Oct 162016
 

This post is born out of a PhD class I am taking called “Models of Teaching.” It is a great class, but one of the requirements early in the semester was to write how I would use direct instruction in my classroom. I refused. I wrote a lengthy screed against DI. I attacked it, aggressively. What you have here is an edited, cleaned up, and less aggressive post born out of that assignment.

——-

As a first year teacher, I was explicitly told by a principal to use direct instruction. He very carefully outlined what he expected any class to look like, and what the learners should be doing at every stage, every minute.

When that year was over, I left that school without a second thought. To deprofessionalize teaching to such a degree that someone could outline any class, any day, any lesson to the minute is reprehensible and borders on educational malpractice.

If you get the sense from this that I do not value direct instruction very highly; good.

I mean, really. Look at the way people think about education and specifically math ed. I think using comics as indicators is a great idea, because comics take a shared experience and pokes fun at it. Comics make us laugh through the pain, and there is a lot of pain in education.

Baldo, I cant believe school starts tomorrow

At the younger grades, we definitely see excitement for learning, but at some point, we beat that excitement out of kids. Why? This is a question I have asked repeatedly here, but I think DI has a lot to do with it. I mean, DI is a common way to teach math, as well as other subjects. Can we blame learners if they are bored, frustrated, and unexcited about classrooms that are taught through DI? And they are all 3.

math class is like a 40 foot long colon

Really? The punch line in this Baby Blues makes me cry. Literally. This is what the general public finds funny about math class?! But it isn’t just these comics. It goes on. And on.

calvin-hobbes-memorizing-is-boring

The common theme of memorizing is so frustrating.

calvin-hobbes-school-is-not-about-interest

I am not advocating for “learn what you want” or unschooling, but certainly we can figure out ways to build in learner interests, right?

calvin-and-hobbes-paying-attention-in-class

And DI just take us to the point repeatedly. “Oh, you weren’t paying attention while I was sharing what you were supposed to be learning? That is your problem, not mine.”

dennis-the-menace-back-to-the-salt-mines  dennis-the-menace-principal-not-warden

Yea, nothing more needs to be said here. Sigh. These were published in October. Of 2016. These are current. It makes it just that much more sad.

zits-consume-hold-regurgitate

This Zits comic pretty much sums up the idea of Direct Instruction for me. It is clear that Jeremy (the teenager) has teachers who use DI pretty much the entire day. He is just consuming the knowledge of the teacher, puking it back for the test, and starting over each day.

foxtrot-learning-math-at-the-last-minute-b4-finals

And this focus on memorizing, and storing the teacher’s knowledge leaves learners doing what Paige Fox is doing here. Focus on the test, not learning. As long as the test comes out okay at the end, then all is good. Same issue Calvin had above.

But my objection to DI goes beyond the fact that it creates a horrible perception of classrooms. The philosophical underpinnings of direct instruction follow from Behaviorism and the work of B.F. Skinner.  Skinner, in his book “The Technology of Teaching” introduced wonderful machines that replaced teachers. In the behaviorist world, teaching is only necessary to introduce proper conditioning, and you do not need professionals to create those behaviors. Machines, called appropriately enough, “Teaching Machines” can replace teachers wholesale.

teaching machines by skinnerJust read the question, mark the response, check the response to the key, move a lever left if correct and right if wrong. Finish the lesson and repeat until they are all correct. This is the legitimate end result of behaviorism and the deprofessionalization of teaching. We see it in such sites as Con, er, Khan Academy, where the boring and mistake prone  lectures are used to give a false impression of learning. This kind of approach to teaching and learning is why at least one US Senator has suggested doing away with college professors and just have students watch Ken Burns videos to learn about the Civil War. Not joking. This is real. This is the direct benefactor of behaviorism.

In short, there is not enough alcohol to burn this chapter from my memory. [I leave this sentence in here from the assignment for a reason. Yes, I really did turn this sentence in, but also because it shows just how strongly I feel about this issue.]

These are harsh words. I freely admit that. I have very few, if any, kind things to say about direct instruction. I stopped teaching this way after my second year in the mathematics classroom. I would never go back, nor would I ever try to teach this way again.

It is painfully boring for the learners, and it is equally painful for the teacher. The fact it is completely ineffective to teach or learn higher order processes and skills makes it doubly not worth using.

Direct Instruction is the worst of all teaching methods, and continuing to use it just reinforces the boring nature of what learning can be. It doesn’t have to be that way! It really doesn’t.

