My day began at the Clarendon Hills train station. I reread the portion of Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate, so that I could begin to think about how I want the beginning of my school year to take off. I’m still stricken by the importance of building relationships and how key it is. Although I would not change a thing about my pregnancy or maternity leave with Jacob as it was the biggest learning experience of my life, I think I truly learned about the repercussions of not setting up and maintaining the relationships with students from the beginning. When I came back after my 2.5 month leave at the beginning of the school year I barely introduced myself before I dove into content and I paid the price for the remainder of the year as I was constantly compared to my substitute and never felt in touch with my class. I think that the relationship building that takes place in that first week is key to success with class and I am truly looking forward to a new approach to those days.
The introduction to the keynote speaker brought up the “butterfly” method again. I actually saw Phil Daro speak about this and have been on the constant lookout for “butterflies” in my classroom ever since. That is not to say that a mnemonic device every now and then is not helpful, but when it impedes the mathematical conceptual understanding that is where the problem lies. The end of the keynote left us with the following, which I LOVE!
Following the keynote, we went to our assigned discussion groups. I was in a great group of teachers. Seriously it felt like a cross section of the United States: representatives from Nebraska, Illinois, and South Carolina. We engaged with the math right from the beginning. Working with the South Cook Math Initiative has given me an appreciation for doing math while participating in PD. I, unfortunately, made some “attend to precision” errors. I was mad at myself because I know better than that, however, making mistakes is something that we all do and the whole idea of “FAIL” meaning the “First Attempt In Learning” is not lost on me. Maybe revealing those mistakes to my students will enable them to feel more comfortable in my classroom.
The part of the discussion group that really struck me was the idea of equity. Although it was not an expressed, planned, intentional outcome of the discussion, the lesson I gained was invaluable. As teachers were comparing two tasks that were presented, teachers brought up that they would use one of the tasks with their upper students and one with their lower. The upper students would get the broader, more open ended task, while the lower students would get the multiple part, more textbook-ish task. I wanted to ask, “WHY?”. Why shouldn’t both levels be allowed to grapple with the problem? Why were only the upper students allowed that opportunity. Now I am not saying that we should give unapproachable tasks to our students. However, I think that we should allow all of our students to attempt the challenging mathematics and find ways to make it more accessible to everyone through our questioning or through discussion with students. I’ve heard the word “equity” thrown around lately and did not realize how prevalent of a problem it really is. I wish that I would have shared my thoughts at the time. I guess this will have to be my forum until I find a new opportunity to share my thoughts on the topic. I chose to attend a breakout session on Probability. It was nice to get back into that frame of mind as I plan to teach AP Stats this fall. It was funny that before the session I talked about this great TED video on the argument that we should teach statistics before calculus and then the presenter STARTED with that video. The presented then did an interesting lesson on independence where we were to create a two-way table in which the variables were independent and compare it to the one that we had just discovered was not. I liked the idea of building the inside of the table when usually we just make inferences from a table that already exists. The last lessons from my day actually came from the train ride home. I sat on the upper deck with the intention of sitting alone and composing this blog. I sat facing the last backwards facing seats and a couple sat down. I don’t know how the conversation started but let’s just say I didn’t get to do a lot of reflecting like I planned. However, they were awesome. They were telling me about how they’ve traveled the U.S. by driving a truck that carries ultra light planes. They actually were assisting with the Air Show in Oshkosh. It was interesting because they were asking my advice on where to go and what to do and mentioned that they were eventually headed back up to Wisconsin and my suggestion was going to be to see the EAA. Anyway, I reminisced about my travel job with Starfish Aquatics where I got to travel the U.S. (from DC to the Poconos in New England to Arizona) and how I didn’t enjoy it because the entire time I just wished I had SOMEONE to share the experience with. Trips by yourself versus with others – why are they more fun? It’s OBVIOUSLY not the destination… I would argue that it is because of RELATIONSHIPS you have with people and sharing the experience. And so my day has come full circle…