason for being a better math teacher, the reason that I ultimately do this job!!!!  I can’t express enough how lucky I am to have had IPA mold who I’ve become as a teacher.

As teachers we often get caught up in the politics, the power, the rigamarole of the profession.  Don’t forget your reason for being here!!!!  Remember that day in and day out.  See your students’ faces, hear your students’ voices because one day they won’t be there any more.  Be proud knowing that you gave every student everything you could offer them and more!  You are the change agent!  You are the lucky one that ultimately has the opportunity to mold and be molded by the future of your community, your island, your state and country.

I am proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to teach IPA and many other students like him.  And I will never take that for granted!  NO matter what tests, initiatives, or ratings get dumped on our profession.  I am proud and honored to be a teacher of the future.

To learn, read.

To know, write.

To master, teach.

My reason for teaching

Self Reflection: Math Meta-Cognition

Today I came back from a week long hiatus in Las Vegas and my substitute mentioned some problems that students were having difficulty finishing. I was having a hard time planning for today but then I realized what a perfect chance this is to get a good start on implementing my Math Meta-Cognition process. It took a lot of time for students to go through the process and ask themselves these questions. I really don’t want to have make students write the answers to these questions EVERY time but I am thinking I will have to do this in order for them to get used to the process. I do hope that this process gets easier for them. Most of them were very honest and the second question that asks them “where they got stuck?” really gets them thinking about where they went wrong or where their weaknesses are. For my students that need more challenge, the answer to their question really gave me a way to differentiate problems to get them thinking harder. For my students that need more time, their answers really got me seeing where they need help.

Another thing I notice is that I NEED push myself to continue to refer to these question consistently in class.  They help kids think through their thinking process and to really help them get over their hurdles without me. These are the same types of questions I would be asking them if I was standing there trying to help them. Instead I am asking them to start by asking themselves these questions and answer them. Take their answers analyze them and turn those into a way to figure out a plan of attack to solve the problem.

Self Reflection: Math Meta-Cognition