Sunday, 31 May 2015

OAME 2015 Ignite

I posted about OAME Ignite last year, in 2014. In brief, it’s a double session at the OAME (Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators) conference, whereby presenters have precisely 5 minutes to deliver a talk. Their slides advance automatically. The topic can be anything. Each speaker introduces the next one.


It still tests my shorthand, except this time my shorthand was typing directly into my laptop. (Is there a term for that? Honestly, the main problem was autocorrect.) For this post, I’m keeping the point form I used, while cleaning up the sentences for you. Doing otherwise may cause it to linger on my hard drive even longer - not unlike my recap plans for the rest of the conference. I’m not sure if this format means I end up capturing the heart of their talks - what do you think?


TALKS: ROUND ONE


1) Sunil Singh: Mathematics Is...

-1971: An invitation by Willie Wonka, nestled in the movie scene was a song.
-“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” -Albert Einstein
-Show having fun with numbers. Start with pi, both irrational and transcendental. Then see numbers 1-49 in factors.
-“Prime Climb” is a game on Amazon, primes are colour coded! A Seattle based company “math 4 love” made Prime Climb.
-Also see James Tanton’s yellow book, “Arithmetic = Gateway to Love”
-How do teenagers see math? Bounded (textbooks) or boundless?
-BOOKS: “The Math Olympian”; “The Crest of the Peacock”; “Mathematician’s Lament”
-Mathematics is Imagination. But there’s more, let’s bring in Keats, Mathematics is also Beauty and Truth.
-“What was our philosophy again?” Math has a right to... beauty.

2) Matthew Oldridge (@MatthewOldridge): Mathematical Surprise 

-On Mathematical Mess: Are we prepared to be surprised by student thinking and our own thinking?
-Given time and space, your students will ask questions. Try a “wonder wall”, an open space for thinking, with questions written on chart paper.
-Teaching Rates: “We knew the math and we still didn’t predict all the strategies.”
-Using Minecraft to construct bar graphs? (The game is literally an infinite space, what could happen there?)
-“I didn’t think of that.” There are so many methods and strategies. The thinking is there, we have to let surprise emerge.
-The start of a proof for area of a trapezoid? Critical insights.
-“What’s a fair price?” (Go to price per kilogram? Conclusion: Food in vending machines is obviously overpriced.)
-One student generated a model for points scored by a hockey player.
-“I left this slide blank if I was running out of time.” But it’s space to think, let’s call this the metaphor.

3) Chris Suurtaam: What’s Important?

-In math teaching and learning, RESPECT everyone: Teachers, students, parents, administrators, colleagues.
-All students are able to engage in mathematics and to extend their mathematical thinking. It’s a right.
-We need to think about equity issues. “There is no time limit in terms of exploring mathematical ideas.” Everyone has the right to feel value learning and to feel capable as a learner.
-Students learn in different ways and it’s that diversity that should be valued. They won’t all be hitting the same target at the same time. Don’t measure a lesson like that.
-A lesson is successful if by the end of it, the students’ thinking has moved from where they were before.
-Value the math that students bring, and the various ways they work. All solutions involve mathematical thinking, not just those that are symbolic.
-We learn mathematics by connecting mathematical ideas. Mathematical thinking is at the centre of learning.
-Assessing What Matters: What IS the important mathematics? I’m not talking about an assessment event (e.g. test) but the ongoing listening and thinking.
-Assessment shows students what you value and what mathematics is important to know and be able to do. If we say we value problem solving, then assessment should value those things.
-Attentively question, listen and respond to students’ thinking and engage them in important mathematical tasks. 

