Friday, May 6, 2011

Autobiography of Schooling

This autobiography is a reflection of my education and how it has led me to choose a careeer in teaching mathematics.. The subject that I have chosen to teach is Mathematics. I have a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, a B.A., and B.S., respectively. I chose to teach Mathematics because it is, in my opinion, the most challenging subject to teach. The pedagogical challenge to teach this subject is euphoric. My fascination with numbers started during the early years of my life. Mathematics was a way for me to express myself. I am a steward of helping resolve some of the significant misconceptions that some students have about mathematics. It is a stigma for some; however, as far back as I can remember especially during adolescence, Mathematics was exciting for me. Although I liked the subject of mathematics, there were some challenges and obstacles for which I had to overcome. Because I had a good foundation early in elementary mathematics it was a key ingredient for my success in the subject matter. However, I found that it required more of a commitment as I continued with higher level mathematical concepts, and because of this I became complacent in my studies. This was a turning point for me and I had to reassess my ability to continue pursuing the subject. One of the reasons for this complacency was ineffective pedagogy and lack of encouragement from teachers of the subject matter. Equally important is that I found myself in the minority early on and always wondered why that was the case. This became a nemesis to me because as all adolescents, I wanted to be accepted by my peers. It was my family’s structure and strict upbringing that kept me on the correct path, which was the focal point for all my academic successes. I will reveal significant aspects of each domain as it relates to my achievement in mathematics. The areas are as follows: my family, my community, my schooling, my years as a student, and my teachers, respectively. There is one peculiar idiosyncrasy I have yet to understand, which is why my readings have to be technical in content for gratification.

I grew up in community that was very competitive academically. You were considered an outcast if you did not have something going for you academically. The schools were tied into the community. Parental involvement was tantamount to your progress. I attended public schools during the early years until high school. I can remember from as early as kindergarten that I had a likening for Mathematics. I was infatuated with counting, multiplication and division. I still get excited today about Mathematics as I did during my formative years. The school environment played a significant role in my love for Mathematics. For many years the high school children would come to my house after school and I would always be excited about their school work, most of which was mathematically related, which also included Music. I took music lessons and became quite adept at playing the clarinet. In retrospect, it was the regiment of time keeping and counting beats that kept me interested, all of which is mathematically related. My clarinet was rented and therefore it was never owned by me; however I would consider it an artifact. It was definitely a significant and relevant part of my life. The most significant thing was my looking at the more advanced mathematics textbooks. I would ask the high school students the following question, “Do you think I might be able grasp these concepts and work these problems one day”? And their answers were always optimistic and encouraging.

As for my family’s involvement, I always received their support. They always provided me with the essential tools that were needed for academia. My mother would provide guidance with my projects, and I would always look forward to her help. She was extremely meticulous about anything concerning academics. I was always encouraged to perform well in school. I noticed that she would place emphasis on Mathematics. I can remember her approach of reinforcing various mathematical concepts, especially multiplication. My self esteem remained very high because of such support from her.

