Thursday, May 22, 2014

Common Core Mathematics: I don’t usually share my politics

Property of here

"Example of Common Core"
Many parents think the NEW MATH is too complicated...and too many steps.

Here is my resume… Bachelor’s degree in special education. Taught 5 years 9-12 grade remedial mathematics and geometry. Master’s degree in special education/autism. 2 years teaching math to 6-12 grade students in alternative/jail school. 1 year teaching online 8th grade pre-algebra. Certified in Mathematics grades 5-9 and 6-12.

You do notice, there is no formal mathematics education curriculum here.

I didn’t plan on teaching math. It landed in my lap, my first day on the job.

“Can you teach math?” asked the assistant principal. I had been hired to teach reading, but I am pretty confident. I replied, “I can teach anything you want me to.”

I found my niche. I love teaching math to struggling students. I, TOO, STRUGGLED! I understand why they “don’t get it.” I try to learn new ways to teach it. I teach it in every manner that I have available to me.

I do very well at it. My students succeed. My students LIKE math. (Yeah, I couldn’t believe this was happening in my classroom.)

I haven’t been teaching this year, due to our EPIC WORLD TOUR, but I have been watching, and sometimes participating, in the discussions online.

When I read about the resistance to Common Core, I am on the fence.

When I read about the resistance to Common Core, I realize that my friends and I are…old.

When I read the resistance to Common Core, I realize, most people have forgotten their own parent’s laments about “new math.”

I guess conspiracy theorist would have us believe that our government is purposely trying to dumb our children down. Parents who are struggling with the new concepts, will automatically discount its efficacy. Students, who never have had the voice they have now, will make broad, sweeping commentaries via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Here is what I think:

1.     The common core is our country’s reaction to other countries surpassing our students in education.
a.     What a wonderful thing! Countries that were “2nd and 3rd –world” a few decades ago are educating their children!!!! This is amazing!
b.     Exactly which children are other countries educating? The normative tests that are being compared to America include ALL American children in the education system. We have compulsory education for ALL students. That means, regardless of learning ability, behavioral ability, and physical ability, all children in America will be educated AND TESTED. This is NOT the case in other countries. Many of the countries we are discussing, that are beating our pants off, are NOT testing all of their children. Children with “problems” are not in the regular classroom, and children who are not showing college-preparedness by 14, are often separated to a vocational track.
c.      Our culture emphasized competition in the workplace and in technology, but should that be the focus of our children’s education? The country’s economics? I guess for some it is, but I was taught that the purpose of education was to create citizens who could participate in the democratic process…?
2.     We HATE anything new
a.     The principle of the common core it to make sure that every child, in every classroom, is receiving the same level of education, regardless of the school they attend.
b.     The change to conceptual understandings of mathematics is abhorred by parents everywhere! Why? Because we don’t understand the point. Why make an easy question multiple steps? Why learn this, when we learned the easier way to do things???
c.      Times change, and so does education. Do you want your children to receive the education you received? That your parents received? No! Times change, and the needs of the student change. This is a new millennium, and the kids have to adapt to this to stay current in this setting.
3.     Abstract thinking and mathematics
a.     We were NEVER taught to learn mathematics conceptually. We were taught how to do math by rote. Procedurally. We were never taught what this MEANS. How does it apply to higher maths? Do you think, perhaps, this is why sooooo many people HATE math? We get to a certain level where it doesn’t make sense anymore… To alleviate this situation, in which student’s don’t GET math anymore, the school systems have developed this conceptual mathematics program.
b.     I was taught, as a young education major, all about developmental psychology. One of the concepts taught was the development of abstract thinking. Abstract thinking is something that is developed around the age of 11-12 ( Some people NEVER get to abstract thinking! So why are we starting this type of thinking in 1st grade? Kids are going to fail, and we have NOTHING set up for them when they do. We have no vocational tracks. Nothing alternative for the non-college bound kids. Nothing to help them other than an F.

In conclusion, do I think that Common Core is “the devil?” No. I don’t think it is horrible. Do I think that Common Core is appropriate for all students? No. Do I want my 9-year-old daughter to participate in Common Core? Yes!!!

Luckily, my daughter hasn’t had a problem with the new mathematics program. When I don’t understand what is being demonstrated on her homework, I ask her to explain it to me… I go from there… I have the world-wide-web in my pocket!

I clearly remember my father, the civil engineer with three degrees, struggling to help his four children with Algebra. We all protested, “That isn’t the way the teacher did it!!!”

I would like to remind my peers of these same experiences that they had with their own parents. It is happening to you NOW! We are old. The old ways are not going to work now. We need to spend the time understanding WHAT is being taught to our students and WHY.  If your child is struggling, stay on top of the school and what they are doing to HELP you!

The schools are not out to ruin your child. They are trying to prepare them for their future. Please try to understand what is going on, and contribute to the process.

Change is hard!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finally: London and Ireland

Our first problem was the Amsterdam train station...

Apparently, the train was pretty full and only first class tickets to London were available. I was willing to pay the extra to get there...

Of course, it isn't that easy.

Amsterdam's train station doesn't accept American credit cards.

In Europe, there is a chip and pin system for fraud protection. It requires a pin for transactions. At most places, they are aware of the issue and can slide my card without a problem. NOT AT THE AMSTERDAM TRAIN STATION!

