The Parent Trap

Our county office invited parents out for a night of “Common Core Mathematics”. We are a district of approximately 20,000 students, so, lots of parents. Earlier in the week they had reported to my colleague and me that 65 parents had signed up, and they did not know whether they were parents of primary or secondary students. We had decided to split the group, I would work with primary parents and she would work with secondary. When I arrived to set up that evening, the director told me that they now had 90 parents registered to attend. OK, that works.

Dinner was served first. My room started as a set up for 60 parents. Throughout dinner more table and chairs were added. I think the last count for my room was 75, and I know my colleague was spilling out of hers. We were excited, lots of parents who were wanting to hear about how to learn with their kids this new way of looking at math.

I had an agenda. I told parents that if this did not meet their needs I would work with them to do my best to meet their needs. I was ready, I am working with parents. I started with a 1st grade lesson. I was the teacher, they were the students. The lesson went well, we were working with some domino cards and discussing different ways to create the number 6 by having them predict which number would be under a covered section of the domino, showing me ways to create 6 on their fingers, making connections to addition and subtraction, talking about their predictions. Then the fun started. I passed out this student page, and the parent trap began. Unfortunately, I slipped into it, a bit. I asked parents to review the page, and think about what they notice, and what they wonder.

I asked for things they noticed first. Several talked about the dominoes, how they were arranged, the example above and how they were seeing different ways to show numbers and addition. Then I asked what they wondered. Hands went up, and the hijack began: “I wonder why there are blanks all over the page, and if there’s a really good reason for it. I wonder why I have to solve the same problem so many times when I already know the answer. I wonder why I’m spending time doing this, when I could be working on addition in the “normal” way and still learn how to do it.” You get the idea. I thanked them for their wonderings, and then tried to get the focus back on the work itself. At this point, there were approximately 5 parents who felt they had the floor, and when I would ask questions, they would steer the conversation back to things like, “Why did my kid not get full credit even though he knew the answer?” “My kids are doing ok, why change what we are doing,” etc. You know the drill, the “I hate Common Core” crowd. I admit, here’s where I got trapped. I allowed this to happen for approximately 10 minutes. I then brought it back around, and we were able to look at a fourth grade lesson.

Here’s where the magic happened. We went through the lesson. Parents were telling me about the pattern, what they saw and felt would happen in other rows, challenged each other, really rich conversation. Then one parent said, “Isn’t this just a ratio?” I walked over to the chart paper I was recording their conversation on, and wrote the word “ratio”. I then asked what others thought. Once again, “Why didn’t you just tell us this was a ratio, and explain how to do it?” I then did a quick, direct teaching lesson on ratios, what they look like, the fact that they are a relationship between two different numbers, they can be represented in three different ways, etc. Then I asked, “Which one of these lessons gave you a better understanding?” AH HA! The first one of course.

One parent asked, “How would you do the last problem?” I handed out grid paper, and we talked about how kids would approach the problem. Then I pointed to the number 280 and said, “What do you notice about this number?” A parent told me that it was 28 x 10. I agreed that there would be someone who notice that, would have a sudden “ah ha” about how to solve the problem, and would explain that to the class. My last big question to the group, “Why do we cross out a zero at the end of a number when dividing by 10?” The responses, “Because we were told to. Because it works.” I asked, “How many knew when they were learning to divide, that crossing out the zero meant you were dividing by 10?” Two hands went up.

Enough said.

This post is a part of Kathy Perret’s #EduCoach Blog Challenge. You can read more about it here.


TMC – My Musings

Good morning.

I have read some of the blog posts occurring at the conclusion of TMC, I will read others as I am able. The ones I have read caused me to reflect on my time at TMC, and my experience and reaction to that experience.

I began to be active on twitter approximately one year ago. It was last summer after I had done all my planning that I began to lurk and wonder on twitter, to see if it would be of any use to me. It didn’t take me long to get drawn into a conversation and make a couple of comments, from there it has been “full speed ahead.” I love the people I have met on twitter, and some of them I have yet to meet in person, but I feel as if I know them better than some of the people I interact with face to face. The “passion” and energy with which they approach teaching and life is what drew me in, and continues to draw me.

I too felt a little overwhelmed at TMC, not because I felt I was nothing in a pool of greatness, but because I realized very quickly that the people there were every bit as real as I had hoped they would be. I was afraid that the energy and passion that I saw on twitter would quickly disappear in person, that it wouldn’t have the substance that I experienced in chats and conversations on-line. I was relieved to see that it did.

I was somewhat torn about how much interacting I could do. My husband was with me and I felt awful about leaving him all day and wanting to sit and talk with my new found colleagues in the evening, so I didn’t spend the socializing time that I really needed to with them. I am not very social, yet I know that I would have been easily able to socialize with the people at TMC. My husband, however, felt very out of place, and inadequate for the conversations that were taking place. He is not an educator.

