About Being a Teacher

Misc. Material to inspire or amuse.

Extracted from Reader’s Digest (Asian Edition), April 1991, pp. 47-48.
(From: Dr Leong Hon Wai, ISCS, NUS; To: All my students;) —-
Mr. Whitson taught sixth-grade science. On the first day of class, he gave us a lecture about a creature called the cattywampus, an ill-adapted nocturnal animal that was wiped out during the Ice Age. He passed around a skull as he talked. We all took notes and later had a quiz.
When he returned my paper, I was shocked. There was a big red X through each of my answers. I had failed. There had to be some mistake! I had written down exactly what Mr. Whitson said. Then I realized that everyone in the class had failed. What had happened?
Very simple, Mr. Whitson explained. He had made up all the stuff about the cattywampus. There had never been any such animal. The information in our notes was, therefore, incorrect. Did we expect credit for incorrect answers?
Needless to say, we were outraged. What kind of test was this? And what kind of teacher?
We should have figured it out, Mr. Whitson said. After all, at the every moment he was passing around the cattywampus skull (in truth, a cat’s), hadn’t he been telling us that no trace of the animal remained? He had described its amazing night vision, the color of its fur and any number of other facts he couldn’t have known. He had given the animal a ridiculous name, and we still hadn’t been suspicious. The zeroes on our papers would be recorded in his grade book, he said. And they were.
Mr. Whitson said he hoped we would learn something from this experience. Teachers and textbooks are not infallable. In fact, no one is. He told us not to let our minds go to sleep, and to speak up if we ever thought he or the textbook was wrong.
Every class was an adventure with Mr. Whitson. I can still remember some science periods almost from beginning to end. On day he told us that his Volkswagon was a living organism. It took us two full days to put together a refutation he would accept. He didn’t let us off the hook until we had proved not only that we knew what an organism was but also that we had the fortitude to stand up for the truth.
We carried our brand-new skepticism into all our classes. This caused problems for the other teachers, who weren’t used to being challenged. Our history teacher would be lecturing about something, and then there would be clearings of the throat and someone would say “cattywampus.”
If I’m ever asked to propose a solution to the problems in our schools, it will be Mr. Whitson. I haven’t made any great scientific discoveries, but Mr. Whitson’s class game me and my classmates something just as important: the courage to look people in the eye and tell them they are wrong. He also showed us that you can fun doing it.
Not everyone sees the value in this. I once told an elementary school teacher about Mr. Whitson. The teacher was appalled. “He shouldn’t have tricked you like that,” he said. I looked that teacher right in the eye and told him that he was wrong.

David Owen, Condensed from Life (October ’90). Time and Life Bldg.

This Can’t Be Math… I Like It

Sarah McAllister & Melissa McNenly

PITA Conference – Oct. 24, 2008
This Can’t be Math…I Like It!
a.k.a. Teaching Math Affectively – Presented by: Rick Wunderlich

  • Remember to think about what’s happening in students’ heads – it is likely not the same as yours
  • ALL students can learn math
    • As a teacher, it is your responsibility to believe in ALL students
  • Learning = risk taking
  • Steps to Creating a Positive Attitude in Learning:
    1. Create in the students’ mind the importance of the learning – they will only learn to value learning once they trust you. Believe in them.
    2. Give students meaningful opportunities to personalize the learning – they can then begin to take ownership of their learning.
    3. Allow students multiple scenarios to show their learning – many methods to answer, (ex. interviews)
  • There are more ways of testing a student than just with a test
  • Ensure that students know that it is okay to make mistakes and to be wrong.
  • The students that you are teaching are those that will change the world.
  • Often, a mathematician is not a good math teacher. They cannot explain how to get an answer in different ways.
  • Take your students from where they are, to the highest place you can.
  • Link math to global issues – make it meaningful to your students, (ex. climate change, poverty, hunger, disease)
  • Example of an Activities/Games:
    • Ask students what their favorite meal is – they can then create their own restaurant from scratch. This includes mapping out the area, the prices, the menus, purchasing product, etc. Use a space they know, such as the class room.
    • Yahtzee!
    • Crib
    • Monopoly
    • Tally the amount of hours spent on electronics
  • Good ‘lines’ to use with students:
    • “Something tells me you’re good at this..”
    • “You have to bear with me, you may not like this but..”
    • “You’re allowed to be wrong..”
    • “How would you begin..”
    • “Don’t cheat – I can’t help you then”
  • Using games for teaching math is very powerful as is working in groups. Students come to believe that they can do math, that math is important, and that math is all around them.
  • Assessment:
    • Assess less, mark better
      • self-assess
      • conversations
      • tests
    • Student’s do NOT mark another student’s work
    • Collect work, photocopy it, have students mark it
  • For Friday’s math class, do something fun!

The above notes were created by: Melissa McNenly – UBCO Student Teacher (mmcnenly@shaw.ca)
Edited by: Shannon Truesdell – UBCO Student Teacher (shantrues @hotmail.com)