Which Passion Describes You Best?

I facilitate a lot of lesson studies, lead workshops, and orchestrate other professional learning opportunities with teachers around the country. I’ve learned that teaching is a professional and personal act of passion. We teach who we are, and we have deeply held cultural beliefs about our work. Teaching is an action that is informed by our beliefs, and before any good, productive professional learning can happen, we need to hold space to share these personal beliefs with each other.

I often start my work by having teachers reflect on their passions and identity as a teacher. In the past, I’ve used the National School Reform Faculty’s document called Passion Profiles, but I’ve found the document has some limitations. So I created my own based on their amazing work and my experiences of what works.

I’ve inserted the full activity in this post.

What do you think? Is this valuable to you as a teacher? As a facilitator or leader? How can we make this better? Feedback welcomed. Please share your thoughts in the comment section or keep the conversation going on Twitter (@mathgeek76).

“Elicit” and Our Role as Illusionists

Question:  If someone asks you what “elicit” means, could you nail the definition?  Try it. How’d you do?

Confession: I was an English Literature major in college. I tutored college-level math and fell in love with teaching because of math. But back then, words and expression and theater were my jam. And in many ways they still are.

I was co-writing an article the other month about instructional routines that elicit student discourse in the math classroom. And at one point, the word-nerd in me paused to ponder, “What the does ‘elicit’ really mean? Is it an invitation? Is it a pulling or a pushing? What other words have the same root as elicit? Illicit? Were they opposites? Did they have related etymologies?”

I figured it was worth exploring and down the rabbit-hole I went. Once again.

Hector and Our Greatest Professional Dilemma

What do we do when the needs of our students conflict with the mandates of our profession?

I share this dilemma because I think it’s important that we do so as educators. Too often, we privatize our experiences in isolated silos, unwilling to expose our sense of conflict and turmoil as we navigate the messy dilemmas inherent in our work.

Failure seems safer when no one is watching. We need to have the courage to make failure cheap.

Clothesline Math and the Power of Discourse

I want to share with you a video that shows the raw power of using Clothesline Math in your classroom to promote student to student discourse.  I share this video because I want you to see how clothesline activities generate student to student discourse and promote student thinking and math development.  And I want you to feel empowered to use this tool in your classroom.  And I invite you to share what you learn in your elementary, middle, or high school classrooms.

How Much Sugar in a Soda? A 3rd/4th Grade Division Problem

I conducted a lesson study with some elementary teachers.  We used Dan Meyer’s engaging lesson called Sugar Packets to get students talking about an interesting problem, sharing their thinking, showing what they know about division strategies.  Dan has the lesson listed as 6th grade ratio and proportional reasoning activity, but we found this problem to be suitable for both 3rd and 4th graders and possibly as a review for 5th graders.  There is a remainder in the solution.  And we found that this lesson works best if students haven’t had many opportunities to learn about remainders.  It’s a wonderful introduction to thinking about the contextual and mathematic meaning for the remainder.  (If you teach 3rd grade, I think you’ll find that your students will dig it!  Don’t let the remainder spook you off!)

This lesson addresses many of the Operation and Algebraic Thinking standards for 3rd and 4th grade.  It is also a rich opportunity for students to reason abstractly and quantitatively and to communicate their reasoning with each other.

So, give it a read and give it a go!  Let us know what you learn.  Let’s get better together.

Access, Equity, and the Bias of Brilliance

A Confession

As a student, math class was mostly about taking notes, practicing algorithms and getting right answers. And I loved it. I really did. I could hide. It was safe and without risk. I was comfortable. “I do; we do; you do” was my jam as a student. More importantly, in this teaching style, I identified as a really strong and talented math student because I learned algorithms and got right answers. That’s what good math students do in class, right? I never had to share my thinking, never had to learn from the thinking of others, never had to challenge the dimensions of my adolescent bubble of insecurity. I never had to share or listen to a classmate share an interesting math question or an elegant solution. I never had to be vulnerable.

When I started teaching, I created the same classroom culture. I was safer as a teacher as well. I could hide. Never take risks. Be comfortable. I was the author of culture in my classroom. They were the factory workforce with one job to do: consume the algorithm and produce right answers. And my teaching aligned to this goal. Employing this style of pedagogy created a silent pact in my classroom: If you sit there and do your job and let me do mine, I will never ask you to take a risk, to challenge the dimensions of your adolescent bubble of insecurity, to share anything unique or interesting about you or your thinking. Time will pass and so will you. We might be bored, but we’ll get through this together without ever knowing each other or our vulnerabilities. Now let’s open up our textbooks and get to work.