Upcoming Public Presentations

The age of online social and professional networking has often provides opportunities for people separated by hundreds of miles to feel like they know each other, even though they’ve never met face-to-face.

(It has happened several times that I’ve received hugs from people that I’m ACTUALLY meeting for the first time. But it feels like we’re embracing a friend because we’ve been digital collaborators on lessons or brain-storm sessions for years.)

So, when I give public presentations and learning sessions, I look forward to meeting people who, up until now, I’ve only known in 140-character snippets.

So, here’s where you can find me in the upcoming weeks. You’ll notice that these are all in Grand Rapids. That’s actually by coincidence.

February 20Michigan Flip and Blended Teaching and Learning Conference – Steelcase Learning Center in Grand Rapids, MI

I will be co-presenting a 1-hour session on using instructional technology to approach the goals of Universal Design for Learning. Our lens will be the secondary math classroom, but I believe the content will be applicable to teachers of any content area.

March 3Michigan Center for Exceptional Children Conference – Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI

I will be co-presenting a 1-hour session describing two teachers’ story of how they enhanced the learning experiences for their students with significant disabilities by strategic use of instructional technology.

March 9-10 – MACUL Conference – Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI

March 9 -I will be co-presenting a half-day preconference workshop on effective blending of technology in classroom assessment. Topics discussed will be effective methods and tools for good formative assessment including giving meaningful and effective feedback.

March 10 – I will be leading a two-hour hands-on workshop for teachers to come and learn how to use Desmos.

March 10 – We will be rebooting the aforementioned one-hour session on instructional tech supporting Universal Design for Learning from February 20 (see above)


I hope you’ll come to learn with us. I look forward to collaborating with you!

New Blog Design

I decided it was time for a new blog theme.

I felt like the previous theme I used (the blue and gray) was optimized for tablets, which was fine, but led to some HUGE margins on a desktop screen. Longer posts and comments took a lot of scrolling to read and I couldn’t find any way to fill that space. I think this design fixes it. Plus it’s a bit brighter.

Anyway, just thought I’d post a bit of a notification if you are a frequent reader (thank you so much, by the way!). Wouldn’t want you thinking you’ve ended up in the wrong place.

So, I’ve accepted a new position…

I’ve recently accepted an offer to become our the chair of our district’s Data Response Team, which is a district-wide group dedicated to using data to drive school improvement decision-making. This is a role in addition to my regular teaching role (similar to a department chair position), so I will continue my teaching.

This is not a new committee in our district. This week I begin exploring this group, its members, its mission, and the work in which it is currently engaged.

I hope that you will be willing to help me explore data as an effective means for creating instructional and organizational improvement. This new challenge is going to be just that. And I would be grateful for any help I can get.

Also, fair warning: Data discussion will be on my mind for a while, I’m sure. So, I hope you won’t mind it becoming a central theme in some/many/all of my blog posts for the foreseeable future.

As usual, thanks for everything, folks. I hope someday to repay all of you for all the help I’ve received over the years.

Beyond Geometry (Help me please!)

A literary-minded student's contribution to my classroom decor

A literary-minded student’s contribution to my classroom decor

In my fifth year teaching high school geometry, an opportunity has come to me that seems interesting, challenging, and worthwhile. So, in addition to integrating the Common Core’s version of high school geometry into our school’s math program, the lot has fallen upon me to do the necessary research for (what could become) our school’s new AP Calculus class. Well, actually, I kind of requested the job because I need the hours for my masters program and I would be interested in teaching the class once it is planned.

Okay, so confession: I don’t have any idea what I’m looking at or looking for. I took calculus as a high school senior several (or more) years ago. I took Calc 1 at Lansing Community College and Calc 2 at Western Michigan University. I’d like to think that I could give the students a better experience than I had. In that mindset, I’ve spent the last two hours or so looking at different unit plans, textbooks, labs, and syllabi. I even put “the best calculus textbook in the English-speaking world” into a Bing search bar to see what came up. (Nothing useful, by the way.)

So, here’s where you can help.

I need advice. What are the best textbooks? What should I look for? What are my red flags?

I’m very inclined to project-based, or at least student-centered curricula. What resources are you familiar with that will support the students in an exploration of calculus instead of a year-long teacher presentation?

