Posted on July 8, 2012


…which brings me to one of my favorite movie lines (Val Kilmer as Chris Knight in Real Genius):
Self realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said “I drank what?”

Five years ago, I took myself to a local college’s AP Institute in Statistics. I majored in Statistics in college. I was arrogant and knew everything. I’m sure I was obnoxious to the other students and the instructor as I read some other book during the class. I was also sure that by attending, I would have the clout to actually get a section of Statistics to teach at my school. But when I asked my principal, she said (and yes, it is burned in my brain…word-for-word quote): “No. It isn’t even math, so it wouldn’t count.”

I never asked for a Statistics class again. (With that response, what would be the point, really?)

Fast forward to the end of the school year last year. Common Core had shown up on the radar, and Statistics was right in the middle of it, along with modeling. Surprise! I was asked to teach AP Statistics and non-AP Statistics. I was also sent to a Modeling Institute, taught by one of the committee members for the adoption of the Common Core for the State of California. Again, I was obnoxious, bordering on rude, as I (of course!) knew everything the class could possibly show me.

I started the year with arrogance: I was going to NAIL this. Everyone would pass. I had great students, most of whom had been in my classroom before, including one who passed the BC Calculus test as a junior and another one who was concurrently taking AB Calculus (who got a 5 on that test…woohoo to Eddie!).

Then reality struck. There was nothing I didn’t recognize, but I had not seen any of it since graduation, which was <mumble>…ok, 20 years ago. But teaching is an entire different level than simply understanding it yourself, as all teachers know. My kiddos tried, they really did. But I knew I was sucking. The scores proved it: one student received a 2. Everyone else: 1. Even the studly Calculus students.

I believe my non-AP class understood stuff better than the AP class. Not as much stuff got covered, but it was covered better.

Later today, I will drive to San Diego to attend AP By the Sea.

I won’t have any distractions (OK, one, as I get to see my best friend since college, an English professor who I haven’t seen since my daughter was 1…she’s 7 now). My daughter will be attending a science camp under the watchful eye of her grandmother. My husband will be working at his new job he got when he resigned in June after teaching in the classroom for 14 years. He will also be having a root canal without either of his women to distract him or take care of him. Poor baby.

I go with all humility. I am fortunate that I not only get to attend and my school is paying this time, but the institute just happens to be taught by one of the authors of the textbook adopted by my district. I have been given the email address of the first AP Institute instructor who also happens to be the author of the teacher’s edition notes for my textbook, and who has authored a new book that I really want my school to buy (Statistical Reasoning in Sports). It will never happen under current budget constraints, but I can dream.

For the first time since I graduated from college, I go to learn. I hope I remember how.

P.S. I must give some shout-outs. It is going to look like a #FF.

Another thing that happened during this year is I found a PLN on Twitter. Statistics is lonely to teach in my district: not all schools have it, and the ones that do are taught by the people who don’t want to teach it but they had a hole in their schedule and needed a single class to fill that hole. I have learned more than I can possibly say from people I’ve never met: some probably wouldn’t have the time to talk to me, some don’t even teach math (although there are lots of them too). People like Illinois Teacher of the Year Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher) who remind me that it is ok to have fun still. People like Eric Mazur (@eric_mazur) and Hans Rosling (@HansRosling) are people I would never have a chance to meet but they share anyway. Administrators like Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) and Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) have given insight on the land of Administration. Countless British and Canadian mathematicians have given me new ways to look at all math subjects to the point I now call them “math(s)”. (William Emeny the @Maths_Master has been so helpful!) I’ve read with a smile the ongoing battle between the Khan Academy, Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer), and Frank Nochese (@fnochese). Most recently, Kate Nowak (@k8nowak) led me to Renee (@approx_normal) who led me to S T (@druinok). I’ve found Statistics teachers who actually like Statistics! More than anything else from them, I appreciate the smiles their Tweets have given me. There are so many more. I follow between 100 and 200 people, and I really read all their Tweets. They rock, and they have my permanent thanks.

OK, I’m done.