It’s Summer Vacation and I Can’t Shut Off my Teacher Brain…

teaching and summer

This past year of teaching was revolutionary for me. After years of reading articles, books, and receiving tiny amounts of professional development that may or may not have made an impact on my brain, I evolved. No, seriously. I went from surviving the changes perpetually implemented by the powers that be to balancing those while making hundreds of my own. Granted some were successful and others, not so much…but I digress.

It seems that all of the pieces of advice that were dribbling into my brain finally congealed. Yes, I now have the big picture of what math instruction should look like, until additional research convinces me to change everything again.

I started this past year with one crazy goal. My goal was to make all of my lessons  fantastic experiences for both the students and myself. You know the ones I am talking about teachers. I am referring to class periods where you look around the room and every single student is engaged and no one looks bored. These kinds of lessons provide uninterrupted time frames where no one is staring at the clock; understanding is elevated, amazing questions and inquiry is running amok, and where students actually feel disappointment when the bell has rung. I wanted (ok, still do) every lesson to be like that.

After reading Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and taking two of her courses this summer, it fully hit me that an engaging lesson is the tip of the iceberg. I suppose I knew this already, but my understanding became deeper. Math instruction is not only about the individual lessons, just as math itself is not about the individual concepts. What my job is really about, is to help students to see math as a fluid subject. Students need to seek out patterns and find the connections so that one lesson (as engaging as it is) does not halt the learning of a concept after the bell has rung. Instead, each lesson should enhance previous learning and build stronger conceptual knowledge and deeper understanding among the connectivity of mathematical concepts.

So, now what? I need to find a way to make that connectedness a focus this year. Now that I see the picture this clearly, I have to find a way to structure my lessons to match. Dan Meyer, Andrew Stadel, Robert Kaplinsky, Jo Boaler, I look to you for inspiration and resources. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have lots of resources already, but I want more.

The problem is I am supposed to be on vacation.  Is it wrong to spend an entire summer vacation fine tuning my professionalism? It is not that I haven’t done summer work before, but so far, every free day I have had; has been filled up with my math passion. As I read, research, and participate in more conversations about math, I find myself unable to slow down. My thirst for additional math and educational knowledge cannot be quenched!

For now, I am going to embrace the passion and curiosity I have for my own profession. Let’s be honest, the moment I really feel like I have a handle on my profession is likely the moment that I don’t belong in it any longer.

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6 thoughts on “It’s Summer Vacation and I Can’t Shut Off my Teacher Brain…

  1. Great post! I recently reread Mathematical Mindsets and was also inspired to change the way I approach teaching. Next year I want to focus more on developing conceptual knowledge and building understanding. I just started reading “Concept-Based Mathematics” which is helping to support this shift as well. Have you found any other good resources to guide your thinking?

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    1. I am toying with the idea of buying Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphries. She and Jo Boaler also co-wrote a book about middle school instruction, which I would love to buy too. There is only so much I can afford. There should be a professional lending library for us, don’t you think?

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      1. That WOULD be great! I have Making Number Talks Matter but haven’t started reading it yet. I’m hoping it will be a valuable tool for my Algebra students. Maybe we could start a book chat?

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  2. Just found your blog – and it looks like I’m running a year behind you in revisioning my curriculum! I teach seventh grade math, and have taken Jo Boaler’s student (free) online class and read her books. And I was lucky enough to go to the NCTM Annual Conference in San Francisco this spring and see Dan Meyer, Andrew Stadel, and Robert Kaplinsky and many other inspirational math educators.

    I’m getting ready to start reading Making Number Talks Matter, so if you all aren’t too far into your discussions, I’d like to join you.

    Regarding summer professional development – I think it is great that you are in a flow state regarding your work! So often during the school year we are limited in the time we can spend deeply thinking about our practice (especially if we don’t want to spend every night and every weekend working.) So I like to think of summer as a time specifically designed for professional reading and planning.

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