Saturday, June 8, 2013

Teaching: For the young and young-at-heart?

OK, so I adore Dan Meyer.  Here's the depth of my smitten-ness with Dan: last October I found myself in similar proximity to Dan Meyer and ROB LOWE.  No kidding.  And guess whose picture I asked for?

(seriously should've taken 2 to try for a less star-struck look on my face)

I had been a little intrigued ever since I saw his Ted Talk.  It's fantastic.  It's a whole new way to teach math and to engage students who probably  Beyond that, he's a nice guy.  When I was particularly bummed last year after standardized testing, the inimitable Cherise Albright sent him an email and he sent me a pep-talk.  For real.

So I was a little bit saddened to hear (read) him say that it was not uncommon for him to be at school until midnight preparing slides for the next day.  And the more I read from amazing teachers out there in the blogosphere (i.e. Fawn Nguyen) the more I find they are regularly up until the wee hours of the morning.  Some people (my husband and my son) don't need as much sleep as others (myself and my daughters).  I mean, Ms. Nguyen is my HERO for having made a legitimate career of teaching middle school and clearly not resorted to phoning it in, but I CANNOT exist on as little sleep as she gets.

And this month - I guess because it's the end of the school year - a huge slew of teachers that I stalk on Twitter is leaving the classroom to tackle other adventures.    All of this leaves me wondering  - is excellence really sustainable? Moreover, is it even possible for me?  I have only morning duty because I leave when the bell rings to ferry children to practices and lessons.  I don't get to grading and planning until after they're all fed and bathed and bedded down. I didn't know any of the children in my son's kindergarten class - much less the parents - like I did when my daughters started school. This entire school year, my house has NEVER been clean.  Not even the kind of pretend-clean you do when company's coming.  I finally quit apologizing for the mess - it's our new normal.    My husband has taken over all the cooking ... although that actually pleases us both.  I would LOVE to LOVE this job, to feel like back-to-work was the right choice for me and my family, but can I survive even one more year if - between school and home - there is simply nothing left of me?

Is teaching perhaps left to others, more suited for the task at hand? But I do think I have something to offer ... I'm a strong mathematician.  I have oodles of experience tutoring that gives me terrific insight into what mistakes students are likely to make, and why!  I have compassion for the student who was somehow taught alongside fractions that fractions are supposed to be hard, and they aren't good at math anyway.  And I want to be an excellent teacher; surely that's something?

So the sum of it is this:  As I spend this summer preparing for next year, and all the ways it HAS to be different than last year, one of the key things I have to focus on is finding the balance between school and home. Some thoughts:
-  I must make sure that every.single.thing I grade is worth my time, that it helps the students AND me.
-  If I can't stay after school, I have to find ways they can try to find things they missed ... how can I post lessons or links to other people explaining the same thing, how can I build and encourage a community where they ask each other for help?
- How can I keep the parents informed regularly on "what happened today" and "what Johnny should be doing" so we can be allies in this process?  How can I structure assessments so that parents get frequent feedback, but I'm not spending all my time uploading grades?
- and *most importantly* How can I help them to feel responsible for their own learning?  How can I help them feel ... inside and outside the classroom... that this is something that want to do, to figure out, to be successful at and not just sit and wait for me to tell them the answer/algorithm? 

Other questions/suggestions/procedures/thoughts?

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