I had a really hard time picking what one TMC thing I wanted to do this year. Partly because I led a morning session, I feel like there wasn’t some central focus that I could go to. I almost picked “Use more activity builder” because I learned so much about that and I loved all of it. But something else has gotten stuck in my head and rather than fading I’ve gotten more and more determined.
It started with Jose Vilson’s keynote on Saturday. Like I said in my recap post, I thought the message he was making was so important but I was frustrated that there weren’t more specific resources about how to have serious conversations in class (or at least they’re not readily available). If we all agree we need to have these discussions, how can that be facilitated in math class? Then Sheila’s afternoon session on using Problem-Based Learning to bring Social Issues alive in your class made me
realize remember that we can use math to analyze complicated math problems and talk about solutions. Then on Sunday I attended Nicole’s afternoon session on Identity in the math classroom (specifically about one’s identity as a “math person,” but she introduced that idea with other pieces of identity that students have). I feel like all of this tied into a common theme of making math personal for the kids. Or maybe relevant is a better word? I want to find ways for students to talk about themselves more, and to use more math in those conversations. Or maybe a better way of saying it is I want kids to talk about themselves using math, but in a meaningful way.
I had several conversations about this with other people at TMC. One of those conversations led to Anne’s podcast called Chalkline, in which she talks to different people in education about issues of social justice. Since I was driving from Minneapolis to Chicago and back, I decided to give it a go in the car. I then proceeded to power through all available episodes, as well as start listening to the Code Switch podcast that several of the speakers recommended. All of this has just pushed me even more to believe I need to help my students to have conversations of social justice and to tackle math around relevant topics.
The kids at our school are great public speakers. I’ve watched them in seminars bringing up amazing ideas, and I’ve seen them declaim fantastic and emotional pieces, and I’ve seen them show activism through their extracurricular pursuits. Granted I’m not a humanities teacher, but I’ve always been really impressed at how our kids can analyze texts to support their arguments. And after listening to things at TMC and the podcasts and everything else, I realized it’s not that I want kids “talking about themselves using math” so much as I want them “advocating for themselves using math to support their arguments.”
The next thing I realized is that I don’t know how to do any of that myself.
I’m a white dude from an upper-middle class background. The few times I went to church, it was Methodist. Sure, I’m gay, so that gives me some insight into the struggles of minorities, but by and large I can “pass” when I need to, and am young enough that many of the biggest struggles for my community happened before they became an issue for me. So I’ve never really HAD to advocate for myself, and when I did it was largely just parroting interesting articles I found online. I know I should be critical of statistics, but not necessarily how to do that.
So I’m asking for help. Any resources or ideas you have that can help me integrate more social justice into my class would be great. My goal is to have kids explore social justice in a way that better enables them to use math to question the world around them. I’ve been looking for stuff recently and here’s some of the stuff that I’ve found so far (that I haven’t already mentioned above):
- EduColor’s website – A whole host of resources, including Storifys of past #educolor chats, a list of resources to read, and a frequently updated of recent news events connected to the movement.
- “For White Folks who Teach in the Hood…” by Christopher Emdin – This has popped up on my social media feed over and over again. Just ordered my copy, hoping to start a book club with our staff this fall.
- “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers” by Rico Gutstein – Also just ordered this, going to try to make time to peruse before we go back in September.
- Anne Schwartz’s blog – Basically puts all the things mentioned in the podcast in one place, making it easier to access.
- Moses Rifkin’s “Social Justice in the Physics Classroom” – I don’t teach physics, but I really enjoyed listening to him on Chalkline (and physics and math overlap a lot anyway)
- Social Justice Math resources by Jonathan Osler – I just found this today so I haven’t done more than a cursory glance, but it seems to be pretty awesome.
- White Privilege Conference – Conferences during the school year are really difficult to go to but this seems like a great place to connect with other educators in the same mindspace as me.
- “Racially Relevant Pedagogy” PLT at MfA this fall – I’ve heard its happening, and being led by Jose Vilson and Wendy Menard. I’m curious to hear from other teachers that are teaching in similar environments as me.
I’m positive that there’s more, but my brain is a little overloaded at the moment. Please let me know! If something wasn’t included it’s not because of some bias, it’s because I either didn’t know about it or honestly just forgot in my rush to finish this post. I welcome any and all input on how to diversify this list.
This task is huge. I don’t think I’m going to get it done by October 19th. I don’t even know if I’m going to get it done by June 19th. I’m not even sure what the end product looks like, or how I can measure my degree of success at doing this. My goals at the moment are admittedly vague as I’m just starting out. But it’s something I want to start working on and thinking through. Thanks for any input that can be provided!