## Mathematics in Civilization (1/n)

I picked up a great-looking book a few years back and I’m just now getting a chance to dig in. It’s a freshman math textbook for college folks: Mathematics in Civilization (H.L. Resnikoff & R.O. Wells, Jr.). It’s a 1973 book that shows how mathematics came to be and how it has shaped and continues to shape our civilization.

A few wise folks have recommended some number of times that I learn more about the history of math, and as folks usually are, it was wise advice.

This book is intended for students and others who desire to understand the role that mathematics plays in science and society. (p 3)

Way to start it off with a bang, fellas.

The purposes and consequences of mathematics are of serious concern for the growth and health of society and therefore are a proper and necessary part of the workaday intellectual baggage that must be carried about by every educated and effective participant in civilized life. (p 5)

I had no idea that folks teaching math up in the ivory towers saw numbers in that light. This was fascination, beautiful stuff, and I wish I had understood this aspect of it earlier.

And if you want connections to ELA (it obvi includes art and science, as both are requirements for math to work), here’s some explicit evidence:

It is conceivable that mathematical needs for notational symbolism were later developed into full-fledged pictographic writing systems. (p 11)

Wow.

You can place this initial blog post analysis of my book on the following rubric. I’ve used grade 12 standards for this rubric, which I would use if I were studying this book for an adult course.

Standards Expert Proficient Apprentice
Art.Anchor.11.CConnectingRelate artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding.
Related artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding. Evaluated the historical impact of artistic ideas and works.
Related artistic ideas and works with historical context to deepen understanding.
Identified the historical context of artistic ideas and works.
Struggled to identify the historical context of artistic ideas and works.
HS-PS1-1Physical SciencesUse the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
Used the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms, including quantitative understanding of ionization energy.
Used the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
Used the periodic table as a model to explain the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
With support, used the periodic table as a model to identify the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
HS-PS4-2.APhysical SciencesEvaluate questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Evaluated and refined questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Evaluated questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
Identified questions relevant to the advantages of using a digital transmission of information.
HSA.APR.D.6.AAlgebra: Arithmetic with Polynomials & Rational ExpressionsRewrite simple rational expressions in different forms.
Clearly demonstrated and explained how to rewrite simple rational expressions in different forms.
Rewrote simple rational expressions in different forms.
Understood simple rational expressions in different forms.
Struggled to understand simple rational expressions in different forms.
HSS.ID.A.1Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative DataRepresent data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Represented data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots). Applied this concept to solve real-world problems.
Represented data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Understood data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
Struggled to understand data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots).
HSS.ID.A.3Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative DataInterpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Clearly demonstrated and explained how to interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Interpreted differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Understood how to interpret differences in shape, center, or spread in the context of the data sets.
Struggled to understand how to interpret differences in shape, center, or spread in the context of the data sets.
MP.2.EMathematical PracticesPause as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush through manipulations. Paused and double-checked as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush through manipulations. Paused as needed when manipulating symbols.
Did not rush when manipulating symbols.
Rushed when manipulating symbols.
MP.2.FMathematical PracticesProbe into the referents for the symbols involved.
Looked deeply into and explained the meanings for what the symbols represent. Evaluated how well the symbols represent what they mean.
Looked deeply into and explained the meanings for what the symbols represent.
Described what the symbols represent.
Identified what the symbols represent.
MP.2.GMathematical PracticesCreate a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
Created a coherent representation of a complex or real world problem.
Created a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
With some support, created a coherent representation of the problem at hand.
Created a coherent description of the problem at hand.
MP.2.HMathematical PracticesConsider the units involved in a problem.
Clearly explained the units involved in a complex or real world problem.
Explained the units involved in a problem.
Identified the units involved in a problem.
With support, identified the units involved in a problem.
MP.2.IMathematical PracticesAttend to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Explained to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them. Evaluated how well the quantities represent their meaning.
Explained to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Identified to the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
Understood the meaning of quantities in a problem, not just how to compute them.
MP.2.JMathematical PracticesKnow and flexibly use different properties of operations and objects.
Evaluated when to use different properties of operations and objects.
Flexibly used different properties of operations and objects.
Identified different properties of operations and objects.
Understood different properties of operations and objects.
MP.4.BMathematical PracticesWrite an addition equation to describe a situation (Elementary).
Wrote and solved an addition or subtraction equation to describe a complex situation.
Wrote an addition equation to describe a situation.
With support, wrote an addition equation to describe a situation.
Identified the situation that a given addition equation represents.
MP.4.EMathematical PracticesKnow and make assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. Checked assumptions and approximations against other situations.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation.
Made assumptions and approximations to simplify a situation.
MP.4.FMathematical PracticesAnalyze relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Analyzed complex relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Analyzed relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
Identified mathematical relationships and created assumptions.
Identified mathematical relationships.
MP.7.AMathematical PracticesLook closely to discern a pattern or structure.
Looked closely at complex problems to discern highly useful patterns or structures.
Looked closely at problems to discern a pattern or structure.
Recognized a pattern or structure in a problem.
With support, recognized a pattern or structure in a problem.
MP.7.BMathematical PracticesStep back for an overview of a problem and shift perspective.
Generated an overview of a complex or real world problem. Considered the problem from multiple relevant points of view.
Paused to look at the overall problem and to get an overview. Looked at the problem from different points of view.
Paused to look at the overall problem and to get an overview.
With support, understood the overall problem.
RST.11-12.4.AReading in Science and Technical SubjectsDetermine the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Clearly explained the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Explained the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Identified the meaning of symbols as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Struggled to identify the meaning of symbols.
RST.11-12.4.CReading in Science and Technical SubjectsDetermine the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Clearly explained the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Explained the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Identified the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context
Struggled to identify the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases.
W.HST.11-12.4Writing in Science and Technical SubjectsProduce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced clear, coherent, and engaging writing in which the development, organization, and style are best suited to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Produced writing that was sometimes clear and coherent and the development, organization, or style was somewhat appropriate to task, purpose, or audience.
Struggled to produce writing that was clear or coherent or where the development, organization, or style was appropriate to task, purpose, or audience.

