Issues of Build-a-Book Geometry
Christopher C. Healy's Build-a-Book Geometry raises many questions for
teachers like myself. Healy's class makes me question what really is my
responsibility as a teacher.
Is the teacher the discoverer of knowledge or are students the
discoverers or is it a combination of both?
Are there any changes I should make to uphold my "responsibility"
as a teacher?
As a mathematics teacher, what constitutes "real learning of mathematics"?
I feel my responsibility as a teacher is to prepare students to be responsible
for themselves and to make it in the "real world". I feel this
is something that cannot be graded and something that a teacher cannot measure
and maybe never personally observe. I think teachers should instill values
in the students by setting examples and help the students build admirable
characteristics. I want my students to not only be productive citizens of
society but admirable productive citizens of society. This is a big calling
for teachers. Is this the dream atmosphere that teachers want to set, and
can and how can teacher's accomplish this? Personally, I feel my ultimate
goals have been described above, and all I can do is try to my best ability
to attain these goals. Now, the ultimate question is am I really doing what
it takes to accomplish these goals in a way that produces students of this
I am sure that my goals are significantly similar to Mr. Healy's. He seems
to have done a better job teaching these goals than I have done. He built
up the students' confidences and self-esteems and taught them how to compromise
and get along with others. What is strange is that he really did not do
any "traditional" teaching. He allowed the students to discover
instead of him discovering the material for them. Through this process,
I feel the students accomplished more than they ever had in a book-class.
However, I have many concerns with the presentation of the experiment that
took place. How do we know that students in the traditional classroom do
not attain many of the previous attributes; teachers do not normally have
that opportunity to interview students to find out. Again, how can these
qualities be measured, and how can we really know how they are gained? There
is no doubt (according to the students) that they did learn a lot, not necessarily
geometry, (which brings other concerns). I guess my main point is that Mr.
Healy is a huge risk-taker that reaped much, while I am not. I question
is there a balance point for me to stand upon. I definitely think there
I am comfortable in finding a way to combine some of Healy's teaching strategies
with my own strategies to try to achieve the same goals as he. This will
constitute many changes in my current teaching style. Having only taught
one year, I already planned on making many changes for next year, but now
I have "bigger and brighter" expectations. I definitely plan to
allow more student-discovery time. I want to focus on my students' learning
of mathematics, but moreover, I want to focus on my students gaining the
qualities they deserve and need the most.
Finally, I want to address my concerns specifically about the subject material
of the no-book class. I am concerned that the students will not "come
up with" all of the geometry that they need to go on to college, to
score highly on the SAT, etc. Is "total" student-discovery the
best way for all students to learn? Will the no-book class produce the best
I truly believe that the majority of teachers want the best for students.
What is best for students? There are many answers to these questions yet
not really a solution. I think that is why teaching is so fun. We have the
freedom to teach the way we want to (of course, within reason whatever that
means)). I just want to do the best I can by continuing to learn form other
sources such as Mr. Healy.
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