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.


  1. What a beautiful post! It brought sunshine to my otherwise dark and freezing December (or is it really September?!) evening.

    Two comments: I second what you say about textbooks. Even though I've had one forever, and my students are each issued with one of course, I almost _never_ use it. Because it's horrible and goes against every conceptual understanding and creativity bone in my body. I do often wish for something of the caliber that you have discovered. While I can't change my students' books, maybe at least I can simplify my production of material somewhat. I'll check it out.

    Second - I remember going with a friend to a teacher's yoga class (where she was teaching) when I was in high school in Brooklyn. For a sec there I thought maybe you were her! But she definitely wasn't a math teacher.
    Anyway, I loved it. We also had yoga as a gym option and it was just the best way to start a school day.

  2. Jesse, your post also brightened my day! I imagine your kids happily meditating and then munching on cookies before diving into tests and it is such a lovely little vision in my mind of tests as a relaxed and meaningful celebration. Seriously, how stressed can you be when someone has just led you in meditation and handed you a cookie they baked just for you?

    Also, I know what you mean about crossing outside the math teacher boundary. Sometimes stuff comes up with the kids I'm working with and I hesitate to step outside the "normal math teacher" role. Like, should I teach them some yoga now, or make them some homeopathic tea, or talk to them about some bigger picture issues they are struggling with? But I think kids really appreciate it when you relate to them as a whole person instead of just through the role.

  3. Yay Cookies!!! I haven't baked for my kids yet this year....It's much harder to find time when I'm planning everything myself and the kids are testing me like crazy. I brought in candy and it got stolen. I miss you and ND!