Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Best Professional Development

If I had remained at my position in Middletown, I would have been taking over the algebra and geometry courses. As I have never taught these courses, I brought the textbooks home for both courses so that I could sharpen up over the summer. Last month, I took a position in another school district, and sadly, it is not one teaching algebra or geometry.

I am still reading the books though (I'll return them in August) and I have to say I am learning A LOT! Not only am I (re)learning some great math, but I've been able to reflect on my teaching of mathematics, and the teaching of mathematics in general. Here's what I discovered...
  • about my teaching: For years one of my approaches in teaching fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students is to have my students complete an activity which requires some inductive reasoning. They often struggle with this. After studying the geometry text, I now know why--students are not ready to learn this way until they reach high school. There is a chapter devoted entirely to inductive and deductive reasoning in this text. If they have to be taught this in a geometry course (normally taken in the tenth grade), then they are definitely not ready for it in the intermediate grades.
  • about math teaching in general: As I said above, I am learning a great deal through studying these texts. I have learned something about my students--I can now see why they have difficulty reasoning. It has also been interesting to see what concepts my students are working towards in the higher grades. In other words, I can now see exactly how the math concepts I am teaching at my level will help them with higher-level mathematics. Some of the concepts that I find so simple, like parallel lines, are extremely important in more advanced mathematics (proving a parallelogram is actually a parallelogram). I have come to find that this learning experience has been better than any workshop I have taken. Learning higher level math, or at least higher than the level I teach, has been the BEST PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT I have ever had, and it is my contention that it is the best professional development for any teacher of mathematics. If we are to improve math instruction in this country, we must have teachers who have a deep knowledge of the math they are teaching. For instance, if a second grade teacher is teaching students how to recognize patterns, then he/she should know how this knowledge will help them when they tackle patterns in algebra.
During the school year, I receive registration forms for many math workshops. I have seen the materials for many of these workshops--they consist of games and other gimmicks that teachers can use to help students "learn" math. Instead of increasing teachers' knowledge of the math they teach, the facilitators of these workshops arm them with silly tactics to help students to memorize procedures and pass standardized tests. I say we do away with this type of professional development, and begin requiring teachers to take advanced math courses so that they have a greater understanding of the math they teach, not of gimmicks and games.

1 comment:

Nicole :) said...

Hi Tubbs!

I randomly thought I would check our your blog and saw that you had accepted another position in different district! I'm sorry to see you leave Middletown, but I do wish you the best as you pursue a new teaching position.

I hope you are enjoying your summer! And how about those Redlegs...hahahhaha!

--Clarkson