4) Ron Lancaster: The Rubik’s Cube


-On the Rubiks Cube, Contests, TV commercials, and a great teaching and learning tool for all.
-Books and puzzles: A Rubik’s clock is just as good as the cube.
-There was a 1981 Rubiks cube contest at Ron’s high school, led to teaching how to solve. It’s the math in the cube that is amazing.
-Sequence of turns and order. Doing movements over and over again, the cube will come back to original position. Can provide a big picture view of mathematics.
-1/7 loops back around. Related: f(x) = (x-3)/(x+1), the x comes back in sequence, f(f(f(x))). 8 perfect shuffles will restore a deck of 52 cards. Inverse function can be taught through this.
-Number of positions for a 3x3x3 cube: only by visiting the 12 worlds. If you unstick a colour and swap it elsewhere, the cube becomes insolvable. You must divide by 12 to get the overall Rubik’s formula.
-Becel margarine commercial, a move that twists the centre of the U; centres of the cube also.
-Doug Henning trick on NBC special: Tosses cube into the air, it’s solved. LIVE DEMO
-See http://tinyurl.com/RL2015OAMEIGNITE

5) Kyle Pearce (@MathletePearce): Engagement

-Hi. Web: http://tapintoteenminds.com
-Engagement is a buzzword. There’s many types of student engagement but no clear answers.
-It does NOT look like making good notes. “A simple question like the following will appear on your test.”
-Behavioural engagement might improve with technology, but not their engagement of the MIND. What measure is being used?
-Next tech tool: Cards and Smartboards. That saw improvements to success rates, had a working formula for standardized tests - but are students just being compliant?
-OAME2012 shift, and joining the MTBoS, hundreds of math teachers.
-Saw that innovative uses of technology can improve things, but it’s merely a bandaid solution.
-Traditional lesson plan worked due to familiarity rather than engagement. Promoted memorization rather than connections.
-Do not give a crossword puzzle with all the solutions listed on the page. Algorithms aren’t engagement or understanding. Task based assessment format allows interconnectedness.
-Never stop trying to find new ways to leverage the natural curiosity that we all have.
(You can view Kyle's Ignite on YouTube: thanks @jgibson314 !)

6) Marian Small (@marian_small): Pushing Deeper
*Quick happy birthday for this weekend.

-No news! It’s all about high expectations. I am just “one more push”.
-You can settle for correct answers or you can push for more insight, more connections, more sense-making. You can settle for “That’s right” or suggest “That’s great, now what about this?”
-Practice your “one more pushes”. Such as (moving through grades):
>‘What sums can you get if you add two next to each other numbers? What sums can’t you get?’
>‘If two sides of a triangle are 4 and 6, what perimeters are impossible?’
>‘Draw the greatest obtuse angle possible. Are you sure it’s the greatest?’
>‘Can 25% of one number be 75% of another number?’
>‘Remove one data value so that the median goes down more than the mean.’
>‘When might a line with a slope of 3/2 look steep? Look not so steep?’
>‘If an angle doubles, does the cosine for it double, more than double, less than double? Does it depend?’
>‘Create a spinner with unequal sections where the expected value is -0.5’
-I push me all the time to refine and improve, to differentiate, to share substance as well as meaning. You can push students for deeper insight and understanding, as well as more “generalizing” (things bigger than one little problem).
-Make thinking about your practice and questioning your normal game plan.
-We all started with “one more push” (pun on birth).

7) Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer): The Express Lane


-Which line in a grocery store is fastest? “Think about that for a second. Now five more seconds.”
-“The express lane has great PR unless it’s a scam. ... Yes it is.”
-What information matters/doesn’t matter to find out? (asked audience)
-Number of items someone has is a particular idea. As items increase, what happens to total time? Get data, model with equation. Total time = 3 * items + 35 seconds.
-There’s a flat rate of time to pay and chat with checkout person!
-Situation on slide: Need 173 seconds for 4 people with single digit num of items, versus only 155 seconds for the single 40 item guy.
-Featured on national TV, “In the Fast Lane”, art of zigging and zagging. (Dan lost. Models don’t always describe things perfectly. “I got nailed by produce.”)
-“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” - George E. P. Box
-A slide to reiterate the 6 step modelling with Math: Shouldn’t only be calculation. There’s the humiliation of the Validation step.
-Remember: Each person in line is a standing version of 10 items (due to flat rate).

