I found the Mathtwitterblogosphere because my 4th grade teacher found out I was teaching Physics among other things, and referred me to Aaron Titus, a High Point University Physics professor who helps teachers, who referred me to a physics forum somewhere (I forget where at the moment) which was talking about having a “physicstwitterblogosphere” kinda like the “math people” do. At this point, I said “What, I’m teaching math–I need to look into this!”, and found the above website that Sameer Shah put together. He was also just starting a New Blogger Initiation, which I promptly joined because of all the good things all the other teachers had to say about blogging. And I haven’t made a smarter career decision as a teacher.
Because of this group of people, I’ve re-learned to love mathematics and teaching mathematics, I’ve completely changed every single quiz I’ve ever given, I’ve done creative projects with my Precalculus students that I would have never thought of in a million years, I’ve learned how to more effectively use my iPads, I’ve used Standards Based Grading for the first time, I’ve put a giant “Board of Remediation” in the back of my classroom for students to work on skills they need, I’ve revolutionized the way I go over tests and quizzes (I don’t!), I’ve found websites where students can practice their pattern-recognition skills with minimal effort on my part, and I’ve learned how to send all of my students nightly HW reminders via text on their phones anonymously (that was learned via the Global Math Department on Tuesday Nights at 9pm EST–a place where every time I leave, I’ve enjoyed the experience and gotten something that I took back to my class and used very soon afterwards!).
But more than that, this group of people have given me a community that has rekindled my desire to be a really good teacher. I think that through blogging and participating in this environment I have improved in three main ways:
- I am reflecting. Simply through blogging, I am thinking more about what I’ve taught and how I can improve it. This is something I did not do my first two years of teaching outside of thinking “what should I teach next?”. I cannot explain all the little ways that thinking about what you’ve done when you’ve stepped outside of a situation can help you improve doing whatever it is you want to do better. In my case, it is teaching and while at school, or thinking about what I want to teach next, I cannot reflect and so I cannot grow anywhere near as close as how quickly I’ve grown these past 6 months. Included in this reflection is thinking about how ideas, such as SBG or Dan Meyer’s 3 Acts, compares and contrasts with my own teaching philosophy, and I have only improved through reading and thinking about these ideas.
- I found a place to discover new ideas for lesson plans. As a teacher, you simply cannot figure out how to teach everything in even a single course (let alone 4 right now) from the ground up. You must look elsewhere and be good at seeing what someone else has done and adapting it to fit your children, your classroom, your pace/planning guide. As you can see from above, so many lesson plans that I’ve done this year have come from this group of people. I will never forget one of the things that Fawn Nguyen said in one of her posts (sorry that I can’t find the exact post at the moment!). It was basically along the line of “finally, after teaching for 10 (?) years, I’m keeping roughly 60 or 70% of the lessons from the previous year”. Wow. And to think that before I got into teaching, I though: “Once you’ve done a lesson the first year, you can tweak it a bit, but it’s still good, right?” Wrong! Because of her comment, and seeing so many good lessons out there, I’ve begun to change any and every possible lesson I saw as “boring” for something that engages students and drives curiosity and problem-solving skills over memorizing and drill-and-kill skill training.
- I have striven to become a better teacher because I care what these people think of me. Is this pride? Sure. Do I have a bunch of people visiting my blog regularly? Nope. Average is probably about 6-10 a day (thank you to each of you!!). But I have worked more carefully on creating specific quizzes because I knew I wanted to put them up here. I have taken care to grade with more comments so I could write a careful blog post about the experience. I have worked and re-worked lesson plans, activities, and worksheets just so that I can put them on this blog and feel proud about what I’ve done. And if each of these things are done better, and the students get more out of my teaching, then it has been worth it, no matter the motivation.
So thank you to anyone who has written a post I’ve read, spoken (or chatted) during the Global Math Dept, tweeted a helpful tweet, commented on my blog, or even just stopped by to read an entry. Thank you each and every one of you for making me a better teacher. I still have a long way to go, because I still consider myself a “bad” teacher, i.e. I always see ways to significantly improve my lessons and my teaching style. However, even that is an improvement over the time I used to teach and think “hey, that lesson went just fine” (when it really didn’t!).