As I've progressed through the career, I have tried to keep track of my base principles. What should always be true about the way I work? What should always be true about the way I run the classroom? And how do you keep it simple to avoid a self-induced pressure cooker?

Know the Content

Above all, I need to know what I'm talking about. I don't want to regurgitate something from a text. I want to make sure I understand a topic, how it works in general, how it might connect to something students have seen before, and how it connects to where I want to go. I want my content to tell a story. It's not necessary that the kids even know they're in the middle of a story, just that they can trust me to talk about things in a logical way that flows nicely. That we don't just study things at random because some curriculum guide told us to do so.

Initially, this was the hard part of the job. I am so upset if I teach something incorrectly, in a tricksy manner, or in an obtuse way. Really grinding away at the content early on has had the biggest payoff. I can sing you the ballad of Pre-Cal complete with a dramatic Third Act in my sleep now. But knowing the content doesn't mean you have to be perfect.

Know the Flaws

I screw up. I admit this to the kids. I make them keep an eye out for my mistakes, because they will happen. I try to model a good attitude when it comes to mistakes. They are ok! Even college educated adults make them! You would not believe the countless mistakes I have made on homework solutions, assessments solutions, and live in the middle of some topic. I recognize that I am going to make mistakes with the math and accept it. I try to minimize them sure, but I don't beat myself up over it. On the off chance I do cover something in a weird or incorrect way, I profusely apologize to the students and make it right.

I also know the flaws of my teaching style. I ramble. I get side tracked. I tell silly stories. The kids know this and in some cases are good at purposely triggering me into a distraction. I have gotten better at recognizing this in the moment and try to minimize the distraction. I don't stop, it makes class fun. It gets the kids to open up and usually leads to each class developing something funny that's uniquely theirs. I have classes that happily sing happy birthday to each and every office aide that wanders in, and that's fantastic.

I misinterpret kids questions and give answers they didn't ask for. I ask questions they don't understand. I think kids are talking to me or about me when that's not the case all the time. I trip over my words. I do all kinds of silly imperfect things. But that's cool, everyone does. It's ok to be a real person in front of students.

Know the People

In 7th grade for whatever reason I approached my art teacher and said very boldly "do you even know my name?" In a true pro move she smiled and said "Jonathan we need to talk about a drawing I want you to make for a contest..." not only deflecting my sorta rude question, but showing me that "ok punk, not only do I know your name, I know you're talented too."

The school I attended in 6th grade had been larger and I felt lost in my big classes (each around 30+). I suppose it was natural to think this teacher generally didn't know me much like the others. And for whatever reason this incident has stuck with me for 20 years. I greatly appreciated all of my teachers who took a moment to acknowledge, yes kid, I know who you are and what you bring to the table.

That's probably the biggest of my base principles. I need to be tight when it comes to presenting and teaching, but I need to be tight on my soft skills too. Each kid should feel like it's ok to talk to me, that we can have a conversation, however brief, that it can be about whatever, and that they know I'm aware of what they're up to and how I might improve things. I have structured so many of my classroom procedures out of building in time for me to get to know the students. If I'm talking 45 minutes a day, every day of the week, that can't happen as well as when I hand out some classwork, turn on the music, and go wandering.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

I find assessment to be the most fascinating part of the job. For what I thought was a very rigid, established, system, there is really a lot of room to very creative. Figuring out how students turn your word salad into their own knowledge is magical. I mused on what I look for in assessment a year ago. I still agree with the general idea: the grade part is irrelevant, I'm just curious to see what you think. I still have to assign grades in some thoughtful way, incorporating that continues to evolve.

Most of my assessment methods were driven by necessity. When I first implemented SBG a long time ago, it was driven by being more efficient with my time due to athletics. I needed assessments that were short and simple to grade. I also needed to reduce the amount of things I graded. Two years ago I dabbled with A/B/Not Yet for Calculus. Through the year I stopped reviewing student papers and had them self determine their level. Most of the self-ratings were pretty honest, in general I've found students are harder on themselves than you'd think. Last year, also due to athletic constraints, I put all of the determination on my Calculus students. I still had piles of Pre-Cal stuff to deal with an two sports consuming all my extra time, so that's just how it needed to be.