In the later years of my schooling I became complacent. I remembered my last year in high school, where I focused on the easier mathematics courses. In hindsight, this became a significant mistake, and not realizing that the career path I chose would depend on my mathematics skills. When I entered college for the first time, my major was Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. This didn’t bode well for me because I was more interested solely in Mathematics. I can remember the monstrosity of computer we used to make calculations in my accounting class. If you made one mistake, you had to redo the whole thing. This was rather cumbersome to me and I did not have the patience for it. Later with the advent of the PC, it changed my perspective on technology. I was astounded by the advancements and became interested in computers. At this point I went back to school after a five year hiatus and majored in Computer Science. The curriculum was mathematically intensive, so I decided through the recommendation of my favorite professor to major in both Computer Science and Mathematics. I can vividly remember my first course in Calculus. It was like a child who just received a new toy. The first book I used was authored by James Stewart. It had a picture of a violin on it and emphasized the cut in it that’s in the shape of an integral sign used in Calculus. This book was a magnificent illustration of Calculus concepts. However, I was not ready mathematically to comprehend its illustrations of various concepts. At this point I transferred to a state university and I met this phenomenal professor. He was using a book by an author named Howard Anton. The light bulb began to shine very bright from both having this book and this magnificent professor. To me he mastered the pedagogy of mathematics. The memories of his teaching are etched in my brain forever. His style was one of confidence and extreme patience, and he explained the concepts as if he was a painter of the likes of Rembrandt. The way he taught was so methodical and interesting. He took his time to illustrate the most subtle of concepts. I knew at this point, my life would never be the same and any career path I chose would be mathematically related. Up until that point, I had never given thought to teaching; however this is an attributing factor for my aspiration to become a mathematics teacher. It was because of him I became a national mathematics collegiate scholar. Through all my struggles with higher level mathematics, having him as a professor made it all worthwhile. I was always competitive when it came to mathematics. I can recall an instance when I entered public high school; there were people in my mathematics class from the neighborhood that had no idea about this competitiveness. They seemed perplexed when I would go to the blackboard and approach to solve a problem. It was uncharacteristic of my disposition in the neighborhood. It was at that moment in time that they saw me act like a normal young man as oppose to being in mathematics class where they saw the scholarly side of me. The only difference was that I liked Mathematics so much that it encapsulated my focus and nothing distracted me from it. As mentioned earlier, it was the problem solving technique that was euphoric for me which was the best way to describe the experience.

I always considered myself an average student because I never really liked all the subjects. It was the dissection of sentences that attracted me to the subject of English; this exercise was so close to doing mathematics. As a student I always helped my peers and I can vividly remember the joy of it. By doing this served me well because when I decided to finish my college education, I was the one who needed help. It was the outside classroom work that was more enlightening and helpful. This experience may have somehow inspired me to become a Mathematics teacher. I would to go to tutors and enjoyed working with them because I would get mesmerized by their ability to illustrate concepts. We all need help at some point in our lives and anyone who is away from mathematics for a long duration understands. When I decided to go back to college, most of the friends I had, especially those that were in college were mathematics enthusiasts. One of my most memorable classes was Complex Variables it was independent study, however I worked on a number of projects with a group of mathematicians. The professor for this class was another phenomenon and she most definitely made an impression on me. She would somehow put me in a mindset to critically think about how to approach a problem. Her instruction was concise and non-intimidating. She had a gift that would inspire you to want more of the subject matter. The consensus of most of my peers in the class was the same as mine. Her instruction was so refined and concise that you rarely needed to consult the book. I remember her saying that the book is only for reference. She also stated that the book chosen for the class was for our benefit and not hers. I have the book for her class in my library and always remembered her instruction when consulting it.

The foundation was set for me early in my schooling. I had many interest and they all were interrelated from an artistic perspective. I was in my last year of elementary school when I decided to take music lessons. At the same time I was showing artistic talent with pencil and ink. Looking back I can now answer the question of why I have aspired to become a teacher. The professors I had in college had the most significant impact on this aspiration. I have copies of mathematics books autographed by professors that mean so much to me. These of course are the artifacts in which I refer to that have made an indelible mark. I have always judged a professor, teacher, or instructor by a combination of things but the most significant is their efficacy of pedagogy and the chosen book for the course of study. I have always been intrigued by mathematics books and whenever I discover one that is well written and illustrated, it becomes a part of my library. It is my belief that a well written book is an invaluable reference.
It is the aforementioned experiences that have in some way led me to the teaching profession. Along with the unique experiences I have had, it is my goal to assist students in building a solid mathematical foundation, so that they may continue and pursue related careers. Putting things into perspective as I reflect on my schooling, I seriously think that there is a connection between my passion of mathematics books and becoming a teacher. As a student and now a teacher, I will have the opportunity from these experiences to use pedagogies that are encouraging, purposeful and gratifying. Traditional pedagogies were used through out my years of academia. Today the classroom has evolved and the use of technology has forever changed it. However the will, endurance, and perseverance to learn and succeed are the responsibility of the student. As a teacher I will foster an environment to reach students at all levels to ensure this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Conclusion : Inquiry Project

