Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 15 2012

Dreaming my dissertation: teachers, mathematics, stories?

My life, as anyone who has read my blogs for the last six months knows, took a major turn on February 25th, 2012 because of one loose rock.
My friend’s deadly fall in the Grand Canyon, spiraled me into an emotional, reflective time where I was searching for meaning in so many new places. God, afterlife, love, the wonders of the natural world, and yoga were all bigger players in my life than they ever had been before.

I went to Africa with my mom this July and wrote a story about the trip, my relationship with her, and growing up with a mom who was the first woman at her company and had to write the maternity rules. My perspective, as the first baby born to a pilot at Flying Tigers, was a huge hit with the editor of an International Women Aviation’s magazine and I’m getting published! This was a huge confidence boost-in two hours, only writing about my own emotions and perspectives, I’d been able to secure a spot in a magazine. I need to take my ability to communicate meaningfully through writing seriously. (I tend to be insecure, so I’m sorry if that comes off as arrogant to people who don’t know me.)

After a lot of contemplation of the softer side of life, I’m back to being focused on math education and wondering how to bring my new experiences to my dissertation planning. I don’t expect my dissertation to be a 300 page discussion of my emotions about teaching math, but I can’t deny that my ability to reflect upon how I feel and express that honestly needs to be a part of what makes my dissertation meaningful. My dissertation can’t just be statistics about teaching mathematics, it has to be stories about teaching mathematics with data woven into it. But what!?!

2 Responses

  1. Could you do a narrative research study on the professional development effect of becoming involved in the twitter-blogosphere? Sam’s new blogger initiation helps me think of that. Similarly, we have our student teachers blog for their reflections, and it’s been the most effective form of reflective writing we’ve tried yet. (In terms of their own awareness.)

  2. Ms. Math

    Thanks for your idea! Who is Sam? I haven’t heard of “new blogger initiation.”

    I know that blogging was a critical part of my identity growth as a teacher and as a person.

    I believe that coming to grips with the problems with our own mathematical understandings is part of the process of becoming better. I can see where a teacher might be able to write about that experience while they are in a class designed to help them understand math more meaningfully.

    I helped Pat Thompson(my adviser) teach Calculus for a few semesters and in the process realized that I didn’t understand the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus or the Chain Rule in any meaningful way. Thinking about this really helped me see what it meant to truly understand something versus, knowing how to get the correct answer in books. I could always do the chain rule, but now I can imagine how two composed functions change together.

    I wonder how to get people to write about mathematics? Most of the blogs here are great, but very rarely do they address any mathematical details. I very rarely do that in my blog, at least. I know, first and foremost, my dissertation must attempt to describe mathematical understandings of teachers, and secondly relate that to the teachers reflections or emotions about what they are learning.

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Learning more about life than math…

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