CCSS and Teachers

I’m now in my fourth week as a Math Academic Specialist for K-5 teachers. I’m really learning and beginning to sit down with teachers as they plan, and try to make sense of the district pacing calendar that has been created for them. One of the things that has been the most difficult for the teachers, is to attempt to put EnVision Math into the CCSS and make it make sense. Many of them are frustrated with trying to utilize the resource in the pacing schedule. Many of them are confused about how to make the resource work, and many of them are just frustrated with EnVision as a whole. Looking through EnVision myself, to become familiar with it, I had decided that if I were teaching at this level, I would definitely put the book aside as a resource and be looking elsewhere for my activities and lessons.

As I sit in the planning with the teachers, the first thing I am advocating is that EnVision is not their curriculum, the standards are. As this sinks in, I see relief come over the faces of the teachers. Many of them have told me that was very liberating for them, they knew there was a lot missing there, but felt obligated to “go with the curriculum”. As they change their thinking to realize that “go with the curriculum” means “go with the standards”, they are becoming excited about the things they can do and ways they can introduce the ideas of the standards in engaging and realistic ways. I found myself sitting back and listening to ideas of creating a small town, each classroom being a different store or business, and having the students “visit” the different businesses and engage in decision making, buying and selling, etc. I became excited listening to them, realizing that our teachers are very creative and really desire to bring good learning to our students, they just thought they didn’t have time because they had to cover the “curriculum” or what they understood to be the curriculum. This is in our K-2 level classes.

I have been working on creating a list of resources for the teachers, bringing some of the best of what I know to be out there in the MTBoS and other places, and continually searching for more. They are excited about these, and have asked for SMP posters in kid friendly language for their classrooms. The kids are subitizing, justifying, and just plain problem-solving, and I can’t wait to see what else they will come up with as they are liberated more and more from being tied to a publication, rather than the curriculum.

Meanwhile, I am learning more about how younger kids think and learn, and I am hoping that as I can start to visit classrooms more, I will be able to contribute to TMWYK and show the MTBoS what NVUSD can do with math learning in our classrooms. I am grateful for the challenge I have been given, and excited about working with the younger kids, something at which I never thought I would excel.

PD The Right Way!

Today I spent 4 hours with our district leadership discussing Professional Development. While this probably sounds boring, tedious, and long, it was one of the best days I have spent so far this year! I was in a room that was too small for us, discussing the definition of PD, what it should look like, how we need to build it and create a roadmap for it, and how we should work with school sites, principals, and coaches on sites. It was a very important and enlightening conversation. 

First of all, I finally have a picture of our school district’s goals, objectives and plan for our district over the next 3-5 years. We obviously didn’t get a roadmap created, that was a large goal to accomplish in four hours, but we had deep, rich discussions about learning, teaching, supporting teachers and students, creating and utilizing assessment data to inform and enrich classroom teaching, and teaching strategies and the reasoning for utilizing different strategies. 

Secondly, we created sticky note posters about the foundations of teaching and how we want to build a strong culture of learning on this foundation: Classroom Management, Knowing When and How to use Instructional Strategies, Formative and Summative Assessment, and Deep Content Knowledge. The really wonderful thing, the discussions revolved around creating definitions and unified understandings of what these were, discussions like student choice and engagement, changing the culture of learning, teachers as facilitators, inquiry, PBL, the cycle of improving learning, informative feedback, and so many other wonderful ideas, I could go on. 

Our district has gone through some huge changes the past year, and is re-organizing. This can be a good or bad thing, but for today, it was good. There were some really great educators together in this room, and the one or two that didn’t really buy into the entire process chose not to return after lunch, and the discussion and plans for moving forward that came out of that session were wonderful. We created a plan for sharing these ideas with principals, and are going to meet again after this to review and reflect on how principals reacted to the information and discuss anything further that came out of that meeting. From there we will be building a roadmap for professional development for our district, and working hard to keep a lot of it at the site level, to work on supporting and building the site-level goals and objectives. 

Another thing that really excited me was the number of teachers in the room. We outnumbered the administrators 2 to 1. We were an active and vital part of the discussion, and our ideas were an important part of the building of the foundations for this.

PD for teachers, by teachers. What a concept.