If you need context for the following, go ahead and search “Sunshine awards”. Or just read along or skip to the next blog in your reader. It makes no matter to me.
Facts about me:
- My inbox is where chain letters go to die. I never forward them on. I do not “Like” photographs that have charming children (or puppies) holding signs asking for 1 million likes. I will not apologize for this.
- I make a mean beer can chicken.
- The wings on these chickens pretty much never make it to the table. Seriously, have you ever eaten the wings off a well made beer can chicken right off the grill? (Sorry, vegetarians—much love, but this is about me.)
- My family never did nicknames growing up (OK, I can think of two exceptions—my mom called my sister Pumpkin and everyone called me Keefer). My wife’s family is rich with them. Our married life has taken on her family’s tradition. Among the nicknames in our house are these (very small sampling—you can have fun at home guessing which applies to whom): Dog, bird, pigeon, Boo, hompish, EP, LP, hound, rabitsu.
- If there is no urinal available, I prefer to sit.
- If your band has an accordion, I will gladly come hear you play. I cannot explain this.
- I am a daily newspaper reader. Paper copy. Electronic is no substitute.
- I am a huge introvert. Not shy, but being among lots of people wears me out. As a consequence, I relish my quiet down time at home.
- You will need to tear my Mac from my cold dead hands. There is no other technology about which I feel so passionately. My laptop and I are a team. We need each other to get stuff done.
- I am a much better person for having met my wife. Rachel is in very important ways my polar opposite and I have learned a lot from her about empathy and humanity. We also, of course, share essential core values.
- I make pickles. House specialty is a half-sour dill, which is fermented for about a week and doesn’t keep more than another week or two. The result is that they are seasonal. And seriously delicious.
I got nominated three times for this silliness. Fortunately, only two of these involved questions. I am compiling the master list of 22. Copy-and-paste, and hope there is some overlap. Here goes…
- Why do you teach?
I am fascinated with how people’s minds work. Trying to think like someone else—to see the world from their perspective—is endlessly interesting to me. Mathematical thinking is where I am most skilled at this. Teaching exercises this skill.
- If you didn’t teach, what would you do for a living instead?
I don’t know. I could probably be happy somewhere in the food industry. It would have to be somewhere that allowed for creativity and problem solving.
- Money being no obstacle, where would you like to visit? Why?
I want to go back to Japan. Rachel and I visited in 2002 and I found Tokyo amazing.
- Kids always ask who your favorite student is. Describe the characteristics of yours
I love the ones who are trying their best to grow. The ones who are satisfied with their present selves frustrate me. The growth they seek does not need to be mathematical, but it needs to be visible in our teacher-student relationship somewhere.
- What is your favorite board game and why?
Chess. I am not that good and I do not have much opportunity to play. But the complexity that arises from a simple set of rules is beautiful. As is the fact that the game is about ideas. If you do not play chess, this probably makes no sense to you. Sorry.
- What is the most frustrating component of education right now?
That U.S. teachers are increasingly put in corners where they feel (rightly or wrongly) that theirs is not a creative profession, and that they have limited autonomy to make important classroom and curricular decisions.
- Would you rather buy a Mac or a PC?
See fact 9 above.
- What is your favorite book?
Can’t pick one favorite of all time. Recently I read Children’s Minds by Margaret Donaldson which was amazing for where I am in my own work and thinking right now. That’s my favorite recent read.
- If you had to choose blogging with no way to share it (ex. via twitter) or tweeting with no way to elaborate (ex. via a blog), which would you choose?
Blogging with no way to share. For sure. I blogged for two years before finding my math nerd friends on Twitter. I have too much to say, and I work out my ideas by saying it. I have to write.
- Who is your hero? Why?
For me, hero suggests a lack of faults. We are all too complex for that which is why comic books exist. I wrote about important mentors for me in life and work a couple years back. Those people are still tops.
- What is the most exciting part about your job?
The moments of engagement with students’ ideas. Those moments when ideas are on public view and the classroom community is considering them, changing them and adopting them. I live for those moments. They are more frequent for me the longer I teach and that feels like a reasonable measure of success.
- If you had to pick one area/concept of math that is your “jam”, what would it be?
Fractions. Next question?
- To quote Rodney (Chris Rock) from Dr. Doolittle, “You can’t save them all, Hasselhoff.” True, but there’s at least one student that sticks out in my mind that I feel I failed. Do you have one?
Yes. Joe. My last year in the classroom. He needed more weaning from the teacher as answer key than I gave him, and this led to him shutting down too often. I needed a more nuanced approach with him and I didn’t realize it until too late.
- Twenty years from now, what’s something kids will probably remember about you (phrase, moment, habit, characteristic, etc.)?
That I made them think.
- I nominated you because I think you’re great, but I know we are all our own worst critics. What’s something that you’d like to “fix” about yourself in your current job?
Timeliness in responding to student written work. I am working on this. Part of it is straight-up self-discipline. Another part is being proactive about when and what I collect, and about what kinds of feedback I promise. I am working on both parts.
- Name a movie title that describes you and why.
Definitely not Stand and Deliver. I will choose from the movies currently playing at my local multiplex (and I will avoid the easy Frozen!)…
American Hustle. That was fun. There were some funny options. Why American Hustle? I am always hustling in the classroom. Coaxing, marketing, anything to get those minds open.
- I love TMC because at night I can hang out with my favorite tweeps over a beer or two (or eight). Which tweep would you love to have a conversation with over a beverage?
I have been blessed with opportunities to do this many times in the last couple of years. I’ll pick a couple who I haven’t had the chance with yet. I would like to brainstorm Would You Rathers with John Stevens. I would love to talk fraction learning with Nicora Placa. I have shared a beverage, but not a real conversation with Fawn Nguyen; that needs to change. I haven’t met Andrew Stadel yet. This also needs to change. Jason Buell, Jose Vilson…all of these are people I would love to talk with over coffee or beer, and have not yet.
Also, as a heads up: I accept all such invitations I can make time for. Invariably these invitations lead to me being described as “not as strange as I expected”. I am OK with this.
- If you couldn’t teach your specific subject, what else would you teach?
Kindergarten. Can I still teach math as part of the day?
- Everybody has a song they car dance/jam out to. What’s yours?
Dig the rhythms and the horns here. For me the “lovers” are my work commitments, which frequently become too numerous.
- TMC13 enlightened me on karaoke night. A few people completely blew my mind (I’m lookin’ at you, Pershan). Who would you love to see karaoke at TMC14 and why?
I want an encore from Karim Ani and Eli Luberoff.
- What’s one thing (item, app, software, etc.) that you love so much that you can’t imagine doing your job without it?
I mentioned my MacBook earlier, right? Seriously. When I moved from MSU, Mankato to Normandale, I asked for a MacBook and was told no. So I bought my own.
- If you could job shadow one tweep for a week, who would it be and why?
Sadie Estrella. I need to get out of this cold.
Now. You remember how I said chain letters go to my Inbox to die? I can’t do the 11 nominations and 11 more questions.