Why "A Difference"

3/23/2005 11:30:00 pm

I teach math. A "difference" is one of the four fundamental operations. The slope of a line is calculated using a quotient of "differences" which, when we first study calculus, evolves into the "difference quotient" (AKA the derivative). Later we study "differential equations."

This year at my school, the teachers in my department have decided to focus on using the teaching strategy Identifying Similarities and Differences. But more than all of this, the word "difference" suggests change. The breakneck evolution of technologies on the internet is changing they way we teach. It's hard to keep up. I hope to use this blog to record and reflect on my personal evolution of how to integrate these technologies into my teaching.

"A difference" also connotes the phrase: "make a difference." Something teachers do every day. A while back, while surfing the net, I found this poem by Taylor Mali. I was inspired....

A poem by: Taylor Mali

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued: "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: "Those who can...do. Those who can't ... teach."

To corroborate, he said to another guest: "You're a teacher, Susan," he said. "Be honest. What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation of honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make?"

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face if the student did not do his or her very best."

"I can make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence."

"I can make parents tremble in fear when I call home"

"You want to know what I make?"

"I make kids wonder."

"I make them question."

"I make them criticize."

"I make them apologize and mean it."

"I make them write."

"I make them read, read, read."

"I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, and definitely beautiful over and over and over again, until they will never misspell either one of those words again."

"I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their final drafts in English."

"I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart...and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you pay them no attention!"

"You want to know what I make?"

"I make a difference."

"And you? What do you make?"

(Listen to Taylor Mali perform the original, unedited version.)

Here is a video of Taylor performing this poem:

... and here it is as a slidecast:

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