> I only want to say that good teaching > is a tradition and cannot be achieved by a single teacher. > Tradition of good teaching mathematics is conspucious by its > absense in USA. To explain this in detail, I would need to > comment several videos of math lessons made in several countries. .... > In San Diego I saw a video of a Japanese math lesson and it was > pleasant for me to see how similar to Russian lessons it was. > Not because Russia influenced Japan or vice versa, but because > both are based on the normal relations: students respect the > teacher, the teacher cares about best interests of students. > Let me mention a small detail which seems not to have been > verbalized by the people who made TIMSS: when the class starts, > the Japanese students greet the teacher by standing up.
I agree that there are many cultural/societal/traditional differences between the US and Russia or Japan. This goes MUCH beyond what an individual mathematics teacher (or an organization of mathematics teachers) can do. It seems that an individual teacher is bound to work within the confine of these traditions. Although Andre might not agree, I think the Standards are indeed trying to change some of those traditions.
> Same in Russia. It is important because it reminds the students > that starting this moment they have special duties: to give > up everything else, to concentrate on the subject matter > and to respect the teacher. When I enter the class in my > university, students sit in relaxed manner, and my entrance > marks nothing for them. I need to take special measures > to bring them into a working condition. I can do it because > I am an especially competent teacher, but many American > teachers cannot, and their students remain disrespectful > throughout the class. It is impossible to teach productively > students who do not respect you.
So, what is that you do that can bring them into this 'working condition'? An individual teacher cannot change traditions single handedly, however, there are many things s/he can do to be more effective working within the tradtion s/he finds herself/himself. S/he cannot make her/his students get up to greet her/him at the beginning of the lesson or make her/his students respect her/him. However, if the focus is to bring students into this 'working condition' maybe there are things American teachers can do within the culture/tradition that works effectively. I would be very much interested in some details of what Andre does.
> Or take the typical American awe for the non-intellectualism: > a student who does not care about abstractions > is a sacred cow for American educators: all the pedagogy, > all the syllabuses, all the textbooks are written > primarily for that student to the neglect of others. >
I find it interesting that none of the points mentioned by Andre is specific to mathematics education in the US but rather education in general and American culture/tradition.
I couldn't quite make sense of what Andre's point was in the last paragraph. Personally, I found it extremely interesting that, in Japan, just about every bookstore (large or small) has a section for teachers. Books you find in there is not limited to teaching academic subjects, but also many books about how to create a good 'homeroom' atmosphere, how to deal with different classroom management issues, and others. I got the sense that Japanese teachers pay a lot of attention to social/psychological/moral needs and development of their students.
Tad Watanabe Towson State University Towson, Maryland