Humanizing While Studying

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Photo: 2019 Summer Mentoring Fellowship Doc Students & Advisors at UCF

Providing an audience, classroom, family, etc., with a sense of belonging means to me seeing and respecting the intersectional identity of all humans in our sphere. As a final of sorts, we (other fellows and myself) were required to provide a short presentation of our Summer Mentoring Fellowship Research projects. The three minute presentations varied by major and department greatly; ranging from studying extensive data sets, to physics I can’t pretend to understand, to deep sociological issues globally and within the community. Why is this related to humanizing mathematics? Because I was “all in my feelings”, as they say, at seeing how all our work in education is connected and has the potential to take care of humanity in its complexity. Thinking of all the violence (mass shootings to intellectual attacks by teachers who have failed to do the necessary anti-racist work for positive teacher-students-maths relationships) my heart aches at the stress and/or heightened sense of alert our precious students have to endure today. Here are just a few connections I observed and inchoately spoke to my classmates about on passionate, heart-driven whim…

  • Political Science-the white/European-centeredness of data collection which mirrors that of mathematics foci and current cannon of historical validity
  • Sociology- concepts of community as opposed to competition and how my current readings are highlighting the fact that several of the mathematicians we hold high/call geniuses were actually more communal than competitive and were also pressured to monetize, instead of share, knowledge
  • Physics-Refraction of light through a crystal as the difference of two properties; students’ identities as the difference of their home and school “selves”
  • Co-presentation (Latinx & Carribean Women) Counselor Education- intersectional identity, seeing myself in their research and naming the coping strategies I unconsciously use to survive the intellectual hostility (in my case, involving whiteness and patriarchy) inherently present in maths communities, especially regarding representation and leadership
  • Emerging Media (Productions)-Putting on a show for PD, having a history of great data from workshop participants as a facilitator. Focusing on a manageable balance between theory and practical implementations (Respecting the Classroom Teacher: What can I share that I’ve learned that you can prep within and hour and try tomorrow?) Also, who is on our call sheets in a typical mathematics lesson we influence? More importantly, who are explicitly and implicitly NOT called?
  • Applied Sociology-Twitter media coverage. The so-called “EduCelebrity” and whose traumas (both centered on maths and other areas of life) matter to the Math Teacher Twitter Communities. I worry about whether our hearts are due north some days and am exuberantly encouraged on others
  • My learning- The constant, consistent and complex self-work necessary to remain an effective agent for change and justice in mathematics learning and teaching

So what? So why? All this multifaceted educational work in one room filled my spirit with continued purpose and joy at a time when I am balancing a mix of emotions. We never know which course in a student’s educational journey could be the one to awaken a sense purpose and build the foundations for establishing an unshakable sense of self-worth in one’s humanity. Hence, we need to plan mathematics lessons, that address mirrored and windowed intersectionality and cross-curricular areas of study, increasing in skill and adaptability, as events and political and environmental climates change with each year we are honored to educate students. I am hopeful that coming at this work from a place of humility and love will help us lift each other into authentic feelings of belonging, too, as surely instructional excellence (necessarily centered on equity and justice) will unearth shortcomings, failures and disappointments. Still we forge ahead, right?!? Godspeed in the new school year tweeps. I’m rooting for you all!!!

This blogpost is a part of the (2019) HUMANIZING MATHEMATICS CONVENTION CENTER: Virtual Conference on Humanizing Mathematics hosted by Sam Shah and Hema Khodai

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