Let this be my manifesto. After 2 days of tossing and turning in my sleep...literally....I have decided to be the teacher I know I must be, not the teacher others might want me to be. I'll define my manifesto shortly, but first a justification of why I think I should be bold enough to go my own way.
I am comfortable making the decision to go a bit outside the norm because I firmly and absolutely and completely believe that no one in America has more of an understanding of teaching mathematics in today's high schools than I do. It is cocky to say, but my unique journey has given me bragging rights.
While most of my colleagues have taught at one or two schools, I have taught mathematics in 5 high schools across America. I have taught at high performing schools, low performing schools, and schools in the middle. I've taught every ethnicity in every setting. I have worked with hundreds of other teachers and dozens of administrators. I have learned from great teachers what to do, and I have learned from bad teachers what not to do. I have had unbelievable discussions with amazing minds about what REALLY works in the classroom. Not on paper. In the classroom.
In my egotistical, narcissistic, I love Jake, way, I believe that I know more about what is needed in today's mathematics classroom than anyone else in America. Go me!
Insert Manifesto Here:
We keep talking and talking and talking and talking about improving mathematics education but we have forgotten one of the reasons we are here. We are here, in part, to foster a love of mathematics. We are doing exactly the opposite. We are beating any love of mathematics out of our students. I read a survey years ago that I've never forgotten. It claimed that if you ask any 3rd grader their favorite subject, over 70% answer math. If you ask any 10th grader their LEAST favorite subject, over 70% answer math. Somewhere along the way we turn inquisitive minds in such a way that instead of enjoying learning new things, kids walk into math class knowing they will dislike every minute and struggle all along the way.
It starts with the crappy teaching of math in elementary schools. Survey after survey indicates that elementary teachers are so insecure about their own understanding of mathematics that they spend less time on math than other subjects. LESS time on math. By the time the kids get to me, many are feeling like they don't have enough tools to be successful. They don't. We are doing big damage in the elementary classroom. Better math teachers in the early grades are the fix. I believe the beginning of the way to reform mathematics education in our schools is to return all of our elementary school teachers to the classroom as students of Number Theory, Algebra and Geometry. Not to punish them. To empower them. I want them to become more confident in their knowledge of mathematics and with that confidence will exude confidence into their students. I believe that.
We need to find a way to bring back that love of mathematics that we all had when we first learned to add and subtract with M&M's.
I like what I do. I wonder if my colleagues like it too. In truth, I think I love it. I love standing in front of America, being on stage, and delivering information. (and yeah yeah yeah, I still stand and deliver. The largest educational study ever done indicates that Direct Instruction is the ONLY method of delivery with verifiable positive results.) My advising Master teacher was a nut and her kids learned in a great environment. That's my goal. I want my students to leave my math class not dreading their next math class. I want to put a small crack in their negative defenses. I want to start rebuilding
From this day forward I will try to create a generation of students who can use mathematics to solve problems. I'll treat my class as much more of a history class than a math class. We need to be taking our students on a magical and mysterious tour of the the real and imaginary world of mathematics. Instead with throw formulas and meaningless "problems". and worksheets.
We need to be laughing as we journey through the rigorous techniques developed by men who had nothing better to do than find a new method to do what few would care to do. We need to be exploring. Instead, we are pounding. Daily, we stand and pound a new concept, technique, method, formula, theorem at them... I am beginning to hate how we teach mathematics.