CMC North 2015

Well, here we are once again, in one of the most beautiful places to have a math conference. Last year was my first time to present at this conference, and I overdid it by doing an Ignite also. This year was lower key for me, and yet, not so much. Last year my presentation was at the high school level, definitely a comfort zone for me. I had started a new position as K-5 Math Academic Specialist, however, and this year felt that I should begin to step out of my comfort zone and to present at the elementary level.

This is the first time, aside from things I do in my job for my teachers, that I have presented something at this level. I have to admit, I was nervous, it’s difficult to feel accomplished enough to share when I’m feeling that I’m still in the learning process myself. Thankfully, the MTBoS has taught me that learning is a continual process, and if I don’t continue to learn, I stop being effective, so I stepped out, and became bold.

I was pleasantly surprised at the response today. I had planned to present based on the interactions and engagement I have come to expect from a lot of the teachers I work with. Often they will wait for me to tell them exactly what they should be doing and how to do it. The teachers today were engaged, and interacting with me and each other and really thinking through problems and the problem solving. When I first saw the room and set up I was very disappointed. The room was crowded, desks in rows, barely room to get around and definitely not conducive to interactive discussions and teachers coming to the document camera to share, so I thought. I made some changes to how I was going to have teachers share, based on the room set up, and that may not have been the smartest move on my part, but it is what it is. I really wanted teachers to come to the document camera themselves, and have group discussions about their solutions, but I made an executive decision. There was also some difficulty with the wi-fi, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to use my presentation at all, and was going to have to be creative in sharing problems. Fortunately, one of the attendees offered his hot spot and saved me that pain. I think too, as a future consideration, a topic like this may need 1 1/2 hours rather than one hour. It’s big, and we all need time to cognate on it.

As I read through the comments from attendees, my first reaction was “darn”. I took a chance, and it didn’t work out. I wasted people’s time, and that is never a good thing. I sat through another session, had dinner, conversed with friends and other presenters, and began to see it a little differently.

I was transparent at the start of my presentation, letting attendees know that elementary education is a new area for me, and I am learning as well as the teachers with whom I work. I commented on how I hoped to learn from them, and that I had something of value to offer to the discussion. I also modeled a growth mindset. I was willing to step out of my comfort zone, share things that I am learning, and allow myself to learn from others who were willing to do the same. I saw several “ah ha” moments in that hour today, heard teachers reflecting and thinking about problems, student thinking, and conversations they could be having in their classrooms. I heard teachers sharing with each other things that have worked, and misconceptions they themselves have had about this topic.

I want to thank those who gave feedback for taking the time to do so. It helps me to see where I need to grow, and reflect on my own learning. Some feedback I would like to comment upon: “How much you get out of this session depends on you”. Yes, that is true of any learning situation. It is what we experience in classrooms every day. I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I begin to depend on someone else for my learning, I am passing up the opportunity to have a say in how far I can go. Another: “Abstract discussion is fine, but I prefer methods to take back and use in the classroom tomorrow”. There is more to take back to the classroom that a pre-made activity or someone else’s lesson. Often, the things we need to learn are the ways to facilitate a lesson, and to allow students to be heard. A large part of what I was doing today was modeling facilitation of classroom discourse, allowing voices to be heard and encouraging students to make meaning of a difficult topic.

Finally, I realize that in changing how I was handling this presentation, I lost something very important. Two attendees made mention of the fact that the discussions were not recorded. This is a salient point. In changing the way the presentation went, we did lose some of the important points and a visual record of the conversations that happened. That was not good. I needed a back up plan for that, and believe me, next time I will have one. I will also prepare better and have a plan for the possibility that things go better than I had hoped, and make sure that I am able to provide a solid learning experience for everyone.

Thank you so much for allowing me to continue to learn and grow, and I also hope that you all will continue to do the same on your journey.

Thank you all once again for a wonderful CMC North Conference!


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. . . .

NCTM, Learning, and Me

I attended the NCTM annual conference in New Orleans last week. It was different for me this time than I have experienced in the past. I was sent there by my superintendent to talk with textbook venders and others to get more information about text books for next year. The first thing I did upon arrival was to attend an ignite talk with several of the MTBoS. It was wonderful and my first experience at meeting several of them face to face. I met Sadie, Justin, Max and Ilana there. I saw several others but it was a little busy and I figured I’d have time to meet them. I was glad to have made the effort to get to the talk.  I did meet several others, Jen, David, his wife Katherine, Christopher, Ashli, Kate, Fawn, Dan, Peg, Casey, throughout the conference, wow, I think there were a few others too which I’ll add as I remember.

Usually I spend a lot of time in sessions, and feel that brain tired when I’m done. This time I had to spend a lot of time in the exhibit hall, and really enjoyed myself talking with Annie and my colleague Danielle. We talked about teaching, curriculum, learning, and how important good books were, especially for teachers who may not be comfortable with teaching without a text. I learned quite a bit from these discussions and from a leadership workshop that Danielle and I attended on Friday. I wasn’t as tired, and didn’t get to as many sessions as I would have liked, but I still feel like I accomplished quite a bit. On the travel home and on Sunday I found myself in another conversation with several of these people, talking about speaking at the conference next year in Boston. Proposals have to be in by May 1, and they were all talking about what they were going to write and submit and getting them in. I felt encouraged and have submitted one of my own. This is the first time I have submitted a proposal to speak at a regional or national conference and I am feeling a bit nervous but excited. Even if my proposal is not accepted, I am glad that I did submit one, and I will continue to do so. I think it would be good for me to share myself and my passions with other teachers, I really enjoy learning from them and I would love to give something back to others. I may submit one to the NCSM conference also, if nothing else just to get the experience of submitting and getting better at determining what will be accepted.

Thanks everyone who attended and NCTM for a wonderful conference. Looking forward now to finishing the school year, meeting Matt and John on May 3, and traveling to Oklahoma in July for Twitter Math Camp. What a year!!