I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts from the past week in Minneapolis and I have found that one of the best ways for me to do this is to sit and type them out. I am thinking that I may partition these reflections into three or four parts over the next day or two so that the ideas I am wrestling with will feel more bite-sized to me. Lil’ Dardy just had a terrible dental appt this morning so I am home with her all day. This will give me some writing time as she just naps away her pain and discomfort.
First, I want to concentrate on a small roundtable discussion section that I had proposed. I called it Building our own MTBoS at Home. A little background helps. I work in a small independent, day and boarding, PK – PG, co-ed school. I have five full-time colleagues in my department in our high school. Our other campus is three miles away and that is where my two children attend school. There are few other independent schools in my area and I have not found a way to connect logically with the public schools in my region. When I proposed this session I was hoping to crowd source some wisdom. I LOVe the online community I have tapped into and I suspect that if you are reading this that you do too. I also know that as valuable as you all are as an online resource, it is even better when I can sit down face-to-face to share ideas and energy. That is one of the beauties of the Twittermathcamp (TMC) experience. So, I was hoping to gather some ideas about how to build outreach so that we can find some of the same sustenance that comes from TMC more regularly in our home areas.
One of the GREAT problems posed by attending TMC is that every session slot has multiple promising events occurring. I was happy to have five energetic folks come to my session. I know that Sam Shah (@samjshah) and Tina Cardone (@crstn85) had a session with a similar theme happening the next day. I look forward to picking their brains to see what came out of their session. A couple of the folks in my room where newbies to the TMC experience and it was great to hear what was on their mind. Our speaker at the Desmos pre-conference challenged us to think of evangelist as part of our job title, so that was on my mind all weekend. As we chatted in my session this idea kept coming up. Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs) spoke eloquently about his journey building community in Nevada. The phrase that came to my mind listening to him was ‘death by a thousand paper cuts.’ He spoke of sending out emails with links to administrators and other teachers every Monday. Simple, short links with a friendly message along the lines of ‘I saw this in my feed and thought it might be helpful.’ Every Monday – this is the part that really resonated with me. Be persistent, be consistent, be short and to the point. There is a local group that runs a math competition in the spring here – usually during our spring break, unfortunately – and I want to reach out to them. I want to find the email address of math teachers at my local schools. My goal this year is to build a couple of email group with addresses of these folks and reach out and share on a regular basis. Currently, I have been in the habit of emailing (or tweeting) links to colleagues – both those in my building and my online community – whenever I see something interesting. I think that I am going to adopt Glenn’s idea and make it sort of a weekly roundup. Perhaps I will use this space as the forum for my online team to share out ideas I have gathered or developed in addition to sharing out my classroom experiences. The other big idea I took away from Glenn was that he arranged a sort of happy hour meeting with some teachers in his area and, through the help of some grant money was able to provide some appetizers. He said that he also shared out some ideas regarding improving personal efficiency through some nice applications in addition to discussing class ideas. So he summarized by saying that he was able to provide a space that age each teacher three things to takeaway – (1) Some free food; (2) Something to improve their own personal life; and (3) Something to improve their own classroom.
I am pretty confident that I have a model to emulate and I hope to be able to start small with a meeting of local math teachers so that we can start building a support group for each other here in NE PA.
I want to thank all of those who came and I am pretty sure that I got all the names correct. I apologize if I missed someone in my scattered notes or if I got your name wrong. In the room was Kathryn Ramberg (@KathrynRamberg), Chris Robinson (@Isomorphic2CRob), Stephen Weimar (@sweimar), and Mary Langmyer(@mlangmyer)
Please reach out to any of these folks to improve your own community or to continue this conversation of how to enrich our local spaces the way we have enriched the online community that continues to grow. As always, also feel free to poke at me through the twitters where you can find me @mrdardy
Our school year ends early, we graduate the day before Memorial Day here. So, I have had some time to unwind AND to look ahead to next year. I’ve been thinking about my new Discrete Math text, problem sets for my AP Calculus BC class (thanks to inspiration from Lisa Winer (@lisaqt314)), and my upcoming trip to TMC where I will be hosting a brief session to discuss how to develop communities similar to our MTBoS back at home.
Recently, I received not one, not two, but THREE pieces of good news that has happily distracted me a bit from thinking about the fall.
