I have been reading a good number of blogs recently and just found out how to "follow" someone's blog. I know, I know... I'm a bit behind the times so I decided to begin catching up a bit. I know I have a long way to go.
So here it is. Holly's blog (and Philip's too).
I just got back this evening from spending the week at the University of Tulsa. I went for an AP Calculus Institute. I promise not to go into all the math that intrigued, challenged and encouraged me this week but I will share a few highlights from my week.
I took Calculus in the spring semester of my senior year of high school (2002) so it has been over eight years since I have seen some of the math that we did this week. With only a few prompts and reminders, I was able to scower into the deep dark corners of my mind and dust off the handy dandy Calculus folder. It had been a long time since I had used Calculus and definitely have not thought about it as deeply as I did this week. (Basically what all that means is that my brain was on math overload, but for the most part, I enjoyed it!)
I spent the week with 19 other high school math teachers and was easily one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teacher there. I was encouraged as the week went on that I was able to quickly recall the facts, formulas and problem solving strategies that at one time in my educational career had been so necessary for the courses I was taking in college.
When you put a group of teachers together, especially math teachers, for an extended period of time, you bond with that group, even though you may never see each other again after this week. As math teachers, we are a bunch of nerds that can't leave a problem unfinished and insist on not only knowing the answer to said problem, but understanding how to get that answer. Often times, our facilitator (another high school math teacher) would give us a problem solely to introduce us to an activity/strategy that she used with her students, but we all got tied up in what the problem was that we would not let her move on (or would not listen if she did) until that problem was conquered. Completed. Finished. Correct.
That is something that made me love the world of mathematics.. there is one correct answer. (Well most of the time.) Math is very black and white. There are not many gray areas. Yes, there may be more than one way to get to the same answer, but at least there is an answer.
Being on a college campus this week took me back to my four years spent at the wonderful Kansas State University. I do not have time to go through all that my college years meant to me, but in the midst of studying Secondary Math Education (remember I like math because it is so black and white), I was introduced to the gray areas of my life: my beliefs and who I was. I do not mean I didn't know what I believed, but I didn't know what it all meant and why I believed it. God took me on an incredible journey of learning about who He is, who I am because of what He did for me and what it means about the direction and passion of my life.
In college, I learned that it was ok to question things and it was ok to not find a definite answer. This was a hard realization for me, given that I am used to finding the one, correct answer. I also had to learn some tough lessons about people, ministry and that both will let you down in one way or another.
All of this tied into my week in Tulsa as I realized that even though I don't teach Calculus, I still play a big part. Since I teach the courses that lead up to Calculus, it is imperative that I prepare my students for what is coming. I learned things this week that I can do differently in each course I teach. I know I won't be perfect. I know I will let students down. I also know that if I can help to inspire them in some small way to keep questioning and to keep being curious, this will serve them in more areas of their life than just math.
I was reminded this week why I am a teacher. I want to impact that lives of others the way my life has been impacted by others.