A blog about all things pertaining to Trent Lott, Leadership and Blogs.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Deductive vs. Inductive

At the Jackson Public School convocation right before school started, the keynote speaker was some teacher from New York, I believe, her name was Successful McTeacher but I don't recall for sure. After she spoke for a while about some vague teaching strategies that ultimately worked because of her personality and for no reason of relevance to me, they showed some clips of her in the classroom. She would introduce a concept and shout out a questions to advance the student's comprehension and the students would shout back answers. I wondered ... this is great for the students inclined to shout back, but what did the others gain from the experience? I saw this again when a teacher from another middle school came to my classroom to model a lesson through some math teacher exchange program. It looks great for observers because it feeds off the intelligence of the best kids, but the remainder are inevitabely left behind.

My impression is that this is true of most inductive teaching strategies as well. I would rather my students learned just about everything through inductive teaching, but only in a world where all my students bore the potential to acquire knowledge in this fashion. Our curriculum is packed and leaves us little time for anything but a quick and cursory treatement of each math concept. The few times I chose to introduce a topic through inductive strategies, I found myself compelled to move on as soon as a few smart kids "got it." I doubt if anyone else gained much benefit from the excercise at all. I can see that deductive teaching does not provide the same intuitive grasp of the subject matter, but at least everyone can gain exposure to the processes and methods necessary to gain competency in the subject. Otherwise I'm no different than the teacher who teaches to a few smart kids shouting out answers and leaving the others behind. For now I'llmostly stick with deductive, forego the intimate knowledge of the subject matter and just try to keep as many students as possible on the same page.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reminisces of Mrs. Raucher

Most influential math teacher .... that's an easy one. We'll get back to that in a minute.

School opens again tomorrow. After a week and a half hiatus I'm somewhat concerned about what I will find upon returning to Peeples. It does not provide me great consolation that I don't even know which classes I'll be teaching. When asked today whether tomorrow would be an "A" day or a "B" day on the block schedule, my assistant principal replied: "Gosh, I don't know ... we have to look into that." Yup.

I can't imagine that they can fit any new refugee students into my classes, but hey, when you're already past 180 young'uns I suppose it won't really make much of a difference. Maybe if I can get enough more I can fashion my own army or something.

But we have power, drinking water and the sporadic internet access seems to have stabilized. All I can say is Mrs. Raucher never had to deal with any of this.

A short, bent woman past middle age with bright red hair and an odd smell that followed her around the room. Decked out in her pi earrings and "math is fun" pins, she did not simply instruct but lived, breathed and surrounded herself with math. Her room was plastered in math posters of all kinds and seldom engaged in conversation on any other subject. On Pi day (March 14) she baked us pies and her solemn celebration of the holiday left us all a little concerned.

If she was just a little less absurd, if she showed any glimmer of another person within her, we probably would not have given her the respect that we did. Of course, we made fun of her to no end, but she did too. She seemed to truly love her bizarre mathematical existence to such a degree that she demanded our respect, even as we laughed.

I'm not certain that one could differentiate between Mrs. Raucher's teacher persona and the eldery woman who drove home at the end of the day with tired feet and a hankering for a stiff drink. Mrs. Raucher was undoubtedly a successful math teacher as she so readily drew her students into her bizarre alternate math universe. On the other hand, I would never aspire to emulate her, because my persona in the classroom is only a small little distortion of my self. I will always go home to a regular life, and will always leave "Mr. G" in the Peeples parking lot.

It's one thing to adopt your teaching style to fit your own personality, but a very different one to "be yourself" in the classroom. As far as I can tell Mrs. Raucher really was just being herself in our math class, and herself just happened to be a crazed math fanatic. As for me, I'll have to take the smaller amount of true math enthusiasm I harbor and try to get as much mileage out of it as possible.