8) Amy Lin (@amylin1962): Creative Spaces

-Our math classrooms are usually more row based. We’ve been trying to improve those classrooms, like a game it comes with instructions.
-In the game of mathematics, it’s about addition, we’re adding more games and technology, to increase scores and grades... because that’s winning the game.
-Is it? What is the goal? What is winning?
-Turn class back into a playground, play is valuable. Play is now apps on a phone and video games.
-We can create successful classrooms by being creative and giving students choices. Maybe the goal shouldn’t be adding, but empowering. We’ll get feelings of confidence. A better chance of deeper understanding.
-Problem of math anxiety? Can add a fun game, they get high scores and rewards, or can have tutors and video lessons and worksheets to help prepare for exams.
-“I’m going to launch a campaign about creativity and to abolish grading.”
-Promote student thinking and conversations. Want to get a space designed for students to WANT to engage. Maybe the new solution is more about what you cannot measure.
-I want to start “The Math Movement”, a community of educators who sense that something is wrong with the old game. I think we will win because we will see students light up and be driven to share what they learn with us.
-Open minds and hearts play in creative spaces. That’s a win for us.

(Insert Session Break)


TALKS: ROUND TWO


9) Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom): Doers v Doing

-We want students to become “Doers of Math” instead of just doing the math
-“The purpose of teaching is to help students learn.” (Fosnot and Doik.) Could see them as two separate things. Or “If learning doesn’t happen there is no teaching.”
-Common complaints: “Didn’t they learn this last year?” “Why am I doing review over and over again?” If I am the common denominator each year, then I need to change. We need to build mathematicians.
-A close minded way of learning fractions - only looking for answers? Use same thinking, but now explaining solutions and being forced to talk about the math they’re seeing.
-Students need to present solutions in a generalized way. They need to feel comfortable trying out new ideas. Where we can take risks.
-A Working Framework: Role of the Teacher, Environment of Learning, Accountable Kids.
-What really impacts our students? Gr 4/5 class: talk died in asking rote questions but with big idea questions, then kids talked.
-Three Types of Questions: Interrogation, Going Beyond, and Comparing. With all three there’s a big idea to every one of them.
-Two Important Talk Moves: Wait Time and Revoicing. Allow time to think.
-Don’t be passive observers of the math. Are kids just doing the math or being doers?

10) Mary Bourassa (@MaryBourassa): Big & Small

-Making big shifts and small steps to grow as a teacher.
-Change your words, change your mindset. Set the culture in your classroom, and then can connect with all students.
-Big changes requires collaboration. Join the MTBoS; Twitter is her daily PD.
-Investing time in social media has paid dividends. Read blogs every day, find out what other teachers are doing. (Mary has shoutout of 5 websites.)
-Next, start your own blog. Share your practice, it helps you reflect, you get feedback. “If I can blog, you can blog.” “I didn’t think anyone would ever read my blog.”
-If you’re ready for a bigger shift, spiral an entire course with activities.
-If that’s overwhelming, smaller changes: Warm ups. Can be big impact in small time. Gets students into math mode. They can argue about math, start collaborating.
-Warm Ups Sites: Estimation180, Visual Patterns, Which One Doesn’t Belong (a book of shapes, goes to graphs, then Mary runs further with it). 
-More small changes: No hands up. Hinge questions. Random groups. @dylanwilliams review stations. 3 strikes (N Kraft). Teamwork. teacher.desmos.com activities.
-“Change can be had, but it all starts with a big or small step from you.”
-“Be willing to take risks, students need to see us do that.”

