Monday, November 24, 2014

Teacher Advice from 1895: On Patience

When I was a mathematics teacher, being patient was easy. Really, all I needed to do was to make sure I was patient with my students. Rarely did I need to do much interacting with parents or colleagues such that my patience was put to the test. Worst case scenario: close my door and just teach my awesome students.

Now that I am an instructional coach, I often find myself in situations that require great restraint and patience. This is clearly an area in which I must grow!

As I was reading the Annual Report of the Public Schools of the City and County of San Francisco for the School and Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1896 (yes...I'm a total edu-nerd!), I came across this list of advice on patience for teachers.

Still relevant after nearly 120 years...especially as we move to the Common Core Standards.

  1. Be patient with yourself. 
  2. Be patient with the other teachers. Their ideas cannot coincide with yours exactly. 
  3. It requires great patience for a teacher with high ideals to view with serenity her failure to meet her ideals. 
  4. Be patient with the school director who was once a teacher. He has to be patient with you for not teaching as he did. 
  5. Be patient with non-professional school directors. They cannot see things from your standpoint, but they may be of great service through their common sense loyalty to the school. 
  6. Be patient with your fad-admiring associate. She sees virtue only in the new things and thinks you very slow. If she can get along with you, you certainly ought to with her. 
  7. Be patient with the principal. He has to be patient with all of his teachers, and if he is equal to this trial with six, eight, ten, or twelve, you ought to be patient with him. 
  8. Be patient with the children. They are but children, untrained and untamed. It is neither easy nor natural for them to be even and reliable in their work, in their thought, or in their disposition. 
  9. Be patient with your conservative associate teachers. It frets them to see you so progressive, and you need good judgment in speaking to them or of them, as well as listening to what they say to you and in hearing about what they say of you. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Teaching Math to People Who Think They Hate It

A popular Cornell professor tries to help language-arts types learn how to "make math" instead of just studying it. Math has never been my strong suit. I opted out of it at every turn, particularly in college, where I enrolled in linguistics to fulfill my quantitative reasoning requirement.

Read more via Pocket

How to Deal With Kids’ Math Anxiety

In children with math anxiety, seeing numbers on a page stimulates the same part of the brain that would respond if they spotted a slithering snake or a creeping spider—math is that scary.

Read more via Pocket

Projection: Poor Student Performance on SBAC in 2015

Here is one from the "No Duh" files: An article on Education Week, Cutoff Scores Set for Common-Core Tests, is "projecting that more than half of students will fall short" of proficient on the SBAC. In mathematics it appears as though this dire prediction is actually optimistic!

Check out the infographic below. Scroll down to the Projected Student Performance section for mathematics and click through each of the grade levels 3 through 8 and 11. Third grade is predicted to be the least "stinky" with 39% of our students projected to pass the test. Eighth grade is predicted to have the lowest percentage of students passing with 32%.

This is not a bad thing!

The whole purpose of Common Core is to improve the focus, rigor, and coherence of our math standards, and to make our students college and career ready. This necessarily involves ratcheting up the level of our testing, thereby resulting in low scores. I agree with a minor statement in the article that "the transitional stress of lower scores is justified by powerful payoffs".

What are the powerful payoffs? Students who are graduating high school college and career ready. Far fewer students will enter college needing to take a series of non-credit bearing remedial math courses before finally earning math credits.

The trick is how do we use the testing as a productive tool for measuring our progress toward the end-goal rather than as a tool for beating down students and teachers? (At least California is not even close to considering using the test scores as part of teacher evaluations...take that New York!)

Let us brace ourselves for the results that are likely to come in June, but also resolve ourselves to use the data to grow.