Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Teaching Battle: 10 Things

This will be a post about 10 Good Things I'm doing as a teacher! But first, time for backstory!

Begin at the beginning, go until you come to the end. Then stop.

Last week, Mattie B (@stoodle) posted about Exorcising Teacher Demons. I read it, I nodded in complete understanding (it reminded me a bit of my less eloquent post Yi Can't Even), I tweeted at him, and I went about my day. Basically disregarding the "10 Things You're Doing Well This Year" portion of his post, because he seemed to have that well in hand. Also, that's what I do. I disregard positive things. Possibly because I don't want to get too happy lest depression will feel like a bigger crash, possibly because I have trouble believing things about myself... I dunno, I'm seeing a counsellor right now. Anyway.

Meg Craig (@mathymeg07) seized on that part of his post. She created her own list and hashtag for the idea. Which Tina Cardone (@crstn85) grabbed as a matheme. And then Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) started tagging people. Interesting, I thought. Maybe I'll keep a partial eye on this. Which is actually a big deal, as the "One Good Thing" blog is REALLY not something I'm into.

I think it was Andrew Gael (@bkdidact) that finally spurred me into action with his 10 Good Things He's Learned. From other people. It occurred to me that if other people have been saying good things about me at work, and I'm dismissive of it - that's rather rude. So okay. Let's do this.

My way.

Ten Good Things I'm Doing - along with the Reasons I'm Dismissive Of The Things - and Why That's Not Helpful. (Did I mention I was seeing a counsellor?)

All that said, I recommend not reading if: (1) You aren't the sort of person to see the bad in good things, because I don't want to put terrible ideas in your head; or (2) You're the type of person who gets annoyed when a talented person talks about how they lack talent. Because yes, I am liked and have a lot going for me, but I'm not convinced that actually makes me a good teacher. One who actually prompts learning. Still here? Okay then.

10. I am hella organized.

Most of my colleagues say I have great binders for courses. And while I do tend to lose things within an enclosed space, it is enclosed, and it turns up on the bottom of the stack eventually. Except this year I've been worse at that. Even a test went missing somehow. But I have more material and students to coordinate now, I'm getting older, and it's anomalies, not the norm.

9. I help with some student events.

Either supervising, or lending desks... I even got a 'thank you' card from student council. It had some math in it. Except I've been having to scale back this year, plus I'm just there, I don't really do anything. But being there is enough, and you're allowed to have a life outside school too.

8. I'm approachable for things.

"What are these 'emotions' you speak of?"
Students approach me for help with events. Today, the broadcasting students filmed a "live studio audience" in my classroom. Occasionally a student has even come to me with personal concerns. Except sometimes I have to turn people down! And I don't know how to handle emotions and stuff like that! I'm so much better with the organization and things! So I don't know that this is "good" at all!! But I seem to be handling it and haven't destroyed anyone's life yet.

7. I manage the anime club.

Both students and teachers have thanked me for this, the club having being called "the best ever" on a few occasions. Except I don't "manage", I only provide the space, supervision, and occasional old school anime. I didn't even start the club, just inherited it. But I have done things in the past, and even if I don't do much now, what I do is obviously enough.

6. I offer excessive extra help.

A teacher told me the other day that I was name dropped as someone who makes themselves available for math help at lunch and after school. Constantly. Except I just like talking math and it's setting a bit of a bad precedent, isn't it? People have to fend for themselves too. But not all the teaching can take place during classroom time.

5. I know the mathematics well.

Pictured: Research?
I mostly have my web serial research and twitter observations to thank for this, but also students themselves who've seen it in different ways. Which means I can, in theory, come up with good questions. Except when it comes to calculus and more math I've forgotten, plus there's a gap in Grade 10 which I haven't taught, and I struggle with Level 4 stuff. But I have colleagues to turn to for this if/as necessary.

4. I was asked to go on a trip to Edinburgh.

By a colleague - this was a school trip, with teenagers, in August, for theatre. Did I mention I like theatre? I was the only one on this trip without a son/daughter there. My guild named themselves the "Perfect Circles". Except I was out of my depth, really had no clue, no experience. But now I do.

3. I get personal thanks from former students.

Generally in the form of "thanks for passing me" (or "for giving me 75"), to which I always respond "you passed yourself, I don't do freebies". Though a couple months ago, a student came back with "you still helped, I liked the songs". I didn't have a counter to that one. Except... actually, no except here, still a bit floored.

2. I got a post-high-school email.

That was new this past year. It was a student I taught in Grade 11. She had a math question related to a review evaluation at her post-secondary institution. So, I helped, she thanked me, and she also said don't stop doing the songs. ... Another one I'm forced(?) to put in the "win" column.

1. I had half a high school singing a math song. Twice.

My third annual parody presentation at the holiday assembly last month had more audience participation than I ever expected - I didn't figure on matching the previous year. More than one person said they hope the video version gets thousands of hits. Except it has less than 20. But that doesn't mean it's bad, just that it works better locally or in person. Or for a fleeting moment in time. Which is probably what I want anyway, because I dislike being in the spotlight. Except if it's fleeting, it is still accomplishing what I want? Is it like my web serial, a curiosity, the message buried by the messenger, who is up there raving like a madman with a box plot? The content ultimately forgotten? Because that's not what I want. I want it to be more. I want it to be about the mathematics, not about me.

Got a long list of past students. They'll tell you I'm insane. 'Cause you know they loved the singing -- but that's not my aim.

I suppose the aim of this post was 10 Things though, and I've accomplished that! You may want to consider doing it yourself - though perhaps with a bit less of the self-doubt. As they say, and as I may at one point believe: "You got this."


  1. You should print this list out and put it where you can see it. Highlight the bold parts. Use this as a reminder when things start looking bleak. Number four is a great lesson for everyone - the only way to get experience is to do something for the first time. The last three? Means you're awesome.

    1. Thanks. Appreciate the thought. (Exams... often when things look bleak. Though maybe not as bad as some years.) Though I feel like the last three points mean I'm memorable, or perhaps awesome as a person, rather than as an actual educator imparting curriculum. Then again, knowledge isn't just curriculum? Constant battle of wills, that's what this job is!