(No Paul Alves - not sure what happened)

11) David Petro (@davidpetro314): Pi


-There’s a link at the bottom for all references: http://bit.ly/petro-ignite-2015
-This particular March 14 was Epic Pi Day. 9 decimals deep into pi. Einstein was born on Pi day. Coincidence?
-Random nature of Pi guarantees that your birthday is in Pi. (website can find it)
-Feynman Point (repeated digit) that looks not random is the definition of random.
-Exists unofficial record for digits of Pi: not acknowledged by Guinness Records.
-There’s a poem that goes 31 decimal places deep into pi.
-Pi in the Bible, Kings 7:23? Pi in Congress, in Alabama wanted to make it 3? NOT TRUE. BUT Indiana did try to make pi “3.2”.
-Could the average sinuosity of all rivers in the world be pi?
-Buffon’s Needle, dropping of toothpicks: what is probability of toothpicks lie on line? (Asks low/high estimate?) It’s 2 / pi, yet no circles are there.
-Two transcendental numbers and an imaginary number walk into a bar. There’s a proof from first principles on an Ignite session out there.
-“Reflect” on PIE/314.

12) Nora Newcombe (@kittydundana): On Quantity

-As a Cognitive Psychologist, knows Piaget: Space and Number take years to develop. Children confuse number, length and density. This is both true and untrue!
-It’s true in some ways. Toddlers can remember where we hid something in a sandbox.
-Babies are able to notice PROPORTIONAL quantities (compared with another) more than ABSOLUTE quantities. Proportional reasoning is what supports scaling.
-Demonstrations of babies isn’t about number, it’s about magnitude and general quantity.
-As they grow through preschool into elementary, they’re connecting things. Spatial is linked to number lines. The number line is both spatial and numerical. It joins integers with values in between.
-Yet students eventually LOSE some of the between, because we focus on discrete values so much.
-They don’t remember that a unit is a distance. They think a unit is the slash marks on the number line. Perhaps don’t line up everything with zero? Kids in early elementary school lose the sense of measurements.
-Also fractions are difficult (but important). How to get around problems in that reasoning? Proportional reasoning and scaling are deeply related initially, yet proportional reasoning also is related to fractioning.
-Think about number and space together. Use CONTINUOUS as well as discrete representations.
-Putting lines in between integers shouldn’t be of a smaller size. Number line can then be used for fractions and negatives.
-Push the number line so that it’s important, not merely discrete integers.

13) Don Fraser (@DonFraser9): Take Numb out of Numbers

-How to use the new technology? The best motivator is success, but also important is the hope of success. “We can’t spell success without U.”
-Look at the numbers: 1,2,3,4 and in your mind, circle one. Mostly people pick 3. Why? I have no idea. (Do you?)
-Shopping is an excellent source of real world math. (Image in store: “Was $3.99 now $3.99 save $0.”)
-A growth mindset in math means?
-New book: Becoming Steve Jobs. At $25/bag, air travel is becoming very expensive. Measurement. Peanuts comic.
-Linking math and writing. On average, Americans open their refrigerators 22 times per day: There’s no way this is true? Add all values together, averaging.
-Canadian license plates show there’s at least two aspects to math. “Yours to Discover” (Ontario) and “Je me Souviens” (Quebec).
-Do more rich people put toilet paper over the top? 2/3 of Canadians are right kissers, tilting right to kiss. Regional thing? Pose questions.
-Thank you for making a difference with the students that you ignite.

14) Al “The Big O” Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk): Reinvention


-If you told me years ago I’d be standing here, I’d have told you you were crazy.
-You know that I love to tell stories: My courses were unit based, moving easy to difficult, review, test. Do it six or seven times, call it a course. Then exam.
-They’d feel good about themselves, I’d feel good about myself, but it didn’t work for all students.
-What I valued was the content in the course.
-I told students I was the world freehand circle drawer, and despite the show, I still had disengaged students. Bruce said that I was the problem, I needed to change.
-We focussed on process. Focus on uncovering curriculum rather than covering curriculum.
-Here’s a prompt: (image of shirts). What do you notice, what do you wonder? How long to fold them? Why do you have that many shirts? How much surface area? (image of shirts in hallway)
-The sky’s the limit. Create something with low floor, high ceiling. Like “Beardo Weirdo” data when growing beard (on blog).
-Using “Visible Random Groups” & “Vertical NonPermanent Surfaces”.
-Get more teachers: Collaborative lesson studies. We learned about student learning. Testimonials from students.
-Some groups go the “wrong” way, we learn from their mistakes. Some take an inefficient way, some go right to an expectation.
-“It is better to make a story than to tell a story. It is better to have students make mathematics than to tell them mathematics.”
-I look forward to hearing your stories. If not now, then when, if not you, then who.

