Never stop learning – Life after my master’s

At the risk of writing too in depth about how much I plan to write, I’m going to explain my plan to write more and the reasons for it.

The primary reason I started a blog early on in my career is that many educators that I encountered on the internet via social media maintained blogs. These were frequently deep wells of resources and insights into the teaching profession from which I gained much. A recurring theme on the purpose of these blogs was reflection, and I see now that this is a form of deliberate practice for educators. It keeps reflection purposeful and useful, going beyond sitting at your desk at the end of the school day wondering what just happened and what the hell you’re supposed to take from it (e.g. how I spent many afternoons in my first couple years).

But ever since I started getting into the Internet I’ve enjoyed putting my thoughts out “there”. I used the “notes” feature in Facebook frequently (which nobody else really used and I’m not even sure exists anymore), including a time that I posted a term paper I wrote in college to see what people thought.

I can’t explain why I enjoy the process of creating something and putting it out in the open. But I guess I do and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter. I like it so I’m going to do more of it.

I could end the post there I suppose. One of the purposes of this post was to pin down my reasons for changing my approach to my blog/site. Having done that, I’ll briefly explain the changes I plan to make.

Change

I’ve avoided consistently writing/posting/sharing/reflection for a number of reasons but time is the main one. In the last five years I’ve had a child, got a dog, taught a college class, taught every high school math class we offer, sat on school improvement teams, presented at conferences, and coached quiz bowl. Oh, I also earned my Master’s in education technology. Not that this is unlike many young teachers, but it didn’t leave much time to work on my blog.

Now that I’ve graduated there are a few things I hope to accomplish with my site.

First, I want to increase posting frequency. I want to continue my weekly recap post. I plan on making it a bit shorter but I think there’s value in that post for me and possibly for others (see last week’s here). In this post I sum up a few of the things I’ve been reading, learning, listening to, and thinking about over the previous week. It’s good for my learning and maybe provides a nice curation of interesting stuff for others.

Second, I want to post some sort of reflection/idea/thought once a week. Topics will likely frequently be about education but I’m allowing them to veer away from it as well (you’ll see why in the upcoming post “Not letting my career define me”). I’m calling these “Backpages”. If your curious as to why, you can read about that here. I also hope to explore some more creative mediums for these.

Third, I want to do more researched posts on topics in education. I’ve found that many of the things I believed, especially before getting my master’s, I didn’t know that much about. Too much of the information that contributed to my beliefs was from sound bites on Twitter or short blog posts. I learned a great deal from the in depth research I had to do for my master’s. The purpose of these larger posts is to help me more deeply explore topics, but also to provide a post to other people that goes deeper than the typical reflection blog.JPEG image-09FB6197890C-1

Ultimately I hope to more effectively contribute to the conversations around education. I want to be a resource for other teachers that are trying to navigate the noise that is social media.

Also, I love writing. On mornings that I know I’ll be writing I wake up before my alarm. So, I’ll also be writing more because I simply love to do it. I view this as a form of deliberate practice to improve my writing.

I’d love to hear feedback, positive or negative, from you as I begin posting with more frequency. That’s the only way that I’ll get better.

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An Unapologetic Reflection

This post is filled with a bunch of honesty. Not that my other posts aren’t honest, but this one is, like, super honest. I just a gave a talk at the 2015 MACUL technology conference in Detroit, MI. Although I’ve done a lot of sharing and presenting, much of it has been done in collaboration with Steve, or at smaller conferences. I guess I’m saying that this is the biggest conference that I’ve presented at, on my own.

And I have two more tomorrow. (Check out Leveraging Tech to Increase Discourse in Mathematics and Personalized Learning for Student success Friday at 10:00am and 11:30am respectively.)

And I’m giving two of these at the National Flipped Learning Conference this summer.

And another (slightly different) talk at the National AP conference this summer.

And I say this not to brag, but to reflect on the inner turmoil it creates. When you get accepted to talk at major conferences (or any conference) you really start to look inside and wonder…

“Is what I’m doing really that good?”

“Do I really belong here?”

“Are people going to listen to me? Will they think that what I’m doing is positive or worthwhile?”

I think anybody that has ever shared their creative work feels similarly to some degree. It’s part of the human condition to wonder what your peers think about you and our work. To wonder about how you are viewed in different contexts. When I give a talk I’m spilling my guts. I’m putting every shred of my educational philosophy out there for everyone to see (and by it’s nature, to be judged). That has been harder than I could’ve  imagined. A lot of teachers I know get uneasy when another teacher observes a lesson. For me, presenting is like taking that uneasiness and magnifying it by about 100 times. So I understand why teachers don’t often share with the world. It’s scary. Putting your creative work (and yes teaching is creative work) out there for everyone to see is scary. It’s a risk.

But I think that it is ultimately worth it. For me it’s worth it because I’ve seen students truly enjoy mathematics in my class. I’ve seen them understand concepts fully that I didn’t fully understand until I became a teacher. I’ve seen them write about mathematics in a public space (a blog) and do a freakin’ awesome job.

And this stuff can’t die within the four walls of my classroom.

And I’m not saying that my good stuff is any better than the teacher in the room down the hall or across the country. I’m saying I want that teacher to share their good stuff so that it doesn’t die in the four walls of his or her classroom. The world is changing faster than ever and whether you believe or not, the world doesn’t care. We can either adapt and change with it or get left behind. I don’t think I’m too far off when I say that teachers are not viewed in the best light in America. I think one solution to this is that we have to share. There are too many awesome educators doing awesome things to not share the good things we are doing in our classrooms. So start a blog or a website. Share on social media. Visit the classroom down the hall. Ask someone to observe you. Find a way to contribute to the creation of a culture of sharing.

So even though it racks my nerves before my sessions, and my ego gets a kick when a person walks out of my sessions, and I spend days after agonizing over the things I could’ve done differently, I won’t stop telling my story. I won’t stop sharing the great things my students do, the ways in which they learn the concepts, and the growth I see in them.

We, as a profession, have a story to tell. Let’s tell it.

A Better Friday then Expected

Today was a much better than expected. Quite often Friday, especially Friday afternoon, is a tough day from a teaching standpoint as students tend to be less motivated. However, today was not like that at all. My students in calculus, with several options for how they could manage their time, all worked hard for the entire hour. In both my precalculus classes students were engaged in different tasks. (Some watched and took notes on videos, some work on demonstrating mastery on certain concepts they had missed on tests, and others worked on book assignments.) Even students who almost never work hard for the entire hour gave a full effort. Last hour was maybe the least motivated (The weekend is so close!) but even many of them finished the assignment before the end of the hour.

This is part of a larger trend, especially in precalc, of students being much more independent. In this class students have many options for how they manage their time. At a given moment in class yesterday I had some students working on C.A.R.E projects, some working on book assignments, some completing WSQ forms, and some taking notes on video lessons, and almost every student was fully engaged. This is what a flipped classroom should look like, in my opinion. The goal of flipclass is greater differentiation and students taking ownership of their learning. The last couple days have been the best demonstration of that so far this year.