Saturday, November 25, 2017

An Untraditional Route for a Veteran Math Teacher--What's Next?

Every year I think I'm going to slow things down and start saying "no." And every year, I think I take on more.

I see the parallel in my son's life, a sophomore in college. Each time he thinks he can't handle anymore, someone comes to him with an amazing opportunity, and he can't say no. The apple doesn't fall far, I guess.

I have been teaching high school mathematics for 28 years now. No year is like the last, so in that respect, nothing is ever boring. However, in the last few years, I have been feeling "what else?" Don't get me wrong...I love my job and love how Twitter and MTBoS have changed my teaching exponentially, as my department has grown from 10 people in the classrooms next door to me to thousands (tens of thousands?) globally. But, 28 years is a long time to be in the same career...from what I hear, most people change jobs 7 times...and though I changed schools once, I've been teaching some of the same topics every year, 3 or 4 times a year, for 28 years (completing the square, anyone??)


Six years ago, I started a Mu Alpha Theta chapter in my school, and that kept the fire in my soul, in addition to teaching. I love it, and that was really just what I needed to keep things the same yet different. It gave me a new outlook each day, something more to look forward to. Again, I look forward to teaching my students each day, but I can't help the feeling I had that something was missing. Advising this amazing group was the antidote.

Honors Problem-Solving Seminar

Then, three years ago, I began teaching the elective Honors Problem-Solving Seminar. It was just something different and new, and what I LOVE about it is that we can stop the curriculum and talk about a cool problem or video that just came out (I'm biased and love TED-Ed riddles). This never happens in math. I envied history teachers for years, as they could talk about current events, and I know someone out there can say we can relate a math problem to the real-world and talk about current events, but for me at least, it does not come up organically. It comes up organically every day in problem-solving because I'm not constantly focusing on finishing a curriculum to ensure that next year's teacher finishes the curriculum to ensure that students pass their BC Calculus class the year after, etc. Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

This year, Honors Problem-Solving Seminar is going strong. The students are all motivated, and best of all, they are funny. They thrive on humor and get excited when I give them just about any problem. Their final exam is to make a Numberphile or Vi Hart type video on any of the following topics:

TED-Ed Class

Next semester, rather than teach a second section of this class, I will be teaching a TED-Ed class. Instead of holding a traditional TED-Ed club after school (because I advise Mu Alpha Theta and JSU already), we will be having it as a class. This is new for me and I'm both frightened and excited. But I feel like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing next. 

I love the quote: Do something every day that scares you. Yep, that's me! 🙋🏻

I am a mathematics teacher and truly hate public speaking. But I'm a TED-ED Innovative Educator (the only math teacher, I believe), and I have learned how to cultivate the best in my students. So while I do not like to speak publicly, I will show how, through the amazing TED-Ed modules, to give students a "voice with choice"--in other words, what are they passionate about? What is their idea worth spreading?

What is next up for me? I'm proposing that we host a local TEDx event, something I do not know much about. However, there are so many people out there who want to help and have helped tremendously. So in 5 months, we may actually have our students, at all grade levels (we have TED-Ed clubs starting in the Middle and Lower schools), do their very own TED talk in our brand new 180-seat theatre. This is so exciting to me! 

Someone asked me when they heard about it, are YOU giving a TED talk? No, that's not the point. At least not now. This is and always has been about opportunities to showcase our students, not ourselves. 

Our students have so much to say. Much of it could be bottled up and much of it students don't even know how to tap into. But now they will have their own voices and a platform. 

Maybe this is my calling? Well, math teaching was and is my calling...but it's time for something else. And what I love is that I'm not giving up my math teaching...I'm adding to it, in a way that is global and that allows for students to grow. And maybe, just maybe, a student will talk about their love of math at our TEDx event. And then my two worlds will collide.

What's next for you? 

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