This year, in addition to my regular teaching position, I will be working as a Master Teacher for the Utah chapter of Math for Amercia (MfA). What does that mean? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. The job description was pretty vague. In my interview, when I asked about the objective of the position, they told me that the goal was for me to ‘become a resource to my collegues’. So what exactly does that mean for me and why did I sign up to do this in the first place? Let me tell you.
I love being a math teacher and have no regrets about my career choice, however I do feel that it has left me with a few blind spots. My biggest blind spot is that I have little to no knowledge about the careers that actually USE advanced mathematics. I would like to learn about engineering, mechanical design, computer programming, etc. How can I prepare students for STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), when I don’t even know what those careers are? I feel like this knowledge would make me a more effective and more honest math teacher.
Last summer I attended the Discovery Seimens STEM Institute. As part of the institute, I attended a Q & A session at the White House Conference Center with senior advisers on education. One question that was presented to us was the following: Many individuals working in STEM fields wish to give back to education and help others along the path they took. What is the best way to make this happen? Another Institute Fellow suggested that the best way to do this would be to build connections between STEM professionals and educators. His reasoning was that “teachers are good translators”.
Bingo! That idea really hit home to me. It would not be reasonable to invite an engineer, with no training in education, into an 8th grade math classroom and expect her to be able to explain her career in a way that is both engaging and tied to curriculum standards (both of which are essential to make this a good use of instructional time). However, it’s a great idea to foster a relationship between the teacher and the engineer in which the teacher can learn first-hand about what the engineer does and then make the connections to her curriculum (teachers are great at this).
So that’s my goal: connecting math teachers with STEM professionals, creating opportunities for math teachers to learn about STEM careers, and providing support and resources to help math teachers connect this knowledge to their curriculum and meaningful ways. It’s exciting, ambitious, overwhelming, and kind of terrifying. I can think of a whole host of challenges I’ll face in developing this, but I won’t write about them now because I don’t want to make myself feel any more overwhelmed than I already am. Right now the hardest part is just figuring out where to start. Since I’m not really sure what the end result of this is going to look like, it’s hard to know what steps I should take. However, it seems like a good first move would be to do some research and find out what resources already exist and make connections with local companies/universities who have goals similar to mine. I have a couple of leads, but I could certainly use any advice or tips that you have on that score. Hopefully this eventually blossoms into a collaborative effort, so if you are interested in helping out, please let me know.
I’ve been asked by MfA to document this process, so this is the first of what will be many blog posts related to this project. Hopefully it will get me in the habit of blogging – because I have many other lessons and ideas to share, but never seem to find the time to write them down.