## Learning, apprenticeship, study.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s time to make things Internet-official. I’m stepping out of the classroom next year and taking a leave of absence. I’m excited beyond expression, but I’m also scared. Scared that maybe I’ll never come back or that I’ll realize I was doing things wrong the whole time. Scared that I’ll be away from inspiring educators and remarkable kids who keep me going. Scared that I won’t take full advantage of this opportunity.

Who am I when I’m not a teacher? Am I really going to stop being a teacher when I’m out of the classroom? How can I best improve myself and equip myself to return to a vocationÂ of teaching and learning?

I’m fortunate that the district approved my leave (after sending me a very official piece of certified mail that lookedÂ SO SERIOUS that Toby texted me asking if I was in trouble). I’m fortunate for the Internet so that I won’t be isolated in this year away. I’m fortunate for the support of remarkable friends who help me become a better person. I’m fortunate for administrators whoÂ advocateÂ for the best interests of my students and for the mental health of educators.

Although I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with depression and mania, mental health isn’t the core of why I’m leaving, although I think it does explain why I feel so thoroughly drained and ready for reflection. Teachers leave the profession because they’re burnt out. I hope I’ve caught myself before going over the burnout cliff, and that I will returnÂ to my classroom a more thoughtful and proficient educator.

This week is spring break. I’m working with Toby to craft some sort of framework or schedule so I don’t just sink into a fog of ennui in my bed and never emerge. As first-world-problem as it seems, breaks and vacations are really difficult for me, and it often takes a few weeks into the summer before I stop feeling like my skin is crawling. Routines and schedules help my students, and they help me too. One of my tasksÂ is to write something every day. So here’s my work for today.

Learning, apprenticeship, and study. Those are today’s intentions.

