If we’re going to have a book compilation of best posts at the end of the year, then I had better be a bit more scrupulous about collecting my favorite posts. Here are posts that I especially loved in January through March.
We need you. Your kinda-lame-but-seems-to-do-the-trick exponent rule investigation is going to make you somebody’s superhero.
I’m often asked, “What do you look for when choosing a game or activity to bring to a class?” Once it passes through the first, most important test of might a kid who doesn’t like math find thisengaging, I look for its potential to be extended or repurposed.
The biggest takeaway for me was how exceedingly careful they are with people talking to the whole room. First of all, in classes that are 2 hours a day, full group discussions are always 10 minutes or less. Secondly, when students are talking to the room it is always students that Bowen and Darryl have preselected to present a specific idea they have already thought about. They never ask for hands, and they never cold-call. This means they already know more or less what the students are going to say.
I have decided today like I decided every other day for the past 6 years not to quit teaching. I am courageously sharing my decision to wake up tomorrow and walk back in to my classroom where 32-40 mostly sleepy faces will greet me with the love and affection of a grunt as I smile and hold open the door.
I struggled with the way my woman-ness, and often my specific physical appearance, was commented upon – as though it is inherently strange or special for a young woman to have a passion for mathematics and still look like a woman. Men usually take it to a really uncomfortable place – “If I had a teacher like you, I wouldn’t have been able to focus in class.” “How do you handle the teenage boys in your class?” “I bet all of your male students have a crush on you.” I still have no scripted reaction to this category of remarks. It always leaves me feeling small, uncomfortable.
In this scenario, I have to write four characters: two colleagues, who are played by actors, and a principal and a student, who are referenced but not present in the interaction. And I have to name these four characters, and in doing so, either evoke or avoid particular stereotypes and assumptions about who they might be and how they might be. I could choose racially coded names that imply a particular background– and cast an actor who represents that background, or one who doesn’t in order to intentionally subvert expectations– or choose racially ambiguous names that could be read multiple ways– which leaves them open to interpretation (read: likely to be assumed White or, if the character is, say, a student in a low-income urban school who gets in trouble a lot, likely to be assumed Black or Latino) and subject to the pre-service teachers’ stereotypes and biases.
So I emerge from this process more skeptical of standards-based grading. But I am EVEN more skeptical of my current grading system. Yes, there are flaws in any grading system. But every time I encountered a flaw in standards-based grading, I thought “Well, does my current system address that problem any better?” The answer was usually no.
There is a tendency to valorize practicing teachers’ knowledge, and, no doubt, there is something to be learned in the wisdom of practice. That being said, professions and professionals have blind spots, and with the large-scale patterns of unequal achievement we have in the United States, we can infer that students from historically marginalized groups frequently live in these professional blind spots. For reasons of equity alone, it is imperative to develop even our best practitioners beyond their current level by giving them access to more expert others.
I realized that my students had not been able to connect all of these situations and see the relationships between them. My goal had been to let them develop reasoning skills, looking at relationships, and connecting visual patterns to expressions in order to be able to formalize their explorations in the coming grades, but seeing them struggle with the knitting problem, I thought, how can I help them connect the visual patterns to a situation like the knitting problem?
I’d love to read your favorite posts of the past few months.