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  • Katrien Vance

    July 7, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Long story coming.  I began my teaching career as an English teacher and am now at a school where I teach English, history, music, and math.  I teach Algebra because I am comfortable doing so–and at my tiny school, when they learn you can do it, you end up doing it!  (I’ve made them promise that they will never make me teach art.)  The confession is this:  for many, many years, math was the subject I did ZERO planning for.  I just opened the book to the next page.  Luckily, I could usually come up with an interesting delivery and multiple ways of thinking about a concept on the fly.  Sure, my favorite lessons were the ones that I planned out, but I did not have time to do that every day for English AND history AND math — not to mention music!  Last summer, I redesigned my American history curriculum to make it more inquiry-based.  It’s a bit like what you guys have done for math.  Instead of moving chronologically, I started with questions (problem-solving) and then went back and taught what kids needed to know in order to answer those questions.  It was exhausting and brand new, and I was terrified about “covering” the curriculum thoroughly.  But what I know we did was think, ask questions, explore, examine, research, ask more questions–and while the kids might not know the date of the Stamp Act as well as previous classes might have (or might not have!), they had some agency in determining what was interesting to them, and they discovered how to spot incomplete narratives in American history and dig for the whole story.  And nobody, and I mean nobody, thinks history is boring in my class.  So this summer, it’s math’s turn.  My colleague Maggie and I are joining forces to shake up our math teaching, from the structure of the whole curriculum to the structure of the daily lesson.  It’s exciting, and it’s SO MUCH MORE PLANNING than I have ever done for math!  I’ve been working on this all June, and I have one unit mapped out.  I think it’s going to be WONDERFUL, and I just want to apologize to the world that I thought math could be taught without planning before. My school has always been a hands-on, discovery-based school, using cooperative groups and a policy of no grades to help students love learning.  So I do believe that math has been okay thus far.  But from this point on, we are going to be on fire.  I can’t wait.  Thank you for helping me make my students love math–in advance.  I’m that confident.