I have been passionate all my life, about everyone and everything. It is what makes me the educator I am, and the person I am. It is that passion that drives me to be the very best I can be in whatever I am involved in. The passion that I have comes from the God that I know intimately in my life, it is what makes me feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, and drives me to work so hard at it. Because of that passion and drive, I have often in my life run into people who are drawn to me, and want what I have. Because another one of my strong characteristics is to give, I often give so much of myself and my passion to others that I am “sucked dry” by them, and then need to refill. Ayn Rand refers to this type of person as a “second-hander” in her novel “The Fountainhead”. BTW, for all you passionate people, I highly recommend both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. They gave me a very personal and enlightening picture of myself and why I do what I do.

The educators I have become involved with and consider my PLN on twitter are also very passionate and driven people. Not only do they not suck me dry, they fuel the passion that I already have, and drive me to desire to learn, grown, and create even more. That is the energy that I felt this past week in Jenks, OK; and the energy that I will continue to strive to be a part of this coming year as I shift gears to a district level leadership position and work to create that passion in other teachers in my district. I know now that I will definitely need to look to my twitter PLN for the energy and fuel that I need, and realize that most of the educators that I will be working with on sites will need me to be that fuel and energy for them. Thank God, I know where to go to get what I need to continue to do my work.

While most of this post has been a response to what I was hearing about TMC, I need to give another shout out to a very special and important twitter group in my PLN. The Christian Educators have been a life-saver for me this year! I have gone through some of the toughest experiences ever this past year at school and personally, and my weekly chats with this group, as well as the constant encouragement from very special educators such as Rik RoweDavid GeurinWade Stanford, and many, many others too numerous to name, I made it through and have a renewed desire to create some greatness this year.

I am meeting today with my new immediate supervisor to get some insight into where to begin, and to see my new corner of the world. I am hoping to come out of that with a better idea of what the district expectations are, and begin my own creative process on defining myself and my position. This is all because of the passion I have, and the PLN I have which renews this passion in me constantly.

Thank you all more than I can ever say or possibly show. You are all the bomb! Keep up the good work.

July Challenge – My Journey Begins

My husband and I are flying to Oklahoma in the morning. I’m looking forward to this trip. We haven’t had many opportunities to take vacation trips due to lack of time and money, so this is exciting for us. We also have a hard time getting time off at the same time. My husband is a worship director at a church and his busy days are Thursday through Sunday. There’s always a lot going on in the summer also. 

I’m looking forward to meeting the people who have pushed me to grow this year. I’m also beginning to add others to my PLN to help me with the coaching focus. My brain is beginning to make a switch, I know that I will continue to grow thanks to the wonderful educators I’ve become acquainted with on twitter and those I have yet to meet. 

I have decided to relax and enjoy this trip, especially since I get to make the trip with my husband, and allow myself to refresh, relax and become ready to begin the race again in August. 

Can’t wait to see you all!!

July Challenge – Family Follow-Up

Yesterday my husband and I went to Discovery Kingdom with our daughter and granddaughters. We had a good time. My husband and I rode a couple of rides with the girls and went on the bumper cars with them because they were too small to go on them alone. My daughter is expecting her third baby August 7, but we all feel it’s coming earlier than that. She looks ready to have the baby any time, so obviously, she wasn’t going on any rides. 

We spent eight hours at the park, to all our surprise, but the girls had a lot of fun and were behaving well. One of them brought a friend also, and she was also well-behaved. 

I have only one complaint. Taking your family to one of these parks is like readily handing over all your money to a bandit. The cost to get in, eat, and stay hydrated is outrageous. It cost us $44 each just to get in, and that’s because we bought our tickets ahead of time on-line. Water was $4 a bottle, and a bucket of chicken was $48. What family with young children can afford to do this very often? It’s really too bad. When my kids were young we lived in Southern CA and went to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm quite a bit. It was much more affordable. 

I’m glad we were able to go and have a day with the kids, but it will definitely take a bit to recover from the outing. The weather was wonderful also, 82 degrees. A really nice day. 

July Challenge – Family

Well, I missed blogging the past two days. Life got a little hectic, watching grandkids, my granddaughters 6th birthday, family stuff. If I have to miss blogging and keeping up, family is really the best reason for it. I love my family and love having time with them. I love the fact that my family likes to spend time with us, and that our grandkids are constantly asking for time with us, and to spend the night. We are very fortunate to have our family near us and that we get to spend a lot of time with them. 

Tomorrow we are going to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom with our granddaughters and our daughter. This is something they earned tickets for at school and they are very excited. I’m really hoping it’s not going to be 100 degrees, which wears me out very quickly. I haven’t been to an amusement park in a long time, probably since I lived in Southern California and went to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. That would be about 14 years. I’m not sure how it will be tomorrow, but I am looking forward to spending the time with the girls. 

After this, I will do my best to stay on track with the blogging. I’m watching the tweets by Julie Reulbach and her working with the smart board, and anticipating my own difficulties as I tackle that task myself. I need to plan a day to go into the classroom and just mess around with it. I know that’s the only way I’m going to get any good at it. I guess I’m hoping she will figure out all the secrets and save me some time. I’m rooting for her.