Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach administrate. Those who can't administrate consult. 

I managed to get a 2-day job (paying rather well, as it turns out), doing some NCLB teacher training. During the training part of this, I realized that most of the other teams would be facing disaster based on the condescending way that they talked about the teachers that they'd be teaching. Apparently they didn't realize that while there are bad teachers in the large urban school district that we'd be training, none of them would be giving up a Saturday (even if paid and receiving professional development hours) to train to teach after school or Saturday supplementary classes.

Or it might not be too bad. My partner who did most of the first part of the training avoided being condescending with the teachers (although it was amusing to myself and to the classroom teachers to see how amazed he seemed to be by the wrap-around teacher's edition that the test prep company doing this had prepared. He apparently was unaware that nearly all K-12 textbooks have teacher's editions in this format.

It was great fun doing the teacher training and giving the teachers a chance to prepare and demonstrate lessons from the materials. I'd definitely like to do more of this.

And having been reading (and participating in) the discussion here, then seeing teachers, one observation: There was really no sign among these teachers at least, of the low performance mindset that seems awfully common in a lot of ed school prep programs, particularly at the K-8 level. I suspect that while these people may be in the classes, very few of them make it into the workforce. Or at least not the 6-8 workforce. There was one discussion about probability during the break that reflected a good understanding not only of how probability works but also how to teach it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Back teaching 

I had my first meeting of my math for liberal arts majors class yesterday, complicated by the fact that on Tuesday I decided that the class as I had conceived it was boring and I through out the syllabus and started over. This means that we'll be jumping around in the book a fair bit, but the course topics will be organized in a way that should make them more interesting.

The kids are polite but passive. I'll try to change that over the next 16 weeks (the passive part, that is), but I'm feeling pretty good about what we did. The amount of time that we have for class is actually pretty long, so I'll be able to do more interactive activities in the classroom than I might have first imagined.

On the way to the campus I got a call from the other college's math department. The college algebra class that I was to teach has been cancelled because of low enrollment. They offered me another section of math for liberal arts in its place. This is actually kind of nice. One less prep to deal with.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Tutoring update 

I'm up to four tutees at this point, two of whom are starting this week and the other two are ending this week. The original student, who's getting the SAT help continues to coast a bit on her abilities and not really put in a lot of effort. From watching her, she could probably score an 800 on the SAT quantitative, but she doesn't seem particularly interested in putting in the effort to get there. It's a bit startling how quickly she loses what she's learned.

My other tutee, I really like. I think he's actually paying for the tutoring out of his own pocket. He's a senior, struggling a little bit with Algebra II, but he realized that he needed to get his act together to graduate high school. Better still, he wants to become an aeronautical engineer. He's actually a lot smarter than his grades have shown, and he's willing to put in the time and effort to do will. I'd tutor him for free (and I may well make the offer on Friday when we have our final tutoring session).

I've also been quite impressed with his methodical approach to his work and I wonder whether this is a consequence of his current math teacher. If so, I'd love to spend a day watching her teach and asking her about her approach to her work to see what I can learn from her.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Happy 2006 

Because 2005 isn't looking so good right away.

Starting grad school in the spring isn't going to happen, courtesy of the California residency rules which are stricter than I remember them. I need to have established residency a year before enrollment (hmm, in my old state, I was a local student with no more than a piece of mail to verify residency). Oh well. So it looks like teach 2 classes in the spring, pick up whatever tutoring work I can and perhaps sub work (which is harder to justify with my history than college teaching). I had ordered cheap copies of the textbooks for the classes I was going to take this spring and I may do the work for them anyway. It will be interesting to see how much graduate level math I can learn on my own (and following along with whatever shows up on the web).

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