At the end of each semester, I like to think about how the semester went. What did I do a good job with? How was my stress level during the semester? Did any project just bomb?
Immediately, a couple students who really got it come to mind. For a day or so, I can frolic in the feeling left by their success. Inevitably, it the students who did not do so well that stick with me. Or the assignment that seemed so intuitive that few students were able to complete it successfully.
I can’t go into the next semester feeling like I did nothing to remedy those failures. But I am not smart enough to come up with ideas for improving my teaching on my own. I need to find ideas elsewhere. Luckily, there are a huge number of educators who like to share their ideas. They can be found at the college I work for, at conferences, and even online. It is just a matter of finding them.
I am lucky that mathematics instructors at two year colleges have a terrific conference they can attend. The American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges (AMATYC) is an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of faculty in the first two years of college. Each November, the organization holds a conference with a couple hundred presentations. Most of these presentations outline different teaching strategies for mathematics that are ripe for stealing. A lot of what I do in the classroom was inspired by what I learned at this conference. I’ll bet that your teaching discipline has a similar organization that might be a great resource for improving your teaching.
Not everyone has the resources to attend a national conference. Luckily, AMATYC has chapters in almost every state. One of the most active chapters is ArizMATYC here in Arizona. ArizMATYC organizes two miniconferences each year in conjunction with the Mathematics Articulation Meeting. For $15, you can spend a day rubbing elbows with other mathematics educators from around the state. At the miniconference last Friday, there were 10 or 12 presentations on all sorts of topics in math education. Small meetings like this are inexpensive to attend and require a very small time committment, 1 day.
You can even participate in discussions about mathematics from the comfort of your own home. Blogs like mine can offer a wealth of information about education. There are several that I have read regularly over the past few years.
- informED – This blog is hosted by Open Colleges in Australia and features several authors from around the world who write about just about every topic you can imagine. My favorite author is Saga Briggs. She always gets me thinking about what I do and how it relates to the wider body of educational research. Her posts embolden me to apply this research in my classroom.
- Faculty Focus – This website publishes articles from faculty around the country. Although the company that produces these articles sells wares via this website, there is a lot of free stuff there too. Even though it is oriented toward a general higher education audience, I am always amazed at how much my mathematics classroom has in common with classrooms in totally different disciplines.
- Google + – Google + is not so much a blog as a form of social media. If you have a Google account, you can subscribe to various communities within Google +. Some of these communities have thousands of subscribers. I currently subscribe to two communities on project based learning, oneon Google Apps, two on technology in education, and another connected to Techsmith (makers of Camtasia). Whenever I have a free minute, I’ll look at my Google + feed to see what other participants are posting. I can also add my blog posts to feeds and widen the audience who views my blog. Although there is a lot of commercial crap on some of these communities, there are also a lot of great tips.
And don’t forget the TelsWebletter at my own college, Yavapai College. This website is produced by the tech teaching gurus here. Not only do they produce a lot of original content, but they also collect and aggregate information on teaching with technology from around the web.
There is a huge amount out there for us to learn from…do a little searching and I’ll bet you will find something to help you clear the nightmares at the end of the semester.