Walking into Subject Expert Teacher Mr. Joseph’s classroom brings back memories of mathematics and science experiments from the moment we walk in, thanks to the array of numerically themed decorations and projects on his walls. His classroom is clearly a place of wonder and excitement for his students in grades 1–3. We sat down with Mr. Joseph to learn more about him, his teaching style, and the joy of math and science. Read his full bio here.
What do you love about math and science?
I love math for the ability to self-check. There is one answer and many routes to solving a problem. And I love science for the opposite reason—it’s so open ended. While there are also multiple ways to find an answer, there are a number of answers you can be looking for. I’m a puzzle person and I like to make puzzles fun for kids.
As a teacher, what attracted you to BASIS Independent McLean?
Definitely the expectation for students to be accountable for what they do, not just at the middle and high school level, but at the primary level too. It’s not just thrown on them, it’s built from the student-teacher and parent-teacher relationships. It’s a tool that we start to give students at a younger age that they aren’t going to get at another school.
I also love the autonomy that I have as a teacher. We can really make things more exciting and engaging. Math isn't something you'd normally think of as dynamic, but when you’re going over material such as area and perimeter and then looking at blueprints of houses on Redfin and Zillow, it becomes a really engaging, exciting activity. Last year, my third graders did that project, and they really enjoyed it.
"Creating things that are memorable is important because we want them to have a lifelong love of our subjects as we do.
Through grade 4 at BASIS Independent McLean, math and science are taught together. What is the benefit of teaching these classes this way?
There is so much science in math and so much math in science. There is always going to be math in whatever science class a student takes and vice versa, and it’s important to build that relationship early. It’s fun to do cross-curricular activities like science experiments that include the math we’re learning in class.
What makes BASIS Independent McLean a unique school?
I appreciate that the curriculum is more accelerated because I think, with the support system that we have here, students have the ability and willingness to work harder. The Learning Expert Teacher (LET)/Subject Expert Teacher (SET) model is the support system. The LET looks out for the well-being of each student, while I ensure the student understands the math or science concepts. My relationship with the LET is so important and it’s so different than other schools. It makes life easier for me and for the students to know they are supported on all fronts, which allows us to tackle the accelerated curriculum.
What is the best part of teaching grades 1–3?
The “ah-ha!” moments. I can get really excited about figuring out something I haven’t done before, but the wonder that comes at that age, especially when you talk about remarkably big things like the solar system and the universe or remarkably small things like atoms, is unparalleled. The look of amazement on their faces when you’re trying to explain how tiny some of these elements are is just fantastic. Those "wow" moments are the absolute best. Whenever you get those, you feel like you’re doing your job as a teacher. That, and when they laugh at my bad jokes.
What concept do you enjoy teaching most?
As someone who comes from statistics, I love graphing. As someone who is an artist and loves visual representations, I love graphing. Going into analysis with kids at a young age is helpful. We start with bar graphs and pie charts. Right now, I’m doing an activity with the second graders where they each choose two pages from two different books and then tally how many times they saw each letter. I’m putting all their answers together in excel and we’ll compare it to the research that Samuel Morse did and the frequency of letters in the Oxford Dictionary. They’re loving it and bugging me to finish imputing the data.
What do you do outside of teaching?
I’m an avid baseball player. I play baseball March through November. It’s my favorite thing to do. I’m constantly reading; I read while I’m walking around my house and brushing my teeth—that’s not an exaggeration. I’m also a coin and currency collector.
Thanks, Mr. Joseph! We hope this was helpful for families to better get to know one of the exceptional members of our teaching staff. If you'd like to learn more about our teaching philosophy and our unique LET/SET teaching model, please visit our website at mclean.basisindependent.com.