By no means can this be considered a definitive exploration of high stakes testing, and its effects on any of the constituent populations, be they the educators, the administrators, politicians, or consumers (of all socio-economic classes.) We have shown that high-stakes testing from inception (Horace Mann) to current implementation (NCLB), was designed to “close the gap” for immigrant and minority populations, or more generally to equalize the educational aptitude, access, and achievement of all Americans. However, our research, as well as many prominent educational researchers has shown that this has not been the reality created by the indoctrination of high-stakes testing into the American Educational System. There is no magic bullet to wipe out every issue involved with high-stakes testing. At this point, most researchers find themselves in a place where they can only offer suggestions to ameliorate said problems. At best, with a national education plan in place, the best that can be attempted at the state and local levels are stop gap measures. High-stakes testing has effects that reach far beyond the classroom, into the homes and lives of the consumers, as well into the political powder keg of today’s America. Every aspect of this paper, cultural capital, test validity, effects on teachers, the effects on students, accountability, and research methodology are all deserving of their own investigations. That said, this endeavor has provided a solid basis for inquiry into the myriad of issues discussed, as well as additional associated ones not discussed here. High-stakes testing does in fact have high stakes, but unfortunately they are not all for the students.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


In designing the research methodology for this investigation, it seemed that a two pronged approach would produce the most accurate results. This investigation was initially designed to look at the effects of high stakes testing through the evaluation of prevailing educational literature as well as being driven by data gathered through surveying current educators (teachers of all levels including collegiate teachers in the field of education, administrators, etc.) as to how they viewed the effects, if any, of high stakes standardized testing. However, what was learned from attempting such an approach was how highly volatile and politicized the subject was. There are strict procedures set in place to ensure the validity of such an investigation, and due to the importance of the subject at hand, it is with good cause. Quintessentially, our literature review led us to develop certain questions which, when asked to such educators, would provide an accurate, realistic, and somewhat less biased portrait of the situation.


This paper investigates accountability issues of standardized tests and their affect on low-income and racial minority student’s ability to acquire cultural capital. While this shall embody a significant portion of this paper, other issues are examined such as systemic issues (validity, accuracy, etc) with educational legislation such as the “No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as well as the delicacies of conducting research in a highly politicized and “high stakes” topic. The goal here is not to be propagandistic but to be objective and explore these issues in such a manner that it heightens awareness of the many issues relative to standardized testing. Lastly there is an examination of curriculums that are programmed, scripted and designed to improve test scores of urban students in low-income communities

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Comparing Shultz Pedagogy to The Pedagogy of Poverty

In doing a comparison analyzes between the Pedagogy of Poverty and Shultz Pedagogy the first question that comes to mind is; “What is good teaching? The section of the Pedagogy of Poverty which gives a view of what good teaching is, expounds on several aspects of teaching that can be compared to Shultzs’ Pedogogy. As we all know from extensive research is that the Pedagogy of Poverty does not work.

Shultzs’ Pedagogy is exemplary of what good teaching should be. He has taken the time to explore the interest of his students. He is not the authoritarian dictating what the students should be learning. Take a look at the core functions of urban teaching; giving information, asking questions, giving directions, making assignments, monitoring seat work, reviewing assignments, giving tests, reviewing tests, assigning homework, reviewing homework, settling disputes, punishing non-compliance, marking papers, and giving grades. As stated in the Pedagogy of Poverty a teacher not performing these acts for most of the day would be regarded as defiant. With all of the aforementioned activities going on in urban schools not to even speak of the ancillary activities such as record keeping, parents teachers meetings, staff meetings, etc. The students continue to perform poorly and the proficiency levels are unexpectedly low. I use the adjective unexpectedly because I think the policy makers belief is that with all these functions at work, success is expected.

The Pedagogy of Poverty is using methodologies to force students into learning. It is the root cause of more failure. This ideology is simply dated and does not work. The contrast between the Pedagogy of Poverty and Shultzs’ pedagogy is astonishing. He has fifth grade urban students producing work well beyond there grade level. This is being done with very limited resources. The students have responded exceedingly well to the task.

The most important aspect of this comparison is that, Shultzs’ students have stepped out side of traditional conforming pedagogy and have demonstrated the intrinsic value associated with working on real life projects. Shultzs’ Pedagogy is a lesson that illustrates reform.