Hometown: Bartlett, TN is where I resided until I was 23 years-old. It was a great place to grow up and I will always consider it home. In 2007, I moved to Hortonville, Wis., which I’ve come to embrace as a second home.
Major: Elementary Education (Middle Childhood Early Adolescence)
Minor: Mathematics Education
Student Teaching Placement: Hortonville Elementary School, 4th grade, 9 weeks and Greenville Middle School, 7th grade math, 9 weeks.
Why education? Teachers have a unique opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of children.
“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” -John Steinbeck
Teaching is both an art and a science. I believe that too often we ask teachers to focus too heavily on one aspect while completely ignoring the other. Also, math is not what most of us have done in math classes in school. It is so much more than following the prescribed steps to solve an equation. I recently read an article by Paul Lockhart titled “The Mathematician’s Lament.” In the article, an art teacher and a music teacher have nightmares where there subjects have been reduced to memorization of language, terms, and notation. The student’s don’t actually create or partake in art or music until high school. And even then it’s a lesser form like paint by numbers or music for dummies. Somehow the students are expected to be challenged, engaged, and persevere until college when they get the big payoff in their chosen discipline. In the article Lockhart writes, “Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with that type of senseless, soul crushing ideas that constitute on temporary mathematics education… The only people who understand what is going on are the ones most often blamed and least often heard: the students. ‘They say math class is stupid and boring’ and they are right.”
Before I incite a riot, please allow me to explain. When students memorize facts simply because we tell them to or to get a good grade on the test this results in wasted time and energy on behalf of the teacher and the student. The fact is, there are few real world applications where it is beneficial to be able to regurgitate large amounts of memorized information. When a student asks, “Why does multiplying two negative numbers together result in a positive product?” and the teacher responds, “that is just the rule.” This is unacceptable! There is actually a legitimate mathematical explanation. Even if the teacher doesn’t know that answer, he/she should think about it and get back to the student. One of the big goals of education is to create critical consumers. Critical consumers think and ask questions. Also, when we teach math in the step-by-step prescribed method we lock students into one way of thinking and sever deep and meaningful mathematical connections.
I want to teach children that math makes sense and should be fun and that reading is an adventure and time well spent. Being an effective teacher requires a certain element of figuring out what students know, what misconceptions they have, and how to best help them learn what you want them to know. I enjoy this challenge and that it’s different every day with every child. I was blessed with some great teachers throughout my childhood and they made lasting impacts on my life. These are a few of the reasons that I chose education. Thoughts and feelings: I am feeling excited and ready for this experience to start. I have three key things I’m concentrating on throughout this experience.
- Step up, step out, and shine! I grew up with a brother who lived, breathed, ate and slept baseball, so stepping up is a baseball analogy. This is my time to step up to the plate. Without an at bat, you cannot hit a home run. I am going to continue stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things last year I studied abroad in China, this year I’m headed to Wyoming in March to spend a week on an Indian Reservation. This is my time to put the final touches into my teaching and really shine as a teacher candidate.
- Equal is not fair. This is something that I didn’t understand prior to pursuing a degree in education. Every child does not have the same needs, so every child doesn’t need the same instruction. I have come to believe this with all my heart.
- Is it good enough for my child? If it’s not good enough for my child, it’s not good enough for the students in my class either!
I believe that if I keep these three things in mind, my students will have fun and learn a lot. I also believe this will make me a successful teacher candidate and a great representative of the University of Wisconsin College of Education and Human Services.