PCMI was graced with the amazing Jim Hiebert, Jere Confrey and Denise Mewborn for a Q&A about pretty much whatever we could think of. These amazing researchers (who arrived to answer my questions from last week as if by my own personal request) couldn't actually answer most of our questions with any concrete certainty. Why is there no video documented research in high school math classrooms? What resources are there to teach for conceptual understanding? What's up with standards based grading, and what is good teaching anyway?
To my surprise, it reassured me: I don't know the answers, but it turns out the experts in the field don't either. Not because they haven't tried, but because it's that complicated and messy. I feel renewed in my enthusiasm for doing this job knowing that when I feel like there aren't clean-cut answers, it's because there really aren't any. Now I feel free to simply enjoy asking the questions and trying to find answers, without feeling like there's something wrong because things aren't already nice and tied up. When I feel like the job is too hard, it's because it really is. When I get confused about a problem I face in my curriculum development or my pedagogy, I can just sink my teeth into the discovery filled process of searching out a solution. Like doing mathematics. I totally didn't get this before.
Not to mention something else that I've been basking in since I got here: all my inspiration, intelligence, effort and creativity are shared; all my revolutionary tactics, all my "original" ideas. In the best possible way, there is no great idea I have had, no depth of loneliness or despair that I've wallowed in, and no question I have asked that others haven't pondered right along with me, maybe even before I was born. I can relax a little, knowing that there is a whole teeming world full of people who want to make things better, who are passionately and beautifully bringing their highest intelligence to bear on the most difficult problems. There is nothing I have noticed that has gone unnoticed, no problem I have had that other people haven't recognized and worked on too. Word.
I'm seriously going to bed right now, after having stayed up 2 extra hours talking to my roommate (aka Awesome) about how inspired she is about what she's learned here about pedagogy and discourse over the last two weeks. She told me that she hadn't known that she could be so much better in her teaching, and now that she does she's so excited to teach! My life is so cool.