Ah, the old age question of education. There’s an inside saying among the math teachers at our school… we can teach students things, but we can’t make them learn! We jokingly relate it to the “you can lead a horse to water” idiom, but we would like to change the phrase “but you can’t make them drink” to “we will DUNK them (hand gesture of pushing a head down)”. We, of course, knowingly say this because we would like our students to learn the material we teach them, but math is not everyone’s favorite subject, or liked subject, or widely used subject (beyond 8th grade math). So how do you have students learn math? I (obviously?) teach math. How do I get students to buy into and be motivated to learn math? If I knew, I would be the next multi-billionaire. 🙂
After reading the chapter on teaching in Invent to Learn, I have come to some interesting, depressing, and insightful aha moments. I am an instructionist. I teach facts, show how to solve problems, and have students practice. (Martinez, 2016) I suppose math lends itself to this type of teaching, and most textbooks I have seen have a similar approach. The depressing aha moment is that I have what is called “habitus”. I look back on my learning of math and base most my instruction on this. I suppose I don’t realize that everyone is not like me, or wired like me, or thinks like me. How can a student not understand a math concept the way I taught them? I learned it that way! I need to modify my instruction to create more avenues for learning. I hope making is one of them. It brings tactile, motor, and problem solving skills together.
What is my teacher identity? I’ve never given much though about this, though it is real. There are multiple definitions of teacher identity. The one I can relate to is described by Randolph A. Philip. He wrote a chapter titled Mathematics Teachers’ and Beliefs and Affect. “Teachers know; teachers believe; teachers feel; teachers participate; teachers belong.” All these describe a teacher’s identity. I cannot describe all aspects of this to define MY teacher identity, but it’s good to know that I do feel it can be modified and expanded. A view that is shared by Bjuland at the conclusion of his study of an elementary teacher’s teacher identity. (2012)
I do look for ways to improve ways to teach math at the high school level. I give thoughtful reflection on what works in class, and what doesn’t. I try new things to determine value, effectiveness, and success. After 21 years of teaching math, you would thing I have exhausted ideas… NOT! For that matter, found the perfect pedagogy for teaching upper level math… NOT! But I do believe there will be a way to have students learn math that will not be dependent on the math instructor as sole provider of information. I tend to believe that students DO feel this way. “You have to teach me.” “It’s your job.” “That’s what you get paid for.”
If there was way for any individual to learn content easily (K-12 education), it would make our lives easier, wouldn’t it? I am beginning to like phrases like “teacher as facilitator”. Begin having more student-centered learning. Having more maker spaces. Having students excited about learning. That’s what education should be. It’s not about the teacher. It’s about the student. Someday…
Martinez, Sylvia Libow; Stager, Gary S.. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Kindle Locations 1658-1662). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.
Bjuland, R., Cestari, M., Borgersen, H. (2012). Professional Mathematics Teacher Identity: analysis of reflective narratives from discourses and activities. [electronic file]. J Math Teacher Educ, DOI 10.1007/s10857-012-9216-1. Retrieved from http://brage.bibsys.no/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/138188/Cestari_2012_Professional.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Philipp, R. (unknown date). Chapter 7: Mathematics Teachers’ Beliefs and Affects. Teachers and Teaching. [electronic file]. Retrieved from http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/crmse/STEP/documents/R.Philipp,Beliefs%26Affect.pdf