Lost for a Moment

Wow, I have been so out of touch! The past three weeks have been quite full and exhausting. Has it only been three weeks? Seems like several months. I’m missing interacting on twitter and writing in my blog. 

I’ve spent quite a bit of time going over the K-5 CCSS Math standards. While I have spent quite a bit of time in the high school standards, I have never really paid much attention to the elementary ones. Unfortunately, like others I’m sure, I didn’t think they applied to me. I am beginning to see that they really do, I mean, of course they do now, but even as a secondary educator, the elementary standards are the foundation of what my students are supposed to be learning. If they aren’t learning these things, then when they come into the secondary classroom, they aren’t prepared for what they are going to be exposed to, and may have quite a bit of difficulty succeeding in their secondary math classes. Duh, right?!? Or is it? 

Are students really learning what they need to at the elementary level, and if so, where are the difficulties at the secondary level originating? There are so many questions I am beginning to have, and so many things that I realize I really don’t know. I can tell you one thing, elementary teachers love their students, love teaching them, and want to do a great job at it, just like most of the secondary teachers I know. One thing I have noticed right away, they don’t give up on kids, at all. Every single kid that walks into their room deserves their very best, and they work hard to be sure kids get just that. 

I am finding that I am getting mixed reactions to stepping into this position. Many of the elementary teachers are excited that they have someone who “really gets math” to work with. Some are concerned that I don’t get elementary level kids. A few are just keeping quiet. I understand the reactions, I have taught high school kids, and we all know that high school kids aren’t really kids, right?  And we secondary teachers don’t think that elementary kids can explain their thinking and reason at a deep level, right? 

I’m looking forward to this new learning challenge. I have a lot to learn, and I am excited to do this learning. I am looking forward to adding a new set of educators to my PLN, and stretching myself in the process. I hope that the teachers I will be working with will see something valuable that I bring to the table also. I do feel like together we can create a wonderful learning space for kids, and I believe that I can offer something to the elementary kids just like I created some great learning for the high school kids. 

And yes, they are all kids, just like us. 


My First Week

Tomorrow will be the end of my first week in my new role. Fortunately, things are starting at a handleable pace. We have been meeting as a PLC, reading through Jim Knight’s book, “Instructional Coaching, A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction”. It’s very good, and the meetings have been quite helpful. I think the anxiety for a lot of us is decreasing. I’m finding myself wanting to get into the Elementary math curriculum and digging for purpose in the elementary math classes. I’ve sent out a google form to get some ideas from the on-site coaches about what they need so that I can start planning and digging for resources and answers. Wouldn’t you know it, I embedded the form into email and received a response from a tech geek about how I shouldn’t have done that. So, right off the bat I have to admit that I still have a lot to learn about using technology and google forms. Brother! Nothing like looking like a goofball from the start. 

I am meeting some really great people, some of them have been doing the coaching at the district for a few years, others are new to this like me and trying to find their place also. All of us are in the process of “building the plane in the air” as my supervisor put it. I had a talk with one of the coaches who has been here for a couple of years. She gave me some encouragement and reassurance as I was reflecting on some of the things I was feeling somewhat anxious about. She reminded me that I know math, and the students are just shorter than I am used to. That made me smile. I have to say, the students are awfully cute. 

Tomorrow I meet with several district coaches and the superintendent to talk about Junior Achievement. I’m not really sure what this entails, yet, but I’m sure I will tomorrow. I’m grateful that we’ve spent the week discussing coaching and the partnering aspect. It makes me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. I’m looking forward to working with the elementary teachers, hearing what they struggle with and what they are good at, and building a strong math program with them. 

Let’s get the show on the road!!

It’s Just Good Teaching

I’m spending the week in training for the CPM math curriculum this week. Our middle schools are piloting the program this year, and our high schools will be piloting the program next semester. The high schools are also piloting CME this semester. It’s a busy year for us. I’m attending the training so that I can help support the teachers this year as they work on changing teaching practices and focusing on the SMP. I personally like both programs for different reasons, and will be happy with either one at our high schools. I really hope our middle school teachers like CPM.

As I’m sitting through the training, listening to the facilitators discuss the program, the process for how to facilitate the group work, when to pull the whole class together for some direct teaching, and keeping it short and sweet, reading through the resources available to the teachers, and interacting with the teachers in the training, I’m reminded that this is just good teaching. Creating an environment of collaboration, inquiry, focused questioning, justification and explanation of the mathematics being used, and the thought processes students are using to solve problems, I’m thrilled. I’m also watching teachers struggle with the change in focus and teaching method and my notes to myself and my focus during the training is how I can support, encourage and engage teachers in the process. How can I help them to stay the course when group work isn’t going as smoothly or precisely as they are witnessing in the training? How can I help teachers to understand that this takes time, stamina, and a willingness to keep on when it gets tough and students are complaining about the teacher “not teaching”?

I know from years of facilitating this process in my own classroom that it is well worth the effort, struggle and frustration that will come with changing instruction, I just want to be a strong support for the teachers as they go through this process and be able to encourage them to keep going when the going gets tough.

Pre-Wedding Jitters

I begin my new position in two weeks. I’ve already met with my supervisor, got a better idea of where to start, have no place to set up because the office where I’m supposed to be working is overloaded with curriculum materials that have been allowed to pile up, extra furniture, etc. and there is no room for a desk, bookcase, or anything else. I have to wait for my supervisor to get someone to clear out the room, and make a place for me. This is very difficult for me, I like to be organized before I start something, and I will be starting without this. I guess new experiences are good for us and help us to grow. Maybe it’s a part of helping me to see that this position comes with a lot of unknowns and I will need to be very flexible. I think I can be, only time will tell.

I’m finding myself thinking about the position I gave up. I would have been teaching in a New Tech Network school, teaching Math II and Pre-Calculus, my two favorites, and learning about integrating technology into my teaching at a higher level. Did I make a mistake? I have some misgivings, but not extreme, I think most of it is just the pre-wedding jitters of not really knowing how my new position will go, being on the edge because of not being able to organize, and knowing what being in the classroom is like, as opposed to be working with teachers in their classrooms. I love working with teachers, and enjoy planning and encouraging others to be the best they can be. I know I can be good at this job, I’m just nervous about starting something new.

After attending TMC this summer, and reading the blogs of everyone who is doing their planning for their classes, I think I’m jealous. I was planning some things for my classes this year before I went to OK, and I was getting excited about learning to use the smartboard, and having students all have devices to work with, being able to really incorporate geogebra and desmos and all the other neat tools of technology and learning along with my students. I’m finally beginning to make a switch in my brain to see the teachers as my students, and that I can be learning along with them, it just seems so different than having my own classroom. I still need to work on that part of my learning experience, and find that place that feels like mine here.

Maybe once I get started and settled all this will seem negligible, but right now it feels so big and I’m a little nervous about it all. I guess I need to get back to work and get busy, having too much time on my hands to think, and no planning to do at the moment is making me a bit crazy.

I’m excited for all of you and your new year. Seeing all your plans for your teaching and your student’s learning is making me excited. I wish you all the best, and can’t wait to see how things work out. I’ll be reading your blogs and watching on twitter to live through this with you. I’m sure that you will all help me learn also, as I learn from you what works and doesn’t, and how you could use support or help with your classrooms.

Thank you.