When I write lessons, whether it was for high school or for the college classes I am teaching now, I start each lesson with these questions (replacing math with teaching now):

Am I:

–Assisting learners in creating THEIR own math understanding?

or

Forcing learners to curate and consume MY math understanding?

My goal is clear. I want every learner to move beyond my understanding quickly and efficiently. That can’t happen with DI. DI is a way to force learners to store my knowledge and understanding.

And, we need to figure out ways to stop asking learners to store our knowledge and instead celebrate their own. There are many constructivist teaching models. We need to use them. Find two or three that resonate with you and practice them. And then, celebrate the accomplishments of learning for more than 2 seconds.

Calvin is sad for a reason.

calvin-and-hobbes-is-this-why-learners-are-unmotivated

Oct 122016
 

I had the opportunity to read a preprint edition of Malke Rosenfeld’s new book, Math on the Move, and here are my thoughts.

First off, let me start off with what this book is not. As educators we have probably sat through a professional development where someone told us that in math class, we can appeal to the “kinesthetic learning style” by having the learners up and moving around the classroom. We can appeal to “kinesthetic learners” by having them move their arms, or by doing gallery walks. I have sat through several of these. [yes, I put that phrase in quotes on purpose. I do not believe in ‘learning styles’. Multiple Intelligences, yes, learning styles, no.]

Rosenfeld’s book is not this. No where near this. This book is not about “kinesthetic learning” this is about making connections in mathematics through motion, body, and dance for elementary school learners. It is an amazing concept to think about. I really appreciate that on page 2, she says, “not all of dance is mathematical and not all math is danceable.” That sets the tone for the entire book. Rosenfeld looks for the strengths in using movement, and using the body as a thinking tool. This is a powerful idea, and the first chapter of the book is about what doesn’t and does count as using the body as a thinking tool. I loved the deep thinking this chapter provoked, because it made really think about dance and movement with respect to math.

And, let me be honest. My knowledge of math through motion is very limited. My idea of dancing is more aligned with this guy than anything that someone else would consider “dancing.” Honestly, I wondered for a moment if someone had recorded me actually dancing when I saw this gif.

dancing-gif via

But, despite the fact I am both musically and rhythmically challenged, I have always thought there was opportunity to connect math and movement. I have never figured out how, but I have been intrigued by the idea. After reading the table on page 17 I realized why.

table of nouns and verbs about math movement

The verbs of math are aligned with the verbs of dancing. The nouns of math are also aligned in large part. Looking at the list, and knowing, intellectually, about the ideas of dance, it is easy to understand how strong the connection is. Through examples of learner work, QR codes showing video of learners moving, multiple lesson examples, pictures, role playing examples, and well developed explanations, Rosenfeld shows me how to implement dance in a very constructive way in the elementary classroom. By the end of chapter 3, I was willing to try it with elementary kids tomorrow. That takes a lot for me to say, because I am secondary through and through. Little kids scare me. But I am so excited by the opportunity I see after the first three chapters of lessons that I am willing to try them. They are so interesting!

I think the real power comes later in the book when the 6 stages are developed further.

  1. Understand
  2. Experiment
  3. Create
  4. Combine
  5. Transform
  6. Communicate

These stages allow learners to move from the understanding of a concept and goal to the creation of a multi-step dance pattern and ending with the discussion and communication of the idea through a presentation of the dance. The last half of the book has QR Codes on almost every single page with video link examples. The depth of knowledge these can provide is stunning.

All in all, the more I read and find the joy in mathematical dancing, the more opportunity I see to push this into the upper levels. There is so much more that can be done with this idea beyond the boring and basic. It might even make me a better dancer! Well, no. It isn’t a miracle book, just a really good math book. It is authentic movement, not the usual fake stuff we see.

I think it is time to bring real motion in to math class, get learners moving in purposeful, meaningful ways, and leverage that motion into strong mathematical knowledge.

If you want to read a chapter for yourself, check it out on Heinemann’s website.

rosenfeld_cover_web

Sep 092016
 

To my last post, “No more broccoli ice creamDavid Griswold challenged me with a very serious and thoughtful reply.

The phrase, “No more broccoli ice cream” came from this meme that I saved. I collect these memes, just because the provide interesting fodder for conversations about math in class.

textbook math is like broccoli ice cream

So who is Denise Gaskins? She is a home school parent who specializes in K-6 math (I am inferring this from her website and the books / content she talks about. I could be wrong about the grade levels.) She tweets and has a FaceBook page under the name “Lets Play Math.” It is clear she has a focus on making math fun, interesting, and engaging. At that age, my experience is that learners are very much into mathematics. I saw this bulletin board in a hallway last year.

