This week I made a really hard decision. It wasn’t whether I should extend my projectile modeling lesson from one day to two. It wasn’t whether I should combine motion and related rates of change on a single quiz. Those are easy decisions to make in the day to day life of a teacher.
No. The choice I have been facing for some time now is whether I could continue to be a math teacher and department coordinator at Arlington High School while at the same time building eMathInstruction by writing more curricula and recording more videos.
For those that didn’t know, I have been a full time math teacher at Arlington High School for the last 17 years. I started in the fall of 1999 teaching the old Course II Integrated math curriculum, along with AP Calculus and an engineering course. Over time I taught everything from our two year Algebra 1 course to third semester college calculus. I have loved (almost) every minute of my time in the classroom at AHS (go Admirals!). As all teachers know, there are always ups and downs, good days and bad, good years and bad. But, through it all, the best part of my day to day existence was teaching my students.
For the last five years, I have also been the head of the Arlington Math Department. Now, I don’t know how big your school is, but Arlington is quite large, around 3,500 students. In our department alone, we offer 23 math courses and have 25 math teachers. And, they are an amazing bunch.
The math teachers that is.
What a true pleasure it has been to work with all of them! I could recount story after story, memories built on almost two decades of working together. If you have spent this much time anywhere, you know how important all of the people you work with are. They are more than colleagues. They are more than friends. They are family.
Now, along with being a teacher, I’ve also been trying my best to start an educational curriculum company – eMathInstruction. It started off simply enough seven years ago when I founded the company and wrote my first “book” – Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. But, that book coincided with the birth of my daughter, Evie, who joined her older brother Max and my amazing wife Shana to make our family of four complete. Anyone with kids knows that when they are young, they are pretty much all you can handle.
It wasn’t until I started on Common Core Algebra I and Common Core Algebra II that eMathInstruction really started to absorb my time. Some might find this hard to believe, but I only work on eMathInstruction materials five days a week (Sunday through Thursday – inclusive). I typically start working around 8:30 at night after Max and Evie go to sleep and finish up anywhere from 10:30 to 11:30 (depending on how much coffee I’ve had). Working five days a week, two to three hours at a time, plus every day, all day during the summer made it possible to create one course per year for the last two years.
But, that meant only around 5 hours of sleep per night (I wake up at 4:30 morning) and not much vacation.
I get tired just thinking about it.
Last year, while I was busy working on Common Core Algebra II, my day job got really rough. I can’t go into the details but it was just one of those years where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Murphy would have been proud. Again, those that have been in teaching long enough and those who have any administrative experience surely have had times like these, maybe even years like this. There were so many Sundays when I simply could not imagine heading back to work. I got through it, barely, with the help of some really great teachers in my department and a great administrator at my school (you know who you are ;-).
Still, it left me with the realization that I had to make a choice. I couldn’t keep getting four to five hours of sleep each night and I couldn’t keep “skipping” summer break. Seriously, no summer break! That’s crazy! All I did during the last two summers was edit text and record videos. I loved it, but it wasn’t vacation.
And so, I have decided to make the hardest, scariest choice I’ve ever made. At the conclusion of this year, I will be leaving teaching for the time being and devoting myself full time to eMathInstruction. I want to see how far I can take this crazy company and dive fully into the world of math curriculum and education technology.
So, what’s on tap when June 25th rolls around and I start working during the day instead of at night?
To begin, it’s finally time to write a Common Core Geometry curriculum. I’m so excited to start this during the summer and work on it throughout the fall. I’m very hopeful that it can be complete, with videos, by the time winter break sets in. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE geometry and cannot wait to study it again in depth and write a curriculum that tells its rich story of logical progression while at the same time incorporating the new emphasis on transformational geometry. Euclid’s vision for geometry was not one of rote theorem memorization, but one of experimentation, conjecture, and rational exposition. It’s in that spirit that I will create a geometry course along with videos to help teachers and students study this beautiful topic within mathematics.
And then what? There are so many ideas and projects I would like to explore. Of course, I would love to hear from folks letting me know where best to devote time. Here are some ideas (not necessarily listed in the order I will pursue them):
Creating a fourth year course (I’m very resistant to calling it pre-calculus).
Creating an AP Calculus course (with videos – maybe even give the great Khan a run for his money).
Creating a series of middle school math courses.
Creating a flipped version for all three of the major courses. You might think the videos alone already do that, but a true flipped curriculum is different from what we currently offer.
Creating extended projects for each course (Project Based Learning).
Creating electronic only versions of the curricula that seamlessly integrate Desmos and Geogebra technology into the daily lessons.
I could go on and on and on. But, I think this is likely enough for now. My hope is that teachers and schools that like what we’ve done at eMathInstruction will continue to support our work. We are committed to providing teachers around New York state and the country affordable, user friendly, quality curriculum products that truly enhance the educational experience for both student and teacher.