My practicum is now all over but the crying. Now it’s time for the hardest part, getting a job.
My last two weeks went by very smoothly. So smoothly, that I left with heavy nostalgia on Friday. I love teaching. I love talking about teaching. I love the routine of a classroom schedule. I love challenging myself to learn more, and to be a better teacher. I love confronting my assumptions about how I understand what I’m teaching and how it differs from how my students understand it. I love helping young people make deep connections and develop confidence.
This is a follow-up to this post. The full two-hour radio episode can be downloaded here.
First off, a bit of a funny story. The high school math teacher interviewed by Rex in the podcast happens to be my cooperating teacher!! I had no idea this was going to be the case when I blogged about the show last week. In fact, I didn’t know about it until today when some teachers were talking about the episode at work, however, I hadn’t listened to the episode yet. I actually didn’t plan to listen to it until next week when I had more time, but after learning that my co-operating teacher was interviewed, I took the time to listen to it today.
The show was a bit repetitive but I got through it. Right now, I don’t want to wade into the debate around best pedagogical practices, but one thing that comes across to me is that math education is a passionate topic. For many, perhaps most people, it’s a reminder of personal anxiety and failure, and helplessness with their own struggling children.
I’m starting to think the debate about standard algorithms versus concepts might be a sideshow to the real question, which is how do you reduce anxiety surrounding math and still teach it? The answer I and everyone else doesn’t want to hear, but might be unavoidable, is that math is a brutally unforgiving subject, and that’s just the way it is.
Rex Murphy is going to take a crack at math education in Canada this Sunday on CBC Cross Country Check-up . (Hat tip: WISE math).
I’m always interested in what Rex has to say, because of his flair, if nothing else, so I’ll be giving this a listen.
Is there something wrong with how math is taught in Canadian schools?
About the time I knew I was quitting my job to go back to school, I was passing by a business hotel by my workplace. Despite not doing any business traveling myself in the current position I was in, I still was almost nostalgic about it. My days of corporate travel are over, I thought, at least for a long time. No more little chocolates on my pillows, car rentals,, flight delays, chain restaurant food, and expense claims.
So it was with a tad irony that last summer, almost exactly one year later, my part-time job sent me up to Halifax for training and they set me up in the exact same hotel! Now I’m going back up again this week (and missing two teaching days because of it). It’s not the same hotel, but still, this is actually two business trips more than I made in the nearly three years I had worked at my last job.
Apparently teachers travel too, a bit. One teacher in my department recently came back from a conference in San Francisco. This shocked me for some reason. I figured yeah, teaching is a profession and there is going to be PD, but I thought it would be more localized. I still think that’s true, but there are more exceptions to that than I expected.
Yikes! The last two weeks flew by. I know that I say that every time I write a post, but I’m amazed every time and find it a little scary. I’m also so busy, I wish I had more time in the day and was actually half-disappointed that today is a holiday because I wish I had one more day to get the stuff I was working on completed! Not really though, I always appreciate a day off.
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know. – Donald Rumsfeld
I had my supervisor in evaluating me today, and I know I shouldn’t get worked up about these things, but I do. Real or perceived, the stakes feel very high for me in such a tight job market, and I really want to shine. That hasn’t happened.
I over-prepared for this lesson. I had a back-up if the LCD projector broke. I made sure I had board-markers and extra pencils and pencil sharpeners if students didn’t bring their own. What I didn’t prepare for was today.
Setting the tone, I stubbed my toe stepping out of the shower and was hobbling around all day. I start off my lesson, about 5 minutes into it, and already I feel like I’ve been up in front teaching for an hour. The fire alarm goes off and everyone goes outside including me and my supervisor. The chatter outside was that someone had called in a bomb threat, and time goes by with us all freezing outside. By the time we get back inside, there’s only about 20 minutes left in my lesson. The students settle down surprisingly quickly considering the ongoing drama, and then it’s dead silence. The “warm-up” review questions I had planned taking the first 10 minutes, ended up taking the whole class, with me at the front yammering away and poking and prodding the students to get answers . Sigh, definitely not my best lesson.
Anyways, my supervisor takes off a couple minutes early because he has to supervise another student-teacher in the same school. I’m supposed to meet him in a hour during lunch hour, but then during the next class, while he was supervising the other student teacher, the fire alarm goes off again! This time someone set a fire in the bathroom, and the result is we’re all sent home for the day.
There is a silver lining. I spoke to my supervisor on the phone and he wasn’t too concerned about it and he told me he has enough to write me a report. Expect the unexpected. I’m just glad today is over.
A recent article in MacLean’s Magazine (the Canuck equivalent of Time or The Economist) questions math curriculum reform. The gist of the article is that the math curriculum reform has created a confusing and over-complicated curriculum where neither teachers nor parents can keep up. A concerned coalition of parents and professionals, called the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math (WISE), is pushing for reform that would return to teaching fundamentals and standard algorithms.
John Scammell had previously taken WISE to task in this blog post, sparking some good conversation that included some participation from WISE members.
I have mixed feelings myself, and the article is obviously full of hyperbole. They mention an engineer who spends 2 hours every night re-learning his children’s math so he could help them with it, which is something I find hard to believe. However, there’s something to be said for simplicity. If teachers are not so comfortable with math themselves, and try teaching non-standard algorithms as rigidly as they teach standard algorithms, I could see that causing a lot of the confusion and creating more problems than it solves. I also believe discipline and practice is something that we underrate in our math education.
Well, blogging is kind of like going to the gym. It’s hard to get back into it once you take a break. I don’t have much to say in this post so consider it equivalent to a light workout, just to get back into it.
To be honest, there’s not a lot that’s new, really, and I’m so busy these days that reflection is the least of my concerns. It’s hard to keep up, and it feels like I’m constantly one step behind. I may only be practice-teaching, but I can already empathize with first year teachers.
My big thing right now is that I have four weeks of teaching left and I’m trying to relax and just enjoy them. There’s something to be said for being relaxed as a teacher, because you set the class tone. It’s not easy though. With the last few months of the program fading, and hard decisions and lots of personal and career changes coming up, I feel like I’m in a little bit of a pressure-cooker at the moment.
I’m going to take a break from blogging. This is the last week before March break and I could use some downtime from thinking about teaching. I’ll resume blogging late next week or early the week after (the 19th.)
A whole week gone by already!
I can’t believe how fast time is flying. One thing about just starting teaching is I constantly feel one step behind. It’s hard to take personal time off let alone time to publicly reflect in a blog space.
Well, I did take the time to reflect. And when I did, the flood gates opened a little too wide and I wrote a bit too much. I’ve had to cut this down quite a lot and focus on what I want to get out of writing this post.