I am of the opinion that everyone can be great at teaching. Just like I am of the opinion that everyone can be great at Mathematics (or any other discipline). What this requires is knowledge of the domain (in this case subject knowledge and pedagogical knowledge), some guided practice to become confident in using this knowledge, and then lots of time to practice with feedback given (and opportunities to self reflect).
With this is mind, I have designed a new PD programme for our teachers to engage in throughout the 2019 school year. The starting point of this programme is a document that I put together with several of my colleagues last year, which was then put through SMT, and is titled "The Principles of Great Teaching". In putting this together, I referred the focus group to several articles and bits of research, and I discuss the process in more depth in this post.
The final product has 16 principles, broken into two categories: 4 core principles that we think underpin every instance of great teaching and will be a part of all learning opportunities; 12 principles that are called upon over a period of great teaching, though may not be a part of every single lesson. Important to me from the outset was the idea that these are principles for great teaching NOT great teachers.
MARGE vs EBC
I finished reading the excellent ebook MARGE, and immediately saw links to the EBC model I was introduced to in the Science of Learning course I did earlier in 2018. I wrote this post comparing the two models, which has been one of my most popular posts.
Why We Sleep
I have recently finished reading the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (@sleepdiplomat). It was an absolutely fascinating read which covered the theories of why we sleep, how we sleep and how to help ourselves sleep better, and of most interest, the side effects of not getting enough sleep. Many of these were scary, and the studies shared show that sleep deprivation is a serious matter.
There are correlational studies between lack of sleep and a whole host of health problems (cardiac problems, diabetes, etc). There are also links with many mental health disorders (see here for more on this). Going without sleep for 22 hours leaves you in a similar cognitive state as being legally drunk. Being sleep deprived affects your appetite, making you crave worse foods, and also preventing your body's natural "feeling full" signposts.
But the most relevant to us as teachers was the impacts on learning. When we are awake certain toxins build up in our brain, and when we sleep these are cleared away. Without adequate sleep these toxins build up and prevent us from learning new things. Even worse, one of the main purposes of sleeping seems to be consolidating the learning from the previous day, so with insufficient sleep we get a double whammy on our ability to learn: we will forget the things we learned the previous day; and we will be in a worse position to learn new things as our brain is full of toxins.
Another interesting point for (secondary) education is the natural sleep cycles of teenagers, which are later than those of adults. In fact, teenagers naturally sleep in until later (I know, we all know this), but the important thing is that this is not them being lazy, but rather their biology is forcing this upon them. Whereas adults naturally sleep 10pm - 6am (give or take), teenagers naturally sleep 12am - 8am. This is important when considering school start times, as starting too early can actually be very detrimental to the learning experience of teenagers who will probably be sleep deprived if required at school before 8:30 am (as recommended by the CDC).
The book truly was a sobering and enlightening read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone (not just educators). As educators I think it is our responsibility to teach and promote good sleep hygiene to our students.
This year the first cohort of students that I taught the IB Mathematical Studies course to finished their course. I was very happy with their results, all of them except 1 achieving or surpassing their target grade.
New Year Website Reminder
As the new year started I tweeted a thread showing some of the things that my site http://generator.interactive-maths.com/ can do.
Review of Last Year's Highlights
I also posted a thread on some of the highlights of the blogs/tweets from 2018.
Simon Singh Retweeted Crypto Corner
This made me very happy as Simon Singh is a legend, and I love all his books. The Code Book was one of the reasons I became so interested in cryptography in the first place, so for him to recommend my site (https://crypto.interactive-maths.com/) was awesome.
I am a maths teacher looking to share good ideas for use in the classroom, with a current interest in integrating educational research into my practice.