Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The fire hose CAN drown you

When I started this Fellowship, I told myself that this would be a time of "YES" - a time to read professional books, journals, and blog posts, sign up to attend conferences webinars, and meet new people. And I've been doing a good job of this. Just one problem. With all the "yes," I fear I'm starting to lose the "why". Information overload is a real thing, and the fire hose can drown you.

I felt this way many times when I was teaching, and I chalked it up to being so busy that I did not have enough time to reflect. And here I am again, this time creating my own busy-ness, and I need a moment to turn off the hose and think quietly. So here are some things I'm learning ...

  1. Taking time to reflect is an active process; I can't just wait around for that time to become available. I can and need to be in control of the fire hose.  (Kind of like making time to exercise, which I am also learning I need to do when working from home.)
  2. Writing helps me reflect and think. Hence, this blog post.
  3. I need to listen attentively when my students and colleagues of color are trying to tell me something, and I need to respond, thoughtfully and with an attitude of learning, not with defensiveness. Silence is not helpful, and sometimes the only response I should give is "thank you."
    Detail from Hotchkiss notebook

  4. There are some really interesting notebooks on the Library of Congress website: George Brinton McClellan's math class grade book, with two months of student grades, lots of algebra scrap work, and diagrams and apparent to-do lists about fortifying embankments.  (I now know what fascines and gabions are.)  Also, Jedediah Hotchkiss's math notes, in which he writes, with excruciating detail and many exercises, about the meaning of numbers, fractions and money systems.  (And now I know that 1 Talent is the same as 60 Maneh or 3000 Shekels, which comes to $1659.609 in the currency of the time.  That .609 is 60 cents and 9 mills; I'm learning so much!)  Both documents were written between 1840 and 1850.  I don't know what to do with these, but despite the fact they are difficult to read for more than one reason, I still think they're cool.
  5. I really need to spend more time thinking about what my current experiences will mean when I'm back with my students next year.
    • How will I incorporate what I am reading about inclusion and social emotional learning?
    • What am I going to do with the online tools I'm learning? How will I use them if we're meeting in person vs meeting remotely?
    • Teaching for understanding and teaching the beauty of mathematics both require that I teach the skills required by the syllabus differently.  I'm not sure yet how to do that.
    • Assessments should look different.  I'm not sure yet how to do that, either.
  6. "The obstacle is the path."  and  "Pretend it's on the lesson plan."  I already know both of these things, but accepting that I am serving this fellowship remotely takes some work every day.
  7. I find it very easy to get sucked into a sinkhole of time when checking social media (I need to remember #1 above instead) or when looking through LoC collections (see #4 above).  I can turn off both of those fire hoses if I choose. 
There are other important things I'm learning, and I definitely need to write about them, but I just realized I've been sitting in this chair for several hours, and I need to take a walk.  And drink an actual glass of water.