2015-09-28 12.56.29

If you zoom in, you will see that almost every single one of those 4th graders said their favorite subject was math, or they enjoyed math, or they were good at math. 2 out of the 15 had no positive mention of math. A bulletin board next door to it had a similar proportion. When I saw this board, I wrote a post called “Where does the joy go?” This issue is one that I have been struggling with for a while. Why are young children excited about math, but junior or high school learners typically are not?

I believe it is because at some point, I and my fellow teachers stop thinking about math as joyful, and start thinking about it as “serious work.” We can’t have fun solving these equations, this is “serious business.” But that is true of all subjects in high school. It isn’t just math teachers, but English teachers, history teachers, and other teachers. We turn our subjects into these “serious business” topics that must be “mastered” and “assessed.” If you don’t pass the classes, then you can’t graduate, you can’t be successful in life without knowing “algebra.”

[yes, I used a lot of scare quotes in that paragraph because I do not want anyone to infer that there is an agreed upon meaning of those terms.]

Here is what David said in his questioning of my post:

I’m not sure I completely agree with this, or Lockhart for that matter. There are a lot of people who find joy and beauty in the curriculum, and there are lots of ways to encourage and celebrate that joyousness without throwing too much out. Will some people hate it? Sure. I didn’t like AP US History very much, though I liked my teacher. But I had friends who thrived there. And I’m okay with that.

Personally, I don’t think the ice cream metaphor is realistic. Math isn’t ice cream. Nothing is ice cream. No field or subject is as universally loved and delicious as ice cream, certainly nothing with any practical application. Math isn’t ice cream, it’s vegetables! So maybe “textbook math” is steamed broccoli and it’s up to us to add peas and roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes (maybe even with some marshmallows on top) and even pickles, but the fact is some people don’t like ANY vegetables and some people like simple steamed broccoli the best and some people like ALL vegetables and, importantly, all of them are part of a well balanced diet. So our job is to be a math nutritionist.

The first paragraph I will not reply to, because it is his personal feelings and I don’t think there is anything there to discuss. It is real.

The second paragraph is the challenge. “No field or subject is as universally loved and delicious as ice cream.” But … I don’t like ice cream. I eat it maybe one time every four or five months, because my wife wants to share something.

And, guess what? Yes, math is as loved as ice cream at the lower grades. I have observed 4th and 5th grade classrooms where the learners are excited, joyful, and enthusiastic about math. The bulletin board above is anecdotal evidence.

I think we need to stop saying it is the subject that is like vegetables, and accept the fact that it is the way we teach the subject that turns it into vegetables.

Watch this video (it is 5 minutes) of these middle school learners struggle and succeed in math.

There is honest to goodness joy there.

They ate some yummy ice cream in that lesson. Why can’t we do that every day?

To answer David. Is math like vegetables? I think it can be. Is math like ice cream? I think it can be. The choice is mine.

If I get to choose whether math is more like vegetables or like ice cream in my classroom, I will choose ice cream (even though I don’t like ice cream).

I choose this not for myself, but for my learners. And David is right. Not everyone will love every subject. I am okay with that. But if I choose to present math like brussel sprouts instead of chocolate fudge peanut butter ripple, then I have denied some learners even the ability to choose whether or not they enjoy math.

And then, how do I make my pre-service teachers understand that it is a choice they can make too? [Wow, that is a whole different can of worms.]

So, is math like ice cream? For my classroom, for my pre-service teachers, the answer must be Yes.


David responded on Twitter with these series of tweets. I think they add a great deal to the conversation.

 

Thank you David for making me think.

Sep 072016
 

The struggle to understand why we teach K-12 mathematics in the order we do, and the content we do is real. I have wondered about this for a long time, and really have never found a good answer.

I threw out the idea of teaching y=mx+b as the only way to write lines (even though the district materials at the time said it was all we needed). I took a lot of heat for that decision from some people. I was told I was completely wrong; by teachers. I stuck to my guns because y=mx+b is a stupid way to teach lines. And in the end, I was told by other teachers that I influenced them to change too.

