Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fisch Food for Thought (Part I)

Many of you have probably noticed that I didn't "check" the last couple of times to make sure you had the self-check problems from the video written down. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about that a bit.

Here's the deal. In a perfect world, I wouldn't grade homework at all. (Okay, in a perfect world, I wouldn't grade you at all, but that's a whole separate post.) To me, homework is a chance for you to learn, to ask questions, to practice, to extend your thinking a bit, and to see what you know and what you don't yet know. It's not something I want to "grade" you on; not something where I want to say, "You got this one right, this one wrong." I don't give a ton of homework (less than most typical Algebra classes I suspect), but what I do give is meaningful. I want you to do it not because you're going to get some "points" for it, but because you know that I wouldn't assign you something I didn't think was worthwhile, and that by doing what I assign it will help you understand the mathematics better.

This is why it’s critical you do the assignments I’m asking you to do, like watching the videos I’ve created for you and doing the online pre-assessments in the Moodle. Those videos and pre-assessments are designed to help you master the skills, and to become more independent learners. But they’re also designed to free up class time so that we can become more curious, active learners, in class, and so we can explore interesting (or perhaps not for some of you) applications of Algebra like the bike gear ratios or Tim Tebow’s speed at the NFL Combine or a how fast our assistant principals and media specialist were moving, or a variety of other activities we’ll be doing this year. In order to apply the skills in class, I need you to do the necessary work outside of class.

But in order for that to happen, in order for us to use our class time to be the kind of learners I think you need to be to be successful in this century, your century, I need you to step up and take care of business. I need you to watch the videos, and use them as they’re intended, and do the pre-assessments and the other things I ask you to do outside of class. And I really, really need you to participate in class, to be active learners. To ask questions, and be involved, and talk to each other, and help each other, and be willing to take risks in order to learn more, even if that makes you a little nervous or uncomfortable. I need you to do more of the talking in class about the mathematics, and me to do less. I need you to do more of the thinking, and the questioning, and the figuring out.

So I’m asking you to please, please consider what kind of future you want, not just for yourself, but for those around you, and make an effort to be as independent, as curious, as responsible, as passionate of a learner that you can be. And I promise that I’ll bring the passion every day and do the very best I can to help you become that learner.


  1. thank you for all the help and effort as a teacher. I will do my best to learn in your class and become a better person over all.

  2. Thanks Jake. I really wasn't "fisching" for a compliment, but I appreciate it.

    But what do you think? Do you think this is a realistic approach, to ask you guys to do stuff because you know it will help you, not for points? To respect and trust you to do the right thing without looking over your shoulder? Or do I need to constantly check up on my students, look over their shoulders to make sure they're doing it?