In retrospect, it was a swing too far in the "grade how you feel" direction. I have since retired from my major athletics duties, and now have the time to give students a greater amount of attention. You might frown at slacking in this area, and believe me I wasn't happy about it, but to you I gently say ask a coach what the grind is like.

Here's how I handle assessment in my three subjects:

College Algebra

I use a stock SBG (0-4 scale with two required attempts) system here. It's something I know, and the multiple attempts play great for this audience. Kids are encouraged to keep their resources (notebook) organized by using them on the assessment. Kids can also work on them together. Multiple versions are scattered around. The sections are short and sweet: demonstrate a skill and explain it to me. All of the kids in this class are very capable, some require more time than others. To discourage "speed = smart" I keep the problem load low and make them do a lot of explanations.

My intent with this class is to dedicate their time to classwork as much as possible. The classes are small enough (18 and 15) that some intense differentiation is feasible and probably best. I don't have a plan for that yet. Assessments are just a piece of classwork I happen to look at and shouldn't be feared. A post-secondary goal for these kids is increasing the number that can qualify for college level math courses. Though this class is College Algebra in name, it does not award any credit (since I lack a master's degree I'm obviously unqualified to grant credit, apparently).

Calculus AB

I am keeping some of the ideas from my A/B/Not Yet experiment, namely the self-determination aspects. Assessments are short (half piece of paper) and sweet, with a combination of skills and explanations. There's a max of 10 questions and each assessment is rated on a 0-10 scale. Though 1 question does not necessarily equal 1 point. Students have about 35 minutes to complete the assessment. When I call time they grab a marker and I show the answer keys. Students give themselves as much feedback as they desire. Though unlike my previous system, I collect the papers and assign the rating. I take a holistic view of the paper when determining the score. I put a sticker on there if they get an 8, 9, or 10. The kids making a pre-check helps the rating process go faster.

Right now things are still pretty introductory, we don't know enough to tackle legit AP stuff. Eventually we will transition to AP-style problems on these. They will still take benchmarks to help them make an informed decision about the AP Exam. I expect about 60-70% (~50 out of 75) of these kids to opt-in to the exam.

Calculus BC

It's a small class (16) and a group of kids who put enough pressure on themselves without me being hardcore about tests. Their assessment system is divided into open book (35% of the grade) and closed book (45% of the grade) activities. In all cases they may collaborate on the task at hand. Open book assignments are chopped into a few sections worth a varying amount of points a piece (anywhere from 2 to 9) based on length or complexity. Each section is its own gradebook entry. Because of the speed required, we have already dabbled with legit AP material, so often I use the open book questions to give them a shot at FRQ style situations. The goal is to be diligent about how to make a math argument.

Closed book assessment has been done via Desmos Activity Builder. Topics vary and are usually conceptually in nature. Though the College Board is stuck in the stone ages with calculator technology, I use these as an opportunity to get them better at typing math notation, among other things. Use of Activity Builder spawns from a comment last year that students were fine with all the writing, but typing might be more preferable. These activities are about 15 slides long and I use the dashboard to assess how they rate on a 0-15 scale.

As this group transitions towards even more AP material, closed book will become a little more intense. These students will also take benchmarks to give them an idea about how they'll do on the AP Exam. I would be wildly surprised if the opt-in rate for the Exam was under 100% here.

Conclusion

Assessment can be whatever you want. Find a system you like. Experiment with one you're not sure about. You can always make changes. I don't love points systems, but if you don't want to work within 0-100, don't. There are many many ways to see what kids know and don't know.

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After six years, I have put quite a bit of material online. I share tests, problem sets, lesson ideas, and have taken thousands of pictures. Some of that material has taken on a life of its own as teachers continue the great pursuit: what's something I can use tomorrow?

The teachers I watch on Twitter are in great contrast with the teachers I encounter locally. Little focus on the big issues, always looking for the next great idea starter or lesson resource. That seems to bear out in my statistics.

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 10.06.36 PM.png

Nothing on this list was written in the last two years. A certain subset of you seem interested in the most recent thing I have to say, which is awesome, I'm glad you like what I have to share. A vast majority are after the archives, the stuff they could potentially use tomorrow. In most cases they're finding their way here from Pinterest, the post in question collected on a board labeled "Teaching Ideas," "Pre-Cal lessons," or something similar.

