Back- to-School – add 10%

It was forty years ago this September that I started my career as a high school mathematics teacher, a career that spanned 36+ continuous years. I continued some teaching and other classroom work over the last few years, but this will be the first September I do not find myself preparing to greet some new students as their teacher. Since the school calendar has guided the activities of my life for as long as I can remember, I anticipate that this time of year will always signify a beginning for me, and I imagine I will always reflect on Septembers of the past, and I will always be thinking of the students and educators embarking on a new year of learning and growing.

The discounts offered in this year’s back to school sales remind me of a September years ago that influenced my back to school routine. My supervisor, who I had worked with for many years, always did his best to motivate us with new ideas for a successful year. One year his message was a challenge – change 10% of your practice this year. He offered some thoughts, sent us off, and I did my best every year to implement something new or different, just a manageable 10%.

Technology was an area of my frequent ‘changes’. I found instructional technology a powerful tool for engaging students to explore mathematical concepts, for differentiating learning experiences, for challenging students in ways that would provide immediate feedback to them. In a world where technology drives rapid change in so many areas of our lives, it seems important to consider how we might all seek to use technology to change 10% of our practice this year!

Peter Mili