Are you, like me, an accidental teacher? Did the career of educator just sort of creep into your life? When I entered college I initially wanted to become a medical examiner, you know, like Quincy (circa 1976 – 1983). Well, in the process, I discovered I didn’t deal well with blood and gore. Hence, still wanting to be of service to my community, teaching became my next viable option.
I have worked a total of 30 years in an educational system: first as an instructional aide, next as a teacher and a teacher on special assignment supporting mathematics, and finally as a district administrator. Then, almost two years ago, I made the conscious decision to resign and come to work as a research associate at the AIMS Center for Math & Science Education. As I reflect on my career, not only was I an accidental teacher but also an accidental advocate for teachers to provide their students with rich mathematical experiences.
Working as a research associate, like that of becoming a teacher, is purely accidental. Honestly, how many people wake up and say to themselves, “Hey, I think I want to spend the rest of my working years reading research, especially research on how children construct their understanding of mathematics?” Well there are more of us than you might think. You might possibly even be one without knowing it. I believe I was a researcher, incognito, throughout my entire career! I have always devoted time to reading research to learn how to better teach my students, and then how to work with teachers, coaches, site and district leaders to support students’ acquisition of mathematical concepts.
Rather than talk about mathematical concepts, which I will write about later in the year, I am going to share some facts that ground me in my work here at AIMS. Facts that I feel are of particular importance to the early learning education community.
- In the preschool years, little time is spent on intentional math instruction – an average of 2 to 3% nationwide. This is a case of mathematical anemia.
- Minority children from low-income groups, experience considerable difficulty in school mathematics if they enter without a solid mathematical foundation. This is an equity issue, one that can be addressed in early learning, thus closing the achievement gap.
- Children use mathematical ideas in everyday life and develop informal mathematical knowledge that is surprisingly complex and sophisticated. Let’s tap into this and promote these ideas in the way that we do literacy.
Come along with me on my journey as an Accidental Researcher!