Sep 042017
 

I am all fired up and angry about a new graphing calculator app today. Not that the app exists, but the way they are selling it.

Reason number 1:

I don’t know what to say about this other than express my complete and utter revulsion at the ideas expressed by this new graphing calculator app called Graphlock. From the video on the site, “Want to save thousands of dollars on calculators while also helping to reducing distractions in the classroom?” That is the first sentence of the video.

Their solution? Charge students $4.99 a YEAR for a graphing calculator app that also locks down the phone so that learners can only do math. That’s right. Don’t trust the learners, don’t create better, more engaging lessons. Don’t actually do something that is better, just lock down devices so learners can’t use them for anything else.

And it gets better. The “don’t trust learners” statement? It is literally true. The video says that if a learner tries to do something else on their phone, it alerts the teacher so the learner can be punished for being bored and distracted during the boring lesson.

 

Reason number 2:

According to the article in Inc magazine, the “Real Problem” of math education is that,

There is an even bigger problem underneath the seemingly big problem of the rising cost of school supplies and it’s kind of shocking: when students can’t afford the supplies they need to finish their schooling, oftentimes, they give up or drop out. Mallory pointed out that she watched this happen repeatedly while in college at Central Arizona to become a professor of mathematics. Students in her Algebra class would realize they needed this graphing calculator that costs around $100, couldn’t afford it, and would give up.

That’s right. The real problem of math education is it is too expensive to learn math.

What?

No challenge of the assumption of the college to require learner to purchase a TI calculator. No, goodness sake, we can’t challenge that. We can’t show the college she taught at all the wonderful, free math learning software like Wolfram Alpha, Google (have you tried typing an equation into Google’s search bar?), or Desmos.

Nope, the requirement is inviolate. And besides, those other things that definitely help learning? They also allow the learner to do other things besides math.

 

How does this create punishment?

The assumption throughout the articles is that when learning math, the teacher is the absolute authority, and must be listened too at all times. The teacher knows all, and must be in full control of every aspect of the learners thought, actions, and technology. If the learner does something contrary to the teacher’s instructions, the learner must be corrected.

Math class, becomes a class of punishment and …. not sure about the reward. Certainly punishment. Some teachers will reward, but this software absolutely entrenches the observation state and punishment in the class.

It is the Panopticon on steroids, except instead of the observation state being built into the building, it is built right into the learners’ devices. Besides, from the award she won, it isn’t about math education at all. It is about winning seed money for a business. The Real Problem is companies making education more expensive through the corporatization of education.

This horrible software feeds into the reasons for the US failing behind in mathematics. Math class is one of memorization and regurgitation, not thinking, creativity, or joy.

Just so that I don’t leave this post angry and hostile, I will leave this here. “Math for Human Flourishing.” This article from Quanta Magazine about a talk given by Francis Su restores my soul a little bit.

 

As an aside:

Here is a college professor named Mallory Dyer. She is the creator and inventor of the calculator.

Yes, she has a name. You wouldn’t know it by the headlines about the software. Here are the two that came up in my reader and made .

Coolidge woman develops app to make studying math affordable (Casa Grande News, a local newspaper)

and

How one woman is making math affordable (Inc magazine, a national business magazine)

They wouldn’t even name her in the headline? No mention of her academic credential. She is just “a woman.” How about, “Professor at Coolidge develops app to make studying math more affordable.” Those 7 extra characters going to kill them? Or “How one professor is making math more affordable.” This isn’t an issue with software (more on that below) but the way this professional was treated. Stop the sexism, already.

Aug 272017
 

I have been listening carefully lately whenever I hear the word “Equity” used by teachers. I haven’t engaged with these definitions, just listened to how the teachers are using the word so I can understand what they are saying. I am learning that we are not using the word in the same way at all.

When I think if equity, I think along the direction CMC does:

Equity via California Math Council via

The other day, I heard another definition that I had not encountered. The (paraphrased) quote was, “It is important that we think of equity in our classrooms, so that a B in one section with one teacher means the same thing if that student transfers to a different class in the same school or different school. We have to think of equity in our classrooms.”

The word ‘equity’ was specifically mentioned twice. The teacher meant to use the word.

I have a trouble reconciling this meaning of equity with the meanings outlined in the graphic above, unless we push it into “achievement.” But the text for ‘achievement’ doesn’t easily allow for this definition. The text is “What are some of my beliefs, expectations, behaviors and practices, and tools that ensure mathematics proficiency for every student?” Maybe, but it is not obvious where consistency in grading practices across teachers is an equity issue. It appears to me it may be more of an equality issue, not equity.

