Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Centenial Man

Wow. This post makes 100 posts (and 3000 views). I never stick with anything this long. I want to thank both of my readers for taking part in the conversation. I guess that I am now obliged to review some of my best/favorite/most talked about posts.

It all started September 25, 2007 with this post. Donna DesRoches got me started at a PD session she put on. I decided to use my real grown up name on the internet. (Or as real and grown up as I could manage!) You can actually Google my name now.

While my first post was not very memorable here are some others that are remarkable either because I liked them or they generated some conversation.

This early post wasn't anything special but it did spark discussion. It showed me the possibilities of blogging. Did I mention that I love when people argue intellegently with me?

According to Google Analytics this page still accounts for 20% of the traffic to my blog. Who would have figured?

Time Lapse Holiday Cheer
This post was about creating time lapse videos. I had initially posted the video directly from YouTube - then I went into Blogger to add more information. In the time between posting from YouTube and going back and editing the post (About 30 minutes) Dean Shareski had already found the post and commented. The really funny part is that I was going back into the post to add a link to his blog where he had done something similar.

A post about copyright and education. I got some good responses with this one. I am still thinking about the issue and when I get time I will get back to it.

This one was fun. The best part is that the people involved still haven't gotten the joke.

I took a bit of a risk on this one. I talked about things that are usually swept under the table. I keep expecting to get in a little hot water over it. Nobody has been willing to touch it in the comments either.

In lots of my posts you will find me complaining that teachers don't have enough time. Here I think I found part of the reason I don't have enough time.

My Rants
Turns out my carpool was right. I do rant a lot. Here are some of my favorites.

Yep - got kinda mad here.

No this post was not about quitting. I was just plain mad (again). This post is interesting because it was picked up and quoted out of context by Dan Meyer. Here was my response to him.

So What Have I Learned?

I have learned to complain a little less - (or at least a little more constructively).

I have learned to write more posts that actually add to the conversation - not to just repost what somebody else has said.

I find that part of the value of writing is just for me to make my thoughts just a little more concrete. Writing it down just helps me work through the ideas. This blog also helps me archive my writing.

I have also learned to just write. Many posts where I waited until I had the time to get them just right never got written. One paragraph just in time is way more valuable than an essay too late.

Lastly, I have learned that just because I think I have something worth saying doesn't mean people will read it. Damn. Because I do. Really. Honest.......

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Students are Screwed!

My students are screwed. They have been from long before they walked through my classroom doors.

I am sure that you are all wondering what the heck I am talking about. Patience. I will get to it - but first you need some background knowledge.

Lets start with Malcome Gladwell's book Outliers. Read it. It rocks - and it will make you look at amazing people like Wayne Gretzky and Bill Gates a little bit differently. Haven't read it? Not going to get to it soon? Ok - here is the basic information that pertains to what I am talking about.

In Outliers there is a chapter about mathematics - more specifically about how Asian students tend to do better in math. Gladwell says that there are two main factors that explain the test scores. He calls them cultural legacy. The first is that numbers are handled differently in most Asian languages. They make more sense. If I were to have a race a Chinese person in counting to a hundred (in our own languages) they would win almost every time. It is just the structure of the language. The second factor (and more important factor) is the fact that a large percentage of Asians come from a rice farming background. Rice farming is VERY labor intensive. Successful rice farmers work much harder and much longer than other types of farmers. Asian students have grown up in that type of environment. They learned how to work very hard. They grew up with a cultural legacy of hard work. (Every single successful outlier in Gladwell's book worked very hard to get where they were.) Gladwell explained that mathematics is easier when the language makes better sense - and when you work hard towards a solution (No surprise there!).

So how are my students screwed? All of my students are First Nations. (Ok maybe 2 aren't - but the rest definately are.) What cultural legacy has been left to them? Thanks to a wonderful system of government handouts many of them come from an environment where they don't have to work. They will be provided for if they choose to not work at all. (Keep in mind that only a pittance is provided - I realize it is not an easy life or a good life.) If you go back before Europeans were in the picture that was not the case - but wasn't that too many generations ago for it to truly be a huge part of many of their cultural legacy? Also keep in mind that this is a generalization and does not apply to everybody. I have students that I would be willing to hire outside of school because they are hard workers. The point I am trying to make is that my students have to fight a very uphill battle in order to succeed in math (and I never even touched on language issues!). They have to fight that battle because of where they grew up and what they saw around them.

So what do I do about it? No, what am I failing to do about it? - because that is what is happening. My students are failing - which means that I am failing because I have failed to do enough about their new cultural legacy. One more time - (and yes I am begging for help here) - what can I do about it?