Unfinished Thoughts

Sandy Merz Books, Current Affairs, Mathematics

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Well, I missed my second deadline in a row and can't claim to have been too busy. Truth be told, I haven't been able to string together enough complete thoughts on a single topic to hit our 600 – 800 word target. I wonder if there's such a thing as Late Onset Attention Deficit Disorder. As soon as doctors discover it, I bet there will be a pill. 

So instead of one topic, here are a bunch of unfinished thoughts.

1) Trying to balance work and personal life is a struggle across society these days. Two related books that are fun to read in tandem are Living With Complexity by Dan Norman and The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda (easy to find as a free PDF). The first is more conceptual, the second more practical. I lost my notes to them when my IPad crashed recently and am looking forward to reading them again.

2) A lot of bloggers have been posting examples of bad Common Core lessons, many of them sent in by frustrated parents. Teachers have responded defensively, and often condescendingly. One even offered a template for parents about how to write a letter to a teacher. Isn't a better response to counter the bad examples with good examples? There are plenty out there.

3) I wrote in my Digressive Discourse blog that regarding the Common Core Debate I'd rather be well than right. Won't you check it out?

4) The adopted algebra text that my district uses has "Core" written on almost every page, but I've yet to find a substantive difference between it and the previous edition. The workbook on the other hand has potential. But only about 3 out of 30 of this year's class could work independently in it, and it's got a lot of typos that throw those kids off. 

On the other hand I got a hold of the workbook that accompanies the adopted text of different district. It's excellent and will be my anchor for my planning this summer.

5) Why couldn't the Common Core be implemented a grade or two at a time? I'm not sure about language arts, but the 8th grade math sample tests I've seen are easily a couple of years ahead of our current 8th graders. Who will be blamed when only a handful of students meet the standards on whatever assessment is used? Classroom teachers.

6) If you could change places with a non-teacher who would it be?  And I don't mean in a "What would you do if you won the lottery?" way. I mean truly. The question makes me think of Stigmata with Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne. It's good and scary. In one scene sexual tension is building between the Arquette character and the Byrne character. That's awkard because the Byrne character is a priest, but wasn't always. She asks how he could give up whatever the opposite of celibacy is called. He responds that it was a matter of changing one set of complications for another. I wonder if that's what it's like when teachers leave the profession and discover the complications along their new path.

Oh, by the way, I'd be a Space Ranger. 

7)  Can I just say I love my career? There's a picture that often shows up on Facebook pages of Snoopy and Charlie Brown dancing. The caption is, "What if today, we were just grateful for everything?" It's a fair question. I wonder if the networks of gratitude in teaching are matched in any other career.

8) I'm turned off by hearing people say they just want what's best for kids. Does it really add anything to a debate? Here's an example of a better way, offered by my friend Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa Education Association: Adequate pension plans help kids because teachers can retire on a living wage when the time is right. The alternative, which she documents has occurred in some private schools, is for teachers to continue long after they are still effective because they can't afford to retire. 

 9) Finally, in Smilla's Sense of Snow, also with Gabriel Byrne, lead actress Julia Ormand plays a mathematician. In one scene she explains how number systems – you know – whole numbers, integers, real numbers, etc. – have parallels in a person's emotional development. That inspired the attached slide show. Feel free to use it. I haven't attached a document to a post before so leave a comment if you have trouble downloading it and I'll email it to you.

 

I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after thirty-two years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. After teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career, I've moved to a different middle school and district on the edge of town to teach math. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona, and serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education and I'm a former Arizona Hope Street Fellow.

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