” The first part of the message, of course, is that there aren’t enough teachers of color in the public school system. And the second part of the message may be that those who are in the system are less likely to feel that their voices are being heard.”

Michael says,

“This is either a “big question” or a “hard question.””

Their responses are, essentially, the same. Which, I think, helps us narrow the issue at hand.

In planning for the upcoming EdCamp, I think the issue is the second in both responses. How do we (who is we?) bring non-white educators to the event on October 17? Michael has some ideas. Please try to follow his suggestion. Personally invite people to come.

Any other ideas? Please respond and add them.

The beauty of the EdCamp structure that I’ve experienced is that the conference is truly built by those who are there. At EdCamp, I have participated in more than one emotional session where real issues were discussed. The discussions (every one of them) were respectful while being controversial and I think participants left the room having learned something. I know I have learned. I know my respect for my colleagues has grown as a result of these discussions. To me, this is a big deal.

When the event happens, let us be courageous. Let us take some chances and talk about difficult things.

I will be courageous. I will propose this session – “Do you feel respected by your colleagues in your building or in your district? Do you respect your colleagues?” I think this will be a session where people get to talk. But who knows? It’s EdCamp. I will not control the session. We’ll see what happens.

]]>How can we reach out and bring in non-white educators?

This is either a “big question” or a “hard question.”

If this is a “big question,” then it’s about a lot of major, problematic forces swimming around education today. It’s about the structural issues and racisms that exclude black people from entering education, for one. It’s about the racism of white teachers, and it’s about the tragedy of children not getting the teachers that they need. As Christopher mentioned, it’s going to be about voice, about the subtle ways that white people can signal who’s welcome and who isn’t, and it’s about how EdCamp’s whiteness is really emblematic of the thoroughly oppressing whiteness of education.

That’s the “big question” version. The “hard question” goes like this: How do recruit more non-white educators to EdCamp?

There’s value in both questions, and I think Seth would be the first to remind me that any attempts to remedy a situation need to be rooted in a firm, empathetic understanding of the issues. If you try to tackle the hard question without embracing the big questions, you’re going to run into trouble.

Fine. But let’s make sure that we’re not only talking about the big questions, right? The big questions are, in their own way, easy questions. They’re academic. They can take place in our living rooms and are intellectually vigorous. The hard questions can be, well, harder.

Let’s have a conversation about race and voice and education…yes! But let’s also pick up the phone and start making some calls. Let’s work our networks and actually invite people of color to speak at our conferences. And when that doesn’t work, let’s keep on calling. If we think that racial diversity is important, then rather than being selfish about our twitter usage let’s search for black teachers to follow and chat with. Let’s talk math with teachers of all stripes.

The big questions are crucial, but let’s start asking some hard questions as well!

]]>The way I understand EdCamp is that it is about teacher voice. In being presented with the idea of such a thing, I think each of us has an instinct about how likely it will be that *our* voice, and the voices that speak most directly to our hearts and minds will be featured.

So if teachers of color aren’t turning out for EdCamp, I would say that we need to look at this as a message to the larger profession. The first part of the message, of course, is that there aren’t enough teachers of color in the public school system. And the second part of the message may be that those who are in the system are less likely to feel that their voices are being heard.

Examples of this latter phenomenon are widespread, but a current very public one is the Facebook photo of white New York teachers posing for a photo of themselves in NYPD shirts. Whatever you think of that act, you don’t have to read many Internet comments on the matter before bumping up against white teachers telling Black teachers that it’s not about race.

If you’re a teacher of color, do you want to go hang out and try to have professional conversations with this group?

So there’s my take, **Seth**. As a white teacher who has never been to EdCamp. Maybe there is a way to have this kind of conversation at EdCamp next month? I read *Good White People* this summer (which I will heartily recommend when I have time to write about it), and one important point I took away was that [especially liberal] white people often spend too much time trying to ask people of color about race, and not enough time talking about race among themselves.

Thanks for raising the question. I would be curious to hear more from you and from others.

]]>Thanks for helping make this happen. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve attended 3 or 4 EdCamps and I’ve never been dissatisfied.

Now – what about race?

Race is a large topic right now – in our country and, hopefully, in our schools.

The EdCamps I attended were very overwhelmingly white.

How can we reach out and bring in non-white educators? This question goes to Christopher and to all reading this blog. Please share your ideas. Thanks.

]]>Actually the front of human knowledge is much closer than you think. Some people compare doing math to exploring a landscape. But math is not like a landscape that is nicely embedded in our 3d space. It’s more like an infinite tree. It branches out really quickly, so you can still find unexplored places just a few steps away.

(although possibly a more accurate metaphor would be something like a graph of an infinite periodic finitely generated group, but it probably doesn’t say anything to you)

]]>Too many people chastise the common core, or worse, the teacher teaching the common core because they were told to do so or lose their job. without knowing what is going on. As a newly retired teacher after 35 years, I taught the common core for the last three. As with any set of standards (which we will ALWAYS have) there are parts that are new and bend your thinking in a good way. The difficult mathematics concepts being taught, as in your example in the article, are strategies. I did not like some of the strategies that were presented in our “Common Core Aligned” math series, however, I saw their usefulness in higher-level thinking, real life mathematical situations. So, I taught them, but did not dwell on them. Some students “got it” and some weren’t ready. Normal. And, they certainly were not penalized when they did not get it. Thank you for your well written article with VERY valid points.