15) George Hart: Printing Manipulatives

-3D printing for the Mathematics Classroom (http://Georgehart.com)
-Want a Sierpinski Tetrahedron? His start was 3D Printed sculpture.
-You can create shapes and colours. Complexity is FREE. You can make complex things the same way you would make a cube or a sphere. Easy to program a fractal in two or three lines.
-How to take these things into the classroom? If you want a “MakerBot Cupcake”, “Strut Connector” or “Twelve-Stick puzzle”: can print the pieces. Mathematical models of all sorts of things.
-(10,3) a Lattice. Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedron. If you make a half dozen of them it’s so easy to see them fit together. Hollow and light.
-Screw puzzles. He has a bunch, come see him later. Tricky to assemble.
-“I’m not a classroom teacher, so I’m leaving it to you to see how you can use it in the classroom.” Have students create things and/or argue over how to work with things.
-You can write an equation for anything and make a 3D print. (Venn Diagram Candy dish shown - or anything else they want.) There’s some way you can use this to get students to be really excited!
-Classroom modelling. It’s cool! It’s fun! Shows the creative side, and teaches the importance of exact details. Gets students/teachers excited about math.

That was it! I left pretty quickly to get to another session.  Feel free to comment on whatever stood out the most for you!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Twitterati Challenge

So first a thanks to Chris Smith (@aap03102) in Scotland for including me in his five “Twitter Stars” one week ago, following his own nomination by @mathsjem.

Just like when I was nominated for the “Sunshine Award”, I decided to do a little supplemental research. What made that easy is Chris’ link there to Teacher Toolkit (Ross McGill) which seemed to be the start. And a look back at the hashtag #TwitteratiChallenge would support that - it began Apr 29, the day of that post. Seems the challenge is not subject or level specific, merely something to encourage social media links among educators.

That said, the first thing that gave me pause upon reading the original instructions, was how, at one point, it says “you reading this must either: a)”... and then there’s never an option (b). I suspect this missing option had something to do with donating to a charity? That comes up in a postscript, and then a few other posts. Yet no one seems to comment on the missing (b). Huh.

The second interesting thing was how, in tracking back from @mathsjem, the whole “drink” aspect (steps 3 and 4) immediately disappeared (replaced by “as I am a rebel, I nominate everyone”, which is rather ironic, as everyone became said rebel). Yet the “drink” thing was there at the start, so I suppose @mathsjem, like me, jumped back to the original post too. For the curious, I’ve put the full chain towards me at the bottom of this post.

Let’s start in.


INTRO: In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognize your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support.


RULES


There are only 3 rules.
1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge.
3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost, the rules, and what to do information into your own blog post.


WHAT TO DO


If you would like to participate with your own list, here’s how:
1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely on, or go to for support and challenge.
2. You need to write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost. (If you do not have your own blog, try @StaffRm.)
3. As the educator nominated, that means that you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, following by a pouring of your (chosen) drink over a glass of ice.
4. Then, the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their five other educators to participate in the challenge.
5. The educator that is now newly nominated has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost (use the hashtag) and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are.

*Some prior posts list steps 3 & 4 as optional for the “technically challenged”.
**It’s optional to make a donation to a chosen charity or to identify one or two charities that may be of interest to others.
The only thing I drink with ice is water. Cheers!


FIVE TWITTERATI


I don’t “go to” these days, I more lurk and respond, but whatever. Under no obligation to continue this in any way, my five social media educators are:

Christopher Danielson (@Trianglemancsd)

He’s run an online course on Functions (which I didn’t take) and one on decimals (which I blogged about). He’s written a book about Common Core for Parents. He runs a blog about “Talking Math With Your Kids” (#tmwyk). He challenges your thinking to the point where I’m sure he’s done a bunch of other stuff I’m less aware of. On the personal side, he once asked me about my depression, after a post here. Basically, great guy, check him out.