But really, K-12 mathematics education is nothing like this:

Mathematics as human pursuit

Think of Lockhart’s Lament.  You read Paul’s words, and you are hit by the poetry he sees in math. It is also 25 pages long. I read somewhere that Lockhart’s Lament is the the most powerful and often cited mathematics education document that is never acted upon. What does that say about us, as educators, who cite it?

Lockhart is passionate about math education, and he feels that the current state (in 2002) of math education is in trouble. His words may be as apt today as it was then. On page 2 he writes,

In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

How much impact has Lockhart had on mathematics education? Often cited, rarely used or implemented. And yet, my Twitter feed and Facebook still have things like this pop up regularly.

Mathmatician is like a painter G H Hardy

What beautiful words representing fantastic ideals. Are you starting to see the cognitive dissonance I am feeling today? Too bad none of these ideals are found in our textbooks or our standards (and don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on the CCSS-M here). In fact, much of school mathematics is exactly how Seymour Papert described it here.

Papert - outwitting teachers as school goal

It is mindless, repetitive, and dissociated.

So as I was thinking of the question of “Why?”, I stumbled upon this article. Why We Learn Math Lessons That Date Back 500 Years? on NPR. To find out the answer is pretty much, “Because we always have,” is sad, disappointing and frustrating. We have taught it this way for the last 500 years, so we will continue to teach it this way for the foreseeable future.

I call B.S.

Seriously. We need to rethink how we teach math in a substantive manner.

We are part of a system that is not allowing learners to find the joy of mathematics, but the drudgery of mathematics and of learning. And this is not new. Not by any means. Edward Cubberly, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education around 1900) said,

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

The fact that the specifications of education haven’t changed in hundreds of years is a problem (see the NPR article). It may even be THE problem. I am not so confident to claim that for sure, but it is definitely A problem.

At what point do we, as teacher leaders, rise up and demand this change. We see the damage. We see the issues. We must start demanding the curriculum be changed to meet the needs of our learners. I am not sure that the CCSS-M is that change. It seems like it is codifying the 500 year old problems that we are currently doing.

But it doesn’t not have to.

The Modeling Standard is gold. It is also 1 single page in the entire document.

I will just end this rant with that thought. Oh, and this thought. No more broccoli flavored ice cream.

textbook math is like broccoli ice cream

Aug 112016
 

#BlAugust Continues strong! Creating a habit of writing is something I need to work on both professionally and personally, so this challenge is definitely useful to me. Thank you Shelli!

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Wow, I have earned my second Star of the Week from Meg Craig! Awesome!

Stars of The Week

As I was getting ready this morning, I had a thought. (Hey, you. In the peanut gallery, pipe down. 🙂 )

Yes, I had a thought. I realized that over the last 4 weeks, I had not once asked myself the question of whether I am the “right person for the job” when it comes to building the Knowing and Learning course.

Not once.

I was presented with the challenge, I said yes, and I just went to work on it. No questions asked.

It is a huge amount of work. I have 30 books checked out of the library, and I have a folder with around 70 articles in it right now. I have read them all, and have re-read them as I am building daily questions, and working on how the structure and flow of the class.

But not once have I sat there wondering “are they crazy for asking me to do this?”

I asked myself that a lot when I was in business. I asked, “Am I the right person for this? Am I capable?”

That impostor syndrome is so deadly. I have asked myself that a couple of time times as I have been working on the PhD. I got over it quickly, but I still wondered.

Not once about this.

And I realized something. It is because I love this. I love the philosophy and the thinking. I love the teaching and the maths. I am doing something I love.

Thanks Christopher. You were absolutely right.

Every day when I pick up my phone, his words ring through to me.

2015-09-30 13.08.00

Find what you love. Do more of it.* He said “that” but I was character limited, so I shortened it to “it.”

A daily reminder. Do more.

When you are doing what you love, you KNOW you are the right person. You may not always know how to accomplish the goals, you may not know everything you need to know, but you know that you are the person to learn those things and do those things you need.

No question about it.

This was a great thought to have today. It is my 47th birthday.

 


*If you want to watch the video of his speech at TMC15, the video is available on Youtube. It is in two parts, “Math from the Heart.”

Jul 282016
 

Yesterday I posted about deciding if teaching really was a dichotomy between agency or conformity, and I decided that yes, it really is a dichotomy. It is impossible to be a teacher and straddle the ideas of teaching to change the world or teaching to reinforce the world as it is.

