It’s Sunday afternoon, and Friday seems like a long time ago. Typical of intense self-contained experiences, time has taken on a paradoxical quality. To paraphrase a colleague of mine here at PCMI, I feel as if I just got here, and if I’ve been here forever. And I know that just as quickly, I will be going home. So I’m glad that every day seems like a week, and that the intense experiences of the weekend make Friday recede into the past.
Speaking of Friday, during morning math, we were joined at our tables by the students attending the High School Math Camp, as we experimented with pouring salt and the shapes thus formed. They worked hard and enthusiastically, using what they knew to make the connections that solving the problems we are given each day require. Their presence added some excitement to the room, I thought; as exciting as it is to access our inner explorers as we problem solve each day, it is even more exciting to see a student to light up with discovery.
We finished our week of Reflections on Practice by grading sample student papers, and crafting feedback that would hopefully move learning forward for the student who had made either a conceptual or mechanical error. Seeing the actual student handwriting on the papers, and witnessing errors I have seen frequently in the work I grade ‘for reals’, added a touch of reality to the work we are doing. In pairs we discussed not only how would we grade the work in front of us, and what feedback we would give, but whether that feedback would actually have an impact – we all agreed that students, receiving their papers, would immediately compare grades, calculate percentages (when grades were not out of 100 points), and, in the case of failing papers, crumple and toss. Regardless of our shared occasional pessimism, I know that going through these exercises re-energizes all of us [participants] to go back to school (when it is time – not yet! not yet!) with the energy and positivity to bring our best game once again to our classrooms, to engage in those best practices we discuss every day, with the goal of __________. (Fill in: raising student achievement, creating lifelong learners, increasing conceptual understanding and appreciation of math, whatever your personal pedagogical goal may be.)
After some ‘pre-lunch plank’, followed by the meal, our working group continued to progress towards a consistent product with which to complete our task for this conference – content for an online Geometry course for 8th grade and high school teachers shifting to the Common Core standards. It’s been a challenging process, not without its frustrations, but I personally feel like we have completed a lot of work in a short amount of time, and that perhaps the task is too large for the allotted time in which we have had to work, and I would like to have the opportunity to continue this process to its fruition, which will surely be after July 18. We presented our work to some visitors, who asked pointed questions about our goals and intentions, our resources, and even our vision of the final product.
The cross program activity on Friday afternoon was a presentation on the Math Behind Game Shows by none other than the Amazing
Kreskin Kerins. Bowen’s presentation modeled perfectly what makes an engaging lesson – a topic about which you are intrigued and want to know more, enthusiastic participation from those engaged in learning, and PRIZES.
The final ‘official’ activity I participated in last week was a meeting with two teachers from Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona (Kayenta is a census-designated place which is part of the Navajo Nation and is in Navajo County, Arizona); they had reached out to PCMI through Herb Klemens of the University of Utah for help with rich tasks to engage their at-risk students. A group of us had compiled a list of tasks and resources to share with them; we were aware of some of the challenges these teachers and their students face, and we were also aware that their issues and needs were, for most of us, beyond our purview. But we met, we shared, we discussed, we offered our suggestions and insights, and they were accepted graciously. At the close of the meeting, Herb suggested that lines of follow-up communication and sharing be created and maintained; I certainly hope that is the case. Although I am aware that the circumstances in which these teachers work and students live present huge challenges, I would like to find some way in which my experiences and knowledge could be of benefit to them. It was a humbling experience.
And then the weekend began!
Friday evening brought a lovely dinner with some new friends at The Farm at the Canyons, a restaurant that took its ‘farm to table’ philosophy very seriously. After we finished a deliciousdinner, we wandered around a bit and into the lobby a hotel which had decor that actually competes with our home-away-from home, the Zermatt. The staff was so cordial that they didn’t seem to mind that I was snapping photos of their light fixtures. Hmmm. When we returned to Midway, I caught the tail end of a repeat karaoke session, and had the pleasure of being part of a highly dramatic performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Saturday brought even more fun – thanks to MaryAnn Moore, I had the opportunity to volunteer at an outdoor concert at Deer Valley and see Smokey Robinson with the Utah Symphony for free (plus a t-shirt)! It was a beautiful night, and my job was to distribute programs as patrons entered the park, a plum job – everyone was excited to be there, and happy to receive a free program. My official duties were by the intermission (which was before Smokey came on; the first few numbers were entirely orchestral), so I saw the concert from a lovely perch on the hill. And he is amazing – spry and cheery and wearing a metallic green tux as he danced around the stage! The crowd was, of course, loving it, and many people got up and danced. It was another special evening.
And to top off a wonderful weekend, I hiked Park City Mountain (I couldn’t quite figure out whether that mountain has another name) with an intrepid crew. The hike went much further than we initially thought, but we persevered with good spirit and patient navigation, and made it up to the only running chair lift on the mountain, which also happened to be the one at the highest altitude. I had to fight with myself to keep going – I’m not normally outdoorsy and have a couple of decades on the people I was hiking with – but I persevered and accomplished yet one more thing on this trip that I had not before.* If you’re still reading, I apologize for saying this again, but I continue to be grateful for this experience.
And so the final week begins.