So... I had these three people looking at me... wondering what we were going to do...

Amazing Race Time!

We get a cab and head to the airport. First time I have every arrived at an airport without a ticket. An hour later, and a wonderful travel agent. We had tickets to London!!!

Oh! The humanity! (waiting at the airport)

Italian food in Amsterdam Airport. It was... interesting...

End of this story: We arrived in London a half hour earlier than if we had taken the train. We were disappointed to miss crossing over in the Chunnel, but circumstances, circumstances...

We stayed at the Tara Copthorne Hotel in Kensington, London. At first glance, the hotel seemed nice, but in the end, we will not ever stay there again. The customer service was...cold. The beds, while comfortable at first, began easing apart (twin beds pushed together). The available food was...meh

Location of the hotel was great though! It was right next to a tube station (subway) and near lots of shopping and food.

We arrived the day before Easter, so we knew we were going to have a little trouble finding something to do. Thankfully, I had read an article by Time Out about activities on Easter. I pre-booked tickets to Kensington Palace for their Easter Scavenger Hunt.

Kensington Palace is the place that Kate and Wills live with Baby George. If you don't know who that is, click here... It was also home to Queen Victoria, Princess Diana, and Princess Margaret.

If you don't know me well, you probably don't know that I am an extreme Anglophile. I love English history and monarchy. I had just finished a book on Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, before getting to London. I also had recently read a book on Queen Victoria. Being inside this home was... mind blowing to me! It was also extremely family friendly! There were tons of things to touch in the museum and even a craft room for kid activities.

We spent the day there and the kids participated in the scavenger hunt, even though it was raining. Luckily, the kids found most of the clues and were able to turn in their cards for chocolate eggs!

Dancing shadow on the wall!

We must PREPARE for the scavenger hunt!


That evening, Chris and I headed out of town to meet up with our friend Michael. He has lived near London for 7 years now, and he was hosting Karaoke in his little town of Bishop's Stortford. We sand and drank for a few hours and hopped the train back to London.

The next morning, Michael met us in Trafalgar Square for the required double-decker bus tour! Woot woot! We spun around the city, looking at the sights, eventually ditching the tired Isabel and Chris, so that Sierra, Michael, and I could do a little shopping in Convent Garden.

Tired Isabel

The antiques at a flea market are entirely different than the ones we have in America. It was no big deal to pick up a ring that was 150+ years old and only about $100!!! There were also strange objects, such hair lockets, aboriginal clubs for killing people, and this strange bunny/bird claw thing that I HAD TO BUY!

bird/bunny claw thing

Had to buy this nutcracker  for my brother!

Later in the week we made it to other sites, such as the Tower of London, The Globe Theater (Couldn't go in, the line was too long on Shakespeare's birthday!), and the river Thames.

British Cab

Buckingham Palace

Changing of the guard

Shopping at Harrod's

British Museum

We also decided to go out and visit our friend, Michael, with the girls for some spa time at Eden Hair Group! I opted for a lovely massage and facial, while the girls got their hair done. Sierra was dying for some bangs, and Isabel finally got some purple hair (purple!!!)

We definitely did not have enough time in London, and I wasn't able to get to Windsor, Hampton Court, or Kew Palace (sad!). I definitely could spend more time enjoying London and think I will definitely need to return again! I think it is only 6-7 hours of flying to get there...

We then caught a flight to Dublin.

Since it was the last stop on our trip, I splurged and booked ourselves at The Marker Hotel. Now... this place was FANCY! I felt super special the whole time I was there! If you ever get to go to Dublin, I highly recommend you save up and splurge on this hotel. The price wasn't ridiculous, but the service was!

(Property of Totally Dublin)
This was the rooftop bar at our hotel! It was awesome!

We didn't do a ton in Dublin. Some shopping. We visited the Guinness Factory. Drank beer in the main areas. Ate some Dublin fare.

"THE" Guinness Harp

The highlight of our stay was visiting with our friends Ciaran, Kelly, Tadhg, and Gaia. These are friends that I have known for over ten years, and have been living in the Kilkenny area for several years.

We jumped on the train and were picked up by Ciaran. After a short drive we were at their house!!! We spent the day, enjoying a rare sunny day, and playing with the babies!

To top it all off, we were fed!!! Kelly and Ciaran decided to cook up some young Irish lamb for us, and it was delicious! I was absolutely looking for a taste of lamb in Ireland, and my friends helped me out!!! It was a wonderfully relaxing day before we headed home.

Kelly and Gaia

I sent the kids into the yard to weave some flowers, and THEY DID!!!

Putting the "baby" in the sling

Cooking for us!

Sierra and Gaia

Dinner is served!

On our way home, we had also decided to make things as easy as possible. FIRST CLASS FLIGHTS!!! We have been dying to have the seats, that recline into beds, this whole year, but unfortunately, it wasn't in the budget. Aer Lingus was able to accommodate us with somewhat reasonable rates. I don't know how I will ever fly again!!! The flight attendants kept bringing food every 15 minutes! The beds DID lay down. The blankets... The movies... the wine... Ahhhhhh!

Well, we had to go home. This was the way to do it!

Our next trip is in July, to Asheville, NC. I will be posting in the meantime, but it may center on food creations that I am working on!