First, I want to apologize for missing last week’s blog post opportunity, but I’m going to combine the last two weeks into one, as I feel they are quite related!
I’m a big fan of Vinyasa yoga, so flowing, posing, and wobbling are a great way to connect teaching to reflection. When I think about the different aspects that make my teaching style unique, I can find things that fall into all three categories. First, though, I think I need to define the separate categories:
Posing – Your strengths. I really enjoy poses I can do because I know I can do them, and they become stronger the more you do them.
Wobbling – Areas where you may try, but not always succeed. Something a teacher may work up to over time.
Flowing – I think these are areas that were once wobbles that have become strong poses through hard work.
I believe my best teacher pose has always been connecting with students and creating an inclusive environment. I’m extremely sarcastic in and out of class, but I try to find a way for most students to contribute, regardless of level. I look at them as humans and compare them to when I was a teenager, trying to understand likes and dislikes about the education system.
Another pose is my content knowledge and ability to adapt. This could also be put in the flow category (I will elaborate later), but I have always been able to adapt to students’ skill level in each class. I don’t use prescribed notes, but instead give each class unique notes tailored to how the students respond to each topic.
My biggest wobble is classroom management. I’m not even sure the yoga blocks would help me here, as I’ve almost accepted that it will be a deficit for the remainder of my teaching career. Part of it is that a lot of behaviors that annoy other teachers/students don’t frustrate me. When I view adult behaviors in group settings, it’s not any better than how students act, so why would I force a group of teenagers to take orders and work as hard as possible for over an hour straight? I also want students to be independent, so I don’t care as much when a student isn’t paying attention or willfully ignoring instruction, where another teacher would correct the behavior immediately.
I also wobble when it comes to creating content; sometimes I feel too overwhelmed to create things from scratch. Since I started teaching, the curriculum for Algebra II has changed every year, and it’s exhausting. I don’t have the energy to create on top of re-creating. It’s also really difficult to take dry material and make it exciting and relevant.
One of my flows I believe is the same for most teachers: ability to spot mistakes from students before they happen. The first time I taught material, it’d take longer because every student misunderstanding was a surprise. I’ve learned over the years most of the possible stumbling blocks and predict them beforehand, mostly through changes in lesson planning. It’s gone from being a weakness to a large strength, although there are still situations where I teach material for the first time and have to start all over!
Staying fresh in most math classes is quite difficult. I have a moral objection to most word problems posed in dry curricula like:
Mike sold five watermelons and two oranges and made $22.
John sold eight watermelons and seven oranges and made $48.
How much does each fruit cost?
This word problem is not only irrelevant to life, but is sort of offensive to students who are quite aware of this fact. How are students supposed to buy into material that is this nonsensical? How do we create better curricula while keeping the information relevant?
I don’t know, but it’s the basis for my semester inquiry.
I feel like most other subjects easily stay fresh: English with current readings, history with current events, science with new discoveries. For some reason, math remains stagnant. It’s the same material that is decades old, yet we’re told to make it cool.
I have a unique opportunity with probability and statistics, which are becoming the most practical math around. I love it, and I created an elective class at school where I have a lot more freedom than a regular track class. I looked up the AP curriculum while not having the pressures of teaching to that test, so I’m really excited about the possibilities that could come of it.
I’m hoping to help the students connect to the world of math through things they’re interested in, which I can do with this class nobody else teaches. Further updates to come!