Clearly, equity is a term that needs to be given some additional context so we are speaking to the same topic.

My huge takeaway? Listen more and listen for understanding, not responding. I learn more that way.

Aug 122016
 

Another #BlAugust post, but this is an fired up post.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

I was going to blog about my Knowing and Learning preparation today, but a comment from a college learner in my program made me more and more upset as I thought about it.

The learner (I redacted the name to protect them) said,

“I was just discussing this with another educator. He is an elementary school teacher in his third year of teaching. I’ve been buzzing a lot about how I am going to be an innovator in the classroom rather than passively following orders even if I disagree with the resulting pedagogical approaches. This educator essentially told me to “protect” myself by doing what I’m told.” (emphasis added)

Stop and think about that bolded sentence a moment. That means this three year veteran of the school district feels that he must protect his job by just following orders, regardless of what is best for the learners or learning. The teacher asked a follow up question,

“And when the parents complain? When administration comes after you? What then?”

The district here in my city is incredibly supportive. It is focused on learning, engagement, and encouraging teachers to take some risks and try to push boundaries in the best interest of the children.  Yes, I have heard that at the elementary level the curriculum is more scripted, and yes, I have heard that there are schools where the principals can be assertive in making demands of the teachers.

BUT, to instill this kind of fear in a still new teacher (he has only taught 3 years, he is still at the beginning of his career!)

I am stunned.

I am really … stunned. That is the only word I can come up with. Because this teacher that teaches in fear is passing that fear onto substitutes (my learner is a sub in the district), and that fear will be passed onto pre-service and future beginning teachers.

I call foul.

What have we, as educators, done to allow this fear to foster and fester?

What, as educators, are we doing to push back against the fear?

What, as educators, are we doing to take back ownership of our profession so that we can teach with positivity?

keep-calm-and-change-the-world-72

Teaching is a political act. We need to recognize this fact. We need to act accordingly and not allow others who are not educators to define our classrooms and our teaching.

I am fired up over this, which is a great place to be at the beginning of the school year.

Want to know what my learner said?

I didn’t want to answer instantaneously because the topic deserves so much more thought than I can possibly perform in but a moment, so I responded by saying, “I may not have the answer or strategy now, but that’s why I’m in school. That’s what I’m actively working towards figuring out.”

Freaking awesome.

One challenge I have now is to make sure this future teacher, and EVERY future teacher, leaves the program with the skills and answers to this question.

Fired. Up.

 

Aug 012016
 

I have been thinking about what the phrase “Teaching is a political act” means, and how the decision influences my actions in the classroom with learners.

As I have been thinking about this, I realize the while the learners may engage more and learn mathematics at a higher level, some of their parents may be upset at the non-traditional and non-textbook orientation of the class. So what am I to do when my classroom is buzzing with excitement, the learners are engaged and focused on mathematics, and a parent files a complaint with the principal that I am not teaching out of the textbook.

My personal reaction is a giant … er … well it would not be appropriate to say out loud my first reaction. It would not accomplish anything.

So assuming I have sound pedagogical reasons for doing what I am doing. Assuming that I have solid arguments for the class going where I am taking it, and assuming that in the end, all the standards required of me are deeply uncovered and learned, how do I respond?

I really didn’t have an answer to that question. The current political climate on Facebook yields a glimpse of how those conversations end up; a shouting match. No winner.

So how do both parties walk out winners? How can we all, parents, teachers and admins, walk away from the meeting accomplishing something positive. That is the question.

I didn’t know or have a clue until I was listening to NPR and heard about “noncomplementary behavior”.
 And an NPR article about it here.

Essentially, complementary behavior is mirroring what the other person does. If they are warm and friendly, you are warm and friendly in response. However, if they are cold or angry, you are cold or angry as well.

Noncomplementary behavior flips the script of conversations, which is difficult, but worthwhile.

I have been attempting (which means not always succeeding) to do this on Facebook conversations. When someone gets hostile and angry, I respond with niceness and facts. I can see doing this when parents are challenging my classroom as well. When they are hostile towards the political acts of teaching, I respond with positivity and facts.

