Making Mistakes

Today we’re learning distribution. I’ve just done a few whole-class examples and now I’ve put some practice exercises on the board.

As my students begin copying them into their notebooks (so they can show their work), I begin circulating the classroom.

My intent is clear: identify mistakes and correct them. This is important, both artificially because it’s on state exams and implicitly because the relationship between multiplication and addition that is distribution has profound impacts on number systems that underlie a plethora of physical phenomena and theoretical constructs alike.

The first few students I check in with are plowing ahead, all the way to the second question already. Then I get to one of my struggling learners. Let’s call him Joe.

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In Search of Inspiration

READ ME, I wrote at the bottom of the page, knowing if I didn’t remind myself to look at this again, I would forget this late-night, right-before-bed thought that felt worthwhile.

I’ve gotten so lost in knowing that I’ve forgotten feeling, I had written in dark fuchsia ink. I read too much nonfiction and not enough fiction. I need to be outside more. I need to move more. I need to look past the words and feel the wonder. I need to wander.

I had been thinking of how to get back to my mythology around the same time. I’ve been trying to explore ways to write the story and ways to return to it; in particular, the last time I touched it in November, I felt like I had run into a wall. So I continued: Maybe I should also revisit the cultures of my world — flesh out the religions, the creeds of the gods, each tribe’s histories. Perhaps then I can keep writing. But are these things I need to know, or will they help me feel?

I finished with one last line of scrawling scarlet ink. God, I’m just so numb inside.

And I realized, I was right–I have grown numb. But is the numbness the cause of my lack of inspiration, or is my lack of inspiration causing me to feel numb?

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Math RPG

Three weeks ago I wrote about turning my math class into a game. By then the game had already begun, and now the game’s about to wrap up–our final boss battle is on Monday.

Yesterday, however, I gave my students a survey to get feedback on the game, mainly to see if it had been effective and, if so, if I should continue the game into second semester. It required a lot of planning to make it happen, and with semester 2 starting on Tuesday, it’ll take a lot of energy today and tomorrow to get prepared for the game to continue.

So I’m writing this post for three reasons. First, I want to share what I’ve done so other educators can learn from an unofficial case study. Second, I want to process my students’ feedback. And third, I want to brainstorm and plan how to keep it going.

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Perfect Vision

I wanted an epiphany in 2019. I wanted to have my eyes opened through the pursuit of Story. Except I don’t feel it ever happened. Maybe if I had read all the books I’d wanted, I would have reached this point… or perhaps I was counting too much on vicarious living to have my own life awakened. There is a time for reflection, for looking back, and that introspection is especially important for self-discovery–but if we spend too much time looking behind us, we’ll miss what’s in front of us–or worse, walk into unseen pitfalls.

So now is the time to set aside the unfulfilled goals of the last year and forge forward, to open my own eyes and look toward the perfection vision of new year.

Guess it’s fitting next year is 2020, isn’t it?

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Battle Lines

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

It’s raining today. The sky was overcast all morning as I nurtured a throbbing hangover. Last night was my first gay wedding. Well, it wasn’t my wedding, but of all the weddings I’ve been to, this was the first same-sex affair. It was a delight. The grooms hosted an amazing party, with delicious cupcakes and a well-stocked bar at a local staple of the “gay district” in Milwaukee, and two local drag queens performed. It was beautiful.

It was, in a word, progress.

There’s a reason why this was my first gay wedding: Up until a few years ago, same-sex marriage was still illegal in most of the country. But through advocacy and activism, through raising our shared voices and not just waiting for legislators to give equality, but facing the courts and demanding it, this battle was won.

But this battle, big as it was, is just a single front in a much larger, ongoing war.

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Hypocrisy on High

Just yesterday I renounced New Year’s resolutions and goal-making in general, but it’s been shown that creating New Year’s goals is a great start to achieving them (and not setting goals is a surefire way to miss the mark entirely). I’m still sticking to my systems, but there are a number of outcomes I’m aiming at in 2016.

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Fear on a Face of Ignorance

I have a backlog of posts waiting to be published. Many of them talk about race, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to share them. I’ve fallen under fear–the fear of losing social capital, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of looking ignorant, the fear of admitting my own faults, the fear of alienating the people I can learn from.

So where did I go wrong?

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A Return to Happiness

Polarity is an interesting animal. We think we know opposites–day and night, sun and moon, light and shadow–but then we’re faced with nuanced categories that defy perfect dualism–male and female, black and white, good and bad. Here there isn’t so much a binary system as much as a continuum, and it’s easy to get lost in the grey matter.

So lately I’ve been longing, lingering, languishing…and I’ve been fighting against it, feeling frothy and shameful, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So I’ve been perusing TED Talks, because they’re awesome, and sometimes a little awesome makes you awesome, too.

And in a way, somewhere in this mess of chaos, a new story began.

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The First Rainbow

Long before rainbow colors signified the LGBT community for me, they signified Reading Rainbow: a children’s program I watched growing up that helped inspire me to read. I remember watching as they turned the pages, illustrations seamlessly becoming animations, and always wanting to get these books to read myself.

I never did, but just knowing about them made me eager to read–made me look forward to library trips and the discovery and adventure awaiting inside each and every book.

I grew up and Reading Rainbow was replaced by other shows, my interest in children’s books replaced by young adult series, and I never thought about that iconic theme song that still brings me back to my youth. Then, not so long ago, I stumbled across this Kickstarter campaign to bring Reading Rainbow back to kids everywhere.

Immediately I became a backer.

But there’s still more to do, more children to help Reading Rainbow inspire. I would not have become the person I am today if not for the books I’ve read, and I might not have read anything if shows like Reading Rainbow hadn’t encouraged me to read and made books as much fun as any action figure or play set. Reading is the foundation of all learning, and to help our country–to help the world–be all that it can be, we must help our children learn to love reading. And I believe Reading Rainbow can help us achieve this goal.

Will you please help us change the world, one child at a time?

Click here to make a $5 (US) donation, or here to visit the campaign’s Kickstarter page.

When you back Reading Rainbow, let me know! As a campaign volunteer, they’d like a tally of how many backers I recruit, but more so I want thank each of you individually..