You’re doing what?

Over the past few months as I’ve described my sabbatical plans to colleagues, friends and family, a frequent response has been “You’re doing what?”

Let me explain. I’m a recently tenured college professor of mathematics. I was trained and have a PhD in mathematics. I love my job and can see myself teaching at this school for the rest of my life. My college and its math department are well known, but not for preparing future teachers–it doesn’t have a teacher preparation program.

So why would an academic like me want to teach high school during my sabbatical instead of doing mathematical research or writing a textbook? Well, while I have not had any training in mathematics education, it’s a topic that I think and have thought about a lot. In the last few years, I have also become involved in professional development for secondary (middle and high) school mathematics teachers and have often wished that I could better relate with the things that teachers go through. And, teaching high school was one of the careers that considered when I was younger and I guess part of me still has vague hopes that I can make a difference in students’ lives. So, these are some of the reasons why I am going to teach high school mathematics during the 2009-2010 academic year while I’m on sabbatical.

Some people have said nice things like, “Those kids will be so lucky to have you!” But, I don’t presume that I’ll be any good at teaching high school. Some of the things that I know about teaching mathematics at the college level will apply to teaching high school, some of it won’t. I know that the experience will be very different. I know there will be things that I will have to work on. I know that I will learn a tremendous amount this year.

So, during this upcoming year, I’ll be writing about my experiences teaching high school mathematics. I’m doing it mainly to record my successes, frustrations, thoughts and feelings, but I also welcome your comments and questions.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

17 thoughts on “You’re doing what?

  1. What a wonderful commitment to make during your sabbatical. Unusual and extremely challenging, from the audience, to the environment, to the different evaluation and success criteria. I am curious what the transition will be like – personally and professionally. It might even help some working engineers or scientists make a switch later in our careers.

  2. This blog is a great idea! I’m totally gonna follow this like it’s my job. Well, hopefully, one day, it might be! This blog will be a great learning tool for me, too.

    When is your first day of class?!

    Good luck, teacher! (What is your hs kids going to call you?)

  3. I must say I agree that those kids will be lucky to have you! I am sure that this will be truly enriching experience for yourself, your students. As I prepare to enter the world of secondary math education myself I am very excited to hear what your shortcomings and successes are as a high school teacher. You taught me so much while I was at school, more about teaching and humility than anything else, I can only hope that the students you teach this year will feel equally enlightened!

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks for creating this and sharing your experiences. Hopefully we can provide support and encouragement this way! To me, no matter what level or subject, teaching is about the people in the room. It is about communication and growth. I agree that they will be lucky to have the privilege of spending time with you and no doubt you will learn a lot! Not to mention getting your street creds. I look forward to experiencing your adventure vicariously!

  5. As always you know your objective and whatever you do you think of others first for that is what I love about you!
    I support your decision and be there for you!

  6. I think many of us college professors have a pompous primadonna-ism about knowing how to teach. Teaching in a secondary school is a different beast, and I think you are doing an amazing service by learning what it is like first hand. You will benefit your future students who want to teach in secondary school and your colleagues that you are mentoring at secondary school by working to understand what their professional lives entail. Go get ’em tiger.

  7. You go! What a great challenge. It will be interesting to hear the similarities and differences between students at the two levels.

    3 essential resources Driscol’s book on teaching Algebra (I think it’s Developing Algebraic Thinking) and Van Der Whalh’s book on thinking mathematically.
    Also the Aim’s Books on Patterns.

    Don’t assume that students want to learn math. Your job is to convince them that math is useful to them and enjoyable.

    Three questions I try to answer evry day
    1. What does it mean? (the theory)
    2. Why can I do this ( justification and proof)?
    3. Why would I want to do this anyway? (the anwer can be because it is intriguing or fun or saves me work).
    I would like to hear the solutions you discover for the fraction problem (they can’t do fractions) and how do you teach Algebra to studets with gaps and misconceptions.

    I also have taken on new challenges this year and it helps to have a window on other’s challenges.

    You will be great but exhausted! Sue Mussack

  8. Rock on!

    As a previous student of yours I have to say you were one of the better, if not best, math lecturer I had. So much so that I remember taking a class from you (I think it was on writing about math!?) just because you were teaching it.

    I also have to say it was always (and probably still is) a pet peeve of mine, college professors who can’t teach. I can understand the universities desire to invite people to do research, but have them stick with research. Get people who are passionate about teaching and put them on the frontlines, especially with undergrads (I suspect with PostGrads it may be a different). To be honest, on post reflection, its something that I should of been a lot more upset about before. If I was paying for my undergrad today, I’d be raising a huge stink everytime I ran into a poor teacher. I think its pretty unacceptable and universities/colleges should hold themselves to a higher standard.

    I wish you the best of luck! And I hope that whatever you learn can be brought to your teaching in making better math teachers, whether they are for high school or universities!

  9. […] 0. There’s a really personable, funny person at PCMI who writes a blog that I’ve been to a few times — but for some reason wasn’t in my reader. It’s awesome. From his about page: “I’m a recently tenured college professor teaching mathematics at a high school during my sabbatical leave. I’m blogging about my experiences mainly to record my successes, frustrations, thoughts and feelings.” The best part: it’s concrete and on the ground and honest. And being new to high school, he makes observations of things we don’t always notice — or that we’ve forgotten (example here). So go back through the archives and drink up! Adventures in Teaching […]

  10. […] That year I spent teaching high school in 2009-10 was one of the hardest in my life because I received so little positive affirmation about my work as a teacher. Many of my close friends prepared me before I started teaching high school not to take mean things that students say and do personally. It took a while, but I eventually learned to do that. But still, after learning to ignore those negative messages, the positive messages were too few and far between. […]

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