Like you, I have a zillion half-baked thoughts and ideas going on in my head. Stuff that I’m reflecting on, stuff that I find interesting, perplexing, important, and would love to talk about.
One of the things that keeps my thoughts from showing up here is a silly yet persistent notion that whatever I post needs to be Complete and Polished. Insightful. Worthy. Intelligent. Helpful. Because that’s how Everybody Else’s blogs look to me.
But if I believe (as I do) that the primary purpose of this blog is for my learning and growth, then it stands to reason that it is completely acceptable for me to share thoughts that are still rough, still in need of additional reflection, and definitely in need of feedback (hint hint). Writing helps me focus and gain some clarity, and lack of some imagined perfection or level of “doneness” should not prevent me from posting. Right?
With that said, here’s a taste of what’s rattling around in my mind of late:
Calculating is not mathematics.
Spelling is not writing.
Decoding is not reading.
Memorizing is not learning.
So what is?
Noticing, wondering, questioning, exploring, making sense of, using, testing, revising, expressing, connecting, analyzing, creating….
When a classroom or school or societal culture values performance and test scores, then teaching and learning evolve around that which that can be easily tested and graded. Facts and rehearsed processes. Right and Wrong answers. Sort to accelerate and remediate. Rewards and punishments, smart and…below grade level.
The development and questioning of ideas is messier, less quantifiable, harder to teach, harder to nail down. It’s much more difficult to describe a students growth over time than it is to rank them. More challenging (and rewarding!) to work with a student’s competencies and current understanding than to fault them for their deficits and errors. A great shift in values needs to take place; teachers and students will spend their time and efforts differently. What does this look like? What’s my role? How much time will this take? Yikes, what about the risks?!
Teaching is complex. Learning is complex. Learning about teaching is complexly complex. Formal and informal professional development tends to focus on examining, questioning, and improving what teachers and students do and say in the classroom. Planning and launching lessons, selecting worthwhile tasks and activities, anticipating student responses, questioning strategies, orchestrating discussions, making connections, closing the lesson….perplexity, curiousity, intellectual need, genuine engagement….active learning culture, growth mindsets, metacognition…. ALL REALLY REALLY GREAT and REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT and REALLY REALLY NECESSARY.
Yet the Student Learning Experience encompasses more than “The Lesson”. What about homework? What about assessment? Grades? What about __________? Without examining and questioning and improving ALL components, without implementing changes simultaneously, progressive efforts become at best undermined and at worst derailed and rejected. What’s the point (asks a student) to make sense of these ideas or persevere on this task, if they only thing I will be tested on for a grade (the only thing that matters) will be whether or not I can calculate the right answer? Why should I be curious? Why bother making connections? Explain my reasoning? Transfer ideas? Develop relational understanding? Just tell me the trick/hack/rule. That’s all I need to survive.
That’s what my dad did. That’s what my grandma did. That’s all math is.