This has the potential to be very powerful, but it takes practice. Complementary behavior is so easy to do, and it is natural to do. It takes some will power and some effort to be noncomplementary. Read the articles. Try it. I think it is easy for teachers to practice, because great teachers are constantly positive anyway.

 


 

This is the first  post I have made. Shooting for 1 post per day this month!

MTBOSBlaugust2016 Thank you Shelli Temple!

May 302016
 

I chose to examine my district’s math results for my final project in my Critical Pedagogy class. It made me seriously depressed and angry. It is one thing being told that we have “gaps” in our math outcomes, it is something completely different to do the research yourself and find just how large, systemic, and blatant the gaps are. Doing this project affected me greatly. I realize that I was in a funk for about three weeks afterwards.

With that in mind, I think it is important for me to share it out. I need to get the information out there, and challenge myself to make an impact on these issues.

Critical TheoryA look at the values of my math community.

I want to preface this discussion with the statement that I don’t believe any of the math leaders in my district actually believe any of the things written below. I know them. I respect them. I hope they respect me.

BUT, the things written below end up not very favorable to them. This is unfortunate, because I know and believe they are just as passionate about the problems and solutions as I am. It makes writing this all that much more difficult, and it also contributed to the malaise I felt about the topic. But it is an important topic, and one that is rarely discussed.


I started with going to http://www.nevadareportcard.com and looking up the results for the Mathematics High School Proficiency Exam (HSPEM) for the most recent year on file, which was 2015. After doing several different reports, several different combinations of “and” and “or” tables, and lots of copying and pasting into excel, I create the following table:

2015 math data

I won’t try to address why we are under serving the learners who aren’t White. The reasons for that gap are wide, varied, and far beyond this little blog.

However, the question of what do math leaders and educators claim to believe about mathematics in my district can be easily found. Every math document the district produces has the following six “core beliefs.”

  1. All students will learn and be successful.
  2. The achievement gap will be eliminated by ensuring every student is challenged to learn at, or above grade level.
  3. Effective teachers and principals, dedicated support staff, rigorous curriculum, measurable outcomes, ongoing monitoring and assessment, collaboration, professional development and a culture of continuous improvement will ensure classroom success for all students.
  4. Superior performance will be achieved through clear goals that set high expectations and standards for all students and employees.
  5. Family, school and community engagement will be required for student academic success.
  6. Leadership and passion, together with accountability and transparency, will be the keys to reform and success. (“Curriculum & Instruction / Math 9-12 Course Guides,” n.d.)

The fact that the first belief is about “all students” and not ‘each student’ is important to recognize. This wording suggest that the “all students” are being considered successful from the dominant culture’s perspective, not the individual culture of each student (McLaren, 2009).

Reinforcing the dominant culture is the vision found in the second belief as well. The focus on grade levels and stating that each learner must be at or above their grade level is a hegemonic act of domination (McLaren, 2009, p. 67). No teacher or parent would argue with the goal or belief that learners should be at or above his or her grade level, but the implementation of the grade level curriculum based on the dominant White, middle class culture makes it an impossible argument. Algebra 1 in the first year, geometry in the sophomore, and algebra 2 in the junior year is the standard progression, regardless of the learner’s previous educational opportunities or struggles. By defining this progression as the culture and standard of mathematics education, we have created a situation where a parent or teacher who argues against it needs to take on the entire mathematics establishment. In addition, it means the parent or teacher is openly advocating FOR the achievement gap and unsuccessful learners. Challenging the hegemony of the mathematics curriculum cannot be done without simultaneously shouldering the burden of arguing for failure.

The fifth core belief sounds like a very positive value, from the position as a member of the dominant culture. However, reading the belief not as an attainable goal but as a statement of fact, it becomes a way to dismiss subordinate cultures. All three elements, family, school, and community engagement will be required for success. The lack of the family to engage with the school or community will automatically create failure for the learner. This is a convenient way for the district mathematics department to absolve themselves of responsibility if the family is not able to, unwilling to, or incapable of engagement with the school. As long as it is a family failure to engage, the school has met its condition of the belief, and the lack of success becomes the responsibility of the learner and family.

Finally, it is disheartening to that Equity is not a key to reform and success in the district mathematics documents. Equity could be an element of leadership belief given the inclusion of ‘reform’ in the statement. However, the lack of explicit identification, the emphasis on “all students” instead of “each student,” and the dismissive use of family points to a department that is not aligned with the Access and Equity Principle of the NCTM or the Social Justice principle of the NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics & TODOS: Mathematics for ALL, 2016; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014).

