February 28, 2012

Pseudo Context Minus the Context?

Saw this gem in my textbook today. It's maybe the third or fourth time this year I have cracked the book. This was a good reminder why I do it so infrequently...

The only thing that is decaying is our student's attention or their hope that math class might be remotely interesting.

February 21, 2012

Digesting a Math Conference

I am trying to digest and process my experience from an IB Math conference this past weekend. This was also my first time in a small room with so many other math teachers (Scary!).

Comments, ideas and the like that surprised me or caught my attention:
  • Teachers are most scared of "Inquiry" because of time constraints. 
  • We discuss "speed" or "efficiency" in a classroom with no clear definition of those terms. 
  • We need (successful) Inquiry and Student-Centered classrooms to be modeled, not simply written about.
  • Many teachers are concerned about "cheat sheets" and students NOT memorizing.
  • Teachers seem to attribute significant importance to memorizing.
  • Many teachers talk negatively about student abilities
  • The IB has goals for students beyond getting high marks yet, many teachers seem heavily focused on (internal/external) assessment results. 
  • Teachers seemed hungry for a recipe to "write labs" or to "teach an idea" suggesting discomfort with vagueness. 
  • Teachers have a knee-jerk reaction to "why are we doing/learning this" and to "when will we ever use this?"
  • While the IB is very aware, I was not aware of the apparent divide or conflict between the IB Learner Profile and the way IB Math is (often) getting taught.
Well there you have it. I will readily admit that I am reading into many comments and conversations making quasi-conclusions based on my own biases and preferred lingo. I have no way of knowing what these teachers classrooms are really like, but still I left feeling discouraged.

If nothing else the conference got me thinking. 

February 09, 2012

Filing Cabinet

In the spirit of sharing and maybe getting some feedback and at the risk of overwhelming others I have shared my collection of files. So far just the ones in Google Docs... There are a few in Dropbox but they are making their way in to GDocs as PDFs.

February 08, 2012

Teaching to the Test: IB Fever and Numb Face

It has been a busy, busy year. I have been cranking out new ideas and new content left and right... Some good, some barely okay and maybe the occasional "damn that worked pretty good". I dream of my old schedule with only two classes to prep and so much more time to think, to process and to research new ideas. Many teachers have it worse than me, but I am finding four preps the limit of what I can do and feel good about. I have yet to fumble too badly, I haven't forgotten what class I have next or forgotten to prep a class, but there have been a few close calls.

I have never taught in a public school and or truly been a slave to a standardized test, I count myself lucky on that score... This year my wife and I returned to teaching overseas and I deeply wanted to return to teaching IB. I loved the rigor and I loved the depth of understanding needed to receive the highest marks. Yet my experience this year with "IB Fever" has made me want to have nothing to do with the IB. I want to grab the wonderful resources of past IB exams and the syllabus and run away to craft my own course free of the score driven and uber-IB focus that my school has managed to cultivate.

A colleague conducted an informal poll asking other IB teachers "We do so much here, what do you think about getting rid of the extras and just teaching IB and IB prep?" He was referring to sports, mandatory after school co-curricular (such as robotics, math competition, ping pong or rock climbing), ski week and anything else not directly prescribed on an IB syllabi. The overwhelming response was "yeah, sounds great, lets do it."

It made my face go numb to hear it.