What does this mean? I don't know, but it seems like there is a constant interest in what other people have to offer. I know I still go looking for it myself:

If you have an archive that's organized in anyway, I suggest making it available, there is certainly an ever present demand. We all have something to learn from each other.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

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.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

I wrote about proven but dull iPad use roughly a year ago and my opinion hasn't changed.

If you ever walk into my room, you'd think it's a technological wonderland. There's TVs and a printer, and I use a non-conventional input method. I generate all of my assignments in house electronically, etc, etc. All of that helps me do my job efficiently. But if you're one of my students, you'd probably hear more about markers than anything else. My method of note giving is actually quite frustrating for the students. I can manipulate stuff all over the screen, shrinking and moving content as necessary. Until I can equip them all with an iPad Pro or something, there's not much they can do but sigh and erase because they didn't leave enough lines empty. The phrase "you KNOW we can't do that" comes up often as I happily rearrange things.

Anyway, a couple of recent events have prompted me to examine just what a student device enhances. One, there's a (slim) possibility a local company might be augmenting what we have on hand. Two, I've started teaching a lot of kids who are incidentally involved in a 1:1 program through their AP English and Eco/Government classes. Leading to scenes like this:

You see that and think, surely they're Google doc'ing or collaborating or making a presentation or something, right? That sort of thing does happen elsewhere in the building and it works well, just not in my room for my subject. Their primary use for me is flipping through scans of handwritten solutions to AP problem sets.

iPads and Desmos still come in handy:

But the struggle remains. Does it pass the pencil test? Do I save something going the electronic route? In very narrow scenarios, that answer has been yes. But most of the time, pencil is still so much better, especially when it comes to feedback.

At a local EdCamp, there was buzz about Google Classroom. But the end result was a lot of people migrating fill-in-the-blank worksheets and debating ways to have students fill in the blanks electronically. Or yet another way to boil math down into computer friendly multiple-choice sets. When asked (I usually just listen at these things), I said it's the wrong approach entirely. You haven't thought about whether filling in blanks or skimming through multiple choice was an appropriate assignment in the first place. Ask any college kid putting up with MathXL.

In some future scenario where all my students have a Chromebook or something, I think I'd stop making copies of my problem strips as a first move. In Calculus it might lead to me writing the workbook I want but no one wants to sell. As far as having students download slides or fill in forms or what have you, I'm just not convinced. Activity Builder is on the radar, but I still don't know if it's my style. In my particular math classroom, the advantages aren't high enough to merit further investment.

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There was a discussion some time ago about an article on the need for computer science knowledgable people in high school. In Internet hyperbole fashion, it was titled There are no computer science teachers in NY. The salient quote:

Getting engineers to teach full-time would be a harder sell. Some New York startups offer starting salaries of as much as $85,000 for engineers, plus equity in the company, while on average in the metro area, technologists earn $94,000, according to job board Dice.com. A New York City teacher starts at $46,000.
— http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140205/TECHNOLOGY/140209942/there-are-no-computer-science-teachers-in-ny

Engineers always seem to be desired, no matter the field. It was hinted at all throughout my engineering coursework. There's no need to worry, everyone will take an engineer. Which makes the salary part a sticking point. Eventually I was summoned into the discussion.

My response is tangential to the point of the discussion, which is, should EVERYONE learn to code? A big argument of its own. I'm here to discuss what's it like being in education without the traditional training.

The short answer is I have lots of answers. Students will ask me what I did in college and kind of double take when they hear I have an engineering degree. The first two things out of their mouth in some order are "why are you a teacher?" and "but don't engineers make lots of money?"

I could go on forever about the "why are you a teacher?" question. But for the seventeen year old audience, I have started to summarize. If you're going to do something for 8-10 hours a day, every day for 30 years, you better enjoy it a little bit. As indicated by the second question, in their opinion, success after high school is gauged by salary, the bigger the better. Blame that on whatever you want, but it's what they think. For someone to have the opportunity and reject it just sounds bonkers. At the same time though, they're fascinated. A real life engineer? Here? In front of me? ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS.

