Four pieces of advice to keep in mind as you settle into your classroom.
Dear Math Teachers,
I hope you’re entering your classroom rested and relaxed. I am going to start this letter by thanking you. Thank you for everything you have done in your previous years of teaching. Thank you for everything you will do this year.
If you are open to it, I would like to share some advice with you as you continue to navigate what works best for your students this school year.
Come to peace with lack of time
I want you to remember that you will never have enough time, and that is okay. We allow time to really grab hold of us, tangling us in a sense of urgency unfulfilled. I see teachers stress so much about time; not enough time to cover all the content, not enough time to do this fun activity, not enough time to explore something students care about. Find a way to accept that you will never have enough time and free yourself from this immense pressure.
Curiosity was what made me fall in love with math; I always wanted to know why something worked. Unfortunately, we are so stressed about covering as much content as possible that in math classrooms we are often ignoring our curiosity. If a student has a question or wondering, stop the previous plan and engage in it. Did a student come in talking about a car they really like? Let’s learn everything we can about this car. How fast does it go? How did they figure that out? How much would it take me to save up to get it? Is the price of the car unreasonable? What about student’s favorite musicians — how much do we think they make? How do they use patterns to make their music?
The best way to prepare a future mathematician is to grow their curiosity; take advantage of every opportunity to do this in your class.
Find your community
Teaching can feel isolating to many lately. Find a community that sustains and supports your practice. It doesn’t even have to be in your school; community can take on many forms. Find some accounts of math teachers on social media that are interesting or inspiring to you. Subscribe to some websites that have shared resources you enjoy. I learn a lot from the newsletters and resources at YouCubed and Math Medic. I also love following Howie Hua. Find those who make you feel seen and inspired.
Make room for joy
Take a moment to think about what brings you joy. Ask your students what brings them joy. Now add those things into your class. Dance to music with your students. Make silly jokes. Play games. Gholdy Muhammad in her recent book, Unearthing Joy, says “Joy is the ultimate goal of teaching and learning, not test prep or graduation.” The lessons we truly learn, the moments and memories that we never forget, are centered around joy. We have to make sure we have room for them in our lessons.
I am excited for the journey you and your students are embarking on in your math classroom. Let go of the stress of time, fumble through curiosity, find your people, and have so much fun.
Keep up the great work! You’ve got this!
With lots of love and support,