Our most important job is as a role model for children. Our students spend a huge percentage of their lives with us and our colleagues – they’re not only learning math, right? They’re learning how to speak to people, how to treat people, how to hold others responsible and be responsible to others, manners… they are learning everything. And yet the professional development I go to focuses only on the math, and the tests my kids take focus only on the math, and the grades I give are only on the math, and it is so easy to forget that there is so much more going on here and that it is so much more important than the math.
Other people are doing better work than me in their treatment of SBG, math curriculum, interactive, thought-provoking lessons, etc, and I’m so glad of that. My skills in these areas have soared enormously this year from reading your great blogs (see list on the sidebar). Thank you!
What I don’t see as much of is the explicit focus on how to help our students become better people. Even on my blog, where every other post seems to be about how to empower students constructively, I often steer away from the topic, and you (on statistical average) don’t read as much when I do write it! Here’s why: it’s intractable, it’s easy to be wrong, we have other stuff to do, and we’re not explicitly held accountable for our social curriculum. But it’s the point. Teaching our students about community and society is the whole point!
I was prodded in to seeing this imbalance in emphasis just last week, actually, when I was thinking about how to make my blog more popular (#okIadmitit). I have to tell you that when I noticed nobody (small exaggeration) reads my homey-values posts and that everyone (big exaggeration) reads my technical posts I was disheartened. I thought no one was interested in the really important part of school!
Then I realized all the reasons that these core values are so much harder to handle than concrete techniques. And then! @samjshah, @jybuell, @monk51295, and @mctownsley wrote and said that they thought these are important ideas! I am surprised by how affected I was by these tweets – a mixture of “They really do like me!” and “oh, of course people care about the really important part of school! We’re all so bogged down that we just don’t have a lot of time to focus on it!”
After all, we all focus on community, responsibility, and respect in some way. None of us lets students swear and insult each other, or flip their desks upside down, or paint on the walls. We all teach kids how to be members of society automatically, by being good members of society ourselves. When we write a good lesson plan, more often than not it is good because it empowers students and helps them interact in a good way. I just want to focus on social skills and norms specifically. I want to improve in this dimension the same way I’ve been improving in assessment and feedback, lesson plans, and classroom management! Do I just miss these sessions at NCTM, or is there a whole strand about “Personal Responsibility and Other Social Skills in the Classroom?”
With this new realization I feel more free to spend a large part of my writing time on the social values of teaching. I’ve organized a page about it: http://larkolicio.us/blog/?page_id=412. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still a huge dork and will be posting geogebra applets, and I’m still passionate about math curriculum and will be posting lesson plans. As we move in to summer I will be writing more sparsely, and more specifically about camp (as education). But I will no longer feel that no one wants to hear about my hippier (certainly not hipper) side.
Thanks for reading, you guys. This blog is living up to its name for me.
PS: You know what profession has great professional development opportunities? The camp director profession. I run a summer camp (still accepting campers 9-13!) and so I get to go to conferences that focus on these important skills instead of the random skills like factoring that we deem vital for our future mathematicians (or whatever). Like a quarter of the sessions are fun games you can teach to kids to build skill xyz. You should go to an ACA conference even if you have never been to summer camp.