Despite my excitement for graduate school, this week gave me a serious case of teaching nostalgia. It all started with my random assignment to an art field trip on Change of Pace day last week and ended with a 20 hour paint all over my room math art project.
On change of pace day we watched videos about how a teacher-activist had helped a group of at-risk teens in NYC graduate from high school and produce museum quality works of art. Think TFA flashbacks, etc and so on. Told my kids about it in the hopes that they would go out and change things.
Later while showing them some pictures of the beginnings of mathematical tables that led to trigonometric tables I mentioned “This would be so sweet to have a t-shirt of this.”
Shockingly the class totally agreed with me and asked if we could please please please make math t-shirts. So we spent the day looking at math books and online to figure out ideas for t-shirts.
My mom happens to have spent the last three years perfecting the art of creating stencils for t-shirts and agreed to help out. Three days later when she had blisters from cutting stencils for 20 hours I asked her if she had any idea what she was getting into and she said “absolutely not!”
We decided on a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, a Sierpinski Triangle, a Trefoil Knot, MC Escher Birds and assorted geometrical shapes. If you’ve never shaded the multiples of small integers in Pascal’s Triangle you should check out the website at the end of the post and compare it to a Sierpinski Triangle.
Our shirts were like this but way cooler because they were hand painted!
When my mom came I was concerned about giving non-washable fabric paint to 16 excitable teenagers. I had no idea if we’d end the 65 minutes with cool shirts or paint all over the floor but my kids were amazing. They said thank you, they liked the stencils, they shared, they listened and most of all they made really sweet t-shirts. They came to school today wearing them and said that it was their favorite math class ever. Perhaps this is because they didn’t actually have to do any math but goodness knows they are going to be analyzing multiples in Pascal’s Triangle and proving the Pythagorean Theorem so that they can understand what they have painted all over their clothing. I’ve always been attached to this particular proof because I taught it at my TFA interview. It was the beginning of the biggest and craziest learning experience of my life.
One of my Calculus students came to Geometry during his free period and made a Calculus shirt and now all of them want shirts as well-I might wait a few days before bringing this up with my mom to see how she feels about it. At least we already have some sweet stencils.
While he was painting he told my mom “I’m only taking Calculus because your daughter is teaching it.” My teacher heart melted-what a nice comment on teacher appreciation week. I’ve never felt like a really awesome teacher but for that moment I definitely did.