And then Andy Pethan hits me with this:

I wonder if you can put student thinking and classroom behavior on independent axes. For example: you want to be a +10 on creating student agency in your classroom by encouraging thoughtful questioning and being approachable about nearly everything as the adult in the classroom. At the same time, you want a consistent environment that matches the reasonable expectations and rules of the entire school (potentially a -10 depending on the school). You can be open to discussing rules with students and offer a pathway that may lead to changing your rules or advocating for students who want to change a school rule (encouraging agency), but doing this while continuing to live within the rules (conformity). Over the past 5 years I have become both a more consistent school-rule and personal-rule enforcer while becoming better at encouraging students to question, wonder, and appropriately push back in the academic and rule-realms. I feel like this is the direction I want to keep moving in, but I’m curious to see where this discussion goes.

Because I am kind of a little mathy and like visuals, I turned that question into this graphic:

Axes of behavior

To which the question then becomes, does “rule following” end up on the x-axis (B position) or y-axis (A) position. And if rule following ends up on the B axis, then can a teacher be in the middle somewhere or only at the two ends. OR, if rule following ends up on the y-axis, can a teacher navigate the line in a positive sloped direction (whatever that slope may be).

Option A or Option B?

My personal take on this is that in this case, we are not talking about a dichotomy, but a continuum. It is clear to me that a teacher can be in the middle. A teacher could have some very strict rules of behavior (no bubble gum for example), but allow learners to sit on the floor or wherever is comfortable for them to learn. A continuum is possible in this case, where it wasn’t possible in the case yesterday.

Therefore, the first question is where does rule following land? Is it opposed to agency, or is it compatible with agency?

  1. Can a system  start off learners while they are young and teach them to be strict rule followers, and then as the learners age and develop more maturity teach them to be questioners? (This would be a negative sloped line from position A to the right instead of the positive I drew initially, OR it would be the blue dot moving from the left to the right each year.)
  2. Can a system start off with equal parts rule following and agency, and balance the two in the middle year after year while the learner is in school?
  3. Can a system stay fully in the rule following (okay, that is easy, of course. See North Korea, or some of the hyper-strict charter schools here in the US.) Do we want that? We are currently allowing it to occur here. Jose Vilson at TMC16 shared the fact that in New York, some of the charter schools are so strict that children have literally peed themselves while trying to learn math facts.
  4. Can a system stay fully in the agency mode from kindergarten through 12th grade? What would that look like? Maybe more like the High Tech High‘s or along the direction Chris Thinnes advocates for.
  5. Can a system have certain rules that are followed consistently, but then teach learners to question everything else?

Those are the five options I see. Honestly, I don’t see how the positive sloped line is possible. How can anyone teach simultaneously to be more of a rule follower and to be more of a questioner. That is ruled out.

I think this conversation is one that every single teacher has to have for themselves. I know for myself (and I speak only for myself on this) I fall into the #5. My personal graph looks like this:

Personal question v rules

I placed the line at 1 for a reason. I had 1 rule in my classroom that I enforced.

“Your behavior must contribute to the learning of every person in the room, including your own.”

That’s it.

I was pretty comfortable with pretty much anything else as long as everyone was learning and could show they were learning. My classroom was loud. It had learners sitting on the floor. It had learners looking at notes or Desmos on their cell phones (and yes, that means they occasionally did a little Facebook or texting).

This is how I personally balanced the two goals. Having a classroom that was conducive to everyone’s learning, AND teaching agency and allowing learners the freedom to make decisions for themselves.

I think I had lots of room for improvement. I think I made mistakes, but I think as teachers, this balance is crucial. Would this work at the Elementary level? I don’t know. Would it work in Middle School. Again, I have no clue. Did it work for me in high school? yes. Not always. It burned me. I had learners push it too far. But I was able to pull them back in the end.

I don’t know if that answered Andy’s challenge, but it does clarify his question for myself. I look forward to hearing from others on this issue as well.

Mar 302016
 

This post is a call to action. It tells a story that came out of my class presentation last night.

I am in a hostile, passion filled mood because of it.

 

I started with this video. Let me just warn you before you click play. Every time I watch this video, I cry. These three young women are so honest, so brutal, and so accurate in their portrayal of the “greatest lessons are the ones you don’t remember learning.” I think every teacher should watch this video and think about how we have ‘taught’ those lessons.

See what I mean? Race, power, gender, and a strong challenge to teachers to think carefully about what we teach and how we teach.

