No Such Thing as One Good Thing

Our blogging challenge for Week 1 was fairly simple. Bloggers were given a choice of the following:

  1. Blog about the small good moments during our teaching day.
  2. Blog about a day in our teaching life– from start to finish.

At first, I thought I would choose the latter option, so I started keeping a mental journal of my day which usually begins around 5 a.m. and tapers off around midnight (or later). As I began drafting, I started wondering if my day looked any different than another teacher’s day. I read the blogs of my #MTBoS colleagues and realized that indeed, our days looked quite similar. The last thing I wanted to do was add another “Day in the Life” post to a blogosphere that was already full of them.

So, I started looking for small moments– things that bring me joy– in my classroom. My mind was filled with ideas based on what I already knew of my students. The 21 little human beings who have only been on the planet seven or eight years bring me joy every single day. Even on the hardest, most trying days, there’s always something that makes me smile. Maybe not in the moment, but later. Perhaps during my drive home or at night after everyone has gone to sleep, the memory of something that someone said or did tempers my frustration with a happiness that only the heart of a teacher can understand.

One morning this week as I pondered the content of my morning message to students, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to find out what they think brings me joy?” So, that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what they came up with:

photo 1

I know it’s hard to read their responses, so I’ll list them below (spelled correctly) 🙂

  • purple
  • flowers
  • smiles, hugs, and when we do the right thing
  • making cakes
  • me
  • your mom and dad
  • focused brains
  • questions and mistakes
  • teaching and learning
  • strawberries
  • us
  • flower perfume
  • people
  • a little of everything but not sports
  • pictures that we draw
  • when we have growth mindsets
  • people caring about each other
  • design
  • looking up cake recipes on the internet
  • the sea
  • sandalwood (This one was completely random–I have absolutely no clue where she got this from!)

Even more delightful than reading their responses was watching them think of their responses. I regret not taking a picture or video of them huddled around the easel discussing/debating my passions 🙂

You can easily understand why I can never see myself doing anything but this. I readily admit that I couldn’t find “one good thing” to blog about.

I found twenty-one.

Beginnings

Of all the things I could choose to blog about– my favorite cheesecake recipe, life as a full-time teacher and mother of five, my travels, favorite books that I’ve read– math was an unlikely choice. If you asked me five years ago to do this, start blogging about math, I would have a) asked, “What’s a blog?” and then b) run the other direction at the mere mentioning of math.

You see, from the time I was in middle school (or junior high as they called it back in the day), math has always evoked a sense of unease distress dread terror anxiety in me. Seeing test after test with my teachers’ glaring red marks were a constant reminder of my mathematical ineptness. As my aversion to math increased, my confidence withered away to almost nonexistence. My brain, I believed, was simply not made to understand, much less excel in, math. I had the epitome of a fixed mindset.

Fast forward twenty-some years. Reflecting upon the work of Carol Dweck on mindset and more recently, the work of Jo Boaler on math achievement, coupled with my experience teaching Cathy Fosnot’s Units, Contexts for Learning Mathematics, I experienced an epiphany of sorts. I began to see math not as something to do but something to understand. Mistakes didn’t mean that I was dumb, but that my synapses were firing like crazy due to new learning. I was beginning to see math as more than simply a fork in the road– one path leading to “right,” the other to “wrong”– but rather as an endless sea of possibilities.

This transformation not only changed my mindset, it revolutionized my approach to teaching math. The fact that I find joy in the daily 90 minutes of Math Workshop speaks volumes. Thankfully, my enthusiasm has been contagious. But what if I had not undergone this transformation? What if I continued to secretly abhor the very subject I was trying to teach my students? The results, I suspect, would be disastrous. Math Workshop, for them, would be a time to perform, where only an elite few would be deemed worthy of being true math achievers, and the rest…Well, would not.

I would have continued to teach the way I was taught and more frighteningly, I would have found no fault in doing so. While I regret my pre-transformation days, I cannot dwell on them because I am too excited in the present, and for the future. While I’m happy with the changes I’ve made, I’m far from being satisfied. There is, I believe, an inherent danger in being satisfied with oneself (growth mindset speaking!). I want to be better. I need to be better. My kids deserve better than the math teacher they have today, and that’s why I’m doing this.

And so begins my journey into the MathBlogosphere. Equipped with nothing more than ambition, an oh-so-patient mentor (Thanks, Simon!), and an aging laptop, I take my first steps into the blogging world with a sense of trepidation.

But I don’t have anything brilliant to share. 

I will share the brilliance of my colleagues (like this Queen of Teaching/Educator Extraordinaire a.k.a. the unbelievably talented and lovely Jen Bearden) and of those who continue to enrich the world of math with passion, wonder, and creativity.

What if no one reads my blog?

I will write for myself– to reflect, plan, and improve.

What if they don’t like what I write? 

I will continue to write– my work is not perfect and I seek to improve.

Consider this a personal invitation to join me on this important journey by sharing your insights, experiences, and knowledge. I look forward to our learning together!