## Lessons Learned: First Day Streaming Hearthstone

I suffer from craaaazy summertime depression after school gets out. This pastÂ summer, IÂ committed to “Operation Just Get Dressed,” which helped ensure I at least put real clothing on instead of hanging out in pajamas all day. Part of the reason I was motivated to actually get dressed was because I was streaming Crypt of the Necrodancer for about an hour almost every day. (I definitely try to keep my streamÂ age-appropriate, but a few salty comments made it through, if you watch any of my past broadcast videos.)

Streaming Necrodancer was great. I met rad people, got a manageable amountÂ of tips from watchers, and learned a lot about the world of streaming. Also, despite my deep concern regardingÂ treatment of women online, I encountered genuinely friendly folks who were looking to talk about a shared interest.

So now school’s back in session. I’ve felt the pull of my depression pretty strongly in the past week or so, so I decided to head back onto Twitch. But I’d recently started playing Hearthstone, a collectable card game (think Pokeman or Magic: The Gathering) set in the World of Warcraft universe.

I spoke earlier this year at the Nerdy Book Club blog about how learning video games has given me a lot to think about as a teacher, and starting to stream Hearthstone has expanded my thinking even more. Here are a few initial meditations:

Stick to one teaching point. THIS was my biggest takeaway from last night’s stream. I’m new to Hearthstone, and although I’m not totally opposed to backseat gaming (receiving suggestions on gameplay from folks in your Twitch chat), it quickly became VERY overwhelming when even a half dozen folks began offering tips. Even more confusing (and this was CRITICAL for me to realize as a teacher), some of their suggestions made absolutely no sense. I didn’t have enough knowledge of the basic game itself to be able to apply their nuanced ideas.

Some knowledge transfers. I quickly understood the mechanics of Hearthstone because of my experience casually playing Magic on and off for the past decade or so.

But some of it doesn’t. Strategies I’d often use in Magic (such as getting low-cost creatures out on the board early in the game) would totally blow up in my face in Hearthstone.

AndÂ that can be okay! I rarely play blue decks in Magic because there are often a lot of spells and counterspells (instead of creatures). But in Hearthstone, I’m comfortable playing either creature-heavy decks or spell-focused decks.

Background knowledge is essential, not just a smart instructional add-on… The information I transferred over from my experience playing Magic only took me so far. It was time for me to start running searches for how to build basic decks. (I had been using the default decks up to this point)

…But limit your resources. This is why webquests can be so powerful in classrooms. If you run a search for “basic Mage Hearthstone deck,” you get 1.5 million results.

That’s insane. But I then asked my chatroom how reliable the website Icy Veins was. Upon learning that it wouldn’t lead me too far astray, I began looking through their resources. Am I going to build the best deck EVER? No way, but it’s a lot easier for me to manage that information using one website instead of getting totally overwhelmed on a forum.

Bragging isn’t helpful. Yup, just like we tell our kids when they start comparing test scores. It was thoroughly unproductive when aÂ lad in chat pointed out he could kill my opponent in two turns. It didn’t help me at all. It didn’t inspire me to do better. It didn’t make me want to improve my knowledge of the game so I’d be more equipped to win in the future. It was in NO WAY motivating. But it DIDÂ make me stressed out. Even though I knew it was unreasonableÂ stress and this was something I was doing by choice and who the heck didÂ this guy think he is anyway? That cortisol started coursing through my veins. (my icy veins?)

Let it goooooooo. Luckily, I was able to let go of that stress pretty quickly, but I imagine that was because I had mentally prepared myself to receive some snarky/sexist/unhelpful comments. Hearthstone is a much more popular game than Necrodancer is, so it stands to reason that I’d encounter more trolls and unsavory folks overall. We’ll see how things go in subsequent streams, because if people wind up beingÂ persistently jerks, I’ll just stick to indie streaming.

Lots more on my mind, but if I kept going, this would never get posted. Thanks for reading, and see you on Twitch!

## Ferguson

I’ve been following the news in Ferguson as closely as I can manage, and I just wanted to be upfront and honest in sharing I anticipate conversation around it will come up in class.

