Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's Wednesday

The Introduction of a Textbook
Have I mentioned that I'm using a textbook for the first time ever?  I work at a school that values teacher creativity and student personalization, and though the school is full of textbooks, I have never used one for planning, and when I've tried to adapt something from a textbook for teaching, it's been hit and miss.  The math department bought it's last text specifically because it provided lots of practice problems, so we could focus on pedagogy and not coming up with equations that have nice integer solutions, for example.  It's good at that, but that's not what I've been focused on and so I haven't used it.  I was prepared to never use a textbook.

Until now.

I'm using the CME Project's Algebra 1 text, and I'm excited and inspired and full of faith and hope and also utterly perplexed by how to integrate it into my classroom, not because it's limited but because I just don't know where textbooks fit in.  Up until now I've been creating my own worksheets and activities, specially designed most every day for the class I'm about to see and set up to make on task work visible.

I have so many questions it's crazy.  The main thing I want to share today is that, despite the fact that I'm a little disorganized as I try to figure out how to integrate this book, and my students may be doing less work than they are capable of, I am so satisfied by what my kids are doing when they are working.  This book is just all about conceptual understanding, every single question provides multiple access points and demands real thinking.  There is something interesting to talk about every day.  That blows my mind.
Teaching Meditation
I teach meditation twice a week at yoga studios in Brooklyn.  These classes are awesome and it's an amazing thing to be able to do and share with people.  Last night, two of my students showed up, one by surprise.  I felt a little nervous at first, uncertain about how to be myself the meditation teacher without somehow breaching some unspoken code as their math teacher.  They were just undeniably amazing.  They had amazing experiences, they inspired the people in the class, they inspired me.  They have passion, enthusiasm and wisdom beyond their years and I just felt honored to the max to be able to share such tender truth with them.

When I was in 7th grade, I had an amazing math teacher named John VanAlstyne who we called VanA.  He taught us algebra and baked us cookies to eat whenever we took math tests.  This year, I've decided to experiment with following a version of his example.  This year on test days, I'm going to lead my kids in meditation for two minutes, give them cookies and then pass out the test.  I feel generous and abundant just thinking about it.  The days that I actually bake will be the special ones.  May there be many of them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lady Gaga & Exponents

Ahh, it's been an interesting start of the year, eh?  We started back in the beginning of September, but last week was the first week I met my two 9th grade classes and started teaching from my new textbook (more on this later).  My student teacher turned out to be mis-assigned and left, I'm responsible for sorting out all the 9th graders who need to be in classes beyond or below our standard curriculum, I've  been co-planning a professional development video club "pod" for some of our staff and co-creating a structure for our new school-wide office hours (which are not quite mandatory and not quite optional for our students).  It's been flipping crazy pants.

I've been so excited to get back to writing and reading the blogs.  I've been waiting for time, waiting for something smart or insightful or inspiring.  In fact I've been thinking of quitting, remembering that 9th graders are 9th graders and enjoying the weekend pretending I am not consumed by this job.

Since that's where I'm coming from, I thought it might be nice to share something I saved from the summer, for when I teach exponents and distribution.  This came from Bowen Kerins and Darryl Yong, of PCMI fame, although I did edit it.

If by some miracle you haven't watched this most watched video, go here.  This song changed my life this summer.

I was inspired by this to write my own for what I thought was an ancient and outdated tune but which has been co-opted and recycled and might actually be familiar to your kids now.

If you're looking for some awesome math problems to do, go here.  The problem sets that inspired this post are up there.  Start with Day 1.

You all rock.  For doing what you do, for taking any time to reflect and read and write.  I hope this finds you all happy and rested and inspired.  May this Autumn bring you joy and surprise in the mystery of it all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Respect, Compassion, Courage

"Respect leads to caring - a quality of impeccability in what we do...As we foster the quality of respect in our lives, we can also begin to see the world in a different light. The tone of caring that arises from giving respect can transform how we interact with society. We begin to explore the possibilities of service, of taking an active role in seeing what needs doing and lending our energy to those endeavors. Compassion motivates us to act and wisdom ensures the means are effective."
- Joseph Goldstein

"Compassion has nothing to do with achievement at all. It is spacious and very generous. When a person develops real compassion, he is uncertain whether he is being generous to others or to himself because compassion is environmental generosity, without direction, without 'for me' and without 'for them.' It is filled with joy, spontaneously existing joy, constant joy in the sense of trust, in the sense that joy contains tremendous wealth and richness.
We could say that compassion is the ultimate attitude of wealth: an antipoverty attitude, a war on want. It contains all sorts of heroic, juicy, positive, visionary, expansive qualities. And it implies larger-scale thinking, a freer and more expansive way of relating to yourself and the world...It is the attitude that one has been born fundamentally rich rather than that one must become rich. Without this kind of confidence, meditation cannot be transferred into action at all.
Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people, because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy. They recharge your energy, because in the process of relating with them you acknowledge your wealth, your richness. So, if you have difficult tasks to perform, such as dealing with people or life situations, you do not feel you are running out of resources. Each time you are faced with a difficult task it presents itself as a delightful opportunity to demonstrate your richness, your wealth."
-Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism p.115

"We each need to make our lion's roar - to persevere with unshakable courage when faced with all manner of doubts and sorrows and fears - to declare our right to awaken."
- Jack Kornfield

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dynamic Paper

Hey Math Teachers!
Happy end of summer. I'm not quite ready to think about it, but 5 minutes ago Phil Dituri showed me something and now I can't wait to spread the word.
Check out this resource. Take 5 minutes to try out something under each tab just so you know what it does. If you don't have 5 minutes take 60 seconds. Make this a priority. It'll be fun, I promise.
August loves you but September loves you more. Be sure of it.