ch3cooh: (Ball Pit)
[personal profile] ch3cooh
Weighing "Failing Gracefully" highly is one of the best strategies I picked up in college.  It means that among many options for how to do things, giving a strong priority (a "weight") to those that, even if they don't reach fruition, still make a significant positive impact.  Projects that have zero utility until they are completely finished are dangerous - because in reality, few things have the chance to finish before the world changes around them making a 'perfect finish' impossible.  And with a limited amount of time to work on projects, it's also a huge deal when the partial project, put on hold, still has utility in that state.

Last night I ran into a project that has the highest potential to succeed /and/ to fail gracefully that I'ves seen in a long time.  It's not a new idea.  It's simply a local school that wants me to come in once a week for 4 hours to do 4 sequential classes, one with part of each grade.  And the concurrent math classes would be split so that students who need more support with the current school unit have a much higher student to teacher ratio, while students who are ready to move on don't get board/distract the class - instead they come to my session and do something likely related to their teachers' curriculum - but open ended research and problem-solving centric. :)

This role has about 60% of what appealed to me about working at MoMath - outreach to students who might not yet know that math is awesome, non-traditional curricula, visibilty to other teachers and scalability.  And then it also has some remarkable positive differences - that I'd be working with the same group of students, building a community and relationships with them over an entire year for instance.  Also, more freedom in what and how to teach.  And it's /so/ tempting that the scalability is still there... just doing this for 4-5 schools myself is a lifelong career that I think I'd be pretty happy with, in part because of how much free time it would leave me with to do any projects I saw fit to do.  :)  But, the large scale dream would be collecting people to do this with me - maybe from the math-circle teaching community.  The MC lesson plans are a good fit, and what I'm doing now -- developing MC-style lesson plans that can parellel core 'school-content' could be useful to other people.  I can see life that I would really like in this -- teaching 2-3 days/week, and coordinating the administration of a dozen people doing similarly, observing their classes 2-3 days/week.  Constantly building and rebuilding lessons to fit what new schools and teachers are doing. Working with teachers to expand their regular curriculum with the support of these weekly sessions.  :D  Wow -- it'a a position and a lifestyle that meets almost every metric I've got.

So yeah, I'm excited.  And... I think there's only a 5, maybe 10 percent chance that what I'm describing above actually happens.  But the failure is doing this myself at one school and then it doesn't go further than that.  And that 'failure' is also OK - very OK.  A lot of what I'm doing right now is like this -- I'm not sure what part will 'take off' if any, but the partial steps -- teaching for a lot of Math Circles and trying out other types of teaching/tutoring as well - the partial steps are also good things.  :)

Date: 2014-10-03 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That sounds amazing! What kind of specific concepts do you think you'll be teaching? (I want to take your math course!)

Thank you for this post on failing gracefully. I've been looking for a metric by which to choose between many good options, and this is a very good one.

Date: 2014-10-04 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

The easy way to answer this is to link to my presentations:

I've been doing mainly combinatorics ("How to Count" "Counting to Zero" "Combinatorial Geometry") and now Graph Theory ("Eulerian and Hamiltonian Paths" "Eulerian/Hamiltonian Stars" "Planar Graphs and Euler's Formula")

Each session centers around 1-3 open-ended puzzles.


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