Friday, August 27, 2010

Another New Beginning

The time just before a new semester starts is always a magical time full of antcipation, excitement and nervousness. I've been involved in Higher Education in one way or another since 1974 but the start of a new semester is always the same. New students to meet, new things to learn, new challenges to meet, and the lessons learned from the previous year to remember. The most important thing is that although I might be teaching a course for the fiftieth time, I must remember it's the first time the students are taking it. The same is true of Commencement. I must make sure that the experiences are as new and exciting for me as they are for the students. My math/science education course begins Thursday, September 3, and it may well be the 50th time I have taught it, but last year I completely redesigned the course based on the Bridges math program that's used in local area schools. The Math learning Center, the program publisher, sent me a complete copy of the program so I have the same materials teachers are using to teach math in the K - 5 classrooms my students will be working in. I'm really excited to fine tune it this year as the students seemed to really enjoy it last year. On their course evaluations two students even said they wish they could take the course again. I can't think of a higher complement. I absolutely love teaching the math/science course because I really want my students to understand the math they will be teaching. For example, a square number is a square number because it makes a square (9 makes a 3 x 3 square) and not because "it's a number times itself". More about that later. In the meantime, here's my Math Ed website.

On Tuesday, I begin teaching a course, Schools and Society, that I haven't taught in 15 years. It's an intro to the field of Education and I'm very excited by the prospect of being in on the development of students' first thoughts and ideas about what teaching and learning mean. The course is pretty much planned and ready to go but I never like to have things completely "sewn up" as it were. I like to leave some details of the course organization and content undetermined so that the students can select some of the content and learning strategies based on their interests and who they are as learners. The first part of the course will focus on theory and will involve considerable reading. In the second part, the students will spend three hours a week in an elementary school classroom which will help them see the theory in practice as well as help them decide if they really want to be teachers. Teaching isn't for everyone and it's important to help the students decide, by the end of the semester, whether they will continue on in the Education program to become licensed elementary or secondary school teachers.

We are blessed with a wonderful variety of schools within a ten-mile radius of SMC so students will get to experience several different types of schools by the time they graduate. The Burlington area is a "resettlement center" so many of the schools are like microcosms of the entire world. There are almost forty different languages spoken by students in classrooms in Burlington and Winooski which present teachers with both challenges and gifts in their daily teaching. My research interests in teaching math to ELL students comes directly from the time I spent working in one of the Burlington schools the year before I started work at SMC. More about that later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Aha, my first official blog. So to start, who am I and how did I come to be here? My first home was in Isleworth, London, UK, which was near Richmond which is funny because I now live in Richmond Vermont. I remember the devastation from the blitz in London after the war. When I was 6 we moved to Bristol where many years later I earned by B.Ed degree from Bristol University. I then taught fourth grade at Sefton Park Junior School for the next 5 years. During this time I also worked at the College of St. Matthias as an RA and got to know the "foreign students" from the Univerity of Illinois. One thing led to another and I found myself landing at O'Hare airport on August 5th 1977 to commence study for my PhD. I adapted very quickly to life in the US and absolutely loved it. The only thing I couldn't remember to do was drop my bat when running to first base when playing softball. In cricket your bat goes with you when you run. Five years later I received my PhD in Teacher Education from U of I and was, by then, two years married to Lucie who is still my wonderful wife.

In 1982 we rented a Rider truck and moved east to Vermont towing our beloved gold VW Beetle behind us for me to start my new job in the teacher education program at Trinity College. That winter saw the arrival of our daughter Marie and the start of my Celtic band the Highland Weavers; both are still going strong. One of the highlights of Marie's life so far was playing keyboard in Phish's Mike Gordon's band Rambledove for a year. Lucie and I soon settled in Richmond, Vermont where we have lived ever since. For the past four years we have organized the Celtic New Year event in the village. In 1992 our son Andrew came into our lives and things haven't been quite the same since. He has Down syndrome and is one of the most wonderful and remarkable people I know. He can demolish me in any Wii game and knows who each one of his 250 Mii characters is. Here he is snowboarding at Bolton last winter. The page you just visited is pasrt of my extensive Education Department pages that I'll introduce you to over the course of the semester.

In 1999 after 17 years in Higher Ed. I wanted to get back into the public school and for the next 6 years worked as a teacher professional development specialist in local area schools in the fields of elementary school math and science. In 2005 I was lucky enough to get my current job as associate professor of Education at SMC; a job I absolutely love.