I know this is an emotional situation and that events are still unfolding, and although I know half of you have not had students in our class before, I hope you will discoverÂ our class prides itself on being a community of respect and trust. Potentially intense conversations happen in an age-appropriate, respectful manner.

I’ve facilitatedÂ our students’ difficult conversations about tragediesÂ such as the Sandy Hook shooting, the September 11 terror attacks, Trayvon Martin’s shooting, and the SPU shooting. I’m always available and eager to engage in conversations with our families too (Ms. Stock and I have started planning our home visits so we can find out your preferred style of communication). You can also drop by our daily class meetings, which are usually from 9:00-9:20 AM.

I know that every family reacts differently based on their personal history, so let me give you a bit of my background. I’m a former newspaper reporter. My father is a retired police lieutenant who defied every possible cop stereotype (I do mean EVERY one â€” he liked bagels). I grew up in Metro Detroit and didn’t feel equipped to learn more about or understand the racial tensions around me.

I want my students to feel empowered to grapple with the important issues of their time in an age-appropriate way, regardless of the individual position they arrive at.Â Our yearlong guiding theme is Systems, Cycles, and Relationships. The protests in Ferguson highlight that our theme is timely indeed.

Our work with Junior Great Books gives students the chance to learn Socratic tools to discuss folklore and legends that have multiple perspectives. The protests in Ferguson are a real-life application of this work.

I’m always growing and learning, and if I realize I’ve misspoken, I always explore how my views have changed. Please help keep me honest through productive feedback.

Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to seeing you at our barbecue this Sunday!

## Positive Reinforcement in the Kitchen

I’m a laughable cook, but a pretty proficient baker. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have sizable lapses in my knowledge. This morning, I engaged in a Twitter conversation with MJ, a representative at King Arthur Flour. Here was my takeaway:

Not only did MJ provide fabulous customer service, our conversation also mirrors what I hope a writing / math / literacy conference looks like in my class.

Walk with me through our exchange. I’ve bolded critical moments that we both took as student and as teacher.

First, I took a risk. I started with a vanilla scone mix and made the choice to cut up some fresh raspberries. I also ran out of regular milk, so I used almond milk instead. Struck with a lack of confidence, I Tweeted:

It was a timely response from MJ, which offers a suggestion with “as long as the dough is not too wet,” as well as encouragement, “nice and tender and light.” Both comments are immediately practical and specific.

I recognized my error, but I persevered and shared my results:

And bam:

There’s the positive reinforcement. MJ recognized my effort with a specific compliment, “I love the pink color,” and she also nudged me further and gave me next steps with “just a little cream on the side.”

Then, she gave me this Lucy-Calkins-esque “off you go” statement:

Finally, as I was typing this post up, surprised that just three tweets could have such a huge impact on my baking experience, I realized the last key to this effective conference was that MJ kept it brief.

Here are my scones!

Where do you find conferring moments in your extracurricular activities?

## Moving Downstream

I asked Toby to walk through starting a webstream with me. He spends forever and always watching Minecraft streams and indie game streams and League of Legend streams. (I was going to link to all of the streams that are constantly being broadcast in the mancave, but Toby pointed out that most of the streamers use profane language. Which is another topic for another day.)

You can watch my stream heeeeere! Featuring NO profane language!

Anyway. So why’d I bother setting up a stream? I mean, I know I’m not going to be fascinating to watch, unlike my artist pals who livestream their sketching. WHICH IS AMAZING. But I have had a few folks ask me how I’m able to design units or assessments or write stuff so quickly, so I thought seeing what I’m doing might be useful. Plus, you get to listen to the sweet tunes I’m listening to. And eventually you’ll be able to hear my commentary too.

AND WHO KNOWS, maybe one day you’ll be able to watch me die aÂ fieryÂ death in Minecraft.

So here’s how I got everything set up. It took me less than an hour, and that included me getting grouchy and stopping briefly.