I showed some graphs from the recent Gallup poll of almost a million middle and high school learners. I used Scott McLeod’s graphs and the text from the blog post: The biggest indictment of our schools is not their failure to raise test scores. The blue line on this graph scares me to death. A WEEK! Not once in an entire week have 67% of the high school learners learned something interesting! Look at the engagement. I don’t think it is surprising that those two graphs are so similar. What. The. Hell.

  

The silence of teachers on these results is deafening. Henry Giroux points out that, “there exists, with few exceptions, an ominous silence regarding the role that both teacher education and public schooling should play in advancing democratic processes.” (Giroux, H. (2009). Teacher Education and Democratic Schooling.) This data is caused not by teachers involved in learning, but by non-educators telling us what to do.

We know the problem is there, but the letters to the editor in the local newspaper, the advocacy in the statehouse, the challenging people in the streets are not. We, as educators, are NOT involved in the political process that is shaping our classrooms. We are ‘ominously silent.’

I attended a CCSS legistlative session a couple of years ago. The legislators were voting on repealing the adoption of the CCSS. There were 4 or 5 educators present (myself included). There were 40 to 50 anti-CCSS protesters there, all dressed in identical red T-shirts handing out materials and signing up to speak. Guess how much time they got? Guess how much time we got? Yup, teachers voices were drowned out by the shrill, idiotic cries of ignorance. [Happy ending though, the rational people on the panel killed the bill.] Why were there only 4t o5 educators there? It was summer. It was hard to reach the teachers. Teachers just didn’t care enough to show up. Teachers felt that they were powerless to make changes. All the usual bullshit excuses.

Teachers, WE HAVE POWER! We don’t use it. We have VOICES that matter. We stay silent for the most part.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

A kindergarten teacher told the story of how her administrator walked into her classroom and noticed that she had a play kitchen in her room. In KINDERGARTEN. What else should she have? Right? That is an amazing piece of equipment to do math, English, and so many other contextual learning scenarios. She was asked why. She spent an hour detailing why she has it, how she uses it, what the research says on play learning, and when it was “suggested” to her that she remove it, she said no. She said, “unless you tell me to explicitly remove it, I will not.”

But that is not the worst part. Her administrator specifically said, “You can have it back in your room when we are a 4 star school.”

Yea, that’s right. Let me translate this admin’s words, “Educational opportunity, engaged, and contextual learning is being held hostage until those test scores increase so we are a 4 star school.”

This kindergarten teacher folded. The power was stripped from her and she moved the learning materials to her parent’s basement.

Here is another story from a different school.

An elementary teacher was frustrated with the principal’s capricious decision making and decisions that harmed teacher moral and classroom learning. This teacher pulled 10 or so other teachers together, they asked for a meeting with the district superintendent, and got one. This school will have a new principal next year, and the teacher who started the process is on the hiring committee.

Two situations, two different outcomes.

TEACHERS HAVE POWER, when we use it. Why do we allow it to be stripped from us?

Why in the hell aren’t we using it?

Why are we allowing “stars” to drive good teaching?

Why are we punishing learners because of the school’s ‘test scores’?

Why are we allowing, yes allowing, non-educators to make political decisions about how and what is taught?

Why are we complicit in the educational malpractice of the extreme amount of testing that is occurring?

Why are we sitting on our hands and remaining silent?

WE. HAVE. POWER. We have power in the system. We have power to affect change in the system. But we too often ‘don’t want to make waves’ or are ‘afraid of the repercussions.’

Screw that.

It is time to act.

It is time to look at the Gallup data above and say, “No more.”

This is a call to action. I will write letters. In the upcoming legislative season, I will ask candidates if they support schools. If they will raise money for schools. If they will raise taxes for schools. If they say no, I will challenge them on why they are advocating for stupid policies.

I will write letters to the editor to challenge the stupidity and idiocy of the anti-education movements.

I will advocate for teachers to stand up for themselves.

And,

I will advocate for classroom policies and strategies that can change the outcomes found in the Gallup survey and video above. So much advocacy for this.

What will you do?

 

Feb 022016
 

On Friday last week at the end of the Step 1 class we were talking about engagement, high fives, enthusiasm, and why we are teachers. The conversation started with these two questions:

  1.  Write about a lesson / teacher who you remember using a 5E model.
  2. Write about a lesson / teacher who you remember did NOT use a 5E model.

The conversation led to the idea that the teachers they remembered from #1 were teachers the learners in class remembered fondly, they remembered their classes with enthusiasm, and they remembered specific lessons from those classes. The teachers in category #2 were still good teachers (I did stress this) but the entire conversation was less enthusiastic. No lessons specifically were brought up, and it the words “favorite teacher” was never mentioned. As in, not even close.