John Golden (@mathhombre)

He’s been on my watch list since the “Mystery Teacher Theatre” co-venture days. He reads the research but doesn’t let it rule him. I was able to spend some time with him at “Twitter Math Camp 2014”, and he’s great in person too. He even comments on some of my fiction writing, which doesn’t really have anything to do with educating - but has everything to do with more feedback.

Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared)

She knows about flipped classes, how to use Twitter lists, and if I decide to try GeoGebra, she’d be someone with answers. She can probably answer gardening questions too. Plus she can think like a logarithm, and is another person who’s enjoyed my more recreational writing.

Chris Burke (@mrburkemath)

The only person on this list I haven’t actually met in person, he runs the (x, why?) online math comic which recently hit update 1,001. And that’s just for the comics - he also blogs about other things mathematical, including the Regents and he’s been part of the 30 day blogging challenge. I sense we have a compatible sense of humour.

Hedge (@approx_normal)

I haven’t spoken much with her recently, but she was there in tough times, and I know she’s reached out to others the same way. She’s observant, and helpful - and she likes statistics, so you can follow her for that alone. (And if you go to her session at ‘Twitter Math Camp’, maybe you’ll get a green frog.)


There’s obviously a few other names I could mention (including some local people, but I didn’t feel like toeing the line of ‘rule 1’), so we’ll call it there. But know that if you’re reading this, odds are you would have made the list, were it longer. Thanks!


Square Root and Cotangent, also connecting
Now, for the purists, the backtrack blogs:
-To me, from @aap03102 (Chris Smith, above)... which was:
Via @mathsjem,
via @aegilopoides
via @KDWScience,
via @Chocotzar,
via @heatherleatt,
via @MaryMyatt,
via @cherrylkd, From SOURCE (TeacherToolkit, above).

You can also find @Sue_Cowley’s May 11th compilation here, and I've seen @JillBerry102 often pop up in association with the hashtag.

The Twitterati Challenge started in the UK, I saw it hopped to the US back on May 14 (after my nomination, but I’m slow); I guess we’ll see if it survives this particular branch across the Atlantic ocean. Thanks again for reading!

Friday, 8 May 2015

You're a Good Teacher

There’s nothing quite so simultaneously invigorating and demoralizing as going to a math conference like OAME. Or for that matter, going on Twitter, where the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog o’ Sphere) is like a constant math conference.

Interesting viewpoint...

I say invigorating because you get to see what other teachers are doing, and learn about new technologies and innovative teaching techniques. I say demoralizing because those other teachers can seem so much better at this job, and so much more connected, able to do things that feel beyond your capabilities. I say invigorating because you gain a greater sense of community, and the knowledge that everyone is trying to figure this out together. I say demoralizing because you may now feel like one tiny voice among the masses, easily missed or drowned out by popular opinion.

Of course, of late I’ve been having issues with depression, self-worth and sleep deprivation. So the demoralizing parts of that paragraph could be only me.

But maybe it’s not. After all, last summer I posted about not needing to be ‘validated’ by other educators. A little further down the slope, we get to ‘I’m not a great teacher like that. I’m not even a good teacher. Why am I even still doing this?’ In which case, I want to reassure you that you ARE a good teacher, along with offering three tips:

1) Try not to take things personally.


That’s devilishly hard, since teachers are really good at making things personal. As a ‘for instance’: In a Marian Small presentation, she showed some (anonymous) tweets, like “All ideas are valued”... only to immediately challenge whether that SHOULD be the case. If you initially agreed with (or made!) the initial tweet, you go on the defensive. Or in the midst of a Dan Meyer presentation, he tosses in a pithy song about vocabulary, using it as a lead in to doing things in a better way. But you use songs in your instruction, thus might interpret this as casual dismissal of your seemingly good idea.

Yes, I’m attacking the keynote speakers of OAME 2015. Bear with me.

