Posted in Teaching thoughts

Looking forward, looking back

I thought, “it is time to put my gratefulness for the opportunity to work at my current school in words”.

I have recently applied for another job at a “normal”/”traditional” school. It was not a difficult decision. There are a few reasons for making my way back into a traditional classroom, and there are other things that I have greatly appreciated working at my current school.

Reasons for moving on:

  1. I do dearly, dearly miss senior maths. I have been bored teaching the same topics that I am pretty confident with again and again. I miss waking up in the middle of the night and having brilliant thoughts on how to best teach a new concept. I miss the excitement and anticipation in bringing a new lesson idea to life. There are still so many senior maths topics that I want to explore. Yes, I am more or less familiar with the content, but not pedagogical approach (aka. how to best HELP STUDENTS TO LEARN the various concepts).
  2. I am not into integrating subjects. Right now, I find myself devoting most of my mental energy to force two subjects together when certain topics simply don’t fit. There are still so many maths teaching approaches I want to explore, such as a) identifying the best model for each concept (thanks to @brucemoody); b) Posing good and open questions that encourage discussion, conjectures and justifying (thanks to @marionsmall); c) mathematical modelling (thanks to @danmeyer); d) creating good assessments that assess what matters in maths education; e) forming and maintaining classroom culture that encourages risk-taking, making mistakes, sharing ideas/perspectives and thinking critically (thanks to @joboaler and @Robertahunter). And trying to force integration is not one of them. I would be better off not to waste more time and energy on something I don’t consider beneficial for learning. (note: I am not talking about doing a project using what students have learnt, but having integrated context driving the learning – how it is done, in what order, etc)
  3. I would like to explore the “mathematical modelling” approach to teaching maths tools which are so prevalent in senior maths – statistics, graphing, calculus. I realized that senior maths is more appropriate for developing this approach.
  4. I have enjoyed broadening my teaching practice and being involved in different aspects of school life. As the next step of my career is increasingly clear to me, it is time to focus solely on maths teaching. Perfecting my teaching approach in every maths topic is my next goal.
  5. I miss walls, my own classroom, my 30 students, doing things that make sense to me, and not having to shout or trying to come up with lesson structures that work for my learners.
  6. Not having to deal with the unfortunate “unfair” feelings that come from having too many options. Interestingly, not getting the desired options breeds more disappointment than not having options at all.

What I have enjoyed/appreciated/learnt at my current school:

  1. Having everything new, a lot of thinking and critical examination of traditional practice went on constantly. This environment pushed me to think critically about my own practice. Over time, what I value and deem as important in maths teaching became a lot clearer to me.
  2. My view of education has broadened greatly. I used to think my role as an educator was purely being a maths teacher. Now, I see the importance of teaching and mentoring students as whole persons, with needs to learn, not just maths, but life, values and character.  https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/04/24/a-mindset-shift-to-continue-supporting-the-most-frustrating-kids/
  3. Good education not only involves gaining subject knowledge but also learning good habits, and being community-minded – for students to realize that education is not just for themselves but for the good of the community. Even now, students can start to contribute and make a difference. Schools really should make room and time for students to contribute to society in some ways. At my current school, my highlight was the “NICU knitting project” where students learnt a new skill (i.e. knitting) and use the skill to produce something that would bless others. Because of the hard work of the teachers, students also saw the impact of their work on others.
  4. Learning and practising making learning visible. I learnt to create rubrics to break down the steps of progress.
  5. I loved the freedom in my maths puzzle flight time, where I could focus on helping students to develop their ability to think like mathematicians, and not having to worry about content coverage. The students have developed more understanding into mathematician’s work and thinking process. This flight time grew me heaps in teaching effective communication in maths.
  6. I am greatly grateful to have met, known and closely work with amazing teachers whom I have learnt heaps from. They are such hard-working and amazing people. I have enjoyed watching their hearts for students, even for the most difficult and their quickness and proactivity in meeting others’ needs.
  7. This was an unexpected benefit – I have expanded my hobby as a result of teaching other subjects, specifically watercolour painting, calligraphy and graphic design.
  8. I have gained more appreciation for giving students experiences of applying their learning to show them its usefulness. I won’t forget watching a student go “wow, there are so much maths in business! If I don’t know the maths, I am destined to be a bad business person”.

With one more term to go, I want to make the most out of the remaining time. I will try to hold onto the blessings, enjoy the people – students and colleagues. Oh, how I will so miss the dear students and colleagues I love and enjoy being with so much!!

 

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Author:

Sinner saved by Christ, wife to the most amazing husband, middle - high school maths teacher, learning to love God and others.

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