The One with the Complex Instruction Professional Development

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We’re fortunate enough to have a strong mathematics Curriculum and Instruction department in our district. Once a year, we take a day to do some district learning and site-based learning.

Gotta shout out my school here (even though I don’t think they read this – am I subtweeting?) because we were short several subs and lots of (amazing) teachers filled in so that our departments could go and work together. Thank you thank you thank you.

We spent the first part of the day doing math and then thinking about how we could assign competence (recognize smartness) in each other. So many ways to talk about this and think about this. We also got a chance to talk about some best practices in our work at our school, which was cool.

Photo: Poster form teams assigning competence to each other:2017-02-01 10.19.46-2.jpgWhat do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day -2: Collaborate, Context, Crankypants

Our district does a fair amount of collaborative work with mathematics, which is really cool. I still find that I’m meeting teachers I didn’t know and teachers who are new to the district. And much as I’m frequently a crankypants about “this wouldn’t work in my context”,  it’s really neat to see teachers in different contexts thinking their way through and around the same issues.

Anyway, we always start off district sessions by doing mathematics together. What do you notice? What do you wonder?2016-08-11 09.54.58

Also, professional development was held at a friend’s school, which I had never been to before. Here is a photo from the school:

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I asked if he went to Target every day. He said he did not. I am flabbergasted.

Day -5: Countdown

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We are back. And it is everything you’d think it is and all the feelings you thought it would be. So good to see old colleagues (many of whom I still haven’t quite had the time to talk to. Because: summer and school and theory and room setup and…) and meet new colleagues. We are counting down until the first day of school (next Monday) and there is much to do.

Some of what we do in professional development is thinking big picture stuff about our teaching practices.2016-08-08 10.30.11

Some of what we do is more practical, like plan for our first week and set up rooms (which seems to be never quite done).2016-08-08 16.26.03

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day -7: The One With the Big Race

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My new favorite thing is to hear more experienced teachers talk about their practice (though I hope this was always true). In the middle of figuring out many ways to represent a line during CPM training today, I realized that (much like the balloon toss problem), this problem could probably anchor part of our upcoming unit. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day -8: The One With Squarelandia

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The District says they’ll have a training on CPM, a mathematics curriculum. Our district curriculum pulls from it and we talked about it in grad skool, so I’ve seen it. But I jump at the chance to hear from people who use it frequently and know it better than I do.

We basically spend the whole day doing mathematics. At one point, another participant remarks that our work (which I am explaining on the document camera because: mathematics teaching) looks like a flag, to which I can only respond: “Yes, for the country of Squarelandia.” To which my teammate, who drew the diagram says, “I’d totally live there.”

What do you notice? What do you wonder?The flag of Squarelandia

Takeaways from Twitter Math Camp

Back from a few days in Minneapolis at Twitter Math Camp and thinking about getting ready for next year. Twitter Math Camp is a grassroots conference organized by mathematics teachers and draws a pretty neat group of teachers from across the country (apparently, it was supposed to be a cruise at first).

Here’s what I’m thinking about now:

1. Addressing knowledge gaps through differentiation: I attended a morning session that ran over 3 days run by Park Star about how to address gaps in students’ existing mathematics knowledge. My big takeaway was that I need to figure out exactly what my goals are for my kiddos. Once those are established, I need to go back and figure out what they should have learned beforehand in order to access that content. Rather than pre-assessing the material we’re going to teach (but, um, haven’t), we should pre-assess the material kiddos should have learned and then differentiate support before the unit begins so that all students have access to what we’re learning. This feels especially relevant since so many of our kiddos come to us with gaps and different understandings from their home countries. Park Star also did a great job setting up the session – there were a ton of interactive strategies that also gave people think time. Probably stealing most of them for my class.

2. Mathematics identities: I went to a session by Nicole Bridge about students’ mathematical identities, which is something I’ve been finding myself pondering lately.

Big takeaways:

  1. Identity is COMPLEX (sorry, but not really, for the all caps).

2. One can have multiple identities at once.

3. A mathematics identity comes from what a person thinks of their ability to do mathematics as well as how others perceive and treat them

(*these are largely paraphrases of a quote from Danny Martin, link to citation, albeit not to actual paper here). I’m still mulling 0ver how to talk about this with my students, but I think even talking about these 3 ideas could be both new and productive to them.

3. How do we  revise the Common Core State Standards?: I attended a session with Henri Picciotto about changes to the Common Core. Something I’m taking away from other conferences I’ve attended is to think about the Common Core State Standards and how they progress from kindergarten to 12 grade (this also ties in nicely to Tracy Johnston Zager’s keynote about elementary and secondary teachers collaborating). I’m planning to think more about which standards to focus on (we rarely get through all of them). Henri points out that we don’t currently have a plan to revise the standards (Henri’s thoughts are here, which seem like a great starting point). They are a great starting point, but, like all things, they can be better. There seems to be consensus that the standards need to be revised (although this is an assumption, perhaps a big one), but by who, when, and how all seem to be more nebulous. Wondering if anyone else has any ideas or insights here…

4. Social Justice and Mathematics have similar themes. I loved Jose Vilson’s keynote, which pointed out that many of the expectations that mathematics teachers have for their students are similar. We ask our students to solve complicated, real world problems that don’t have one single clear answer. Why can’t we do the same when tackling difficult issues?

There’s some good conversations still happening on Twitter now (look for #TMC16 and #1TMCthing). And, like all conferences, even if you weren’t there, you can still catch videos of quite a few of the keynotes and My Favorites presentations where teachers share their favorite aspect of their classroom (Go to #3 on I Speak Math‘s blog). There’s also a lot of good stuff on the Twitter Math Camp wiki.

Day 133: The One with the Professional Development Day

To be fair, I’ve actually had 3 professional development days over the last 4 days, but…

Our 4-person math department was fortunate enough to be able to take yesterday off to talk, plan and dream together. Our school is mostly grade-level based, so having the 4 math teachers in one room is a bit of a rarity. I’m also finding that other departments spend (or require) less time together, so we sometimes have to advocate a little harder for department time. (Much of our meeting time in prior years has been spent tinkering with the master schedule in order to figure out the most options we can offer students while paying attention to how we distribute students among cohorts, especially as we’ve dealt with detracking classes)

2016-03-23 22.15.03.jpgWe spent the first part of the morning doing a math problem together. This is a common practice in our District as it helps us see and appreciate other ways of thinking amongst colleagues (and potentially among students) and helps center our work in math. We also talked about how to best support our students in state testing (ugh) and some bigger picture visioning for what we hope for next year. It’s not yet been consensed upon whether a day of teaching or a day of productive meeting is more tiring.

Unrelated, my sub (who I know from grad skool and who is awesome) described the sole referral of the day as “Ronaldo was distracting and wouldn’t respond to redirection. After I sent him out on the referral, the class settled down and when he came back, he was more relaxed.” Which is Ronaldo in a nutshell.