Channeling My (nonexistent) Inner Elementary Teacher

I’m attempting to channel my inner elementary school teacher.

So that my room can be beautiful, organized, and welcoming.

It is challenging. I don’t think she exists.

Please send her my way if you see her.


Authentic Audience


Next year, my math class will hopefully involve each week ~2.5 days of problem-solving, followed by ~1.5 days of writing/videoing/making some product about a chosen problem.

Over the past months, I’ve gone back and forth with being concerned about motivating WHY we have to make products. I mean, I plan to talk to students about why explaining your work is good for you and good for others. But those reasons aren’t always the most compelling.

Then, I read Drive which (if I remember correctly) posits that if you have met people’s need for competence and autonomy, purpose is less important, though awesome (and I plan to have tons of choice and mastery all over my class). And I took Developmental Designs, which identifies student needs as competence, autonomy, relationship, and fun. So I worried a little less about motivating the why of products.

But then I was talking with (one of my) my awesome student teacher from last year, who was thinking about an authentic audience (which would so much more clearly motivate why). And I got thinking again.

For awhile, I’ve wondered why so many high schools have Literary Magazines but no math equivalent. And then, post talking with said former-student-teacher, I thought — why not make it happen?

So, to start (baby steps) to address the authentic audience/why we make products issue, I am committing to the following for this coming year.

1. As often as possible, involve choice in what product students make to explain their math work.

2. As often as possible (which will be less so than #1), define or have students define an audience for their product (or maybe this can be all the time and just often be “other students who need help” or “myself for reference” and then work on getting other audience in the future … hmmm).

3. Have a classroom website (thanks, Mom and English Teaching Vegan for helping me get mine started last night!) where students somewhat frequently post products for parents/anyone to see. (I think this is a cool first step and am interested in developing it more in the future, maybe with purposeful interactions with  … someone(s).)

4. Twice during this year, convene a group of interested BPS math teachers and their students and a bunch of submissions to produce a “Math Mag” either in print or (more ideally) online.

I think these steps are doable (though suggestions for how to structure the students-posting-on-class-website would be welcome) and a step towards making our math output authentic. What do you think?

Developmental Designs

So many summer happenings … so little writing about it.

I’d like to start with Developmental Designs (DD) as one of my best summer choices. I am someone who takes a lot of classes. I’ve, in fact, never NOT taken at least two (three?) classes during the summer. I vowed I would actually refrain this summer … and then someone recommended DD … and I’m really glad they did. At least I like the PD I do?

Basically, DD was all about how Langer can be more like Kogut. In particular, I learned a lot about social-emotional development. Relevant to our writing here, I learned/thought about the four adolescents needs (besides food/shelter/safety) of competence, autonomy, relationship, and fun. I also learned/thought about empowering language.

Adolescent Needs

I think I am pretty good at meeting students needs of competence and autonomy. They’re very related to all the things we’re doing. And what teacher doesn’t spend lots of time building and obsessing over her relationships with students?

But fun!

Before this class, I thought fun, or at least any fun not related to math, was a sign of poor teaching. This class rid me of that unfortunate belief, and I have been planning lots of smaller and larger ways to integrate fun into the classroom. For example, tossing name-plates into a box at the end of the period and playing a silly game just for fun/relationship at least once a week. 

One of the best parts of this class was that the instructor practiced what she preached essentially every single moment. And let me tell you, it was so fun to play games! And I still learned lots and lots.

Empowering Language

Kogut has touched on this, but empowering language involves directing, reinforcing, reminding, redirecting, reflecting. It takes the student out of the language and keeps the focus on facts/observations and questioning. It is related to many things, such has how to give effective feedback (and teaching students how!) or how to help students become more metacognitive.

I’m spending the rest of the summer practicing empowering language (and not saying “good job!”). It’s more challenging than you might think. Even though I already knew I should do this.

Yay summer, a new school year, intentionality, and social-emotional learning. I’m excited. Also, that was just the tip of the iceberg on this class; you should totally check it out.