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Archive for December, 2007

This Is Bad

I have eight of my favorite people at my place for the new year, twenty-two more on the way, two game consoles hooked into digital projectors, a bathtub with beer on ice, great weather, but I can't get my mind out of the classroom.

The Preoccupation

Among the ages I teach, math has changed very little in the last quarter century and certainly at nowhere near the pace of technology or (more importantly) my kids' creativity.

So for the last year I've been building a course from scratch, connecting a lot of loose, fun material, grafting it on the back of your standard Algebra 1 curriculum, infusing the whole thing with visuals from start to finish, and then personalizing it, setting expectations such that, by the end of the course, every student will have the same skill set but entirely different work portfolios depending on personality and preference.

Furthermore, the course lives in the intersection of English and Math. It depends as much on articulate self-reflection as it does on mathematical computation.

My White Whale

I haven't met another math teacher as consumed by information design as I am, as convinced that it can invigorate a subject that most students find irrelevant, and maybe that's because I'm the crazy one here, playing a lanky Captain Ahab to a white mathematical whale.

Who Is Nicholas Felton?

But I don't think so and here, at the year's end, a guy named Nicholas Felton has offered me the single piece of tape which fastens together hundreds of techniques and web links and my mind won't. shut. down.

So it's about to get Very Busy around here. I'll soon post a loose-limbed course syllabus which will precede an explanation of Nicholas Felton's enormous (and most likely oblivious) contribution to math education which will precede our winter design contest, which will be at least as fun as the last one and certainly more challenging.

In all of these, your participation is requested.

Parents Got Punk’d

Taylor's open letter to American parents:

I’m writing directly to parents because nobody in the administration, the district office, the state DOE or the Federal DOE will listen. As the layers of bureaucracy softly fold over and smother classroom practice, there’s hardly a sound. So we teacher bloggers are trying to make one. If you don’t listen either, we’re all in serious trouble.

Keep it mind next year.

So Happy Together #2

Make the marriage of your digital projector and laptop a happy one.

One Idea:

Make perfunctory classroom maintenance a little more engaging by adding visuals.

Discussing the complicated, end-of-semester schedule? Screenshot a calendar and illustrate it.

Previous Editions:

Who is Mr. Moses?

This guy has me completely confused. By day he's a mild-mannered School 2.0 reporter, writing posts with titles like District Technology Plan, stuff I'd tag "readlater" in del.icio.us and then forget about.

But at night he goes to war, swinging a heavy bat at scary-as-hell topics like the one TMAO intro-ed a few weeks back (paraphrased) "how do we train new urban educators?"

His response, reposted in its superheroic entirety:

Right now, this very second, realize that there's nothing going on in your teacher prep classes that is going to help you in any way shape or form once you get into a building, unless you change the paradigm. Here's how:

Immediately start busting heads with your professors and the other pre-service teachers in your classes. Call them on their shit and be prepared to be called on yours. If you begin steeling yourself now you'll be ready once you get into a school building and have to do the same thing with other teachers and administrators.

Next, take note of everything these classes area telling you to do and plan on doing the exact opposite. This will also help you once you get into a building. Look at what other teachers are doing, and do whatever the polar opposite is.

Make some commitments right now.

  1. You will not use the grade book as a weapon against your students. In fact you may want to commit to not using your grade book at all. You may need to keep one to fool the administration, but under no circumstances should it reflect what you report to the office at the end of a grading period.
  2. Commit, right now, to not failing a single student. No matter what. If you do this it will completely change how you work with young people.
  3. Never forget that you are there to help kids. Nothing else matters. Not even a little.

Good luck. Fight hard. Teach with a chip on your shoulder.

Add his rap- and indie-heavy last.fm profile to this blurry picture and I'm even farther from figuring this "Mr. Moses" character out. All I know for sure is I'd buy him a beer.

Mr. Moses, whoever you are, I raise a glass to you:

I guess Washington just shot to the top of the States To Move To When California Splits Along The San Andreas And Merges With The Pacific list:

Many people will argue the problem with teacher salaries is that they are too low to attract and keep good teachers. That may be true. But the types of pay reforms outlined by Washington Learns recognize a deeper problem: the failure of the current system to make distinctions among teachers who have specialized skills, who accept difficult job assignments, or who are more effective in the classroom.

This also in: the upward trend of teacher SAT scores and general aptitude will both reach a carrying capacity if we can't offer them better incentives.

[both via Jacobs]

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