]]>I keep saying: try to separate a number of things, because there will be a future post-Common Core.

1) There is no such thing as “Common Core Math.” There is just math and various ways of explaining, representing, and teaching it.

2) Very little of what we’re seeing in the latest textbooks, if anything, is new; neither is it the “invention” of some entity that embodies a new take on mathematics content or pedagogy.

3) Where there are differences between what some teachers are used to and what was being done before Common Core generally has more to do with when something is taught rather than what or how. And in some cases, there are legitimate questions as to developmental appropriateness, though that is hardly a simple matter to sort out or settle definitively, given the enormous diversity in socio-economic background and preparation that students bring to school when it comes to mathematics, literacy, and “schooling” in general.

4) Most of the complaints I’ve heard leveled at “Common Core Math” (an imaginary entity, in my view), though not all of them, are old news, holdovers and renewals of old gripes from the “Math Wars” of the 1990s.

5) A vast percentage of the attacks on “Common Core Math” I encounter on FB and elsewhere are either incredibly ignorant or incredibly cynical in that there is a non-stop conflation between pedagogical models of math procedures and concepts with official algorithms that students are taught and expected to use.

Part of the problem is that there is a rigidity in how some publishers and some state or local departments of education (or individual administrators or teachers) are interpreting what is ACTUALLY in either the Content or Practice Standards for Mathematics. As a result, there actually are grounds for the claims that models are being taught in unreasonable ways: kids are forced to do things painstakingly when they may already have mastered the procedure in question. When parents see this, many go ballistic, since their own math education (regardless of how much or little they like or get mathematics) tells them that as long as a child can come up with “the right answer,” regardless of how or why, and regardless of whether s/he can interpret the answer in a context or explain why the answer makes sense or describe the method(s) s/he used, all is well (and the question is solved and, hence, closed).

In reality, real mathematical problems are NOT over when someone arrives at a numerical solution to them (see George Polya’s work on heuristics, specifically his landmark book, HOW TO SOLVE IT, for the best explanation of mathematical problem solving and how it should be taught and done); rather, that is when it is time for reflection, questioning, and the creation of new problems. I’m not blaming parents for their narrow understanding of this issue, since few of them, if any, were ever given the opportunity to view mathematics from this more sophisticated perspective. However, it is vital to ANY attempt to deepen American mathematics education as a whole that we help everyone get this point at least to some extent. And right now, we are seeing the fallout from the abject failure of even the best people involved with Common Core Mathematics for the best of reasons to make any headway at all in educating the general public on what it would mean for the US to make meaningful strides forward in math education.

One result of the deep hostility many citizens bring to looking at “Common Core Mathematics” is an absolute intolerance towards anything that departs from “the basics,” with a strong emphasis on automatic recall of “facts.” There is a huge outcry against what is perceived as widespread failure to teach those “facts” adequately (usually accompanied with complaints about any use of calculators – replete with the same tired anecdotes about clerks who can’t make change when electronic cash registers are on the fritz – or other technology, with the overriding assumption that math = calculation = arithmetic, and of story.

I repeatedly bump into comments online where a video of any teacher or professional development person explaining why a particular math procedure works, or especially where there is an attempt to explain any alternative way of doing or thinking about a basic procedure from arithmetic that essentially say, “What was wrong with the old way? In my day, we just knew what 9 + 6 equalled. We didn’t have to decompose (actually, I see the word “deconstruct” used instead, which to me is quite ironic) 6 as 1 + 5 so we can make 10 and then 15,” and so forth. People complain that “it took the teacher 3 minutes to “do that simple problem,” when in fact, what takes 3 minutes is EXPLAINING in detail what is being taught and why it’s being taught that way, which has NOTHING to do with how long it would take anyone to solve the computation. NOTHING. Reading that sort of thing is terrifically frustrating, since it reflects either incredible ignorance or shameless intellectual dishonesty. No one, no teacher, is asking kids to take 3 minutes to solve 9 + 6 (though frankly, if a student has never done single digit addition that results in sums greater than 9 before, it would be quite unsurprising if it took several minutes for the student to come up with an answer – but adults have a very hard time recalling a point where they didn’t know the answer on demand). In any event, no sane teacher is expecting students to spend that long on arithmetic calculations once they have mastered the process and meaning of what they’re doing.

I could continue to analyze these issues, but enough for now. I just hope that fair-minded people will reflect on the possibility that when the Common Core dust settles, these issues and many related to them will not disappear, and we will continue to be doing a serious disservice to kids if we just throw the baby out with the bathwater. I find NCTM and other professional organizations very guilty of professional misconduct in not having learned anything from recent failed attempts at math ed reform when it comes to educating the public and instead endorsing Common Core blindly and unequivocally. But that is NOT an excuse for others, particularly those of a right-wing political orientation, to lie so baldly about what is going on. Sure, dismantle the high-stakes testing nonsense, the VAM and other insane and useless attacks on teachers, and the rest of the apparatus of the Common Core Initiative machinery. But don’t make the error of thinking that we’re anywhere close to being better off in math classrooms if we succeed in bringing this juggernaut to a halt.

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