"You like cats? What's wrong with bunnies??"
First, notice that this is grafting personal experiences onto a presentation with a much broader context. The speakers are not actually attacking you, they’re attacking an idea. And they’re not even attacking it - they’re presenting an alternative viewpoint. One of Marian’s key points was that she doesn’t have the right to tell you what you think about being a teacher. And Dan pointed out that there are many things we don’t yet know about student engagement. Those are better, broader points to focus on.

I picked the keynotes because it’s more likely that you’ve seen or heard of them. Also because they have experience at painting those broader strokes, whereas sometimes others (including me) can accidentally make things personal. But whether it’s a presenter at a math conference or a colleague in your school, we’re all human, and we’re all prone to making mistakes - or misinterpreting.

An attack on an idea can feel like a personal attack, but try to take a mental step back. Is that how it was intended? Again, this is hard to do, but it’s probably in your best interests.

2) Give yourself more credit.


You are already at a math conference! Or on Twitter! (Though if you’re not, don’t take that personally.) My point is, you are making steps to better yourself. I know this because before you can even take action, you need AWARENESS. (Which you likely have if you're reading this post.) And once you have that, change doesn’t happen overnight. You need a boatload of other things too: Vision, Skills, Incentive, Resources, and a Plan.

Source Site Here

All of which might not be in the cards right now. Some of those things aren’t even under your own personal control! Maybe this is a long term thing. Maybe it’s a collaborative thing. Maybe it’s a long term collaborative thing. Ultimately, maybe it’s not even a YOU thing.

What works for one person may not work for someone else, and it’s important to know your limitations. In part so that you can push against them, but at the same time, if a push would cause you to explode and burn out - DON’T do that. Remember, you are a good teacher. We don’t want to lose you.

Besides, even if it’s not in the cards for you right now, perhaps you can turn your efforts towards helping someone else out instead. This may feel like a personal failing, like you’re not good enough, but there’s no shame in being a booster. Quite the opposite: If you’re using your awareness to help someone else move beyond you, that’s kind of the definition of teaching. Maybe some day they’ll even be able to return the favour.

Related to giving yourself credit, it’s somehow easier to see the things you’re NOT YET doing, as compared to what steps you’ve already taken. I’m not doing rich activities. I’m not creating constructive controversy. I’m lecturing/talking too much. I suck. Hold on - I am doing groupings, which three years ago would have been a virtual impossibility. I am marking on levels, possibly getting better at it. I am a good teacher. Maybe not great, but by no means bad.

Perhaps you can even harness what you’re not doing and use it as a motivator. I am not doing games in class - I’ve never liked them, I always feel like they’re a lose-lose prospect, I even avoided them at the OAMEMathsJam. Games would break me. Okay, so maybe a 3-act problem doesn’t seem so bad by comparison any more.

3) Context is key


Finally, remember this: They’re not being brilliant all the time. You’re not being terrible all the time. Social media is a wonderful lens for magnifying extremes, but there’s a lot of middle ground in there too. Math conferences may be even worse than social media, because you’re rarely seeing the bad extremes, only the good ones. (Depends a bit on what you talk about outside of sessions.)

Being good with paperwork is also handy...
There’s also more to being a teacher than teaching. What are you doing outside the class? Helping with sports, or arts, or offering extra help at lunch? That’s important! Don’t dismiss it simply because the teaching itself feels more ‘old school’ than you want it to be. (Notice I’m not saying it IS ‘old school’, merely that you perceive that it is.) In particular, when I forced myself to list “10 Good Things” back in January the majority of them were NOT things I did in my instruction!

Remember: We all have certain things that brought us to the teaching profession. We all have certain areas of strength, and weakness. We all have bad days, and good ones. We all have different classroom compositions, and things outside of our control. Try not to overanalyze what others are able to accomplish. Do the best with what you have.

Above all, remember to tell yourself that you are a good teacher. I’m not merely saying that because it’s teacher appreciation week. I’m saying that because it’s a message that is often difficult to acknowledge, even after hearing it from someone else.