And so it begins

Tomorrow is the first day of school. I’ve been thinking about my goals for the year. In doing so, I realized those two statements I posted are actually my goals for the year – be prepared & be present. For me being prepared means knowing the mathematical goals of each lesson – crafting the right questions, designing meaningful activities, structuring the class to allow each student access to the concepts, … Being present to me means to be totally focused in the moment and what is going on in the classroom – despite what else may be going on in my life. The students deserve my full attention, so when I walk through those doors and the bell for each period rings – everything else fades away.

I’ve also been contemplating Bud Hunt’s “Open Letter to Teachers”. I’ve read it a few times now. What struck me most was his line, “Try very hard not to work all the time.” I don’t think I did a very good job of that last year. So I’m extending my “be present” goal to my time away from school. I’m starting a grad school program next month, so I know finding a balance will be vital. I need to create a time each day to turn off Jackie the teacher and Jackie the student and just be. I think my husband will thank me too.

Lastly, I just ran across these 10 Commandments for Teachers written by Pólya:

  1. Be interested in your subject.
  2. Know your subject.
  3. Know about the ways of learning: The best way to learn anything is to discover it by yourself.
  4. Try to read the faces of your students, try to see their expectations and difficulties, put yourself in their place.
  5. Give them not only information, but “know-how,” attitudes of mind, the habit of methodical work.
  6. Let them learn guessing.
  7. Let them learn proving.
  8. Look out for such features of the problem at hand as may be useful in solving the problems to come – try to disclose the general pattern that lies behind the present concrete situation.
  9. Do not give away your whole secret at once – let the students guess before you tell it – let them find out by themselves as much as is feasible.
  10. Suggest it, do not force it down their throats.

I really like the part about “give them habits of mind”. That is such an important piece, the ability to think about one’s thinking.

And thus the year begins. I’m looking forward to it.

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6 Responses to And so it begins

  1. Sarah says:

    Being present here means needing to be absent from somewhere else. I like it.

    You sound much calmer than I feel at the moment–though it could be the people you’re quoting. Best wishes at keeping the summer cool all school year long.

  2. Ξ says:

    Good luck! We start Monday. I love the beginning of the school year — it’s full of hope and potential, though it’s also a little strange to see a room full of strangers when I’m used to knowing my students (which takes a while, and learning names is harder for me than it used to be, especially in one class I have with 36 students. Eek!)

    One of my favorite start-of-the-year activities is to email the whole class and have them respond with basic contact information, but then to have them tell me their favorite book. I end up making a list of the favorite books with tallies [Harry Potter shows up a lot, for example] and then I put that on my door for the semester and also share with the students what the popular books seem to be among all my classes. I’ve also been known to make library decisions based on their recommendations!

  3. Jon Ingram says:

    Thank you for linking to those ’10 commandments’. I hadn’t seem them before, but they fit in very well with the attitude toward teaching mathematics that I am aspire to.

    I also like your two key goals: ‘be prepared and be present’ is an excellent foundation on which to build. My second full year of teaching is just about to start, and ‘prepared’-ness in all its forms is certainly looming over me at the moment!

  4. Dave Marain says:

    Inspirational thoughts, Jackie. Have a wonderful year.
    Did you hear the silly story about the algebra student whose teacher told the class to “let x represent any number.” On the first test the boy signed his paper 11111 1111111. The teacher asked him to explain and the boy replied, “I decided to let ‘1’ represent any letter!”

  5. Jackie says:

    Oh, sounding calm and feeling calm are two very different things Sarah.

    36 students, Ξ? Wow. Names take me a while too. I don’t like not knowing their names immediately. I guess we’ll get there.

    It’s my second year too Jon. I’m working on getting prepared, but at the moment I’m wondering what I’ve been doing all summer.

    Thanks for the chuckle Dave.

    I hope everyone has a great start to the year!

  6. Bob Heiny says:

    Best wishes for a learning year for you and your students.

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