Last summer I led a session at the Pennsylvania Teachers of Mathematics summer conference. I gave it the dramatic title Escaping the Tyranny of the Textbook and it is essentially my love note to the MTBoS community. The goal of the presentation was to have any participants in the session leave the room feeling empowered to write their own curriculum or to learn better how to crowdsource curriculum that is tailored for their classrooms. I was pretty happy with it but I know it needs to be punched up. What better motivation to improve something than to put yourself in a public position where you need to be up in front of people all over again? So, I sent proposals to two upcoming conferences and I learned in the past few weeks that I was accepted to both of them! I will be presenting at the fall conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools in October and I will be presenting at ECET2NJPA in September. I am flattered that my proposal was approved by each of these conferences and I am excited to meet some new folks to expand my circle of colleagues even more.
Our school started a STEM initiative shortly after I arrived here in 2010. The first director of the program has decided to step down in large part due to other responsibilities that she has since taken on. She has put the program on firm footing and when he school announced this opening they committed to having a director and two associate directors. I received the great news last week that I will be one of the associate directors of the program. All of our freshman take a STEM class that was designed by the program director and some of our students. They created some lovely iBooks that are still works in progress and that I feel a kinship to since I created our text for Geometry in a similar fashion. We have been hosting guest speakers, alumni, panels of regional experts to discuss items of interest. It’s an exciting program and I am looking forward to being part of the team for the next year. If any of you have advice regarding possible directions for STEM programming, please share here in the comments or over at twitter where I am found @mrdardy
I think about this all the time as a dad – my lil ones are a 12 year old boy and a 6 year old girl – and I often criticize myself for falling short. I think about this all the time as a teacher and as a colleague. Again, I often criticize myself for falling short. Don’t get me wrong, I think I am doing the right thing much of the time, I just wish it were easier – or more manageable – to do the right thing all the time. Our school Reverend delivered a chapel today that made me really dwell on this and I remember an important quote that I keep on my bulletin board. It is a quote that the wonderful Meg Craig (@mathymeg07) shortened for a poster in my room. I want to share the quote to help me stay focused and, hopefully, to help anyone else reading this stay focused as well.
Genuine enquiry is an important state for students to recognize and internalize as socially valid. Consequently it is an important state for teachers to enact. But it is difficult to enquire genuinely about the answer to problems or tasks which have well-known answers and have been used every year. However, it is possible to be genuinely interested in how students are thinking, in what they are attending to, in what they are stressing (and consequently ignoring). Thus it is almost always possible to ask genuine questions of students, to engage with them, and to display intelligent directed enquiry. For if students are never in the presence of genuine enquiry, but always in the presence of experts who know all the answers, then students are likely to form the impression that there is an enormous amount to know, and that experts already know it all, when what society wants (or claims to want) is that each individual learn to enquire, weigh up, to analyse, to conjecture, and to draw and justify conclusions.
Source on the web here
This morning I had the pleasure of presenting a session at the summer conference for the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I know a few people in the organization and in a twitter conversation with Bob Lochel (@bobloch) I was encouraged to submit a speaker proposal. I wrote up a proposal for a session called Escaping the Tyranny of the Textbook. As my loyal readers know I spent the summer of 2014 writing a Geometry text for use at our school (you can find the 2nd Edition here) and I wanted to talk about the relative ease (compared to 10 or even 5 years ago) of putting together your own curriculum. I was not there to advise that people write their own books, just to point out the wealth of resources available on the web and through twitter. I was fortunate enough to have my proposal accepted and I was originally slotted to lead a small roundtable conversation for about 30 minutes. Well, about a week ago Bob reached out and asked if I was willing/able to move to a 50 minute time slot. I agreed but figured that this required a bit more advance planning on my part. I sent out a call for help and received numerous helpful tweets and I put together this Power Point slide show. I had a group of about twenty people in the room and we had a lovely conversation. People asked some great questions, they seemed to appreciate the resources I organized with the help of the MTBoS tribe, and I have already had folks reach out to me via email. The common theme that emerged was a desire on the part of the participants to have support in navigating the world of resources available. A few people told tales of schools giving them technology tools but no PD support to help them use those tools. It is clear from my experiences, and from the voices in this room, that this is a long process. Finding trustworthy connections both in your building and out in the wide world, takes time, energy, and support. I positioned myself as a cheerleader for MTBoS and for collaboration – both virtual and face to face. I am optimistic that I will strike up a correspondence with some of the folks in the room this morning and that some of them will take the jump this year to reaching out of their classroom and tapping in to the world of resources available to them.
