Day #178 – Self-Reflection With Sophocles

Most of us have ‘favorite’ quotes.  You know those quotes?  The string of words that made an impact on you at some point in time,  the phrases that we repeat to ourselves and other in difficult times.

I have several…

Life isn’t fair, the fair is in July (said by several members of my family).
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Of all memorable quotes in my brain – one holds a very special place because I often repeat it to others…and to myself.  This morning it was to myself.

Sophocles said, “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”

This is about looking in the mirror for every ‘problem’ we encounter – for being able to decipher our own fault in situations.

This morning I looked in the mirror.

This morning Sophocles and I had yet another heart to heart.

This morning I met with our District’s Curriculum Coordinator.  Why?  See Day #128 – 61 Day Journey, Part 2 of 3.  In short – we began our meeting with thinking of ways to map out curriculum so it would make sense to Tucker.  As I wrote about yesterday, he always needs to know the plan.  So, we thought mapping the curriculum would help him understand the larger picture and how all learning is connected.

For as long as I can remember Tucker’s ‘gifted’ area has been in mathematics.  It always came easy to him, and now it’s getting hard – and he’s not a fan.  I’ve been in constant contact with his math teacher, Mr. M., who is truly one AMAZING guy.  When I say that we have great teachers, I am not kidding.  He is genuinely interested in Tucker.  He genuinely wants to help him learn – in any way possible.

Last week Mr. M. was the ‘home’ of the cupcakes (see Day #171-Catching Flies)  – and so I had a chance to talk with him.  We talked about the forest and the trees.  Tucker has a hard time seeing the forest through the trees. He gets so bogged down in the detail that he cannot see the larger picture.  When he can’t see the point he gets frustrated, when he gets frustrated he is easily distracted, when he is easily distracted his learning is inhibited.

Between that conversation and what I learned this morning about math instruction – I need to take a good hard look in the mirror regarding my own teaching.

This ‘new math’ is often referred to as inquiry-based math.  The premise is that the teacher presents a prompt and then students are encouraged to develop solving patterns with each other using their teacher as a guide.  Instead of the “here is the problem, here is how you do the problem, now practice the problem” method that many of us learned, this method is about learning diverse ways to look at and think about a math problem.

It’s a great method for our world today – it teaches students to be self-motivated, outside-the-box thinkers.  In learning about this method, I was a bit jealous.  I probably would have excelled at this method – because I am an outside the box, self-motivated thinker.

It’s also not surprising that Tucker struggles with this method.

He is NOT a self-motivated, outside of the box thinker.

Not one bit.

Not in any way.

As we talked it became very clear that he needed the more 1980’s approach to math and we are putting a plan into action to make that happen.

When I left the school I called my dad to see what he thought of our new plan.  I really wanted to pick his brain to see if he thought we were on the right track.  As I’ve disclosed, he is the person in my life that thinks the most like Tucker.  He told me this story, “This reminds me of this morning.  I had the schematics for part of the planter.  I was trying to put it together and it didn’t make any sense – why would this hose go here?  I was frustrated.  Eventually, I went to the final picture and spent some time studying that.  Then, I started over at step one – it only took me an hour to put it together because every step made sense. I wasn’t constantly questioning why.  I always start to the end.  Even when I read books – I always read the last chapter because I wanted to know where I was heading.”

Of course.

When I arrived home I did a bit of research.  As I was learning I ran across this image and gasped.

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Oh boy. No wonder he’s struggling.  If you consider the conversation we had yesterday (see Day #177 – You are Driving Me Nuts!) with the first two ideas on this image you have easily predicted learning difficulty.

The self-reflection?  I also teach using an inquiry method.  I often refuse to give students ‘example’ pieces.  Why?  Because I want them to think on their own and create something unique.  My greatest fear is that seeing a final product will limit their own creativity and thinking out of the box.

Well, some folks – NEED to see the final product.  Tucker does.  He doesn’t think outside of the box.  He’s the master of thinking inside the box.

Which leads me to more self-reflection and tomorrow’s post.  Since when did thinking ‘inside-the-box’ become a bad thing?

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