Monthly Advice–December

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes inquiring about something unknown leads to a great discovery.

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As you know, in the United States, the Christmas market is overwhelming.

Before you plan and execute two to three weeks worth of Christmas festivities, insert Christmas-themed worksheets, and read a Christmas-inspired novel each day, consider the following:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Although considered a Christian holiday, even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.
  • Christmas celebrations vary wildly. Ethnicity, race, income, religion, are just a few meaningful and highly influential factors that determine any holiday celebration.
    • Is what you do, or include, reflective of your worldview, or many worldviews?
  • There are holidays all year long–why emphasize this one over all others?
    • If the same amount of time is not spent on other celebrations, what exactly gives this holiday added merit in the curriculum?
  • Is spending one lesson on Hanukkah and ten on Christmas really inclusive and meaningful, or does it merely provide a way to assuage guilt?
    • Someone once told me that they knew Christmas well, so that’s why there’s more of it in their classroom. If that’s your rationale, is there anyone to help you? Is there anyone to teach you, and your kids, about other traditions?

This is an ongoing discussion I have had for 11 years in my classroom, and with my coworkers.

I have always taught in public schools, which requires the separation of church and state. I understand that private schools and other forms of schooling may not need to consider religious-based questions in the same way I do.

However, the reflection aspect, thinking about why we do certain things in our classroom, even with the best intentions, is always beneficial.

This month, before you plan anything, I encourage to think critically and plan mindfully. More happens in December than we realize . . .

Favorite books: Early Years Mathematics

Our reading choices regularly neglect mathematics.

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There are tons of books that we happily read to babies. Nostalgia runs deep for cute plots, fuzzy characters, and a bit of laughter.

In our standardized book choices, children receive critical lap-time that develops vocabulary, phonemic and phonological awareness, and all other facets of beginning literacy.

At the same time, we have a plethora of games that continue to build these same skills. Nursery rhymes, hand games, I Spy, etc. all work together to build the requirements and awareness for children to begin reading and writing.

We are building fundamental, incredibly important, building blocks. That is good. That is commendable and absolutely needed.

However, I am here to point out that there is only a bit of math, at times, there is not a focused look on mathematical practice. There is less intention when it comes to the foundations of mathematics.

In my experience, in normal non-school settings as well as school-settings, the same attention to the building blocks of mathematics is absent–maybe minimally present, at best.

We do not speak math. We do not practice math. We do not notice math. Certainly not with the same veracity as we do letters and sounds.

So, this list of favorite books is focused on mathematical practice and discussion. If we can get kids excited and interested about mathematics, as babies, imagine how many more mathematicians–meaning engineers, architects, coders–we can support and create for the world!

Favorite math books for babies:

  • ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
  • Introductory Calculus for Infants by Omi Inouye

Favorite math books for young children:

  • The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds
  • The Greedy Triangle by Syd Hoff
  • Books by Tana Hoban (there are quite a few)
  • Chicka Chicka 1 2 3 by Bill Martin Jr. & Lois Ehlert
  • Books by Stuart J. Murphy (there are many!)
  • Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles by Christopher Wormell

Things I never knew . . .

Installment #2:

Five things I never knew . . . until I became a teacher:

  • how long I could be sick–that first year I was sick for three months straight
  • how sick I could be, and still go to work–sick days are few the first year, not to mention sick days are difficult to take anyway as a teacher
  • how worthless all those immune booster drinks and powders are–they are no match for school germs
  • how much Kleenex are consumed/can be consumed in a single day–between my sick self and my sick students, I can go through several boxes in a single day, it’s ridiculous
  • how many kids come to school sick–it’s a lot, and often

Things I never knew . . .

There are many things I have learned as a teacher–let this be the beginning of many wonderful posts on the things I never knew . . . until I became a teacher.

Five things I never knew . . . until I became a teacher:

  • how long I can go without a bathroom break–it’s pretty long
  • how much caffeine I can consume–it’s a lot
  • how much noise I can block out–it’s insane
  • how much I love mystery meat–it’s kinda gross to admit it, but sack lunches with their mystery meat sandwiches are my favorite 🤤
  • how much I hate breakfast for lunch–it’s terrible, syrup and 1000s of children should be outlawed

 

Why do I teach?

Why do I teach? This is a multi-dimensional, evolving question that cannot be answered in a single post; so, let’s start with the first three things that come to mind.

I teach because:

  • it’s my passion
  • it’s fun
  • it’s rewarding

Teaching is a special line of work.

I picked teaching, initially, because I thought I was going to be a professor someday–and that someday could still happen, it just doesn’t seem to be in my near future.

I picked teaching in the K-12 setting because I wanted to make sure I enjoyed teaching, and could teach, before I pursued teaching at the highest academic level (university setting).

The good news: teaching became my passion, and it’s fun, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.