I’ve been teaching for a long time now. It makes me feel old when I realize I am in my 27th year in the classroom now. I joke with my students that I have been teaching longer than any of them have been alive. When I started teaching the predominant models of professional development were the inservice days at school where the school administrators decided how we needed to grow, the weekend workshops or summer workshops that I would scramble to find funding for, or the one or two day workshops that would cause me to miss school. It’s a different world now. I know I’m preaching to the choir if you are even reading this but this world of twitter, of blogs (both writing them AND reading them), of online simulcast workshops, or improv EdCamps, the list goes on. In this day in teaching I am fully convinced that if you want feedback and you want connections to help you think about your craft and to expand your toolbox – if you really want it – there is an ocean of resources at your fingertips. Literally (since I’m typing this right now!) at your fingertips. Not all of it fits everyone. I know that I am still wrestling with the timing and pace of my twitter feed, but I think I’m getting better at it and I KNOW I’m growing as a result of it. I spent a long time reading blogs, then commenting on blogs before I felt confident enough to launch my own. I have two kids at home so I know how tight time can be, but I also know that the past two Saturdays (that I blogged about separately here and here ) where I spent a combined 16 hours out of the house were worth the time and effort. Luckily Mrs. Dardy is kind and flexible and supportive of this pursuit.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this, about how different my life as a teacher is in the past few years. I’ve been in regular communication with one of my former colleagues, Gayle Allen. Gayle (@GAllenTC) hired me seven years ago when my family left Florida and we landed in New jersey for a while. Gayle is a remarkable, energetic thinker and was a great boss. She and I have been engaged in a long conversation about professional growth and one of the results of this conversation is an article that got posted today over at a website called Getting Smart. I know that I am not unique in this journey, but I also know that there are still many of our colleagues who have not taken this plunge. Some because they are not interested in doing so, some because they don’t know where to start. I’m pleased to be able to give shout outs of thanks to Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) and to Sam Shah (@samjshah) through that article and I’m pleased to be connected again (even if we are nearly 3000 miles from each other) with Gayle.
This summer will see a trip to OK to take part in TwitterMathCamp. This would not have happened if Tina Cardone (@crstn85) had not reached out to me and asked me to join in on the fun. This summer will see me finish an in-house Geometry text for our students. This project would never have happened without the encouragement and advice of Jennifer Silverman (@jensilvermath). This summer will see me work on plans to help a brand new teacher in our high school take the leap from teaching Algebra I in the middle school to teaching Honors Precalculus for the first time. All of these experiences will help me grow as a professional. 27 years at it now and I feel like I still have an awful lot to learn. I hope to be smarter this time next week about this craft than I am right now.
Two Saturdays in a row now have been spent with some pretty amazing educators. Yesterday I was one of the attendees at EdCamp NEPA. One of the organizers, Mike Soskil (@msoskil) is someone I ran across on twitter some time ago. We had made plans to meet and lunch together at a tech conference but I had a minor car accident that morning so our lunch never happened. I finally met him yesterday and he was as terrific in person as he is online. He was full of energy and enthusiasm and it spread through the room. The vast majority of the folks there were first time EdCampers. I was a second timer so I felt like an old pro in this group. I’m guessing most of you reading this are familiar with the EdCamp model. You arrive to face a big blank session board and write up anything you want to talk about or listen to and people vote with their feet. Mike asked me to consider running a geogebra session and it did not take much to talk me into doing it. So I ran a session I called Visualizing Mathematics – Exploring with GeoGebra and Desmos. I showed off the work my students did in exploring the average daily temperatures in Gainesville, FL on desmos and we got into a great conversation about the power of this kind of visualization. I shared the story that all of my students missed some of the data in the same way and I got to make my standing joke about how long summer lasts in FL. One of my students asked if we would be more accurate with a city farther from the equator. Another student suggested that being closer to the equator would result in more symmetry. A conversation like this would never have happened without this visual support. I also showed off a geogebra file I created to model Taylor Series expansion as well as one of the files that the great jennifer Silverman (@jensilvermath) shared last week at our workshop. This one was called Quadratic Palooza. I had a small group in my room but they were engaged and asked me some great questions. We had a lively conversation about the power of this kind of visualization and how it enables students to ponder and ask questions that they likely would not have thought of before.
I also sat in on a couple of great sessions. The last one of the day was called Love It / Hate It. The moderator would post a statement about some school related policy/issue and we were to move to parts of the room based on whether we loved it/were on the fence / or hated it. We were to discuss with our group to construct an argument to have with our colleagues in the room.