I stress again, that the leaders in my district have never made the arguments I made above. I think they would find these arguments as reprehensible as I do. However, I don’t think we, as a community, are addressing these arguments. Without openly discussing them, and changing our behaviors, curriculum maps, and values based on that discussion, all we are doing is agreeing implicitly that the results in the table above are okay.

I don’t think anyone is willing to do that.

 

McLaren, P. (2009). Critical pedagogy: A look at the major concepts. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The critical pedagogy reader (2nd ed, pp. 61–83). New York, NY: Routledge.

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, & TODOS: Mathematics for ALL. (2016, Spring). Mathematics education through the lens of social justice: Acknowledgement, actions, and accountability. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.mathedleadership.org/member/docs/resources/positionpapers/NCSMPositionPaper16.pdf

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Nevada Department of Education. (n.d.). Nevada annual reports of accountability. Retrieved from http://nevadareportcard.com

Apr 062016
 

Someone in my critical pedagogy class made a very astute comment the last class. We were discussing professionalism, the fact that there are many attempts at deprofessionalizing teaching going on today, and we were having a great conversation about who is benefiting from these acts. Who is pushing the process, who is benefiting, who does not benefit? These questions are all worth pursuing, and then the classmate drops a thought bomb on the class. It has stuck with me for a week now, and I still am not sure how to answer it it.

Here it is:  Aren’t we, as teachers, partially to blame for the deprofessionalizing of education? After all, we admit the first year or two of teaching are “throw-away” years where the teacher just has to learn what the need on their own. You don’t ever hear flight controllers say, “It’s okay if you crashed those planes together, it is your first year,” or “It’s okay that building you designed fell down, it’s your first year of architecturing.”

planecrash

Boom.

Drop that right on us, as teachers. As teacher leaders. As teacher educators.

Yup, we have to own that one. Professionals don’t let that kind of thing happen. Professionals support the pre and new service teacher. Professionals don’t allow for this type of failure, and let’s not mince words. A child whose education is harmed because a new teacher fails is just as bad OR WORSE than the plane crashing.

How do we stop it?

Mentoring came up repeatedly in the conversation. We must mentor pre-service teachers closely and support them completely. We must mentor new teachers with the same vigor.

Social and Emotional Learning came up in the conversation. Getting teachers right from day one to realize they teach PEOPLE, not content.

Critical Theory / Social Justice came up (duh, it is that class after all). But it came up not because we were in the class, but because this is how teachers, new teachers, beginning teachers can learn how to engage with their learners and start problem-posing instead of banking. Freire’s approach to education turns the classroom away from teacher centered to learner and learning centered. In this type of environment, the teacher gets to know their learners better, so they don’t inadvertently cause harm.

All in all, it is a very small thought-bomb that was dropped, but the implications are far reaching.

Are we professionals?

If the answer is yes, then we can not, ever, accept a “throw away year” in teaching. Every single day counts, and we have to help, support, and develop every single teacher in that focus.

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?

 

Sep 062015
 

In my Feedly this morning popped up the article by Larry Ferlazzo called, “Disappointing NY Times Article On Teachers & ‘A Sharing Economy’.” Okay, let me be more blunt. I am not disappointed in the NYT, I am frustrated and a little ticked off. It stems from this article in the NYT: A Sharing Economy where Teachers Win by Natasha Singer.

Read the article. I call foul AND shenanigans. How much did TeachersPayTeachers pay for this fluff piece that was nothing more than an advertisement for teachers selling out other teachers.

youblewit

Maybe it is because I am active and love the #MTBoS (that is the MathTwitterBlogo’Sphere, if you are not familiar with it.) I embrace the sharing, the collaboration and the freely giving of resources that the math teachers do on Twitter, their blogs and the internet in general.

The article should have been titled, “A sharing economy where teachers win, but collaboration dies.” Sure, some teacher just made $1000 by selling her lesson plans to a 1000 different teachers for a buck. She won, but collaboration died. Is she seeking feedback from people who have used her lessons? Is she improving them by discussing and talking about how others have used them? Probably not. It is in a store, and people are buying it. There is no reason or need to improve it.

Meanwhile, in the #MTBoS, teachers are making, sharing, improving and resharing lessons all the time. They are coming together to make better lessons. And then, they talk about these lessons, which spawn more, better lessons. This is a collaborative community where ALL teachers win, and more importantly, our learners win. And our learners continue to win. Over and over again.