Longer Answers

Let's address the salary thing for a minute. Where I live, if you get an engineering degree and have a decent GPA (3.0+), you'll probably wind up in the oil industry, though it's not required. There are a thousand companies servicing every aspect of it. Those people start somewhere in the $50k range. It goes up pretty quick. If you land something at a big outfit like Chevron, you're talking $70k+ within a few years, and big time bonuses if you get an extended international assignment (which is pretty much guaranteed). Other less profitable industries have lower starting salaries but you'll be up to six figures soon enough. I worked in construction for three years, my offer letter was for $46k in 2006, that's about $54k today. It climbed to $53k by the time I quit in 2009. Had I stuck around I'd be a high level manager of some sort and possibly close to double my entry pay. Plus 10 years of stock interests and profit sharing.

If you poke around school districts in Texas, most of the urban ones have starting tiers in the mid-40s to low-50s. My district base tier for a bachelor's degree is $50k. (Come work with me, guaranteed cheaper than NYC). In 2009 I started at $45k. My salary has risen less in 7 years here than it did over the 3 years I worked in an industry. It's to be expected, even in a thin margin (3% is standard, 10% is amazing) business like construction.

From a content point of view, I'm overqualified. I'm not as rare as you'd think. If you ask around there are lots of engineering and math degree types that attend TMC and participate in the greater Teachers of The Internet thing. All of them walking into the education business for a variety of reasons. In terms of classes taken I surpassed the high school stuff after like week 2 freshman year. The funny thing is most students wouldn't consider someone with a math degree as equally overqualified. Even though they could out-math me while blindfolded.

Ok, so I left money on the table and I'm overtrained. Would I do it over again? Absolutely. I have some opinions on office work, they are mostly negative.

Qualifications Are No Guarantee

Slowly, I've gotten ok at this teaching thing. Did I pick it up in college? Maybe. The big thing I learned about myself in 4 years of college is what I can do under pressure. I could learn to be productive or I could learn how to find another field of study. Towards the end we had a nice study group and all five of  us found success in teaching one another. I'd be good at one subject, my friend would be good at another. Endless discussion about homework and exams and whatnot. Then we'd take a break and play chess. Because, nerds.

Through that experience I realized you know material the best when you can explain it to someone. But teaching is so much more than being able to deliver material. Any of my engineer colleagues could stand up and flick through a presentation and pass out a test (and think it was the pinnacle of the art form). Any of them on paper are qualified to teach whatever math and science you want to give them. The intangibles like personal skills, adaptability, and the fundamental recognition that a 16 year old has less experience with this stuff are what matters. Many people I graduated with couldn't explain the lab reports they wrote.

And I was nothing special my first year. I had to invest time learning the material. What might make me different is the engineer side always wants to know "why?" which spawned two instances of hacking a curriculum to pieces. I can rebuild it. I have the technology. Others might be content to let a textbook handle that.

Conclusion

Did studying engineering give me some innate advantage? Maybe. Did studying engineering enhance a pre-existing aptitude? More likely. Are engineers the solution? No.

If you started a campaign to convince engineers to enter education, you would find some gems certainly. Several times I've visited Freshman Mechanical Engineering Seminar to talk about myself and I always have a few saying they have a real desire to teach in the future. These people exist. But I don't think your degree makes you more or less likely to be successful in education. There's too many variables. You'd have better luck pushing back on pre-service programs.

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They throw the word "survival" around a lot at new teachers. People in all parts of the business talk about how little prep pre-service people get. You can student teach and observe all you want, it's just so different when the kids belong to you.

Well, you've jumped that hurdle. You're no longer the rookie. Likely some wide-eyed new teacher is going to look to you for advice now. Unless no one in your department left and you're still the new kid. It happens.

Hopefully some time was spent in reflection, whether during the summer or in the heat of the moment as some well-crafted lesson blew up in your face. Everyone's been there.

What's so great about year two?

Let me tell two stories. In 2006 I was thrown on a construction project that was finishing. Some months before I started working, a steel mast was moved to solve a problem. Two years later it caused another problem which became my problem despite never seeing the thing get installed or know any of the motivation behind the move. In 2007 I was negotiating a generator rental. They had some problems with terms. I consented to changes but nothing was executed by anyone with real power. Job goes by, generator bills paid on time (which is all anyone cares about), and everyone's happy. In 2009 I get a call at like 8pm because my negotiation fake out was causing someone else problems, said generator company using a random e-mail I sent as their source of argument. It all went away (like I said, nothing was ever signed, I'm not stupid).

