Official Unofficial Pro-D inventory

First, the good news: I’m officially employed as a teacher-on-call.  This is fantastic news but still pretty surreal; the month and a half between practicum and now feels like it’s been an eternity.  But I’m sure that the first day or two of work as a sub will have an extreme “jump into the deep end” effect and I’ll remember how to swim in no time.

Today is a professional development (pro-d) day; for any non-teachers out there, that means a day allocated for teachers to get further training.  A paid day, if you’re a full-time teacher; just a day without work for me.  It has me thinking about the pro-d wishlist I already have stacked up, in the form of books I’ve started reading, books I want to start reading, video tutorials I haven’t finished working through, etc.  So even if I don’t get through any of these today, I thought I’d get my entire pro-d backlog list down and make myself feel like, hey, I’m actually kind of disturbingly ambitious and I should be happy if I even get through a couple of these in the near future!

Books:

  • Elementary Number Theory, Underwood Dudley
    • Started reading / working through; learned about diophantine equations, congruences; lots more good stuff waiting. ps. it’s awesome having a book on your shelf by an author named “Underwood Dudley”. It’s also awesome having a number theory book you got for free, written in the 70’s back when number theory was still an area that was proud for being math-for-math’s-sake with no immediate practical application. (In other words, written before public-key cryptography.)
  • The Colossal Book of Mathematics, Martin Gardner
    • Just grabbed this from the library. It’s a great collection of Gardner’s recreational mathematics topics; I expect I’ll read through some select chunks and then return it. Definitely want to finish reading the bits on topology.
  • Letters to a Young Mathematician, Ian Stewart
    • getting this from the library today

Online pro-d

Long term:

  • Grab my wife’s Abstract Algebra text and learn myself some more maths.
  • Topology: anyone recommend a great textbook or other resource to teach myself this?  I keep loving the recreational bits I’ve seen here and there, but wonder if I’m only seeing an incredibly thin slice of the topic and/or if it’s still as interesting as it sounds if I tackle it more comprehensively.
  • Eventually figure out the category theory -> monads -> functional programming connection that I caught a glimpse of last summer.

(I have this thing where I feel like I need to fill the gaps in my math training, if I’m going to turn myself into an excellent math teacher.  I have a huge applied-math chunk of training via engineering, but I’m pretty weak on proofs and abstract algebras and all of the other upper-level things that aren’t calculus.  I don’t know how far this will last, but I figure it’s a healthy motivation to nurture.  Even if it only gets me a little ways into a number of advanced topics, I’m sure that’ll help.)

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Average inspiration

The other day I found the weirdest source of teacher inspiration: reading MLIA (MyLifeIsAverage) over my little sister’s shoulder at my in-laws’ house.

Today, my schedule got switched around so instead of having history 6th hour I have it 2nd. As soon as I walked in I noticed that my teacher didn’t have a brittish accent like he normally does. After having him for nearly half a school year I learned that he went through the day using different accents for each of his classes. Guess who is now officially my new favorite teacher.MLIA

(source)

There was another good teacher one I read that day, but I couldn’t remember how it went so I tried searching “favorite teacher”.  Guess what?  There are so many “new favorite teacher” posts that it’s already a cliché.  People snark about it in the comments regularly.  I find that strangely encouraging – kind of a weird sign that yes, kids really do want to like their teachers.

Anyway, I couldn’t find the other one I had seen, but here are a few more gems.

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The job hunt continues

Students and teachers alike are back in classes here today – and I’m at home sorting out what paperwork to do next so that someone hires me.

There aren’t any externally-posted positions for me to apply to right now other than “Teacher-on-Call” (ie. substitute teacher).  I’m feeling strangely ambivalent towards the idea.  The obvious advantages are that you don’t have to take your work home with you as a TOC; no planning, no prep, no marking, no report cards.  This was sounding really, really good by the end of my practicum, but now that I’ve already had a good chunk of time away from lesson / unit planning I’m less certain.

At the hiring panel during my final week on campus, one district HR rep tried to convince us that TOCing is where we should want to be right now – seeing how other teachers do things and learning from their their tricks.  She had a point, but I don’t think snagging people’s “tricks” is going to cut it in the long run.  I’ve barely scratched the surface at planning and implementing the kind of classroom I want to be a part of.  As a TOC, I’m going to be walking into someone else’s room every day, teaching someone else’s lesson.  Until I spend more time wading into the deep stuff, trying to structure challenges for students that keep them hooked in without boring or breaking them, I’m not really getting any closer to mastering this thing.  I’m also not likely to see any lesson plans that push my own boundaries in terms of cooperative learning, student inquiry, WCYDWT / media-driven stuff, etc.

The obvious disadvantage to TOCing is that kids try to get away with murder when there’s a sub.  (At least I know my class did when I was in high school. But they were exceptional; every now and then when students were nuts in my practicum, I’d stop and remember my own grade 9 class and realize that things could be a LOT worse.)  Again, this is good and bad.  The flip side is that this’ll give me experience in an area I’d like to get a better grip on.  I’ve already had a trial-by-fire which has given me a good head start so I don’t feel helpless or hopeless.  The real disadvantage here, hidden beneath the obvious one, is that I’ll get no experience in setting down long-term classroom expectations and building a good learning environment.

So, meh. First things first, though: time to get hired, pay the bills and get access to internal district job postings.  And if I start to feel really stagnant in terms of planning, I can always get my Moodle server running, pick a course and plan something for the heck of it.