Downtown Grand Rapids has something called "Art Prize" (http://www.artprize.org/) each year, which is an open art competition where thousands of artists can take their work and show it in front of masses of people milling around the city to be entertained, and for the chance to win a monetary prize at the end of the two weeks. The reason I bring up Art Prize, though, is not because of any of these things, but rather because of the types of art that are there. Below are a couple examples of the exhibits they have. (Hover over for source websites on these images).
I don't disagree with those that call these things art; in fact I agree with them. Art can be a plethora of different objects, sounds, or ideas, which means it includes communication. I recently attended a seminar called The Art of Communication: Learning the Secrets of the World's Most Dynamic Communicators, organized by Brad Gray. Although I attended to learn more about how I could use this information in Campus Ministry @ GVSU (which I did), I realized how applicable it is to being an effective and enjoyable educator as well! Below is a quick video explaining the general theme of the seminar, then I will dive into it.
There were so many great ideas in this seminar which lasted most of a day, but in this post I am going to highlight just a few that stuck out significantly to me. As you are reading, think about which of these you have seen to be effective (or, if you believe, ineffective) or think might be effective in the classroom, and feel free to comment and share your experiences & opinions.
1. What's the "Core Idea"
Math can be an overwhelming subject to teach, especially with Common Core Standards and others' expectations coming at you from all angles. You may feel like you have to teach about 15 different concepts in a 50 minute class period. (At least that's how it felt at times from a student's perspective!) Good news...you don't. Brad Gray spoke into a little bit of the psychology behind how the brain works, and it's extremely interesting! The human brain is designed to do 2 things: survive and conserve calories. Yep, you heard right. If the brain is getting a bunch of different ideas all at once, many times, it will deem those ideas not worthy of the calories it would use to understand them, and go into survival/daydream mode. When there is one core, central idea you are trying to get across, you will have your listeners leaning in. So, as you start to prepare a math lesson, think, "What's the single most important thing I want students to get out of today?" and connect everything to that central idea.
2. Why should I care?
You have your core idea. You know the concept you will be teaching is extremely important in the math world. Now you just need to help students recognize their need for the concept. I actually spoke into this a little bit in my last blog post, but Brad Gray has even more to say. We, as educators have what's called the "curse of knowledge" or the idea that we don't remember what it's like to not already know what we know. We need to put ourselves back in that position, really figure out why this information is important, and help the students grasp that the same way. When they understand that they should care about your core idea, the rest is history!
If your students believe that you care enough to invest in them, your teaching will land. If you are a math teacher, odds are you are pretty passionate about math and teaching other people math. (If you're not, let's talk on that..) So, go into each lesson with that core idea in mind, and ask yourself "what's at stake if these students don't hear what I have to say today?" Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week's blog, a look into some more of Tanner Rubin's Math Thoughts.
"The joy of communication comes when you move from having to say something to having something to say."