I have a confession to make. I majored in history. I loved doing research and piecing together an argument out of scraps. I loved analyzing bias and wondering about how people's perceptions of history, true or false, shape how they act. But teaching history was a whole different world. The litany of timelines, facts, dates, and vocab words I was supposed to shove into students' heads while the clock was ticking left me with a sense of hopelessness. I switched to teaching math. In college I'd always taken a math class on the side because compared to studying history where nothing can be certain, the logical certainty of math kept my head from exploding.
My boss asked me recently, because of my history background, to help reshape the 8th grade history curriculum for our school. We needed to take their curriculum that had been designed for California state standards and adapt it to fit into New York State standards. Whenever I'm about to plan a lesson for math I consult my friendly math blogging community. Sometimes I search specific blogs, sometimes I just google "system of equations activity" and scroll through the first few entries until I find one published by a blogger. I've used curricula published by textbooks and by for-profit internet companies and visited the teacher stores and bought the workbooks. None of the published material out there can even come close to matching the creativity of what math bloggers produce. The lessons published by math teacher bloggers are adaptable, easy to implement, enjoyable and thought provoking. I've been relying on this wonderful community for the last three years and I can't imagine teaching without it. So when I needed to help develop curriculum for history, with joy I started googling to find fellow history teachers who could help me with this project. Crickets. Silence. Page after page of historical info sites, or lessons published by for-profit companies. Museum published curricula or government sponsored curricula abounded. PBS has a wealth of nice lesson plans. But where are the bloggers? Maybe they're out there but they're much harder to find than their math teacher counterparts. In fact, even while math teacher blogging is rich and prolific, none of the math teachers I've run across in real life know about this community and while I give them lists of my favorite blogs and tell them that it really is worth their time, none of them have followed up.
Reading math teacher blogs has revolutionized the way I think about teaching. It has made me humble and insecure at times (because I feel like there's no way I'll be as awesome as the teachers I read about,) but that has pushed me to try more ideas, to keep pushing myself, to try to come up with lessons worthy enough to share. When I feel overwhelmed or terrified by the responsibilities I've assumed the blogging community shows me others who push through difficulties with humor and humility and this gives me strength. I guess I'm just trying to give a post Thanksgiving thanks. My two month foray into history has made me so appreciative that there are math teachers out there taking care of each other. I'm not a very good blogger yet, but I will keep striving to give back to this community that has given me so much.