Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Maybe I'll Quit Teaching and Try Being a Lawyer

This morning, as I was having my cup of coffee I opened up Tweetdeck like I do every morning. As I was checking my notifications and updates on some of the lists I follow, someone I follow posted this:
"A friend of mine is a lawyer and is thinking of quitting to teach English. Does anyone have any advice for her?"
"Yes." I thought to myself. "Go back to college, spend some time student teaching, and get a teaching degree."

I didn't reply to the tweet, though.  I thought better of it, and being snarky rarely leads to any kind of positive outcome on social media. All day, that tweet has bothered me, though.

What on Earth would lead someone to believe that they are qualified to teach when they have done nothing before that qualifies them to teach?  Maybe I'll quit teaching and try being a lawyer for a while.  After all, I've seen lots of episodes of Law and Order and watched Legally Blond 2.

As someone who has dedicated my adult life to my profession, it makes me angry that our job is viewed as something anyone can do.  Having a law degree doesn't make you any more qualified to teach English than it does for you to practice dentistry.

People don't seem to understand that teaching isn't about the content - it's about kids. Think about the best teacher you ever had.  Think about why they were amazing. It wasn't because they knew more about their subject than anyone else, was it?  As Yeats said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but a lighting of a fire." Amazing teachers know how to light fires.

Great teachers aren't great because they know their content better (As I'm typing this I'm thinking of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon bombs as a guest lecturer).  Great teachers understand how learning happens.  They understand child development, brain science, and most importantly they understand students.  They know how to inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in each one of their students.  They know when to use formative assessments and what feedback will help students most.

Last I checked, they weren't teaching those skills in law school.  Then again, I haven't really checked lately.  I figure, I won't need to go to law school if I decide to switch careers. There's bound to be a Law and Order marathon coming up on TNT sometime soon.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Easy to Make Fraction Wheels

Fractions are often a difficult concept for students to visualize.  Today I had the pleasure of working with a group of 5th grade students.  In order for them to show their knowledge of fractions, we spent 15 minutes creating fractions wheels. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do this with your own students.

Materials needed: Cheap white paper plates, marker or crayon, scissors, ruler

First, have students completely color one of the plates.

Next, have them use the ruler to find the center point of both plates. This is a great time to introduce or review vocabulary having to do with circles such as "diameter", "radius", "chord", etc. 

When they have found the center of both plates, have them cut the radius of each plate.  

Finally, place one plate on top of the other and twist them so they interlock where they have been cut.  This will allow students to rotate the plates to create representations of different fractions. We spend a bit of time having them showing different fraction representations and explaining why they believed those representations to be accurate.

After spending some time exploring fraction concepts, students will use their creations to teach those concepts to other students around the world through short videos as part of the Distance Teaching Project