My last post was about a professional development conference I attended and presented at. Last week I went to another and presented again! In between, we had grandparents’ day at our school, so there are a couple of things I want to share today.
Last Friday I attended the Biennial Conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools. It was hosted at the lovely campus of The Episcopal Academy in a Philadelphia suburb. I attended two sessions and presented my MTBoS love song at a third session of the day. When I presented at ECET^2NJPA I had a small, but engaged, crowd. At PAIS I was fortunate enough to have a full room with some people sitting on the counters. We had a lively conversation and one person in particular had some great questions. Recently, NCTM issued an editorial statement about the importance of curricular coherence. It can be read, in part, as a warning against using open source curriculum without deep and careful thought about how it all fits with what you are trying to accomplish in your classroom. My presentation focuses on my journey through the MTBoS and how the resources shared by our community helped inspire me to take on the task of writing a text for our school. It is a text that I hope represents some important values in our department. The text challenge I tackled was for our Geometry course and I have to admit that I felt a certain amount of freedom that I might not have if I was writing for Algebra I, Algebra II, or Precalculus. Those courses that are more in a direct vertical relationship with each other feel like they bear more weight in terms of coherence with each other. There is also more of a feeling that these courses depend directly on each other. I mention this because of a great question that came my way about this. One of the members of the conversation directly asked me about the decisions I made regarding the course content and I had to admit that I probably would have been more intimidated if I had tackled one of these more ‘core’ courses in the high school curricular stream. I felt that we had a really good conversation in the room about incorporating different activities into the classroom. Since the audience were all members of independent schools they probably have a little more flexibility than many of our public school friends have in terms of deciding what resources to incorporate into their classrooms. I have now made this presentation three times for three different organizations and I will probably put it to sleep now, but I am glad that I have had the opportunity to engage in this conversation and to spread the word about the deep well of resources that is the MTBoS.
Last Wednesday, two days before the conference, our school hosted our annual grandparents’ day. I have often been teaching Calculus in the afternoon and this rarely brings many grandparents into the room. This year I end my day with my Geometry class and we had about a dozen guests in class. I found a lovely activity at the Nrich site and my students and our guests had a terrific conversation tying together Cartesian coordinate plane ideas, transformations by vectors, and the idea of being able to project ahead in a sequence. I have been including problems from the Visual Patterns website and I think that Wednesday’s activity might have been a bit of a breakthrough. The conversation we had, and the inclination to want to show off for our guests, was more lively and engaging than I anticipated and on last Thursday’s test I saw better performance on the pattern recognition problem than I had previously seen. I cannot recommend Nrich too strongly. There is a wealth of great problems there and I am using another one for this Friday’s parents’ day visit when I expect to have another crowded room. One of the grandparents was here from California to visit her grandson and she stayed after class to chat and ask for a photo with me and her grandson joining her. I was flattered by her words and by the fact that she wanted to have this memory.