And then I challenged the class. “What category of teacher do you want to be?” I let them think about it.

And then, I brought up the fact that I had high fived them the last two weeks. I asked why they thought I did that, and how did it make them feel. The conversation was epic. They realized how connected and interested just that one little thing made them.

At this point, after I explained my High 5 philosophy.

Then, as I do, I ask, “What other questions do you have?” That opened the door.

One question was, “Why do you call us learners?” Answer, because students study, and I don’t care how much you study. I care how much you learn, so I refuse to call you students. Also, if you have students in the room, then you also have …. [they said a teacher] … So, if I call you learners, that what am I? A learner, too. And I promise, I will learn as much from you this semester as you learn from me.

After I explained about my “learner” philosophy, someone in the class said, “You should make a mix tape.”

That statement stuck with me all weekend.

So, here is a mix of Waddell’s greatest hits. Now, before you say, “Well, anyone can be egotistical enough to write these,” know that I did not write these. I asked my learners from last year on Facebook to tell me what stuck with them. These are things they reported almost a year after being in my class. This is “My Mix Tape.”  My comments are in [].

——

“I don’t care how much you study, I care how much you learn.”

“If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth your time.”

“You can’t memorize math, you have to learn it to understand.”

“Things don’t ‘cancel’ out.”  [did you know teachers use the word “cancel” to mean as many as four or five completely different things? This is a huge pet peeve of mine.]

But this is the whole quote of what was written: “Things don’t cancel out.” I know it was for math because things don’t disappear they become a 1 or 0 but it applies to life on how things don’t just disappear and cancel out. There are reasons, hurts, joys, etc that come. There is so much more to things than just “canceling” them.  [Seriously, can I cry now?]

“Amazeballs”

“You’re awesome remember that.”

“Use your Awesome brains.”

“You have all the knowledge, remember to use it.”

“Stop complicating things take a second look.”

“Once you know the basics to math, you know everything you need for any problem.”

——-

And, finally,
Learner #1: You were and are the most amazing teacher I have ever had
Learner #2: Can I second that?

 

—–

Okay, Now I have some tears. For realsies.

Jan 272016
 

I have not blogged much because I … well I haven’t been very reflective, more reactionary. I have been focused on building a program, recruitment, developing resources, and collaborating with my fellow Master Teacher, but I have not stopped and reflected at all on how this process has gone.

That must change. For me. So I can grow and get better at this new position (because I am in the second semester, and it really can’t be called new much longer.) That raises an interesting question. At what point is a “new” job no longer “new”? Hmm. I think about now, 8 months in, it is no longer new. It is me. And I need to stop and think; reflect; realize what I am doing poorly, what I am doing well, and start improving.

So what brought on this bit of soul searching? I read these two article in the same day:

Detroit teachers want you to see these disturbing images

Michigan Court: State Has No Obligation to Provide Quality Public Education

And, I am in a Critical Theory course for my PhD, which is challenging my perception of philosophy and what I am willing to accept as “normal.”

No way in hell will I ever accept that the content of these two article is “normal”. Teachers in Detroit are putting up with what? And Michigan judges have ruled (yes, in a very technical manner, but they ruled) that the State only needs to offer education, not a QUALITY education!

Oxygen Magnesium, are you freaking kidding me.

<<breath>> <<breath>>

Okay, this is not okay with me. I don’t live in Michigan, and this is not okay with me that this is going on in Michigan. It will never be okay in Nevada where I live. I will fight tooth and nail to make sure of that.

I am fighting to make sure of that. I will teach my new teachers about social justice, and Critical Theory. I will make sure they know to stand up for their learners and do what is right by them.

More blogging. More reflecting. It is important to me, and I have missed it.

Aug 152015
 

At #TMC15 I shared my favorite of the “High 5”. Richard Villanueva is awesome enough to record them all and post, so I will just share the video of what I said. It is short and sweet:

There is the video. I want to stress a few points.

  1. Giving high fives to my learners absolutely changed me. I got 150 high fives every day. How can you NOT be in a great mood getting 35 high fives several times a day, every day.
  2. I am serious. I didn’t teach math. I taught people the subject of math. The high fives was just one step that demonstrated this philosophy.
  3. This was an evolution of my approach that on the first day of class scared me to death. I was freaked out and thinking that it was going to be a massive failure.
  4. I was wrong.
  5. It was the single thing I did all year long that had the greatest impact on my classroom environment, my relationship with my learners, and my own personal attitude.