Seriously, look at the amount of resources freely created and given away.

First up, websites created by teachers collaborating:

  • Let’s start with the MTBoS Directory. No one claims this is an exhaustive list. It requires teachers to add their names to it, but there are currently 344 teachers in the list, all with an online presence, and all sharing things.
  • Nixthetricks.com – created by Tina Cardone and teachers all over the #MTBoS who contributed tricks. You can download the most excellent book for free.
  • Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns and Math Talks. Both are excellent sites. I have used the Visual Patterns site frequently in my high school classroom, and am working on learning more about Math Talks and implementing them in the college classroom where I am now.
  • Would you Rather Math is a site I used regularly in my teaching as well. Great questions, created by and curated by John Stevens.
  • Michael Pershan’s Math Mistakes. See an interesting math mistake? Submit it to this site and have a discussion on the thinking the learner made while making the mistake. We can learn more from mistakes than we can from correct work.
  • Dan Meyer’s Google spreadsheet of 3 Acts lessons. More on this to come. I am working on an idea taking shape out of my current position as a Master Teacher with a UTeach model school.
  • Mary Bourassa’s Which One Doesn’t Belong. So Mary saw Christopher Danielson’s great shapes idea, and realized that there was some amazing math thinking that could be done. BOOM, another collaborative website created.
  • Open Middle Dan Meyer introduced the idea, Nanette Johnson, Robert Kaplinsky and Bryan Anderson ran with and created the platform.
  • Desmos Activity Bank A site created by Jed Butler out of the need to share Desmos files, first showed at TMC15 at Harvey Mudd College.
  • MTBoS Activity Bank created by John Stevens (second time his name is on the list) to collect and curate some of the awesome materials created. Anyone can submit their own, and searching is easy.
  • The MTBoS Blog Search also created by John Stevens (I don’t think he sleeps). This site allows you search the blogs of a long list of math teachers for lessons, content, whatever you are looking for.
  • Robert Kaplinsky has a Problem Based Search Engine, to find those specialized lessons that are, you guessed it, problem based!
  • The Welcome to the MathTwitterBlogoSphere website has a further collection of collaborative efforts that includes some of the above but is even larger.

But that isn’t even all of it. There are teachers who are collecting curriculum, links or materials and sharing it all back out; lock, stock and barrel. These teachers have “Virtual Filing Cabinets” full of lessons that have been tried and tested, re-written and shared back out. Some call their pages VFC’s, some are just curated sites of materials.

And then there are great organizations giving away curriculum:

  • Illustrative Mathematics, free ever-more-complete curriculum that is CCSS aligned and incredibly high quality.
  • Shells Center/Mathematics Assessment Project, good as lessons, problems or assessments. I forget about this site until I am desperate, and then kick myself because it is just so good and thorough.
  • Mathalicious has free lessons and paid lessons. I have used them in class. They are worth paying for!
  • Igor Kokcharov has an international effort in APlusClick. Lots of great problems and lessons.

And this list is FAR from complete. It is what I pulled together in 15 minutes of thought. And this list does not even begin to talk about the 180 blogs

So, NY Times and Natasha Singer. You blew it. You didn’t show teachers winning, you showed teachers selling out. If you want to see winning teachers, click on any link above and read their sites.

The above are all winning teachers. TeachersPayTeachers is an example of teachers losing out on this kind of collaboration.

Apr 012015
 

I always tell my speech and debate competitors that a good speech takes multiple drafts, and this speech is no different. After sleeping on it overnight, and re-reading it today I realized that my speech was fighting itself in the wording, so I rewrote some key sections.

I like this version much better.

I really did not expect to spend spring break doing political activity, but here I am anyway. I also was just asked if I would do an interview for another local news story. Wow, say yes to one thing and more activities pile on. At some point I need to put this aside and start reading for my classwork. I need to do that soon!

This is the text of the final version of the speech. It is better than the previous one, I believe.

For the record, my name is Glenn Waddell, Jr., and I am the department chair and teacher of AP Statistics and Algebra 2 Honors at North Valleys High School. Chair Woodbury and members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to address you today and explain why I oppose the sections of AB 303 that delete reference to the common core. I NEED the core standards to be an effective educator. Most importantly, my learners need the common core state standards.

