Career wise, it's been a bit of a strange year. Some odd ups and downs I wasn't expecting. At the same time, I've never felt more comfortable on the job. The day to day is going well, improvising continues to be a skill I can rely on, and I continue to refine little details that get my kids thinking about concepts in better ways than they have before. We may do fewer exercises than the kids down the street, but darn it I think mine understand better (I hope).

At several points during the year I've had students wonder out loud why everything just feels so challenging to them on their own when I make it appear effortless (ignoring the daily typo ritual that is Calculus) and simple. It's been a consistent message for the last several years of teaching. What I do that's so special when it comes to explaining? I have no idea, and that's a tad scary.

Anyway, my retort comes down to reps. On the grand time scale of life, they just haven't put in the sufficient reps yet, haven't had that turn the corner moment. I ask them "what's something you feel like you're really good at?" Often it's a sport or some skill (instrument, drawing, Call of Duty, whatever). And my follow up is "at a certain point, didn't you just realize I'm really comfortable with this?" with an appropriate amount of head nods. Really I'm just repeating an argument here from December. Look, I'm even going to break out a similar graphic:

In true business exec fashion, the y-axis represents comfort levels but lacks a scale. I spend my day teaching, which I know how to do pretty well now, but I split time between subjects with which I have very different comfort levels. The cracks are more visible despite all the thousand of teaching hours (see previous reference about lots of typos).

Guiding students towards that turn the corner moment is one important aspect of the job, but taking myself on that path is equally necessary. I feel like kids trust you more when you can tell them what it's like on the other side. While the typos and errors and goofs are a tad frustrating for the Calculus kids (though a great example of how real math is done), they still trust me because they spent a year in Pre-Cal with me, a subject I can recite forwards and backwards. Why do I like Pre-Cal so much this year? I've sung that song so many times. I developed a lot of big beats. I know I can do ambitious projects at scale. Calculus just doesn't have all the catchy verses yet.

But how do you push? More specifically, the question is how do I push? Coasting is such a tempting thing to do on the other side of the turn, and I can feel it in Pre-Cal. Especially during the time crunch of soccer season.

Finding Important Moments™ through the year is how I push. They are landmarks that keep me interested and that always needs attention. This year I took two fundamental Important Moments™: Vector Crafts and 3D Objects and rebooted them entirely. The content of the class is getting rebooted this summer.

Refinements are always possible. When I first embarked in education, an old college professor asked if I considered what it'd be like teaching the same thing for ten years. Despite the day to day mechanics of the job being quite predictable, I can say that despite my comfort, the content continues to provide a challenge.

Examining how content flows is of great interest to me, and something I hope to wrap into a cogent presentation at TMC16 this year.

AuthorJonathan Claydon