I wrote about it last year as it occurred:

Before school started: August 10th: School started on the 11th.

After 1 week of school: August 20th

After 1 month of school: August 27th

I finally EARNED a high five from my one holdout: September 10th  : This is the one high five I am most proud of.

That was last year. Then #TMC happened. After #TMC15, several teachers told me they were going to try it. We had several Twitter conversations about it at different times with different teachers. A sample is below. And this is ONLY a small sample of the more relevant tweets.

 

   

 

 

 

And here are some captured images from @misscalcul8. Elissastartpic2Elissa2 elissa3  Elissa1 And finally: pic1Elissa    

Let’s pause and reflect a moment.    What effort did it take me to give a high five? Very little. I had to get over my introvertedness. I had to fight my impulse to just stand there and say hi, and I had to make the effort to actually acknowledge each learner one at a time with the motion. I had to grab some hand sanitizer afterwards as I was walking into class. …. 

Yea, that is really what it cost me. That’s it.

Not to diminish the fright / frustration / and uncomfortableness that the introversion creates, but getting over it did not damage me in any way.  

What did I gain? My learners received the one on one acknowledgement from me every day. They walked into my classroom looking forward to the personal contact that went beyond the subject and touched them personally. Learners who were just standing in the hallway saw it and started asking for a high five every day. They recognized that it was something to get and feel good about themselves.

It changed my outlook on the class period. Every period be came a 1st period of the day. Every period was a “good morning” because every period started with 30 to 35 high fives. How could every period NOT be a fresh start, a clean slate, and a new beginning. It changed the class outlook towards me. I wasn’t just that weird math teacher (and I was) who wore strange socks everyday (because I did). I was also the math teacher who treated them like human beings. I also was the math teacher who acknowledged they were weird learners (because they were) who struggled with the ideas (because they did) and who needed the reassurance that if they kept trying they would get it (because they absolutely DID.)  

The cost / benefit analysis there is pretty clear. What it cost me was very little. What I gained was huge. What my learners gained was even greater.  

—————-  

I am not teaching high school anymore. I am teaching college and the standards are different, the expectations are different, and the stakes are different. Guess what I am NOT going to give up. I think these outcomes are too valuable. It will definitely be a radical departure for the college setting. It is worth it.  

————————  

Edit: Some research to back up why it works: http://www.teachers.net/wong/OCT13   More teachers on board! Yay!    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These next three go together. Wow, the power in these three tweets.

 

 


—————

Amy posted on her blog the following paragraph.

High fives at the door. Glenn’s “my favorite” has been popular for good reason. It is simple, but we have already discovered it is powerful. My colleagues and I decided to make it a department thing, and also roped in the two non-math teachers in our hallway. So the 200 hallway is officially the “high-five hallway” at our school. I am surprised by how something so small has already helped me feel more connected to my students, and how the classroom atmosphere gets an immediate boost. You just can’t be too grumpy after a high-five.

Chris Shore said:

High 5’sGlenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs): Glenn was right. Offering the High 5’s at the door does more for my mood and mental preparation for the class than it did for the kids.

Bob, on his blog, said:

GREETING STUDENTS WITH HIGH FIVES – Intertwined with all of the mathy goodness of Twitter Math Camp this past July was a simple and powerful device for student engagement from my friend Glenn Waddell – the High Five.

Each day last year, Glenn met his students at the door to give them a high five – a simple, caring gesture to establish a positive tone for class. I often meet students at the door before class or linger in the hallway for informal chat, but I love the tradition and rapport Glenn establishes here and hope to emulate it.

Lisa, on her blog, was even more positive about the effects:

After five days of being at the door and high fiving students, students are positioning their books to be ready to give me a high five as they approach my class. I have had students high five me in the hall when I am not at my door and walking in the hallway (when I don’t have a class). It makes me smile.

This is only one paragraph of a much longer post by Lisa, but you get the sense right there something amazing is happening.

Stephanie Bower tried it too. Her post says so much about it.

Most of the time, the high-fives give me a chance to gauge the moods of each student in a split-second. (Glenn pointed this out too.) I can tell by the tone of their high-five, the way they return my verbal greeting, and their body language if something is “off” that day.

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[And yes, that graphic is golden, and will be stolen and reused. Forever.]

highfiveclub Thank you @conniehamilton.