# Monthly Archives: July 2012

## Letter to a New Teacher

A little over a month ago, I read a blog post “Call for Advice for New Teachers” that I thought was a really good idea; I’ve learned more from actually teaching and the math-blog community than I ever could have in four years of teacher preparation courses. I’m not saying that my undergraduate courses in education were pointless/useless/meaningless; I do remember some good advice and have probably forgotten more (and had to relearn it for myself).  At the time, I wanted to participate, but I hadn’t put my own blog together yet. I got busy with other things and delayed crafting my own response, but I enjoyed and agreed with a lot of the other submissions (you can also find quite a few here). Fortunately, I accept late work …

Dear Teacher,

If you haven’t already, learn to listen to others – there’s a reason why you’ve found yourself reading this open letter and probably other similar posts. In fact, you may have already read several of these letters and will notice that I am largely repeating the advice of others.  Also, please forgive me if I indulge in a little hindsight advice to my previous self.

Why are you going to be a teacher?

Are you a content-expert? Hopefully, you won’t be surprised that most students will not share your enthusiasm and passion but you probably are still overestimating how many students love your subject. I’ve told many students that my job isn’t to make them love math; I want them to realize they can ‘do math’ even if they dislike it.  Are you a motivator? Try not to take personally when a student seems to not be returning your efforts to create a positive relationship as the lack of reciprocity doesn’t mean that they’re not noticing and appreciating everything you’re trying to do for them. Are you an altruist? I admire that you just want to help others or had an amazing teacher who inspired you to ‘pay it forward.’ However, I like to say that almost every teacher was at least pretty good at school; each one of us has a reason that we chose to come back to school. Many of your students will be indifferent to or even dislike school; go ahead and try to positively impact their lives anyway. A few will even thank you – I cannot describe the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get from a simple expressions of gratitude that you did not expect.

Maybe you shouldn’t start teaching yet?

Listen and lurk at first

Don’t come in as the hot-shot, know-it-all fresh out of the ivory tower.  I hate to come off as jaded, cynical, pessimistic, or too much of a realist, but you were hired because you had some potential and credentials in many cases. The building and faculty/staff that you are joining may be used to a carousel of new teachers – hire a few, let attrition take its toll, see who sticks around. For example, suppose a topic comes up at a faculty meeting during the first few months of school that you have a strong opinion, promise me you’ll consider sharing any suggestions or opinions with an individual you’ve established a relationship with such as a mentor teacher (oh yeah, try to find a mentor if you’re not assigned one) or perhaps a small group like your department before you wade into the issue with a principal or at a faculty meeting. In many cases, there’s a lot of back-story you will not be aware of as the newbie. School culture and internal politicking can be tricky business. Now don’t assume that the cranky mid-career guy in the corner (like me in this paragraph) is apathetic – some of us have learned to ‘pick our battles.’ Also, learn to listen to the old crank too; go into teaching with he assumption that every other teacher is there to help students.

Time is Relative

In the end, maybe your experience will be completely different than mine has been so far. Thanks to the math blogotwittosphere maybe you’ll be able to leapfrog some of the struggles and issues I’ve referenced. I hope you flourish,

Aaron C.

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## Birth of a Logo

Just in case anyone is curious (and so that I’ll remember), the logo was made using only readily available software.  GeoGebra provided the backbone of sketching a function (something like $y = 0.2x(x^2 + 3)sin(x)$) and the tangent at ‘point A’ and played with scaling until I got an image that I liked. I grabbed a screen-capture (alt+prtsc), pasted into Microsoft Paint, and cropped/zoomed. The title was added by inserting the image into Microsoft Word and then overlaying WordArt.  I’m sure that this isn’t the most efficient means of creating a logo image, but I’m mostly self-taught and do not have any ‘fancier’ programs. I’ve used skills like these repeatedly to create images for presentations and such.