1. Acquire streaming software.

If you have Windows, you can use FFSPLITÂ and have a stream ready to go in two seconds. No joke. It’s crazy-fast. I don’t have Windows. If you have Windows, skip to step 4.

2. Cry because you’re using a Mac. Shake your fist at your father because you know he’s laughing at you for using a Mac.

3. Look at this article. Follow all the directions EXACTLY. All of them. (The only thing I changed was that I created a streaming account at Twitch rather than JustinTV.)

4. Click Start Stream.

Ta da!

## Rigorous Math Every Day

The open-ended math from the Wall Street Journal a week or so ago was pretty rad. But lessons like those are admittedly woefully rare in my classroom. It’s a huge shame, right? Learning like that shouldn’t just be a once-a-month or even (eep) once-a-semester event.

So I started pondering why doesn’t math look like this in our classroom every day. I needed to keep myself real. Here’s what I came up with:

I’ve purposely chosen those phrases because I think we teachers sometimes use them as ultra-self-deprecating or unproductive language and the conversation just stops there. But I want to explain why these really are often valid concerns (or at least, valid-feeling concerns) and then focus on how I’m personally working to move past them.

Perhaps you’ve already heard me rail against people who say “I’m just not a math person” and seen me express frustration that the idea “math is sooo hard” is a bunch of bunk. That said, I’m still thoroughly unconfident in my own math abilities. I was mortified when I transposed two numbers in our soccer math. I freaked out when Mr. Brown informed me I HAVE BEEN DOING ORDER OF OPERATIONS TOTALLY WRONG. So it’s fair to say that when I deviate from our district frameworks, it’s a little stressful.

I’m moving past this excuse by being willing to really lean on my secondary-level colleagues. I love collaborating, but I don’t particularly love admitting that I need help. So this is a huge area of growth for me. Also, taking the leap to put detailed lessons online has given me a chance for feedback from folks from across the nation, like from my favorite ladies in the Midwest.

I was euphoric when our class completed its project last week. I was also exhausted. I can get sucked into manic cycles really easily. Although spinning my way into a cycle can be absolutelyÂ exhilarating. I need to be honest with my body and realize that it’s notÂ healthy for extended periods of time.

“The management is hard.” That’s what people tell me when I share our latest project. I agree, but not in the way they intended. Teachers often mean, “I’m going to have children stringing stuffed monkeys from the room if I open the lesson to exploration.” I share with my kids the explanation from Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit that in order for creativity to take place, it happens within a system of order. A dance studio is essentially a bare floor and mirrors. An artist can’t create a masterpiece if she can’t dig out the right paints in her chaotic mess. And we can’t have deep, meaningful conversations about math in our lives if we’re not already solid in our class expectations.

So, the management I’m talking about isn’t the student-secretly-reading-under-the-table-instead-of-doing-math business. And it’s not because issues like that don’t exist in our classroom — the aforementioned situation actually happened last week and was dealt with swiftly. I’m talking about the mental gymnastics I put myself through as I’m wandering about the classroom facilitating conversations. Although the brain only takes up 2% of our body weight, it uses 20% of our energy, according to Bill Bryson‘s A Short History of Nearly Everything.

So I’ve gotta keep myself mentally in shape. That means reading tons of books I love even when other teachers tease me. That means blowing off grading homework for a night to paint my nails. That means making time for my physical health and not necessarily devoting hours of lesson planning each day.

Not enough hours in the day. I’m, frankly, super-pissy when I hear teachers say this, and then five minutes later I’m nodding at the truth in it. Because yes, our job is impossible and yes, there are insane demands coming at us from all angles. But I feel like you can’t automatically default to complaining about time without carefully looking at how you currently do spend your time.

For me, this has meant a intentional devotion to super-quick transition times and an up-tick in the priority I make in keeping my room clean so I don’t have to scrounge for materials. Now, my goal is shifting to providing great math instruction by still letting me be a human.

