Before this year, pre-planning for me always meant trying to get together with one or two other teachers teaching the same course and trying to align all of the things we were doing for the first few weeks—same opening activities, same grading scheme, etc. During these meetings,I usually felt that I needed to foucs on the details that were iminient in teaching course, and didn’t really have the luxury to sit pack and ponder bigger questions of the themes of our courses, what we mean by problem solving, or any of the other big picture questions that I think about so often. I also often felt presseured to come to some sort of conesus to that our classes give students very similar experiences, or agree to do things very differently and be ok way those differences—I didn’t feel like I had time to sit down and really discuss philosophical differences and in a deliberate and vigorous way.
Like most problems in life, the internet appears to offer at least part of the answer, and in particular, the mathtwitterblogosphere, which is filled with amazing teachers with all sorts of different viewpoints. This summer, as a experienced physics teacher who was asked to teach Algebra II for the first time, I’ve sought out help from so many of these teachers, like Michael Pershan, above. I’ve also written about it before, but the more you wade around in this connected teacher world, the more powerful these connections become. Recently, I think they’ve taken me to an entirely new and spontaneous level of professional delvelopment. Last week, Michael and I hosted a number of informal G+ discussions about teaching of Algbera II, which led to a more formal discussion last night between me and 3 of my math teacher heros, Michael, Paul Solomon, and Dan Goldner. The great thing is that this group ranges the spectrum from pure to applied math in emphasis.
The discussion was terrific—I encourange you to check out the recording. It’s still pretty amazing to me that as a “new” math teacher with very litte experience in mathematics teaching, I can reach out and organize a conversation with 3 incredible teachers with so much perspective and so many ideas, and help me to develop a big picture understanding of Algebra II and math teaching in general that I might not otherwise develop for years. Sure, phone conversations are a declining lot, but I’m incredibly optimistic about the potential for virtual face to face gatherings.