The best thing I get to do in my job is: I get to learn from so many people. I love connecting with others who are passionate about learning. I would walk outside my door to my neighbors and share an idea or ask what ideas they’ve had lately. In my previous years I’d be working with at most a group of 6ish teachers. There would be more than that in the department, but I usually worked with those that welcomed collaboration. Now I serve 60+ teachers for @puhsd, participate in twitter communities like the #MTBoS, and share with other educators at local CUE regional connferences, GAFEsummits and edcamps. I also get to lead others as faculty for CUErockstar events this upcoming summer. Getting to learn from others is my favorite thing from all this. I always take away more than I bring into these experiences, and I love it. I used to do things like this before, but now it’s part of my job to find, articulate and share these resources. It’s not just something I do on my lunch or morning break. Sharing with others often leads them toward a similar experience of joy with learning as well.
If I had to pick a favorite teacher, I’d have to say it was my dad.
My dad encouraged everyone to
- serve a need if you see it (even if it’s not your responsibility)
- get your hands dirty, (he used to call me and my brother ‘elbow grease’)
- realize that you have strengths and intelligence, no matter your background
- maintain a clean and organized space
- ask questions, but don’t try his patience
I’d say that I’ve grown to be quite similar in my own teaching and learning style with one major exception. My dad often commented to me, “I don’t know how you can have patience for all those rugrats in the classroom. I’d go to jail for knockin’ one of them up the head.”
I don’t think he would actually hit a student, but his point of having patience for so many teenagers is valid. They’re trying to balance hormones with academics, not that easy. This patience that I gained for working with teenagers came from my second (equally) favorite teacher, my mom.
I also tended to have more divergent approaches to problem solving, especially with people. My dad showed elements of this, through MacGyver like rigs to fix something around the house, but when it came to working through people problems his approach tended to be more direct (and not always diplomatic).
So how am I different. I have patience to deal with crazy people in the classroom.
This prompt really threw me. I didn’t want to say something that didn’t ring my own bell. I used to have a philosophy toward lighting a fire within students, especially for the battered world of math. I wanted to have students of all ages look at math and say something else besides, “Yeah, that’s really not my thing.”
I needed something more specific than this. It’s hard for me to define my own place in making the world a better place so I had a conversation with my wife.
“What is it that I do. I know I can rock the classroom. I know I can help other teachers. I feel comfortable with tech and current trends… but so does everyone else I associate with in the #MTBoS.”
“You see things differently than others. People don’t think like you do. You think in pictures. You see connections others wouldn’t naturally see”
This got me thinking…in pictures.
First I saw something like this:
I feel like people often find themselves on one side or the other of this bridge. I’m one of those weird ones that hangs out all over the place. I started putting myself into different places within the picture, with wide and narrow fields of view.
The near sided people see a clear local area, but can’t always see another perspective that’s further away. As long as the far side is ignored, we might as well call it a clear, sunny day. This is almost like a naive clarity.
The far sided people are deep in the fog, and have an even more limited view of things, let alone anything off in the distance. The whole world seems foggy for all they know. Foggy visions may actually be the comfort, with too much clarity causing more of an overwhelming experience.
My wife alluded to how I see things from multiple angles, and I’m often looking for the connecting structures between different sides. I attribute most of this skill to growing up in a family with unique personalities, each with a separate style of communication.
When I look at this bridge I don’t usually see the fog, but more often I project what’s beneath the layers of fog. When I think about the world and all its different people, with all the different perspectives, I have to remind myself to keep looking for such underlying structure.
What does this look like?
In the classroom this could be one student not seeing how another understood a concept differently (or how another student doesn’t understand something that seems so clear to them). This was my strength in the classroom; making connections between the students toward perspective(s) that we could share. In leading small group PLCs within the department I helped multiple voices find their place while still maintaining a common vision that puts the students first.
Now that I’m working with teachers across the district as a TOSA, and interacting with more and more people online through blogs and twitter, these connections are growing like fractals.
This idea of making connections for a wider interconnected view has been my vision for transformulas.org for visual understandings in math. Now I want to add that as a part of the vision for this site too.
As I interact with more people and more perspectives, I want to think about making connections. I want to help everyone see the interconnected structures through the fog.
Cue the cliche/abstract conclusion:
A better world is one where we can appreciate one another’s perspectives, find common structures, and learn more in the process of connections. I want to make that happen.
This word has been on my mind a lot lately. One of the most awesome things in education in celebrations of success. A successful teacher, student, school, program, anything. With all the variables in teaching and learning, it’s often challenging to make significant gains.
When a little bit of the awesome does happen, people notice. Here are some reactions that seem common:
Admin and leadership:
How do we replicate that experience for a bigger group?
Let’s grow that.
(and within budget)
Would it work for me?
(my classes are unique)
I wish school could be more like this.
Why can’t school be more like this?
(school is always the same)
I’ve had some great times in the classroom, often working with other teachers to get some of this awesome to happen. Now I’m in a position to support teachers as a district Math Coach/TOSA. I get to help them incorporate or expand the awesome. No matter what I’ll be doing, this concept of scale is sticking with me. How do we take something and make it fit for the teacher on his/her scale?
Let’s make the awesome work, for each person and everyone.