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Resources for New Teachers & A Rant

March 26, 2012

The purpose of this post was to let any interested parties know that I’ve added a page to this blog dedicated to Resources for New Teachers. But then I started writing about what led to me compiling this list, which led to more backstory, and before I knew it, I had written 800 words about my opinions on student teaching. So if you’re interested in that, here it is:

Medium-sized Rant About The Process of Transitioning from a Preservice Teacher (observations) to an Inservice Teacher (student teaching, full-time job)

I feel like my whole experience going through a 4-year teacher training program can be broken up into 2 parts. The first part is the introduction to the reality and theory of teaching wherein my perspective begins to change (see classrooms as a teacher instead of as a student) and I am told how I should teach (attention to standards, educational psychology ie: Piaget and Vygotsky, ideas on procedures and methods in the classroom ie: First Days of School and Teach Like a Champion). Then, at some point, I become shattered wherein I try to actually teach something (not tutor or review or enrich – but to actually teach) and realize that this process that appears so easy for some people is actually one of the most challenging problems I’ve ever encountered. This shattering is made worse by the fact that I have prior experience as a Teaching Assistant, a high-school tutor, and a camp counselor – all things that are related to teaching and all things that I was good at, yet so subtly different from the real thing that I am blindsided by how badly my first lesson goes. In particular, how badly my time management is and how carelessly I stumble through the introduction of the material because all I really know how to do is talk about mathematics once it’s already been introduced. Once I made it to the middle of the lesson, I did a little better.

Anyway – like I was saying: first you’re told how to teach. Then you get shattered. Then the rest of your education is trying to synthesize the advice into something practical and tangible that you can create/adapt/steal and use in your classroom. This is, by far, the hardest thing to ‘teach’ to a group of preservice teachers because everyone is trying to take away something different – some people are looking for lesson planning ideas, some people are looking for classroom management, some people are looking for ideas about what to do about homework – suddenly everyone is trying to find the right way to make the idealized classroom work for their very real students and their very unique personalities.

So – the point: I’ve been asked to speak to the soon-to-be-graduating batch of student teachers at the University of Arizona and I’m walking into my ‘talk’ (I’m thinking of it more as a conversation) with the opinions above: that everyone in that room is looking for ways to turn their ideas and opinions into something tangible. It’s not for me to go in there and tell them how to teach – they should be beyond that. Instead, I can serve them best by telling them the things that helped me shape my own ideas and opinions into something tangible. Especially since the ideas I had are counter to what most teachers in most schools think and do, but are much more aligned to what the greater mathematical community wants teachers to think and do.

Maybe it’s not a surprise, but the Blogotwittersphere helped with this a lot. So I started to compile a list of articles and posts that influenced some of the decisions I made about my classroom. I didn’t adapt all of these ideas and some of them won’t work with the classroom I have now, but they were all good food-for-thought and helped me narrow in on the problems I had and the different options I had for solutions. By far, the most helpful thing about these posts is they articulate my tangible and philosophical problems better than I can at this stage in my career – and, in my opinion, finding the right words for a problem is the most important step in coming up with a solution.

Finally I get to the real point of this post. I made a page for that list on this blog – you can find it here: Resources for New Teachers.

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