Among neuronormative folks, the generalÂ consensusÂ is I’m an overachiever. *I* don’t feel that way, but apparently the speed with which my brain works and the resulting efficiency I have in completing mental tasks makes me one. When I think ofÂ overachieversÂ in my mind, I definitely don’t want to be someone who spends hours constructing the perfect math centers that can only be used for a week or two.Â I’m certainly not that extreme, but I admit I’m still working on this. Mainly because I get sucked into interesting information online and can’t pull myself out. But limiting myself to a half-hour of prep time before class begins seems to have been a good boundary to set.

I want a system, whether it just be an internal mental process or a procedure I can use in my classroom, to ensure that I’m pursuing great math with my kids but I’m not spending hours in the staff lounge or on the Internet to do it. I suppose a time-hog that others might forgo would be the time I spend documenting my process and further questions I have through blog posts here, but the writing-about-it part is just fun.

I could continue writing, I suppose. But I’m off to redo my nails. Because I’m only going to really be a good teacher if I know when it’s time to let go.

## NBPTS Reflections

I didn’t pass my National Boards.

So there’s that.

Welp, I think I’m finally ready to start reflecting on not passing. I’ve also registered to resubmit my portfolio, so I guess I’m also ready to GET BACK ON THAT HAWS.

Not to complain, but I wish people had told me “this is a three-year process” earlier in the game. It seemed like people started saying that around February or March, but by then I had already worked myself into a lather of my own view of what the certification process was. And my view did not involve my 2012-2013 school year looking like this:

Barrrrrrrf.

There are, of course, a few positives to be found in this situation. Number one: the lovely, talented, and charming Liz Willard is now a NBCT.

She joins the ranks of several other respectable colleagues who are also certified. When people found out I didn’t pass, I received many (well-meaning) comments to the effect of “You’re a badass teacher; if you didn’t pass, the process is broken.”

I disagree. I had no freaking clue what I was doing through most of the past year, despite fearless cohort leadership by straight-shooting, no-holds-barred NBCT Diane McSweeney. I’m bummed, but I’m TOTALLY FINE with the fact that I didn’t play the game the way it was meant to be played. In many ways, I respect the process MORE because I don’t feel like I just got a free pass. Besides, I got a perfect 4.0 on my documented accomplishments entry, so I must’ve done SOMETHING right, no?

Many people also said, “Wow. If YOU couldn’t pass, I don’t even think I’m going to TRY.” or “I don’t know how you’re managing to redo everything all over again.” Come now. I know you think you’re complimenting me, but you’re notttttttt.

I’ll tell you what WAS a big motivating factor when I was feeling terrible after learning my results. The response of NBCTs. I wasn’t entirely convinced before, but now I know this is a community I very much want to be a part of. Every single person I know who is National Board certified has offered to help me redo my portfolio. EVERY SINGLE ONE, even if I haven’t talked to them in two years. Well, Rob hasn’t offered yet, but he was busy getting engaged, so I’ll forgive him.

The National Board folks themselves could have been a squeak more helpful, I suppose. This is what I saw when I accessed my scores last week (actually, it’s not EXACTLY what I saw because when I logged in today to get a screenshot I couldn’t see what I saw before, so this is the closest I could get):

Wat. I couldn’t remember the cut score for passing, and nowhere on the main page did it say “YOU TOTALLY PASSED” or “YOU TOTALLY BOMBED,” which was probably intentional, but it made me panic for a minute. Until I realized my fate. My crappy, crappy fate.

The feedback I received on the entries I didn’t pass was taken directly off the NBPTS four-point rubric. So it was directly aligned to the scoring, which was helpful, but it wasn’t terribly specific, which was not helpful. It also did not help my soul to read that my entries indicated I wasn’t reflective and wasn’t knowledgable about my content areas, the two areas I thought I was strongest.

So here I go. But it’s not just me this time through. Garrett, who was in my cohort last year, is trying again as well. So is one of my favorite Seattle U cohort members, Adrienne. And a few other folks are trying their luck at National Boards the first time around, including a few other Seattle U MITFEEs, like Melinda and Julia.

I’ll be in good company if I pass next time, but it’s nice to know I’m in good company even though I didn’t pass this time. Thank you all for your continued support.

