As I start my 21st year teaching mathematics, it's a good time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. I often reflect and reread Mindset by Carol Dweck. As a teacher and parent, this book has had a big influence on me and I encourage more to read it. As a matter of fact I recommended it on Craig's List: PA Faculty and Staff Summer Reading List.
This book has influenced the education community. Everything from grit to describing ways of cultivating learning dispositions can be traced back to this book. Actually, it's a lot. In my effort to sift and simplify, throughout the year I'll try to instill the following four learning mindsets in students.
Here is a description of our new unit on waste written by one of the teachers that created the content:
What is waste and why should we care? Home to only 4% of the global population, we (Americans) are responsible for more than 30% of the planet’s total waste generation. Each American discards an average of more than 1,650 pounds of garbage every year, or approximately 4.6 pounds per person each day, nearly double the 1960 average of 2.7 pounds per day. In Jackson, Wyoming, a town of about 10,000 people, we produce nearly 80 million pounds of waste per year, nearly 65% of which gets hauled over 100 miles away to a landfill in another state! How does your community compare? And, for every 1lb of waste you generate (downstream waste) nearly 7lbs of waste were generated to create the stuff you throw away (upstream waste)!
Your task in this unit is to learn about the social, economic and environmental impacts of waste in your community and come up with a solution to help. To help you, you will learn about cause and effect mechanisms in science, great literary figures who effect change in their communities, artists who repurpose trash into treasure, go on a field trip to a recycling and/or waste transfer station and work to design a solution in social studies. You’ll also be exposed to people who have found problems, come up with creative solutions to those problems and made a difference in their communities. In the final stage of this unit, we will ask you to do the same.
I'm not here to change any of that. Instead, I want to help them manage all these pitfalls and still get everything done. The following suggestions are adapted from "How to be a High School Superstar" by Cal Newport.
If you don't have time to do it right, when are you going to have time to do it over?
Too often, school is a place where students are told what not to do. It's all to common for teachers hand out or write their "classroom rules." Lately this has been renamed "expectations."
Whatever its called, these are usually not the most motivational or inspirational statements. So I thought about how I could change this.
This is something that resonates more with my ideas about teaching...
This winter, from January to March, we are piloting a very innovative learning experience. This semester students will strive for excellence on certain competencies in the visual arts, English, Social Studies, Math, Spanish, and Coding. The program is based on national standards and rests on six core beliefs:
Students in the program learn to manage their time, interact with professionals, think and connect content areas, and understand how to make change happen in the world. We expect that our graduates are highly functioning, creative, and involved members of their adult communities.
"Your only as good as your record collection." -DJ Spooky