is it Saturday yet?

Saturday is my math talk; last night I finished the slides and wrote up a worksheet. Things look pretty good – tonight I plan to do a trial runthrough and make some changes to the worksheet. (I’ll post all this stuff when it’s done for posterity’s sake…) At this point, I’ve spent probably 8 hours preparing for my 1.5 hour talk (which includes the students working on the worksheet) and I expect that’ll rise to 10 hours of preparation by the time this is over. How do you teachers do it? This is crazy. I’m really looking forward to having my evenings back…(not that it isn’t kinda fun preparing, but it’s getting a little old)

Making some progress on my annoying bug at work. No longer freaked out about teeth. The week is looking up!

A long look at the people who saw the subprime mortgage crisis coming, written by Michael Lewis.

Five Physics Lessons for Obama – good stuff in here. I think nuclear power is a pretty good way to go, assuming it’s managed well.

11 thoughts on “is it Saturday yet?”

  1. Strangely enough, I have a friend who was just saying (with no mention of this from me) that he has been wanting to learn more about graph theory. So I’ll point him here when you post your stuff! 🙂

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  2. In this respect, teaching is a lot like coding. Your first COMP 210 assignment probably took something like an hour per line of correct code generated, because you had to get used to organizing your ideas in that way. But once you’re used to that discipline, you can translate your thoughts into objects and functions almost instantaneously. My first year of solo teaching, I probably did spend four or five hours thinking through forty minutes of instruction. By now, though, if I know where I’m trying to go, I can pretty quickly fill in how to get there, with just a little bit of experimentation and creativity for interesting problems. Lots of the little issues — pacing, engagement, assessment, reteaching — are by now fairly automatic aspects of my way of thinking. I also have whole chunks of instruction in which I can invest very little planning, either because I have a system for them and do them the same way every day/week/project, or because I did them in a way that proved effective at some other time and I can reuse some or all of it. I think the thing most people don’t realize about teaching is the existence of exactly this skill area, which one coach at our school calls Pedagogical Content Knowledge. I know a lot about how to teach English well, separate from my knowledge of how to read and write well and how to teach children generally. Bet that’s more than you wanted to know. (:

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    1. Sadly, I’m not quite there yet. Not that I won’t get there, but I feel obligated to inject a disclaimer for the elementary grades, or maybe even just the primary grades… I think it takes longer to develop Pedagogical Content Knowledge when 1) you’re responsible for ALL content areas, not just one, and therefore 2) you don’t get to repeat/practice your lesson or versions of your lesson several times a day, instead having to develop completely different lessons and routines for all those time slots. Thus, four years into it and I’m only now settling on the best structures for teaching reading, and this is the first year that I’ve had the freedom to teach math every day (crazy, I know), so I feel like my routines there have a lot of room for improvement (even though teaching math is definitely my strength). So here is what I have to say (not that I haven’t said it before): teaching IS hard, and you have to know so many things (as L enumerated) to do it well. Thus, it is very deceptive that so many teacher education programs make becoming a teacher so easy. I think this somewhat explains the high turnover rate within the first 3-5 years; you don’t REALLY know what you’re getting into, and it takes at least that many years to start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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      1. I think you’re completely right, both about the misconception and the turnover. (Also about how it’s worse for primary teachers — though I would add, I’m in my sixth year of teaching, and I am just getting to where I feel very confident about let’s say 50% of what I do.) I think a lot about what we could do to make the transition more realistic, and so far my only idea is that there ought to be a lengthy full-time apprenticeship — two years, maybe — during which you gradually transition to running your own classroom. The sticky bit is that many, many veteran teachers aren’t using particularly effective practices and so it’d be counterproductive to learn from and modify their approaches.

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      2. P.S. I didn’t mean to make it sound like planning isn’t still a huge issue for me; it’s just that I spend maybe three hours on weekends plus 90 minutes per day for results that are maybe 80% of the way to where I want to be, rather than four hours per day for 40% of my vision like my first year.

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      3. Okay, not to turn this journal into my personal life inventory, but I also thought of one more thing: The further along I’ve gotten in my career, the less time and effort proportionally I’ve invested in my plans for the class as a whole, versus my work with individual students. My bells and whistles nowadays run more along the lines of a special worksheet geared toward just one student while the rest of the class does something else, or a time when I get everybody working on one thing so I can pull five kids to do something else.

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  3. I read the article on Portfolio.com — do you read that periodical regularly, or did you happen across it? The essay is… enlightening.

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  4. Michael Lewis was on Colbert Report last night. That was one of the (many) times that I really didn’t like Colbert’s “interview” style. I really wanted to hear what Lewis had to say but, of course, Colbert needed to make sure that nothing of substance came of the conversation. Sigh. I hope he lands on Charlie Rose soon. BTW, if you want to see another perspective, this interview on Charlie Rose last week was fascinating. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9498

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