Dec. 3rd, 2012

Well, I've been absolutely horrid at posting. I had a grand notion of reflecting on each of my classes after they happened, but, well, I didn't. Just a week left of classes yet, which will be followed by a few finals culminating activities, and then a month and a half of decompression.

One thing I didn't want to let go was my philosophy of (inclusive) education.  I think this is like the third or fourth time I've had to write one, but this is supposed to be the final one that will allegedly work its way into my job applications and whatnot, and so this one was actually read and critiqued by my professor.  He seems to get a kick out of it; as a school psychologist, he says that he has too much experience with seeing first-year teachers who are disillusioned by the reality of classroom management., so getting to ask ORLY at this phase in our professional development is a good move.

Anyways, I submitted enough drafts that my professor either ran out of questions or got sick of reading it, so here is my final draft which already got full credit.  SPOILER ALERT: I am either planning to be a radical educator or I am the king of snowing my professors with the current generation of dynamic buzzwords.


I affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and I strive to use all of my talent, energy, and passion to provide a personally meaningful and practical mathematical education for all of my students. Every decision I make inside and beyond the classroom is, in some sense, a conscious reaction to my pursuit of this purpose. The following is a detailed but non-exhaustive list of specific strategies I undertake to achieve that ideal.

I define mathematics as “the systematic and objective process of making optimized decisions efficiently.” This includes learning how to perform numeric calculations, solving word problems, and other similar general tasks of primary and secondary mathematics. In the end, though, I believe that productive members of society must understand the range of decisions that they make throughout the day and the ways in which data is acquired, analyzed, and evaluated to make good choices and the ways in which both the choices and the processes are evaluated so that future decisions can be more easily and correctly rendered. For instance, if my students learn enough from about percentages and unit prices to pass a standardized test but not enough to be more strategic shoppers, then I will feel as if I have let them down.

To achieve that end, I believe in the principles of constructivist learning. As the mathematical tools students learn will be used by them throughout their lives, students must have an individual and intimate comprehension of those tools and how to apply them. When we teach a single perspective on a lesson and train students to apply it to solve a specific model of word problem, it should come as no surprise when students are unable to retain that knowledge past the unit test, much less when the lessons are built upon in future mathematics and science courses or in the real world. Only by giving students the resources and motivation to assimilate their knowledge into their own schematic understanding of the world will we provide authentic learning that the student can apply throughout his or her educational life and beyond.

Critical tools I use to showcase these diverse perspectives include small-group inquiry, peer learning, and a diverse array of multimodal media to explore problems in mathematics and the range of applications they have in the real world (focusing where possible on professional careers that require strong mathematical skills). An example that I often steer my students towards is the Khan Academy, which offers a thoughtful mathematical perspective that is often different from both my technique or the textbook's.

I believe that a teacher must be aware of and sensitive to the diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, exceptionality, age, and socioeconomic status throughout our society. However, such a multidimensional cultural profile is only the first stage in forming authentic and respectful relationships with our students. Multicultural awareness is beneficial for roughly interacting with a group of people without unintentionally giving offense, but we must seek to destroy our stereotypes as quickly as we build them as we strive to know and serve our students as individuals. These plans require a foundation in a classroom culture of respect: my overt and consistent respect for all of my students and for the curriculum, my students’ respect for both me and for each other, and the students’ having respect for themselves as individuals, learners, and teachers.

To create this effective and inclusive classroom, I subscribe to the philosophy of culturally responsive teaching. My students have a diverse array of perspectives and differ in terms of the best strategies for educational success, and so I would be negligent to teach only in a way that benefited most of them or only in the way in which I was taught. For instance, lessons and projects should be customized to match the interests of a class to maximize their engagement, and vocabulary lessons should be structured around the linguistic strengths of each student. I also strive to take advantage of the diversity of perspectives and mastery amongst my students and use peer learning to further promote personal inquiry and self-constructed meaning, because there is no more effective and authentic teacher for a struggling student than the peer who just came to comprehend the material.

In the domain of assessment, I tend to be a follower of the theory of mastery education. Particularly in mathematics, there is little sense in advancing a student before he or she has a solid understanding of all of the standards that form the foundation of the new class. However, I believe that students deserve a broad range of options to demonstrate those competencies and that we should be open to the realities that many students do not do their best work on multiple choice exams under time constraints. For these students, the most authentic testing accommodation we can offer is alternative assessment, like journaling, oral examination, or service learning. If the grading criteria are tied to established objectives like the CCSS, calibrated against standard assessment measures, and performed with a passion for student success, I am confident that the result will be a measure of achievement that will provide a relevant supplement to the traditional measures. And when you demonstrate in word and deed that the education program can be catered to meet each student's’ talents and interests, the result is bound to be an increase in motivation and engagement that will enable the greatest possibility of positive outcomes.


Matthew Daly

December 2012

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