On Teaching

 Gouache landscapes, Charlotte Vermont 2014

Gouache landscapes, Charlotte Vermont 2014

 
 

Teaching 

 

Statement of Purpose as an Educator – Kate Crowe

I teach utilizing a developmental learning approach and the psychological insights of Lev Vygotsky and Rudolf Steiner.

In teaching both art and math, I have a unique perspective on how humans approach the process of learning. Having things spelled out makes everything simple, easy, in fact, no ambiguity at all it seems would be ideal. Despite my awareness of our desire for comfort, I believe that it is my job as a teacher to bring the knowledge and strength that lies in my students to the forefront while simultaneously asking them to become accustomed to the state of confusion.

 

I am a strong proponent of group work, collaborations and peer-teaching. I believe I am somewhat of a facilitator in the classroom and that it is my role to inspire the students to find answers within themselves. More than anything, this builds confidence. But it is quite a stretch for some students to trust the process enough to go to the realms of the unknown. I try employ a strong heart, and an even mannered spirit to keep the dynamic in the classroom flexible and open to each student’s needs.

 

My serious study of mathematics began my first year at Smith College when I was fortunate to partake in an experimental course entitled Intensive Calculus with Discrete Mathematics. Now, as a mathematics teacher myself, I look back on that year-long, 12 credit course and appreciate not only the skills and inspiration it imparted to students, but the conceptual focus of the course that ultimately lead me to major in mathematics. I went on to be the Teacher’s Assistant for that class during my junior and senior years at Smith, which included teaching the weekly evening Infinity Seminar. Teaching the Infinity Seminar, under the guidance of my brilliant professors, was one of my main impetuses to pursue teaching mathematics.I taught for four years in independent schools.


I enjoy the flexibility of content, the rituals, but most importantly I enjoy the commitment from my colleagues and from parents to our work to make the world a better place through education of children.

In such schools, I have been able to design and implement my own curriculum. While this was initially a daunting amount of responsibility, it has been wonderfully challenging and I find myself to be differently engaged with my student’s progress as a result. In so doing, I rely heavily on contemporary educational research, various textbooks and my colleagues throughout the Waldorf math community and beyond. At SMWS, I create the path for my classes at the beginning of the year, but I am able to linger on subjects if the class is particularly interested in the topic and equally able to rush through a topic that happens to present very little challenge for a particular class. Additionally, I can chose to evaluate my students in the manner that I deem appropriate. I ask my students to work in assigned and unassigned groups and give some group evaluations, I also ask my students to candidly evaluate their own work. Of course, I give typical tests, and I also teach some topics specifically because I know such subjects will benefit my students in science coursework or on standardized tests. Teaching in such an environment has spurred me to seek out strong educational theory to rely on. In the summer of 2009 I earned my Certificate in Teaching Waldorf Mathematics from a small, non-degree granting institution.

I structure my classes so that students can succeed, but also so students who are not doing well get that feedback in a timely manner and have resources to rely on. I have Math Help scheduled many times throughout each week that any student can come to and work on problems with my individual attention. I have an intricate system of re-submitting tests which allows students to rework their tests for a percentage of points added back on to the original grade. Homework is usually begun in class and checked for completion at the beginning of each class.

 

One of the topics that I’ve developed of which I am most proud is the integration of Chaos Theory as the final topic in my Pre-Calculus track senior math course. By the time we arrive at our conceptual investigation of Chaos Theory, the students have learned many new skills and concepts, including some Calculus, and most significantly, have been motivated to learn such skills by their interest in the study of Chaos Theory. In so designing this course, I am taking into account mathematics that my students might need in the future, but I am also working with their teen-aged pop-culture obsession by bringing contemporary mathematics which entices them and which explores the world we live in.

 

In studying and teaching mathematics I have learned much about the way we learn and about the human condition; I am continuously becoming a stronger mathematician. I am passionate about and committed to teaching. It is a skill I hone more and more each day.