Monday, January 28, 2013

How the Math Twitterblogosphere Has Changed Me

Before I tweeted, blogged, and organized Twitter Math Camp, I was a much different teacher. I did mostly lecture-style teaching. I had very little contact with other math teachers outside of my district. I spent little time outside of my school day thinking about mathematics and teaching mathematics.

And then I found Twitter. (Well, actually my husband asked me to check it out for something else and here I am. :-) ) I saw all these great and wonderful teachers and what they were doing in their classes and thought to myself, "Maybe I can do that in my classes." I went to visit one of my Twitter friends and saw that I wasn't totally off base in how I taught (because after reading all of these great things others are doing, you do start questioning what you are doing in your class). I started incorporating more and more things that I learned and read about from my fellow members in the Math Twitterblogosphere.

Fast forward to today. It is now about 2 weeks after my midterm exams have been completed by my students. I am still sitting here frustrated. I have never sat and obsessed worried about how my students have done on their exams. I did what I thought was best - gave them a chance to see the types of problems that they would encounter. I know the reason they did poorly is that they didn't practice. But I cannot stop myself from thinking about things to do differently, even though I realize that at this point there's not a whole lot I can do to change it.

I am still sitting here wondering what the point of the semester exam is. I know partially it's supposed to let students demonstrate what they learn (and for evaluation purposes, that is part of it). But when students don't take these kinds of exams on any semblance of a regular basis, they don't know how to prepare for them. Students focus on doing what they need to do to get by and when that assessment is asking them to remember stuff from 4 months ago, it is difficult for them if they are not using it on a regular enough basis. But when what we learned back in September is not directly related to what we are doing in December and January, that's difficult. We have so much material we are tasked with teaching these students that it creates a culture at times of learning the material for the short term and move on to the next. With all of the different viewpoints on teaching mathematics, there are good points to each (and some not good points). I can see what some of the "reformers" are getting at, but I go back sometimes to "what was so wrong with how we learned math?" (Side note - here's an interesting article from Education News about how maybe what we were doing wasn't so wrong.)

I didn't use to obsess think about my teaching this much. As I come up on the next topic, I start  to think about what I can do to help my students learn the material. I read way too much education and math education material and haven't read much of anything for pleasure in a while (which I miss sometimes). I spend lots of time putting together materials for my classes than I ever used to. And sometimes, I think I am doing a better job as a teacher (although since semester exams, I really don't feel that way). As much as I like that I am making changes in my classroom, sometimes I wonder if I am making the right changes. Sometimes I think I think way much about all of this and I need to step back. Maybe that's why I'm not blogging as much this year (although I'm sure that keeping on top of my curriculum has a pretty good part of that as well). I am starting to reach the point though that I feel I need to find the right balance - between thinking about/preparing for my classes and thinking about other things. I hope I can get there soon.

1 comment:

Ms. Z teaches in Mathland said...

HI. Great Post. I can't wait for Twitter Math Camp, even though I haven't a clue how twitter works into it all. Seems to me EVERYONE is a presenter or has an award or is part of a special study or teaches AP blah blah and has a blah blah percent pass rate or has some amazing website. I think about what I teach and how I teach a lot of the time. I try to give my students a bridge into why they are learning what they are, I love my INB, I love projects and the more I read, the more I am happy that math education is validating more the way I naturally teach with projects and models. Yet it is crazy making that some students brains aren't ready to compute, that we have to spend too much energy making sure things don't go flying that are meant to be used as concrete respresentations, that I have to worry that my classes are too noisy. We do what we can, some days it goes well, some times it goes flat. As long as I know I am keeping a balance between family, exercise, and bringing the best I can muster to my students, I will have to let go of my ego and follow instead of lead.
Thank you for being willing to share that you may not have all the answers. It is very comforting.