Can you provide links to awesome problems or labs?

All suggestions and recommendations is welcome. Even a word or two of advice would be welcome. Load up the comments. If it’s longer, andrew.shauver@gmail.com is the way to get ahold of me.

Thanks for everything!

Advice for the MEA, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part series. If you find yourself getting lost and need some background, then please go back one post and pick the story up from the beginning. And on we go…

So, in my last post, we established that the public face of the MEA is one that is dedicated to lobbying, healthcare, benefits, and otherwise interacting in the political and legislative process.

But, the new MEA, the right-to-work MEA, the MEA that has to sell its services to attract members should consider being able to answer one very important question:

What is the MEA going to do to help me become a better educator?

Education is what my job is all about and it is the “E” in the MEA. The MEA is fighting to help me become a better paid educator. The MEA is fighting to help me become an educator with a good healthcare plan.

But what if my main objective is to become a better educator? Can the MEA help me there?

I believe they can. If I were in charge of the MEA, here’s what I’d do. I would begin a major change. The MEA is dedicated to providing Michigan students with the very best educators in the world. So, we are going to cut our lobbying budget in half and instead, the dues that you pay us will be redirected to providing monthly professional development conferences. We will bring in the foremost educational reformers who will provide expert analysis and research-based techniques for improving instruction, assessment, scheduling, sequencing, community relations and instructional leadership.

Also, we will be altering the job descriptions of our building representatives. From now on, local EAs building representatives will be co-observers who will assist the administrators see to it that each member gets observed and evaluated by multiple sets of eyes. The building representatives will be thoroughly and continuously trained to ensure that they are of the highest quality.

Also, the MEA will continue to produce the legislative critique journal, the MEA Voice, but it will also be providing two top-notch professional educational journal for a modest $3 per month cost each. In either the elementary or the secondary version, this monthly journal will include an article from each of the 6 main core areas (math, science, ELA, social studies, fine arts, and foreign language) written by MEA members, approved by a board of 15- to 25-year veteran teachers.

Also, for far too long, the plight of the first-year teacher has been ignored, so in the new MEA, local officers will be personally responsible for the mentorship of the first-year teachers. They will meet weekly with the first-year teachers. The MEA will make sure that Uniserv directors’ offices have a room dedicated to creating a library of effective resources for consumption by first- and second- year teachers. Under the guidance of the local president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, the first- and second- year teachers will be expected to read books quarterly and be observed by local union members who the staff elects as exemplary teachers to offer support and feedback to the young teachers. The MEA will sponsor a weekend conference that all first- and second- year teachers MUST attend in order to remain in good standing. The conference will be free to all first- and second- year teachers. It will include rap sessions with exemplary teachers, opportunities to observe master teachers, group sessions evaluating student work, and a keystone address by a cutting-edge expert in the field of education.

So, why should you join the MEA? Because, we are going to provide you the resources, the support, and the community to help you become the very best educator you could possibly be. Without us, you might be great, but you are doing it on your own. With us, you will become the very, very best.

How different a message would that be?

MEA, I know you didn’t ask for my advice, but there it is.

Now, let’s go have a great 2013.

Advice for the MEA, Part 1

I am a member of Michigan’s largest teacher’s union: The Michigan Education Association (MEA). (It actually represents several other groups of public and private school employees as well).

The last quarter of 2012 was a tenuous time for those actively involved in union activities. Proposal 2 (which would have constitutionally protected collective bargaining and union workplace procedures) was campaigned for the November election and the public voted it down more than 2-to-1. Then, during the lame duck session, the Michigan Legislature passed a series of “right-to-work” laws that give current union members the ability to remain employed in their current positions while ceasing to pay dues to a union. The reality of 25% to 40% of members accepting the new option is putting the MEA in a tricky position.

It has to sell it’s services.

MEA, I know you didn’t ask, but I have some advice for you. You provide a service to your members. No time would be better than now to begin to convince your members how vital your services are. I have spent some time trying to get a sense for what the mission of MEA is, not from reading the mission statement, but instead by looking at the publication: the MEA Voice. The journal that gets mailed to each member. THe contact that you keep with your members is contained within. In inspecting the MEA Voice, I have made a few observations.

