#mathconfession

I was moved by Jamie Garner’s (@mavenofmath) recent post about her #mathconfession.  I encourage you to read it here.

Here are a few rambling thoughts and musings she’s sparked in my brain.

  • I think most of use walk through this world with an unconscious fear that we will be exposed as a fraud…that we are not as knowledgable, skillful, or as talented as people perceive us to be.  It’s a damaging psychological narrative, and it’s a common one.  And we should strive to squash that narrative and replace it with a kinder, gentler, and more realistic narrative that we are all brilliantly imperfect and that we are growing and becoming better.
  • Here’s what Jamie confessed:

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that a lot of us have these same fears.  Thank you for your courage Jamie.  And know that you are not alone!

  • What strikes me deeply is:  our students have the same exact fears in our classrooms.  This anxiety manifests itself during tests, during class discussions, and during independent and group work.  And that anxiety stunts learning.
  • Armed with this knowledge, how do we create classrooms where these fears are explicitly addressed, unpacked, and resolved through classroom routines, norms, cultural practices, and pedagogy?  How do we create safe spaces where students can confess these struggles and learn to replace that narrative with the kinder, gentler narrative that we are all growing?  (And how do we convince teachers to do that?)
  • This issue about anxiety is paramount to almost all other instructional challenges.  A teacher’s primary job is to ensure that their classroom is physically safe.  After that, emotional safety must be created, fostered, cultured daily in the classroom.  Without emotional safety, there is no vulnerability and risk-taking.
  • And I think Jamie’s on point in her blog:  We must model vulnerability and risk-taking in our classrooms as teachers.  It’s probably the most effective instructional practice we can offer to our students.  (And it’s probably the most effective coaching practice we can offer our teachers.)
  • So here are two of my #mathconfessions:
    1. I don’t feel like I offer anything unique to the #MTBoS conversation.  I still have that “I’m a fraud” narrative playing through my professional brain.  I’m not cool enough for the club and my membership should be revoked.  My shit isn’t as cool or as inspiring or as polished or as amazing as other people’s shit.  (Just to be clear, this is my own insecurity.  The #MTBoS community is one of the most open, honest, and inviting groups I’ve ever been a part of.)
    2. I don’t really know how successful I am at creating instructional shifts for teachers.  I don’t know how to measure that and monitor progress in a way that is authentic, useful, and creates accountability for me and the teachers I work with.
  • In this new year, I strive to make this conversation about professional vulnerability a safe practice for teachers and their students.  I strive to remind myself that I am brilliantly imperfect and am getting better everyday.  And that I add value to the math education world.
  • Lastly, because I’m not sure where it fits in this random stream of thoughts, I want to share a quote I read the other day:  “Failure is not durable.”  Failure does not last.  It is the necessary prerequisite for success.  I want to keep this quote in mind throughout my work this year.

Thank you Jamie and others who’ve shared their math confessions and modeled professional vulnerability.  Y’all inspire me.

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