The Prepared Mind
The Prepared Mind
"Fortune favors the prepared mind." -Louis Pasteur
Potential readers ask, “Why did you write a book?” or “What is your book about?”
When I first purchased my own computer, I became quite enthralled with what it could do from a writing standpoint. I had used many yellow pads to write for the many years of teaching and publishing. The computer was just the best thing for writing!
Meanwhile I had stories to tell from all those years and would often mention them in conversation when the context seemed to indicate it. People liked hearing about the stories. Of course I have always loved math, loved teaching it, loved selling it, and thoroughly enjoyed all the many teacher training sessions of varied types after the sales. So you could say math was one of the things I hold close to my heart.
Meanwhile, as time passed, more and more teachers and families began to question the way math was taught. They faced challenges in the classroom as teachers trying to “teach the newest way” with sometimes very difficult lesson plans and planning, and challenges with homework as families used their past experiences in their elementary classes to help with their children’s homework. Teachers, families, and students were frustrated. It occurred to me that there was a story to tell about instruction as well. So I began to write just as retirement hit and my mother had died, both the same year, 2006.
The story to tell involves a timeline of change in mathematics instruction from the 1940s until the present. It hinges on the globalization of our economy and the books written by Tom Friedman that helped me understand the changes we are facing. I began to understand that the preparation of our students was more than significant; it was critical that we prepare our young children for success in middle and high school before they enter college or choose a career. I saw writing this book as a patriotic duty, informing families, educators, and leadership from the perspective I had gained as I worked in many, many schools across the country.
There can be so much controversy about public education, but I found great schools with much to crow about. I also found some not so great. Someone asked once, “How do you judge a good school?” It is fairly easy, actually. When I walk into a school, my first observation is about the cleanliness of the school. To me, a clean school sends the message that the school respects the community in which it is based. It doesn’t have to be new or the most beautiful, or the most technologically up-to-date (though that might soon be my third requirement for a good school). But it does have to be clean! Thank you to every custodian who keeps going until finished, and every teacher who refuses to leave his or her classroom dirty or messy at the end of a hard day!
The second characteristic I value for a good school is the amount of student work displayed in hallways, on bulletin boards, and in classrooms. These displays represent respect for the intellect and creativity of the students. This is serious stuff and most kids appreciate their work being valued enough to show it off. Visit some schools and notice the student work. I promise you will be amazed at their imagination and originality.
Finally, the media attention to standards began to gnaw at me and I completed my career helping to implement No Child Left Behind in my local area. Standards and comparing students’ achievement from state to state gained heavy political interest. Comparisons with private schools and private church schools, along with the home-schooling trend seemed to indicate that public schools were all failing! Not a fair judgment from what I had observed. So, I began writing with a focus on explaining the trends of about fifty years, noting the influence of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (who have done an excellent job of keeping math in the forefront of educational thought), researching the standards from state to state and comparing them, and sharing my own opinions about it all.
The Prepared Mind is the result of all that! I hope you want to get the book and read it and find it helpful as you support public schools and mathematics instruction in your local area. As Louis Pasteur famously said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind!”
Paperback | ISBN 978-1-937565-42-8 | 207 Pages