1. The MEA Voice for December 2012 is a 24-page document (including the cover). In that document:

  • The cover is dedicated with a pretty cool picture of a rocket from a school’s rocketry program, which is competing against a quarter-page, bright red, “CRISIS” statement about legislation in the lower right corner.
  • The table of contents treats the rocketry program like a footnote to the huge picture of picketing, campaigning members in the middle of the page
  • The fantastic rocketry program is explained in a 2-and-a-half page article, which is split across the 5-page list of names of members who gathered at least 24 signatures for the Proposal Two petition drive.

All of this reveals one possible conclusion: The MEA is much more interested in the political side of education than it is about the academic side of education. At least that is what one could deduce from the organizations main publication.

But, I understand, 2012 was an election year. The lame duck session was very stressful and eventful. What about a non-election year. How about April 2011? That was 6 months past the 2010 mid-terms and a year-and-a-half from the 2012 elections. Surely if the MEA were going to publish some good academic articles, it would be then, right?

Well, here are some observations from that issue.

  • The cover shows a group of adults standing in a group looking up at the camera with the headlines “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: ‘Ed Reform’ vs. Building Effective Schools. How to best help students.” A good start…
  • A letter to the members all about legislation and concerns about it.
  • A flash back to a 1934 essay about how public policy is conspiring against public education.
  • A top ten list in which the only item on the list regarding good teacher was a paragraph dedicated to an award-winning social studies teacher from Kalamazoo (which came in at #7… one spot below the save-the-date for the MEA member golf outing at #6.)
  • The first real article is a 4-page spread on the cover issue in which all of the pictures show protesting members with signs.
  • 3 pages about health care, 2 about retirement, 6 pages dedicated to officer elections, and exactly NO advice for a young teacher trying to get better. Also, there was no notices of conferences, workshops, or professional development (aside from some advertising space given to local university programs.)

In fact, I went looking through the rest of the available issues. Here’s what I found:

  • February 2011 – One page (out of 24) dedicated to a column on good ELA instruction. It was pg 22. Last of the whole magazine. For the record, it got the same amount of paper and ink dedicated to it as the one-page ad for the member golf outing.
  • December 2010 – One-and-a-half pages about an effective band teacher.
  • October 2010 – A notice of a instructional support PD conference appears on pg 3, and 2 pages dedicated to school improvement at Adrian High School. (This amidst the 6 pages dedicated to supporting Virg Bernero as Michigan’s next governer.)

You get the idea. A trip around the website says the same thing.

The MEA is a political organization that is now in the position of having to market itself to its prospective members. It is clear to me what the MEA does to support its legislative beliefs. it is clear to me what partnerships the MEA has for healthcare and retirement services.

But what if I don’t want to be a member of a political organization? What if my goal is to excel as an educator? What evidence do I have that you will support me in that venture?

In Part 2 of this series, I will complete my (unsolicited) advising of the MEA.

An Introduction to TheGeometryTeacher

TheGeometryTeacher is live on the blogosphere. Thank you to WordPress for providing the space and thank you to my wonderful students for providing the inspiration. In addition, I need to thank Dan Carlin, who doesn’t know me and probably never will, but between his podcasts and his blog, I have learned what this new media is capable of. Also, Dan Meyer, who also doesn’t know me and probably never will, who has taken math education so far outside the box that no box is even visible.

I teach at a mid-sized public high school in SW Michigan. My school is currently in the fourth year of a one-to-one laptop program. This will be a recurring theme throughout the life of this blog as part of the purpose of this is to add dimension to my class that will be accessible and off the beaten path… a path that I suspect will not be hidden for long.

I will be using this space as an outlet to document and describe my own independent learning and to re-inspire the natural curiosity that can sometimes be absent from the typical high school classroom. (This is a conglomerate idea stolen from Mr. Meyer and Mr. Carlin whose ideas on education differ in practice, but not so much in spirit.) The goal of education is to learn. That idea is getting lost in the talks of budgets, services, unions, and resources. The discussion needs to continue to center around what we can do to create meaningful experiences that will carry our students beyond our walls.

In the weeks, months, and years to come, we will see if this does space gets does that… I will keep you posted.