The problem with April and May and June of this year was that I was completely burned out, emotionally drained, and trying to make some tough decisions about my life and what was next for me. I subsequently missed some wonderful goings-on in the math education world (and the math twitterblogosphere) because I just. could not. take it.
Today is the first day of July, and it’s summer, and I am beginning to feel like myself again. This morning I met with my new department head to get textbooks for my classes and talk about the coming year. This afternoon I carved a path through the Algebra 1 textbook (Holt McDougal Burger), Williamson County Algebra 1 Scope and sequence, Common Core State Standards, and Tennessee’s CCSS implementation plan. And this evening, in the aftermath of the loss of the (still-beloved) Google reader, I caught up on some blog reading with my new reader of choice, The Old Reader. (Yes. That sentence is confusing.) So, I finally watched Uri Treisman’s NCTM address from mid-April.
I couldn’t stop myself from opening up a document and typing up some of the quotes that really grabbed me as I watched. Then right after I finished the video, I found Dan’s post from May where he did the same thing. (And dumb me for not stumbling upon it earlier, because that side by side video/powerpoint would have been nice about an hour ago.)
In any case, the quotes that grabbed me:
When you visit most math classrooms, it’s like you’re in a Kafkaesque universe of these degraded social worlds where children are filling in bubbles rather than connecting the dots. It’s driven by a compliance mentality on tests that are neither worthy of the children, nor worthy of the discipline they purport to reflect. That is the reality. That’s something that we as math educators can control.
I get the power of high-stakes accountability – it’s a blunt instrument wielded from a great distance. But we as a math education community need to remember the children in our care come first, and we have to moderate the effects. This is the hardest challenge for our profession.
So I send you forth from this talk with a message of strength and courage. There are two factors that shape inequality in this country and educational achievement inequality. The big one is poverty, but a really big one is opportunity to learn. As citizens, we need to work on poverty and income inequality or our democracy is threatened. As mathematics educators, and to realize the image of Iris Carl and all of the great NCTM leaders of that time, we need to work on opportunity to learn. It cannot be that the accident of where a child lives, or particulars of their birth determine their mathematics education.
I have a lot to chew on, and work through, and think about over the next month. I’m transitioning from a moderately-sized Independent school in the suburbs of D.C. to a large public school in the suburbs of Nashville, and that means a lot of changes: in class size, student diversity, access to technology, teacher autonomy, school schedule, and so many more.
I have officially disrupted my routine; I’ll let you know what comes of it.