What the hell happened?

This last week I descended into the most severe anxiety-induced depressive episode of my life. I’ve experienced two similar, though less severe, episodes since I began teaching. As I descended, I made a life altering choice. I want to explain this period and what I was going through. My goal is those who know me a closer look at what I experienced. A secondary goal of this post is to offer solidarity and to make a space for these kinds of feelings and discussions. We don’t talk about this stuff enough, and a lot of us are suffering through feelings and impulses that we keep to ourselves.

[content warning: suicidal ideation] Continue reading

After One Trimester as a Classroom Teacher

I am officially on Winter Break. I have completed my first full trimester (plus a couple weeks) of teaching. I have had 58 student-contact days. Not only is now a good time for me to reflect and report on how it’s going, I think it’s necessary.

Teaching Resource – Parable of the Polygons

A few weeks back I came across Parable of the Polygons, a “playable post” from Vi Hart and Nicky Case. I’ve been pretty entranced by it since. This post uses simple, interactive cellular automata to demonstrate how preferences in each individual can affect the entire system. This is a metaphor, and a model, for how even slight individual biases can lead to segregation at the societal level.

The beauty of Hart and Case’s work is in it’s simplicity. Continue reading

Superintendent Colt Gill’s Response to My Open Letter

[This is a response to the open letter I wrote]

Ryan

Thank you for writing. I both appreciate and think I understand your perspective. Ryan, I’m not where all your open letter may be published, but consider posting my response as well.

First, I’d like to ask that you consider some of the limits of a news article and know that I would be happy to meet discuss this matter with you in detail. As to the limits of a news article…most articles tend to look at incidents in isolation, they do not always consider what has happened in the past and what continues to happen in the coming days and weeks. This is the case with the Register Guard article you referenced. And, while much information may be shared with a reporter, it is ultimately up to the reporter, editors, and publishers to determine what information they will include and what angle they will present. We, ultimately, have little control over the level of detail offered to the reader.

I am very proud of the work we have done in Bethel School District to welcome and respect each student, family member, and staff member. That statement of pride also reflects my bias. Regardless, my heart has been in this work for many years and I’d like to share just a few snippets of our leadership in the area of equity and inclusion: Continue reading

Open Letter to Bethel School District Superintendent Colt Gill Regarding His Response to the Genderbread Person Discussion

[Superintendent Colt Gill wrote a response to my letter. It can be seen in the comments and in a separate post]

Superintendent Gill,

My name is Ryan Brockey, and I am a teacher licensure candidate and master’s student at University of Oregon. In a few months I will begin looking for jobs teaching mathematics and/or physics. Based on the Register Guard’s report of your response to Bethel District parents regarding the classroom discussion of a Genderbread Person poster, I am going to be quite wary of applying to your school district. Would I be welcome there?

Your words say I will be welcome. Your words say that all sorts of students, parents, faculty, and staff are welcome. Here are three quotes attributed to you in the Register Guard where you emphasize this open welcomeness:

“We need to make sure that when people walk through the doors of our school, whether they’re a family member or a student, that they feel as welcome as every other student in that building.”

“They (need to) feel secure and free from harassment, free from threat or harm.”

[Regarding students who may feel different than their peers] “We want to ensure that they feel safe, and that everybody around them understands that they have value and are as free and appropriate to be in our (school) system as every other student.”

Those are excellent sentiments. Unfortunately, they don’t jive with your actions and policies. In the same Register Guard piece, it’s also reported that Principal Erika Case apologized that a discussion around gender identity took place. You are reported to have assured parents that they will have the option to opt their children out of conversations about gender identity and sexuality.

Here’s the issue: how can anyone who identifies as queer in any way feel welcome or safe in a district where it is optional to even learn about their existence? It is not welcoming, but rather othering, when your district apologizes because gender and sexual identities other than cis-hetero were acknowledged in a classroom. You have just told queer people that their existence, their identities are something that must be apologized for in your district.

Despite your words, your district does not seem like a welcoming place for me to apply to teach math or physics this coming year.

Ryan Brockey (pronouns: they/them)
Secondary Education, Math and Physics
UOTeach Cohort 7

Enumerating the Rational Numbers

One of my tutoring students is taking an Introduction to Mathematical Proof course. During one of our recent sessions, he had a problem that challenged him to come up with a way of enumerating the rational numbers, thus showing that they can be mapped to the natural numbers, and thus are a countably infinite set. I saw the proof that the rational numbers are countable way back in undergrad, but I couldn’t remember the process. So, I tried to come up with a means of counting the rational numbers. The enumeration I came up with is solid, I’m pretty sure, and I can’t seem to find it replicated elsewhere on the web.

So, I’m putting it here for others to comment on and to see if anyone can point me to where this method may have been used before. Here is my method for enumerating the rational numbers.

Let $m$, $n \in \mathbb{Z}$ and $m \ge 0$, $n > 0$ such that $\frac{m}{n} \in \mathbb{Q}$ and is irreducible.

Now let $p_n$ refer to the $n$th prime number.

The number $(p_n)^m \in \mathbb{N}$. This value is unique in the natural numbers.

Thus, each positive rational number–and zero–maps onto a unique natural number. This same process can be duplicated for the negative rational numbers. Since both the positive and negative rational numbers can be shown to be countable in this way, the union of the two sets is also countable.

Practice Teaching by Teaching

Gods, what a week!

This week has seen a rapid oscillation of my emotions and my confidence.  And I am glad for that because the feelings are in proportion to my stressful and meaningful circumstance.  I am able to fully enjoy the joyous moments I’ve experienced.  More so, the low moments are not world shattering and I can more easily see the path out of the darkness.

I realized this blog became a big ol’ wall-o-text.  So, here’s the simple breakdown:

• Tuesday: First day of practice teaching, but I was alone with the whole class all day.
• Wednesday: I was alone again all day.  Definitely discouraging.
• Thursday: My first practice teaching observation, I did decently but there are a lot of areas for me to work on.
• Friday: I got a job! I’ll be teaching 8th grade math at Hart Middle School.
If you want the whole story, then keep reading.

This week is definitely a hell of a story. Continue reading