Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Day 156: My Mom Is Wise

The enthusiasm for the Math 8 projects has waned.  Out of every group to show excitement and interest in them yesterday, about half of those did so today.

But that's cool, bro!

The groups who were working, were doing a great job, asking great questions and having conversations about the practical sizes for classrooms and hallways.  I brought a tape measure and we looked at exactly how big certain rooms would be.

FYI: My classroom is approximately 700 square feet.

In between answering student questions and helping to make size estimates, I began organizing the kinds of projects that I would like to do next year.  There are some amazing resources out there and I'm kicking myself for not utilizing them earlier.

On Twitter this morning, a fellow math teacher was bemoaning the fact that now, near the end of the year, she feels as though she didn't accomplish any of the goals that she set for herself.  These goals were things like changing how the class is run, the kinds of activities, grading systems, etc.

I, too, have a VERY long list of things that I wanted to do this year and simply didn't.  These include moving over to Standards Based Grading, using interactive notebooks, becoming MUCH more project based, and so on.

I could be angry at myself for this failure, but it does help me to solidify what I want to do over the summer.  I'm starting to make a To-Do list in my head and will be moving it to paper very shortly.

What I told the educator on Twitter was that it's almost impossible to work on your form when you're struggling to keep from drowning.
I have had years when I felt as though I was constantly drowning.  This year hasn't really been one of those, but it hasn't been easy either.  I don't feel as though the water is over my head, but it's certainly at my face.

Sometimes, you have to focus your energy on not drowning and that's alright.  A conversation that I had with my mother a few months ago keeps resurfacing in my mind.  She told me that when you are unable to achieve your goals, when you can't succeed, sometimes you have to redefine what success looks like.

For some people, being successful might mean being able to buy a second Gulfstream to take them to their third home in the Bahamas.

For others, being able to put food on the table this week is a great accomplishment.

At the start of this year, my vision of success included students throwing off the fetters of an educational system that forces them into specific molds.  When test time came, they would link arms in front of the school wearing signs that said "I am more than my score!"

Math anxiety would be at zero and they would come to my class, eager to explore mathematics that pushes their boundaries.

Also, I would get to ride to school on a unicorn that farts rainbows and poops cotton candy.
It's science! You can't argue with science.

All of those goals (with the exception of the last) are attainable, but it will take MUCH more time and effort on my part.  I don't want my students to expect instant results and it's unrealistic for me to expect the same.  The shift that I'm making in my teaching is nothing short of monumental.  There are going to be backslides and stagnancy.

So I redefine what success looks like.

Success looks like students who are more confident in math today than they were yesterday.  Success looks like students who feel comfortable and safe in my room.

It looks like me being a better teacher this year than I was last year.

No, this year hasn't been me doing my impersonation of Michael Phelps.  But neither have I drowned.

And I'm not getting out of the pool.


  1. Great job your mom's advice.

  2. I would like to make a thoughtful, insightful response to your post, but I am stuck on the fact that your classroom is almost a big as my condo.

    1. To give you a basic idea, the typical classroom in my school is closer to 1200

  3. Your Mom IS wise and you should add to your achievements this year that you are growing in wisdom, too! I am grateful for teachers like you. As a school nurse I understand your drowning metaphor. Sometimes you need a straw to survive and nothing else is going to get done. It is reality.


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