Reflections and Looking Forward

It seems fitting that I sit here reflecting on December 31. Looking back at 2014, and looking forward to 2015. This year has brought so many changes for me. I moved out of the classroom, to the district as a math coach; from high school, which I have loved for the past 11 years, to elementary, with which I felt overwhelmed at first, but am realizing I am coming to love as much as high school; from someone who felt confident and able to step out and take risks, to someone who has stepped out and is taking risks, and feeling again somewhat unsure and less than confident.

I know these steps are important, and taking risks means that we have to leave our safety net, I didn’t realize that the risks I was taking previously were still leaving me over the safety net. I have had many moments since August where I felt less than capable and unable to be what I felt I was supposed to be. I stepped into this position with so many dreams and plans, and still have them, but as I learn more about myself, my position, and the learning and growth that I am experiencing and will continue to experience, I realize that I needed to make this change. I have been a good classroom teacher, and have a lot to share with other teachers and this position has put me at enough “dis-ease” to realize that I still have a lot to learn along the way. My father has always told me that when you stop living you start to die, and I know that I am not yet ready to die, so I need to continue living. This means I need to continue growing and learning.

I have struggled quite a bit this year. I have made several comments, which I thought were in fun, about becoming “old”, and I’m now realizing that in doing so I made myself feel and believe that I was becoming old. Too old to grow, too old to learn, and too old to dream. I have walked through some difficult feelings the past 3 months, and have come to realize that I still have the right to dream, and that I am only as old as I think I am.  I haven’t been able to get to the back to the point of believing in “happily ever after” again, but maybe that’s a childhood dream, and mature dreams are more realistic.

As I look ahead to 2015, I have some plans to for which to strive, and some regrets from the past to leave behind. I have some learning and growing to do, some friendships to renew, and some yet to make.  Most of all, I am going to work on creating a dream.

Thank you all for being a part of my growth and my learning. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my twitter buddies, the MTBoS, and my colleagues who have continually encouraged me to be the best I am able to be, and when I achieve that, to dream bigger and better.

Have a blessed 2015 all.

Asilomar Nerves, Part 2

I’ve returned home after a wonderful learning and teaching experience at CMC North in Asilomar. On Friday I was discussing my nervousness and concern about my session and Ignite on Saturday. This is the follow up to that post.

To my surprise, I had a full room for my session Saturday morning. Several of the teachers there told me this was “exactly the session they were looking for” and I found out Saturday evening that two teachers were sent there by a PD facilitator I met at our district when the original facilitator took ill and she substituted. She told me they came back excited from my session and were showing her several pages of notes and ideas they had accumulated during our time together. We had a very interactive and collaborative session, teachers worked through an activity I wrote to encourage students to inquire and develop a definition. Afterward, we talked about some extension activities that could be planned and ready for any students who completed the task. The participants had several great ideas, and I was able to model pulling out of the conversation and allowing the room to take over. Things went very well, exactly as I had hoped they would. Only a couple of the participants are using twitter, so I pitched the MTBoS and encouraged them to start “lurking”. It worked for me.

I ran into Steve Leinwand during the day, and told him how I had feared that I would have an empty room having to compete with him. He said, “this should show you that you can fill a room all by yourself”. I felt very validated, as I always do when I interact with my colleagues from the MTBoS and twitter. CMC North is a wonderful conference, smaller that the NCTM conferences and in a beautiful setting at Asilomar, it feels very warm and friendly. Meals are set up so that you really have no choice but to sit with new people each time, and some very interesting conversations are often the result. There is a little more time between sessions also, so it doesn’t feel so rushed to get to the next session or that you have to leave early to make it. Unless, of course, Dan Meyer is speaking.

Saturday night was invigorating. There were ten of us presenting Ignite talks, and I was number seven on the list. As I listened to the six in front of me, I began to notice my fear rising, and the feelings I often fight of not being good enough. When it was my turn, my first words were, “I feel a little intimidated right now”. As the slides started, I forgot about that and just gave way to the desire to share what I had put together. It went much better than I had anticipated, and quite a few people made a point of telling me both Saturday night and this morning how much they enjoyed my talk and related to it.

All this, and sessions by Robert Kaplinsky, Shalek Chappill-Nichols from RAFT, Andrew Stadel, Jo Boaler, Phil Daro, and many, many more that I was unable to get to but heard great things. I have seen presentations by some of the other presenters and have learned great things from them, so I believe all that I heard. I ran into people I haven’t seen for a while, including one of my methods instructors from my credential program. It’s just a wonderful place, and I’m happy I was able to be a part of it.

One more step in my journey toward becoming a better educator and believing in myself.

Asilomar Nerves

Wow, I can’t seem to keep up with my blog this year. I’m feeling very challenged at my new position, yet I feel like I’m accomplishing several of the goals I set for myself this year. My biggest concern was connecting with elementary teachers after teaching high school for 11 years, but, it has gone well. I have been actively involved in several PLC groups, lesson planning, assessment analysis, ideas for lessons and learning, and been a “go to” for many of the teachers who seem to be happy to have someone with whom to discuss math ideas and concerns. I’m going to be facilitating a math committee next semester to decide on pacing, assessments, and new classroom materials. The committee will consist of teachers, administrators and parents. I’m excited and trying to go into this with my eyes and ears open. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m really hoping that we can get discussions started and teachers collaborating and planning together. We have 19 elementary schools in our district, approximately 1400 kids per grade level, and way to much going on even at school sites. Grade level teachers at sites don’t know what one another are doing, much less across the district. We have a lot of work to do.

All that to say, I’m realizing how long it has been since I have blogged. I was hoping to blog once a week when the school year started, but I just can’t seem to find the time. I noticed that Tina puts a short note up just about each day, maybe I should try that instead of “dumping” less often. I’ll probably feel less stressed that way, and things will be fresher in my mind.

Anyway, I’m here at CMC North 2014, which is in Pacific Grove, CA at the Asilomar grounds, a very beautiful place to be. I went to a PK-2 mini pre-conference today, led by Paul Giganti, Jr. a writer and teacher. It was wonderful. He showed us how to incorporate children’s literature into problem solving and mathematics for kids, and we had a lot of fun coloring pasting, questioning, sorting, and coming up with more ideas about how to do this with kids. I loved discussing these ideas with the elementary teachers there and hearing their alterations and extensions on these activities, definitely for me was a great session and I’m glad I made sure to make the pre-conference.

Tomorrow I have a presentation at 8:00 am, discussing how to create critical thinkers out of the young people we are blessed to teach. I will be presenting some of NCTM’s new research from “Principles to Action” and the 5 Steps to Facilitating Mathematical Discussions from “5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions”. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking, because I want to have the teachers go through an activity and discuss how the facilitation makes a difference in what students learn and how they process. I think it will be effective, however, my big problem: Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel) and Steve Lienwand (@steve_leinwand)  have presentations at the same time as I do. How many people are going to choose me over them?

In the evening I am a part of the Ignite crowd this year. I am excited and nervous. I have never done an Ignite, but am glad for the opportunity to experience this. I really hope I can just relax and enjoy the evening. I will be with a lot of people for whom I have a lot of respect and have come to really care about. At any rate, I’m glad to be here with some amazing math educators and proud to be a part of the crowd. For so many years I have felt like an outsider, it’s great to be among like minded people.

More to come. . . .