Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Online Assignment # 2 -- Vanessa Marfin

At first, this process made me feel I have already entered initial withdrawal as described by Steffy. Reviewing research articles, I felt guilty for having drifted so far away from the scientific approach I was introduced to in my credential program. Skimming intriguing book titles, I felt skeptical about my own ability to integrate new elements into my teaching practices right away. Clicking on enticing links, I felt resentful of professionals who are not in the classroom anymore but are making plenty of money selling solutions to teachers -- solutions that are often contradictory at that. I feel like what I really need in order to become a better teacher is sufficient time to actually read and evaluate all these resources, assimilate them at a reasonable pace, plan how I will implement them, and share them with colleagues. And I need to have this sufficient time without being forced to sacrifice my family life or the time that I need to explore my own interests and meet my own non-teaching goals. However, after writing about the resources I found, I feel I am already re-energized a bit and looking forward to continuing to revamp and revise my teaching practice.

The first two resources deal with instructional strategies, specifically for teaching math. I spend the majority of my time as a high school resource teacher working with students on math and find that many are turned off to math because of their perception that it is irrelevant to their lives. Enter:

Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project by Robert Moses. In this book, Moses describes the curriculum he developed to prepare traditionally underserved students for higher mathematics instruction and explains why math is a civil rights issue.

Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers. I found this book on the Rethinking Schools website and it is exactly what I need to make math more relevant to my students and to more actively promote social justice in my teaching. Includes suggestions for using issues of social justice (including housing discrimination, living wage, environmental racism, the war in Iraq, etc.) to teach math and problem solving. I am very eager to incorporate these lessons into my math program. I predict that after solving the problems in this book, students will find answers to their perennial question: "When am I ever going to use this?"

The third resource that I found invaluable I did not discover on my own, but Margie gave it to us at our last class meeting. I used this website in school, as I am sure many of you did:
ERIC Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education;
This is a vast storehouse of educational research articles. I searched for "ADD/ADHD and on-task and self-monitoring" and found several articles about a technique called "S.L.A.N.T." that I would love to implement throughout my school. I also found a method called a "Question Exploration Routine" that is a visual organizer that appears promising for improving reading comprehension for students with learning disabilities. I know I can turn to this resource again and again when problem situations arise with my students. Staying knowledgeable about research-validated interventions will be especially helpful for me in collaborating with classroom teachers, I will be able to make very specific suggestions and back them up with data.


J. Juliana Kirmeyer said...

Hi Vanessa -

I also am feeling very overwhelmed. It is as if there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all of the things I need to do, much less all the things I want to do.

I love teaching math and I am especially interested in social justice mathematics. The two books you listed sound really cool - I think one of them was featured in a teaching tolerance article last spring on Social Justice Mathematics.

I completely agree with your reasoning - unless students have a context in which the content will apply to their lives, they tend tune out. If the math is too abstract, this is even more the case. I am really intrigued by the Moses book and would very willing to peruse these resources with you and perhaps do some collaboration.

Thank you for sharing these resources and hang in there - you are doing a terrific job!

Katy Lungren said...

I spent two or three hours (maybe more?!) on the Rethinking Schools website last week. I love it! The articles are incredibly relevant and applicable to my worldview and perception of what quality education can and should look like. Because I was so enthralled by all the articles, I did not happen upon the book you recommended. Just a few minutes ago, I looked up the online information about it, but I cannot tell if it would be a good time/money investment for me to buy and read as an elementary math teacher. Thoughts? If you are able to bring it to class next Saturday, I would love a minute to look it over.