And my role is…?

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” -Max DePree

I often wonder what my primary job is.  I mean, when I met new people and they ask me what I do, I tell them that I am a math teacher.  But I think it is a bit more complicated than that.

Sure, during the day, students come to me because their schedule says they need to be in some sort of math class.  I plan lessons about calculating slope, determining the area of polygons, or substituting and evaluating.  So, I guess that makes me a math teacher, right?

But I get more excited about planning how students interact with each other, explain their thinking in various forms, or revise their work.  I feel better about my day when students finish their math work quickly so we have the time to really talk about their work, give each other feedback, or explore other topics of interest.

I care more about students being able to form counterarguments rather than determine the y-intercept, talk about their learning needs rather than sit still long enough to take a multiple-choice test, or eat fruits and veggies rather than do their do now.  So, does that make me not a math teacher?  I mean, if I rather do things in my class that aren’t math, that seems weird.

So when my dear colleague said we should through everything out the window, start over and redefine who we are and how we teach, how could I say no?



4 thoughts on “And my role is…?

  1. Pingback: Sarah Langer and Joy Kogut | Work in Pencil

  2. So, it’s 4th quarter for us and that’s usually when the wheels start grinding as I think about next year. I used a curriculum this year that I really liked because it was very problem based, rich, and learner centered. Levels of engagement have never been higher and my students have never had such a high proportion of their class time used for sense-making, discussion, and inquiry.

    My thought for next year is how to frame what we do differently. You mentioned that you care more about forming counter arguments than finding a y-intercept and I completely agree. So then I feel like I need to de-emphazize the content and put the spotlight on a skill. And I’m thinking the Common Core Mathematical Practices would be great skills to focus on. So, next year we will obviously discuss y-intercepts but the frame might be the skill of “Critiquing the reasoning of others” (MP3b). So, yes, you need to understand y-intercepts but the way you demonstrate your understanding is through a critique of someone’s reasoning.

    So, the things I keep track of (and use to form a grade) change from bits and pieces of content to the performance of the skills outlined in the Mathematical Practices. I think this helps support your first principles by taking the focus off of demonstrate-able, practice-able, content and putting it squarely on what we think is important. It also lets students and parents know up front that memorizing content and spitting it back on a test is the furthest thing from what I expect the students to do.

    I’m a little unsure as to whether I can pull off the assessment side of all of this. Assessing on content is easy and that’s why we do it. Assessing skills is messier.

    Anyway, these two links are part of what got me thinking about this:

    • Thanks for the links and ideas! We use standards-based grading and I want to rewrite them this summer to reflect the CC math practices more. Let us know how you’re journey goes and we will too!

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