Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Truths I Want to Remember This Year

I have had a great summer. It's been a mix of awesome PD (art in non art classrooms, LOGO CS training, BLEND training (a CANVAS-type LMS we are using this year)), lots of sleep (who knew you could look/feel so healthy and well rested from more than 6 hours of sleep a night), kickboxing (punching and kicking the sh*t out of bags AND with wraps and gloves!), breakfasts out, friends, fun, life. I am also eager to get back into the swing of teaching soon. Kids show up August 21st. This year I will be teaching Algebra 1, Digital Electronics, AP Calculus AB, and AP Computer Science A. Woot! Down to 4 preps. 

My awesome teacher friend and I had a blast teaching Algebra 1 last year to 9th graders (I am still in that honeymoon stage of thinking they are precious and hilarious ... check in with me in June to see if I am at the 7-year-itch-divorce-stage yet) and are excited to go another round this year. I think we are going to do a mix of CPM-type stuff and Bootstrap Algebra. Should be a fun ride. 

Though my PD was phenomenal, there was one presenter that rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. But I guess, as with all things, that comes from me experiencing life through my experiences and my lens. He was a college professor. He had this habit of assuming we did not know anything. For example, I overheard him trying to help another teacher out through a programming problem in Scratch (a programming tool). He basically proceeded to basically tell her how to teach and explain why he was helping her the way he was. "So you see, if you link things to what the students know from previous experience, it will stick better" ..... was one of his statements. Of course this is true, but him basically assuming we don't know how to teach ... unpalatable. 

Anyway, this got me to thinking if I ever do this in some sense with my students. I feel that what you think inside about who you are talking to, shines through in how you talk to students (people), so even if you think your intentions are not known, they probably are, no matter what words you use or how discrete you think you are being. So that is one truth I want to continually remind myself of this year. Treat everyone as a genius and work from there. Assume nothing.

My next truth is that "tinkering is powerful/useful/necessary/fun". I have had the privilege of delving into engineering teaching and CS teaching. My M.O. for both have been to mostly say to the kids, "you will figure it out" or "play around with it and see what happens". I want them to not shy away from exploring just because they are passively waiting for someone else to give them the answers. That is not empowering. That is not a good life skill. Of course I guide them and check in on their path, but I do NOT want to be "that" teacher that says, "so here is how you do this". Then the poor little humans just think that they need some expert to always be there to show them the way. Not true. Even if they don't at first always solve their problems on their own, eventually, they have the gumption to at least try various things and not be afraid of failing or making mistakes (gasp! the horror!).

My last truth is that "they are not finished products". Just because they are a certain way today or this year or in high school, does not necessarily mean that they will always be that way. Also, "it takes a village", so any words of wisdom imparted to them may not at the time seem to help, but, mark my words, they could potentially think about them and use them and adapt in the future. 

Here is how I know that is true. I was not always the best student. Sure, I got A's and B's, but I did the bare minimum to maintain that. I never went above and beyond. I was not the smartest kid in class in any of the schools I went to. I probably complained too much (reference to a remark a 10th grade teacher made to me that I still remember to this day). I may have cheated (making no claims here), I probably was a jerk to my friends. But here were the circumstances of me at that time. My parents, though they did the best with what they knew, also complained, also tried to bilk the system, also potentially did not act in the best human way possible. Am I blaming them? No, just indicating what I was around and what I knew. 

I grew up. I moved away. I met other people and saw how they lived and what their values were. I became a better person. I even went on to get a PhD in Computational and Applied Math (still not the smartest person in my program .... but stubborn and determined). I worked for 2 years in industry, did not think I was contributing in a good way to society and did not want to spend my days that way, and decided I wanted to teach, and here I am, starting my 21st year and loving it. So I know from experience that the person I was in ES, MS, and HS is totally not the person I am today. I met wonderful people that showed me what it meant to be a good and compassionate and ethical human (not that I am this all the time, but I know what it looks like and I strive for it). 

So I will try to keep these three truths in the forefront of my brain as I interact with the students this year.

I think my Algebra teacher/friend and I have worked out what we want as our first HW assignment. We were having breakfast out (yay! .... or was it nachos and drinks?), and we talked about how there were so many broken people walking around. They "seemed" normal, but maybe on the inside they were hurting in some sense and just needed more friend/human love. We thought of the care labels you see on clothes, and thought that humans should come with care labels. Thus THIS activity:







 

4 comments:

  1. You have blogged the comment before about students not being finished products. That has really stuck out and stuck with me. Thanks for helping me see my kids better. :)

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    1. Thanks, Elissa. I repeat it in my mind when the cuties are being noodges! Hope you have a great year.

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  2. This looks like a great activity. I am always looking for activities to help students make a connection. Do you have an example of a finished product? I think the students would need one to help them get started. Thanks for this great idea.

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    1. Hi Nancy,
      I have never done this activity before, so I don't have any finished products yet. My rationalization (sometimes) of not showing them a product (other than I don't have one :) ) is that I don't want to stifle their creativity. I tell them to wow me. And actually, they step up to the challenge (not everyone, of course). I am curious how it will turn out. At the very least, they will reflect on their needs.

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