With the gracious permissions of two extraordinary teachers, who also serve as co-facilitators of our middle school math PLC, I am pasting in a recent e-mail thread that transpired between the three of us, as well as one other teacher who teaches on the Algebra I team. As a school, we are making thoughtful transitions toward student learning that involve more real-life problem solving, project-based learning, and balanced assessment. Often the journey is difficult, challenging, and frightening. This journey forces us to reconsider some habits that we have developed as educators in our twenty-years careers. However, we are not alone, and we don’t have to “change everything,” especially not all at once. We can take one step at a time, and we can do so arm-in-arm with our colleagues.
>>> JG 11/15/2010 1:49 PM >>>
Please watch when you can and let’s talk about it.
Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers
>>> DD 11/16/10 11:51 AM >>>
It’s a great talk. I agree with most of what he said. My problem is I was trained the way he says we are inadequately teaching. I don’t know how to do what he says to do. I think you need to understand math a lot more than I do to see most real world connections. I have been hearing this idea a lot; but where is the curriculum? Where are some books that will help guide me to teach this way? If that isn’t on its way, then I guess I need to go back to school or get a new job. It is as daunting as if someone said I needed to take someone’s Latin class over and teach it.
I would like to discuss it in PLC.
>>> JG 11/17/2010 1:02 am >>>
Reading Dan Meyer’s blog offers good ideas:
If you have not seen his TEDNYed talk, Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, it offers a way to use our current books.
>>> Bo Adams 11/17/2010 5:16 AM >>>
I respect your thoughts on this, probably more than you even might realize. However, I truly believe that any journey, any journey at all, begins with one step. Just one step can start the path. You have already made MANY steps toward the type of teaching that Conrad describes. In fact, you have been doing it for years. With the support of the PLC structure, I think your Algebra I team has made MANY steps toward this journey.
As a runner, I travel a sinusoidal curve in my training. When I am at a low point, and I am trying to make a run of significant distance, I often pick a short-term point in my vision – maybe a street sign, maybe a telephone pole. I just tell myself to “get to that point.” Then, I pick a new point. Often I feel like Donkey (no comment from any of you necessary) when Shrek was coaxing him across the rickety-old bridge that separated Princess Fiona’s castle-of-captive from the other side of a lava-filled gulf. Donkey made it with encouragement, ONE STEP AT A TIME. He did not have to jump the entire gulf in one fell swoop. [Sorry to mix metaphors!, but I did call myself an ASS!]
SHRINK THE CHANGE. Just pick one thing during one class to try. 20 minutes worth. You do this type of “action research” all the time! You are used to it. You just have to pick the next step in your journey’s path. And you have lots of support in your team and in me!
>>> DD 11/17/2010 11:10 am >>>
That was a great suggestion. It seems simple but I need to remember that when I start to feel overwhelmed. One step at a time.
>>> Bo Adams 11/17/2010 11:29 AM >>>
How would you two feel if I put all of the below in my “It’s About Learning” blog? I could remove your names, or leave them if you don’t mind. I think these emails make for a good story that could help support others.