Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All the Things Left Undone

Today was hardly what I would call an "excellent" day at work - nonetheless, I still feel increasingly competent and confident in my role as a teacher. Current frustrations have more to do with the fact that I've been getting increasingly sick over the past few days and less to do with my lack of experience. When I get back to full strength, you might say that "such and such" will occur, and it will be followed by "taking names."

Seriously, I've been obsessively thinking about how to set this class up to make it worth going to. For starters, I need a much deeper understanding of mathematics. I can't take the students any deeper than I've already gone. But also, I'd like some non-textbook material to share with the kids, even something lite, like say a collection of pithy philosophical quotes about math. And yet, I know not where to find such material. The closest I've come is some Vern Poythress articles on the subject, but those are too obviously "Van Til goes to math class" for my liking, complete with rants against Kantianism and plentiful allusions to the rationalist-irrationalist dialectic. I need something with a less apologetic flair. Something more... classical.

One of the most influential courses in my life was a sixth grade course in which I would spend the first five minutes of class each day transcribing and meditating on a quote from Marcus Aurelius or Plato or Aristotle or some of the Pre-Socratics. Potent stuff, that, for a group of twelve-year-olds. But the scope and depth of my reading of everything, let alone ancient writings on mathematics, is so thin, so shallow, that I don't even know where to start. Perhaps meditations of my own would suffice. I'm not sure. There is always Holy Scripture, but that, that is a sticky widget isn't it? We may start with Augustine.

There is more: How will I seat them? Presently, lacking better descriptors, my students sit arena style, focused on me and the board. How can I lead them away from seeing me as the C.E.O. of Pre-Algebra studies, and guide them towards a self-guided mathematical discovery of their own? The thoughts are churning, my friends, but I've yet to chart the proper course. Know this, though: never ever did I picture myself taking this job so seriously. I'm glad for it. I kind of have a purpose or something. My most pressing and present goal is simply not to get fired, but as I begin to let my guard down, whatever speck of creativity I have may begin to flourish.