I wrote a thing over at Edutopia. Read it if you’re interested. My original title was “Small Steps Toward Rehumanizing Mathematics.” I wanted to write it because I have found myself struggling with the tension between ambitious thinking about rehumanizing math class, and the slow crawl of making changes in practice. The more I read and talk with people about equity in math education, the more I realize how little I know. But if my lack of knowledge paralyzes me from growing as a teacher, I end up in a vicious cycle. Even if the steps are small, they’re worth taking. I hope I captured a bit of that in the piece.
I’ve also been trying to branch out in my writing. I love my blog, but blogging has also felt stagnant recently. I’ll keep writing here, but I want to challenge myself to write elsewhere as well. Along the way to writing this piece I had half a dozen other pitches turned away, at Edutopia and a few other publications. I’ve learned a lot about formal education writing and I’ve become sharper in how I adapt my writing to an audience, space, and style. I’ve also struggled with ceding control to an editor. I get the kind of granular feedback I never get on here, which I am grateful for. But I also have to live with things like having someone else decide the title for my piece. All decent tradeoffs, but it takes getting used to.
I’ve been writing about teaching since the beginning of my first year in the classroom. I was lucky to start teaching in what felt like the golden age of math education blogging. It was fantastic for me. It’s still fantastic for me, even as most of the folks whose blogs I started my career reading have moved on.
I’ve always written for myself. Writing challenges me to explore new ideas, and pushes me to think more clearly about the problems of teaching. And for every post I write I have three more that don’t become full pieces, yet still teach me things about teaching. If I had to give any advice to other aspiring teacher-writers, it would be to write for yourself, write to learn about your teaching, about whatever interests you and nothing else. That was how I grew the habit of exploring new teaching ideas through writing, and became someone who walks out of every dud of a lesson synthesizing my learnings for a potential blog post. Writing isn’t the only way to think hard about teaching, but it’s been a good one for me.
Writing beyond this blog means being a little bit less selfish. I learned a lot writing this last piece, but it’s for other teachers, not me. And that’s a whole new interesting challenge, putting myself in the shoes of other folks, hypothesizing about their everyday trials, considering what might feel useful. It also means feeling frustrated and useless in my writing. When this last piece went live on Edutopia, I hated it. I still kindof hate it. Trying to write for other folks, with the pressure and constraints that come from a real publication, is frustrating. It doesn’t quite feel like my voice. But a little farther out I feel a little better about it.
I’m not sure where all this goes. Do I want to start writing more for other publications? My poor batting average pitching pieces so far suggests that could be a frustrating road. I also want to make sure I’m doing it so I can challenge myself and grow, not to see my name in lights. And I still love my blog, and I want to keep finding time to write here.