“…sharing the same fears. Time it was, and what a time it was, it was. A time of innocence, a time of confidences..” (from Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends)
Yes, it’s reporting time in Victoria. And what a time it is. Although I’m not sure if we all share the same fears! A time of innocence? Maybe. A time of confidences? Sometimes…depends on how honest the comment, I suppose! Certainly a time of angst. A time when some teachers resent the time that must be taken to write them out of their already crowded and stressed existences, a time when old and barely concealed umbrage and bitterness comes to the fore. A time for martyrdom and indignation (‘How could they ask me to do that as well as write these reports?’) Oh well…
However, because I also have reports to write, this will be a brief post.
Over the last few days, I have discovered that Art Garfunkel has degrees in mathematics and art history (I knew there was an affinity there…that explains why I felt the need to perm my hair in the 80s!!) and that John Brack, the iconic Melbourne artist whose extensive exhibition I viewed yesterday, was also good at mathematics and was always looking for patterns in human behaviour and then creating a visualisation of this in ways that could not be expressed with words. I have written before about mathematics being more like a philosophy than a science and more creative than many give it credit for. Mathematics should, perhaps, be more about looking, musing and wondering.
The second item of this eclectic mix is Elizabeth Wynhausen’s essay On Resilience (part of the Melbourne University’s Press series of little books on big themes). In this wonderful reflection on, mainly her mother’s story, she examines the difference between stoicism and resilience and mentions a study that has identified three traits resilient people share: a resolute acceptance of reality, a sense that life is meaningful and an exceptional ability to improvise. Elsewhere she also writes about a playfulness that is evident in resilient people. I have also written about resilience in students of mathematics elsewhere and how important it is for teachers to try and engender such resilience. Too many of our students endure the subject with something akin to stoicism rather than engaging with its challenges and rolling with the punches, playing with ideas and learning something about the discipline, and themselves as learners, as they do so.
Finally, I have been fortunate to have spoken with, and heard Ron Ritchhart, of Project Zero out of Harvard University, present over the past month or so. He is always an interesting speaker and says things about education that make me think and wonder. He is also an ex teacher of mathematics. He has recently started up his own website here and there you will find some of his recent presentations from his Melbourne visit. It is well worth a look.