Point is, things rarely come back to haunt you in education. The lesson you're going to deliver better this year? The kids never have to know it sucked the first time. The student you were happy to say goodbye to? Unlikely to cause a problem for you ever again. Those final exams you kept? You can throw them away! School year's end and you move on. You get a reset button.

That's what I love about August. Summer's over, sure. But all the excitement is still there. Flipping through the newly minted class list, figuring out where the heck they're all supposed to sit, rethinking your bulletin board, and even seeing what new and exciting things might be on the duty list.

Enjoy the freshness. Don't underestimate its importance.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

There are rumors big scale Chromebook deployments could come to the district. There were some pilot programs last year in English IV and Government. I was given a Dell Chromebook 11 to see what possibilities there were for high school math.

Hardware

My primary point of comparison is an iPad. The Chromebook I used sells for $249. You can get refurbished iPad minis for that price, but not with retina screens. Definite price advantage. The keyboard is fine. The case and hinge feel sturdy. Battery lasts for quite a while, with infrequent use would only need a charge once a week. But man, the trackpad is no good. Plugging in a mouse was necessary.

Software

Google Drive and its companion apps are definitely meant for a desktop browser. If given a set of these, I could have students save a lot more of their work. I'm still not sold on handing things in digitally. I like physical products. If anything being able to save things like custom trig graphs or piecewise functions would let students spend time on them outside the classroom if they don't finish. I could add some more elaborate write up portions perhaps?

I couldn't try out Google Classroom. It requires inviting accounts enabled for it through Google Apps for Education. And I have no children at the moment. It doesn't seem to be much more than a central point for students to grab things from you. The add-on Doctopus appears to offer similar management features. I didn't explore add-ons much.

Printing was among my major questions. Google handles this through Cloud Print, a work in progress. In theory you tie a wireless printer or a printer tethered to a desktop you control to your Google account and any subsequent device you sign into can print to that device. I successfully sent stuff to the printer many times, but some OS X weirdness prevented it from working. I don't blame Google here. Everything on their end seemed to work.

Products

I set out to reproduce things I've done with iPads. Regardless of hardware, when it comes to technology the application has got to really trump the quickness of pencil/marker and paper. Remaking things you can do in Desmos on an iPad was simple. My experience with Desmos classroom activities was no different than with an iPad.

Clockwise from top left: Identify a region between curves; determine linear equations for a street map; import data and perform a regression; prepping Desmos output for print

The Chromebook excelled in two scenarios. For a couple years I had Pre-Cal kids wander around and take pictures of random right triangles, dimension them, and then give me a the set of trig ratios associated with an angle in the triangle. The drawing tools in Drive make for some better results. A student submission from that version is on the left, my recreation is on the right.

The desktop implementation of Drive is what wins here. You have do a lot of import/export steps on the iPad to get it sent to the right place, part of the reason I abandoned this idea.

The second improvement came with Geogebra. I don't have much experience with it, but I've known it to be a little fiddly and it works better with a mouse. Were I geometry teacher, I'd be very happy at the thought of student computers capable of using it. Geogebra installs a Chrome app (nothing but a bookmark really) version of itself.

The 3D graphing features seem worthwhile. It could offer a lot of enhancement to the modest discussion of 3D I'm able to do today.

Conclusion

At first pass, a Chromebook would allow me to do the same things I can do with my iPads. As stated before, the best thing I've found for technology is off loading the heavy lifting parts of graphing. That's roughly 10 to 12 class days (once every 4-5 weeks) throughout the course of the year. Putting a desktop experience in a cheap package gives me a chance to do those activities and a little more. They still wouldn't come out everyday.

There are easy ways to modify some of my established practices. Students could do more writing. Students could submit projects to me instead of printing them out. Students have all the benefits of the internet and we could find some research angles. Students could do a lot more self-paced learning (like watching tutorial videos! just seeing who's still with me...) There's tons of unexplored potential with Geogebra and I just teach the wrong subject to exploit it. But, the whole experience doesn't do much to make the pencil and paper needs of math class better or obsolete.