I need the core standards because the prior standards had different “enhancements” in Washoe and Clark counties; which means that I could not collaborate with teachers in the southern part of the state, let alone elsewhere. Today, I work with teachers in other states as much as I collaborate within my building. The internet facilitates connections with math teachers, the sharing of lessons, and pooling of resources with teachers in Oklahoma and New York as easily as teacher across the hall.

My needs pale when compared to the needs of my learners, however. My learners need the common core for two reasons. First, high standards create engagement. The current standards provide this through the shifts, the practices, and the standards themselves. An example of how much can be accomplished with the standards is two weeks ago, my learners were working on the A.REI group; solving systems of equations algebraically & graphically. My learners had a graph of two functions with solutions that were easy to find one-way and impossible to find other ways. They worked for over 30 minutes individually and in groups before they finally gave up and asked me for help. The understanding we found was; there was no algebraic way to find the solution, and they refused to believe it. The mathematical practices served my learners well. They showed perseverance, appropriate use of tools, making arguments, regularity of structure, and critiquing the reasoning of others. This is the heart and soul of a successful math classroom. My learners need and deserve this high level of rigor.

Secondly, my learners need the standards because they are working. All learners need a solid foundation beginning in elementary school upon which to build future mathematics content, and math teachers in my school agree the learners coming up from middle school are better prepared for high school algebra. The standards are not the maximum, they are the minimum body of knowledge that learners must know. The standards create a foundation that is stronger, substantive, and more demanding than we had in the past. My learners need the core standards so they can build their foundation, and launch themselves to higher mathematics with confidence. My learners do not come into my room to be average, they come into my room to be awesome, and the core standards allow and encourage them to be awesome.

Thank you.

 

Mar 312015
 

Tomorrow I am speaking to the NV Legislature on the Assembly Bill 303 (pdf text) that would eliminate the end of course exams that I don’t like, but would also eliminate the Common Core State Standards from all NV schools.

Can I complain for a second on how difficult it is to give a 3 minute speech? OMG! My first draft was around 8 minutes long, and I finally have it down to 3 minutes on the dot. Below is the text of my speech. If you have any suggestions, I am open to tweaking or rewriting. I leave tomorrow at 2 pm for Carson City!

There may also be an opportunity to be on a local PBS channel show about this bill as well. Who would have guessed that I would have spent this year’s spring break in political advocacy? Not this guy, that is for sure.

For the record, my name is Glenn Waddell, Jr., and I am the department chair and teacher of AP Statistics and Algebra 2 Honors at North Valleys High School. Chair Woodbury and members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to address you today and explain why I oppose the sections of AB 303 that delete reference to the common core. I NEED the core standards to be an effective educator. Most importantly, my learners need the common core state standards.

I need the core standards because the prior standards  had different “enhancements” in Washoe and Clark counties; which means that I could not even collaborate with teachers in the southern part of the state, let alone elsewhere. Today, I work with teachers in other states as much as I collaborate within my building. The internet allows me to connect with math teachers from across the United States and share lessons and pool resources with teachers in Oklahoma and New York as easily as I can with the teacher across the hall.

My needs pale when compared to the needs of my learners, however. My learners need the common core for two reasons. First, my learners need a solid foundation beginning in elementary school upon which to build future mathematics content. The current standards provide this through the shifts, the mathematical practices, and the standards themselves. An example of how much can be accomplished with the standards is two weeks ago, my learners were working on the A.REI group; solving systems of equations algebraically & graphically. My learners had a graph of two functions with solutions that were easy to find one-way and impossible to find other ways. They persevered for over 30 minutes individually and in groups before they finally gave up and asked me for help. The understanding we found was; there was no algebraic way to find the solution, and they refused to believe it. The mathematical practices served my learners well. They showed perseverance, appropriate use of tools as well as making arguments, regularity of structure and critiquing the reasoning of others. This is the heart and soul of a successful math classroom. My learners need and deserve this high level of rigor.

The second reason my learners’ need the standards are because the core standards are not the maximum, they are the minimum body of knowledge that learners must know. The core standards raised the bar tremendously from prior standards, and in so doing created a foundation that is stronger, substantive, and more demanding than we had in the past. My learners need the core standards so they can build their foundation, and upon this foundation launch themselves to higher mathematics with confidence. My learners do not come into my room to be average, they come into my room to be awesome, and the core standards allow and encourage them to be awesome.

Thank you.

Any suggestions? Comments?