Some of the sessions had participants taking notes together on google docs and here is the link to the schedule page
At a time of year when I am usually dragging (we have 10 class days left) I find my self with my batteries feeling recharged. Instead of feeling a bit sluggish, I am feeling perky and peppy, Love it.
So, one of the benefits of creating a virtual presence has been that I have all sorts of new friends that I have never met. I look forward to thoughtful exchanges on my blog and on theirs, I chime in every once in a while to the torrent of information that is twitter and I am happy that I’ll be able to meet a bunch of these folks at twittermathcamp 2014 in OK this summer. However, another opportunity to actually meet some of the army of talented math folks on the internet has reared its head. The amazing Jen Silverman (@jensilvermath on twitter and at http://www.jensilvermath.com on the web) will be traveling to my school in Kingston, PA to host a one day Geogebra workshop on Saturday, May 3. Here are some reasons you should think about attending:
- Jen does amazing work on GeoGebra, she is sort of a GeoGebra Jedi Master. See this page for evidence.
- We are hoping to have a manageable crowd of about 12 – 15 folks here. Enough to share ideas but not enough to get in the way of some direct instruction when you need it.
- I’m working on taking care of lunch for everyone – so that is a definite plus.
- Oh yeah – it’s free!!!
Jen created a lovely flier for this event. If I was smarter about managing my blog I would display it below, but you can click the link to see the document.
I hope that many – if not all – of my colleagues from our middle school and high school can join us and I am reaching out to anyone within a reasonable drive of NE PA to come and join us for a day of learning and sharing.
Our school had a day off on Friday (and a day off today as well) for a long fall weekend. We were asked by the powers that be to use Friday for professional development. I chose to drive a couple of hours in the morning to go visit another school. When I did my last job search in the early months of 2010 there were a number of schools that caught my eye and the school I visited on Friday was one of them. The chair there was remarkably kind and helpful in setting up a too short visit that morning. Since I had kid pick up duty that day AND we had agreed to house sit for some friends to look after their dog AND my boy had an ice skating birthday party to go to (there is a theme here about how life unfolds in the dardy household) I did not have quite the leisure I had hoped for. I arrived at 8:30 ish for a warm, quick chat with my host, I saw a Geometry class, then I saw a Precalculus class, then I saw an AP Stats class. A nice follow up chat and lunch with the chair, then I was off to home.
I always enjoy seeing classes – it is a part of my job as a chair that unfortunately gets buried under other tasks. It is fun to pick up tricks from other teachers. In this case, the geometry teacher had a lovely way to highlight parts of the parallel line with transversals problems that they were working with that morning. She had spools of different color tape that looked like athletic trainer tape. She pulled off two of one color to highlight which lines in the diagram were parallel to each other and a different color for the transversal. It was SO COOL to see this way of making the relevant information in the diagram just pop out to the kids. It was also fun to see her improvise. The kids were checking their work from the night before and were having disagreements about measures they had taken. Out the window went the lesson plan for the day and out came a class set of protractors so that they could practice with their measuring skills. The teacher confided in me that some of her attitude about this was strongly influenced by her husband who is a woodworker. In the AP Stats class I was privileged to watch someone who was a real, honest to goodness statistician before entering the classroom. As a stats novice myself, it was great to chat with her beforehand and to watch her in action. I think that she convinced me to try an activity that has been previously pretty intimidating to me. The precalc class was fun to watch as well as the kids were hanging in there working through some complex polynomial graphing ideas.
I know that I have a tendency to look at my world and see the potential for excellence in the people around me. I know that I focus at times on what is not quite right instead of celebrating what is right. A visit like this worked wonders for me on a number of fronts.
1. It’s always great to reach out to more people to bounce ideas off of
2. It’s fun to watch kids at work – especially when I have no preconceived notions of who they are or what they SHOULD be doing
3. It’s rewarding to talk to others who are working through some of the very same struggles. How do we accurately place test kids who are new to a school? How do we balance ambitions for kids with their abilities and previous track record of achievement? How do we find TIME in the school day/week/year for meaningful problem-solving while still serving an ever expanding curriculum? The chair I met with is thoughtful, experienced, and intelligent. The fact that she is struggling with these questions as well makes me feel better.
I’m proud of my school, our students, and my colleagues. I believe that we can all be better than we are but I want to try and focus on what we’re doing right and I think that this experience on Friday can help me with that.