A Mathematics Lesson for Early Career Scholars
I am beyond ecstatic to receive the 2019 Early Career Award from the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE). I am a Black male scholar whose work draws from critical race and culturally relevant frameworks, and my scholarship examines the mathematics experiences of high-achieving African American male students (e.g., Jett, 2019). Being a mathematics teacher educator has been a professional goal, and it is a humbling experience to be able to impact the next generation of mathematics education professionals. Given my charge to share advice to early career scholars grounded in my experiences, I share four tips with you, the AMTE community. Also, in my commitment to our subject-specific domain of mathematics, I offer “MATH” as an outline of the four points I wish to raise concerning thriving as an early career mathematics teacher educator.
Make time for your research!
This first recommendation is a straightforward one, but I have found that it easier said than done. For example, I was teaching mathematics to approximately 100 undergraduate students each semester when I first began my tenure-track appointment. As you can imagine, grading, prepping, and understanding our sequence of courses ate up a huge chunk of my time. Of course, I am not suggesting that you should devote lackluster energy to your teaching, cheapen the quality of the courses you are assigned to teach, or even shortchange your institutional commitments. Rather, I am advocating for carving out time for your research (and sticking to it). One thing that has worked particularly well for me was finding research-active faculty members at my institution. Periodic meetings, accountability discussions, and joint writing sessions have kept me motivated and focused on my research, even in a teaching-oriented institutional space.
Assemble a stellar CV!
As a mathematics teacher educator, you should work diligently to assemble a stellar CV. As you are aware, the CV serves as an academic portfolio of sorts. It should highlight your research and pedagogical accomplishments, among other things. I have been deliberate and strategic about studying the CVs of those who, I believe, have established impeccable academic careers. If necessary, examine your CV and other ancillary documents each year, semester, quarter, etc. to assess your professional growth. I typically do so a couple of times a year to engage in self-analysis to make certain that I am simultaneously making progress toward my yearly goals and positioning myself as a lifelong scholar.
Take notes, revisit them, and apply them!
Next, I would advise you to take copious notes. I have found that I am really good at taking notes at conference meetings, via webinars, after reading scholarly texts, and so on, and I have become increasingly better at revisiting and applying them. Early on, I critically examined Belcher’s (2009) Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, Lucas and Murry’s (2011) New Faculty: A Practical Guide for Academic Beginners, and Rockquemore and Laszloffy’s (2008) The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure—Without Losing Your Soul either alone or within a small group to fill in my professorial knowledge gaps. Indeed, your study notes should allow you to stay abreast of the latest scholarship in mathematics education, teacher education, STEM education, etc. and explore new theories, methodologies, and epistemologies. With this recommendation, be sure to draw upon the wealth of knowledge outside of mathematics education to further enrich the mathematics teacher educator landscape.
Finally, I challenge and encourage you to have fun. Teaching mathematics-related courses, delivering professional development sessions for mathematics teachers, conducting mathematics education research, and serving in various mathematics-related roles are all activities that bring me great joy. These responsibilities, however, do not come without their distinctive challenges. I must negotiate racial microaggressions, manage my time wisely, avoid departmental conflicts and battles (as much as possible), sidestep people’s personal agendas, and so on and so forth so that I can enjoy the work I am called to do. In the end, I aim to have fun as I work in the trenches for the betterment of our academic discipline.
The mathematics teacher education harvest is ripe with many opportunities, and the time is now to get involved as our students, teachers, and children deserve access to equitable mathematics learning opportunities that authentically affirm them and are responsive to their needs (Gay, 2010). And always remember that there is not a single mathematics teacher educator like you, so infuse your own unique scholarly identity into the mathematics education enterprise to actualize your vision. Good luck in your early career and beyond!
Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Jett, C. C. (2019). Mathematical persistence among four African American male graduate students: A critical race analysis of their experiences. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 50(3), 311–340.
Lucas, C., & Murry, J. M. (2011). New faculty: A practical guide for academic beginners. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rockquemore, K. A., & Laszloffy, T. (2008). The Black academic’s guide to winning tenure—without losing your soul. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
I would like to thank Dr. Christine Thomas for nominating me for the 2019 AMTE Early Carly Award. I would also like to thank the National Science Foundation’s CAREER program and Project Kaleidoscope’s (PKAL) STEM Leadership Institute as both have provided me with sound knowledge, invaluable resources, and unique opportunities to grow as a mathematics teacher educator, researcher, and scholar.