## WAETAG: Day 2

I’ll start with a quote that resonated with me so I can begin on a positive note. Despite my best efforts at having positive intent, this conference unfortunately didn’t meet many of my needs.

“We need to stand up to the politics of learning that do nothing to benefit kids.” ~Roger Fisher

I started off my day with the stereotypical edtech presentation that Dan Meyer talked about at #nctm12. You know the presentation I mean.

It’s the one that starts out with the picture of the baby with the iPad next to the picture of students back in the dizzay looking tortured by their lives in the dark ages. Then there’s a video with sinister, throbbing music or heartbreaking overly calm music that incites panic that we’re JUST NOT DOING ENOUGH.You know, like this one:

Then the edtech presentation goes on to hit all the overworked, oversimplified tropes that education presenters like to trot out when they want a quick burst of laughter or nodding heads. You know, things like:

“Not all of us can have the technology that Bellevue has.”

WAT. Please don’t assume that schools in a wealthy areaÂ automatically have every resource necessary.

The presentation goes on toÂ grumble about charters and questionable instruction methods.

The presentation then continues to say that Common Core doesn’t address thinking strategies, and he then went over Marzano’s strategies and said all sorts of “isn’t this a shame teachers can’t do this.” Well, MAD PROPS, FEDERAL WAY, because this is crazy-old news to me because you’ve been focusing on these strategies for the past three years. So this last bit was good information, I just happened to already have training in it.

And then, the end of the presentation.

I don’t need more negativity at conferences. I don’t need sarcasm and snark and negativity from PRESENTERS at conferences. I get enough of that during my everyday interactions with disgruntled educators. I came here to channel our collective energy into something effective. Diane Ravitch told me that public education is a negative place, and I kind of need to suck it up and just accept that, but I don’t believe that avoiding destructive negativity means I’m keeping my heads in the clouds or avoiding big issues. Anyway.

Then there were speed sessions, where we had a chance to talk with folks from other schools. I didn’t move around because I wasn’t ready yet. So I stayed at my table with my district folks. It wound up making me want to barf because of comments such as “none of my kids are actually gifted,” “I don’t even have kids who are able to do any work.” Thankfully, MY PEOPLE get me and they helped me not scratch any eyes out.

“A gifted child is JUST AS DIFFERENT from “the norm” as a severely handicapped child.” ~Roger Fisher.

Next session. “10 Things Students Should Know about Math and Science.” Â Actually, I only got through two of the ten things before I had to evacuate. Our presenter was excellent at reading his slides out loud. I had an opportunity to read many Dilbert comics and plenty of cartoons of Albert Einstein. Then I saw this!

I was fortunate to see Briana was enjoying her session a few floors down, so I hustled to join her. Surprise! Presenting was Lisa Van Gemert, Gifted Youth Specialist for Mensa. She covered lots of information about how gifted kids’ minds work. It bolstered what Dani and I had been saying earlier in the day when we were freaking out about the perception that “you can just put gifted kids in a gen ed class and all they need is harder work.” WAT.

Thankfully, Cheryl Steighner came and rescued us and took me to delicious soup.

The lunch keynote was another fascinating PowerPoint-let’s-read-the-text endeavor. I don’t remember what it was about.

I entered a session about “real-world high-level independent projects,” but then saw expensive binders bursting with color photocopies of a student’s pretend application to U of M, and an educational trip to Washington, D.C. Not really my bag. Not really my students. So I left.

I’m glad I did because I saw a pretty solid presentation by Adam Brock called The Beauty of Independent Technology Projects! The presenter was nervous and admitted to as much, but he had GREAT information! Rock on! Present again! “This is authentic, this is authentic, this is authentic!” Dani says. “I needed this session really bad.”

I doubt that I’ll attend WAETAG next year, or if I consider it, I’ll definitely take a much closer look at the presenters. Bring Brock and Van Gemert back and I’ll be back.

Anyway. More reflection to come. Did I leave with some new learning? Yes, but I had to dig really hard to get there…