If the testing conglomerate every modernizes I could see using these things all the time in Calculus. A notebook, pencil, and Chromebook/iPad is not a bad way to do math.

So are 1:1 Chromebooks a good idea for math? As part of a larger deployment where ELA/SS have gone paperless, sure. Exclusively for math? Just give me a cart.

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Lots of people leave the classroom all the time. Some cite unfinished business in their own education, others want to have bigger macro-level impacts, and some write an op-ed for The Atlantic about how poor and untrusted we all are and how they walked out in frustration.

Maybe I'm weird, but I like being exactly where I am. At the moment my only unfinished business relates to making my teaching a tiny bit better each year. I like playing with curriculum, I like playing with procedures, and I really like the day in and day out of running a room. I want the chance to teach 30 years' worth of students at the same school. Call it old fashioned loyalty.

But why stay? Like others I'm sure I could be of great service in an education graduate program (having never taken 1 education class, shhh....). I could become an instructional coach. I could try to solve some of the capital B Big Problems with education. I could try to yell louder about how wrong people are about edtech.

All of those prevent me from doing what I like the most, hanging out with five groups of kids in math class every day. My job is not the grind of rattling off the same slides every day, handing out the same worksheet for 10 years, or grading a test guarded under lock and key, all while muttering under my breath about how kids today are doomed. My job is watching kids be goofy, making cool things, and trying to entertain them as best as possible while teaching them a few things. It does wear on me, but usually the first five days of summer fix that problem.

Something else at work here: I already had the career crisis. Lots of people I meet who start teaching as a first job get bigger ambitions because that's what happens at first jobs. You want to make sure you chose correctly before you get too old. Job hopping is what people in their 20s do. I was in a different industry before. After three years it was evident it wasn't fulfilling and I should find something else. If you're moving from teaching to an office job and think paradise awaits or all those things you complain about are behind you, well, there are some things you should know about office jobs...

As far as growth within the education field, I just don't think it's for me. I don't need to reinvent textbooks. I don't want to become an instructional coach, leader, or administrator. I did a bit of research as an undergraduate, enough to tell me I dislike research. Like, I'm the anti-Pershan of research. All of those jobs are motivations for getting a masters. But there's just not enough teaching involved. I'm going to take on the workload and expense of a masters just to do my exact same job for a 2% raise? No thanks. Let's say I departed the classroom to get another degree, what are the odds I could have my exact same job when I return? Given the unique circumstances that got me to my schedule, they are low.

The stuff in the op-ed pieces isn't worth addressing. That angry article with a thousand retweets represents the minority of schools. There are poorly run schools. There are poorly run state systems. I landed in a good situation and it has only proven to get better. I know lots of people who enjoy their situation. Schools like this exist, I want you to find one where you're happy, it is possible.

All this to say I'm staying in the classroom. I will continue to stay in the classroom. If you're a veteran who feels the same way, props to you.

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Last semester I gave a nifty test question. Students had to reason through whether something I presented them is valid using a combination of things we have talked about. Some of them followed the lines of thinking I intended and a few went beyond my expectations.

A similar thing happened recently. Last year in my Algebra II revamp I wanted to put more emphasis on the purpose of graphs. My current Pre Cal group didn't necessarily get that connection during their Algebra II experience. Early early on I brought it up as we began with quadratics. Now that it was time for trig equations I brought it up again. Why would trig equations have a series of repeatable solutions?

I had them hack it out via Desmos first:

I gave them some equations and showed them how to plot it. They jotted down a ton of the solutions and I asked if they noticed anything. Hoping they caught on to the presence of a pattern, even if they didn't necessarily know what was causing it.

Anyway, we spent some time solving trig equations algebraically, representing the solutions as a multiple of the period. Some of that was on the test. But then I threw this at them.

The expected process would involve taking the equation given, solving it algebraically, and seeing if the intersection points in the picture appear. Simple.

A few demonstrated some great understanding of trig functions. In this particular example, the student solved the equation, noted the presence of an intersection point and agreed. But, BUT. Do you see the part where they verified that the GRAPH itself makes sense, that the presence of an intersection point might not tell the whole story? I mean, I had to stop for a second. This was so great.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon