This past week has been a whirlwind of craziness. I got back from Twitter Math Camp late Sunday night, did some last minute back-to-school shopping on Monday, and started my fourth year of teaching Tuesday with our one teacher day before students returned on Wednesday. Even though this week left me exhausted, I found myself with a full heart and head spinning with ideas. Many of my wishes for this year center around two big ideas, both of which have been swimming around my head for a long while and were brought into focus at TMC.
Goal #1: Be more involved in my Educator Communities.
For me, this has two distinct parts. TMC inspired me to become more involved in the online Math Teacher Twitter community. Because of this I decided to start this blog (FIRST BLOG POST. YAY!!!) and have been participating in #Teach180. I had been lurking in the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blogosphere) for a long time, but not participating because I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute. Carl Oliver’s keynote at TMC made me realize that, even if nobody ever reads this, it is still a great reflection tool for me. And that everyone feels uneasy about sharing, even the people that I think have it all together.
The second part of this involves my school community. This year, over half of our teaching staff is new to the school. Not only am I the most senior member in my department (even though I am the youngest and have the least teaching experience), I’m in the very elite club of teachers who have been at our school longer than one year. This has led to more responsibility within my school. Even at my school, where I know I have support, I struggle with feeling like I have something to contribute. I’m really great at being involved with the students, but getting involved with the adults is way out of my comfort zone. I’m not 100% sure what this looks like yet, but I’m working on it.
I guess the subtitle of this goal is “become more confident in my teaching experience and believe I have something to contribute.”
Goal #2: Talk less. Lots of discussion. Let students discover the math.
These three things seem like a lot, but they all fall under the same umbrella of lesson design in my head. This is something I have wanted to do for awhile, but I didn’t know how to make it work. During my teacher education program, we wrote all of our lessons in the Launch-Explore-Summary model. Although it was difficult and strange, it really made me think about designing lessons for learning. When I got my own classroom, these ideas went out the window. My first year teaching was horrendous. I had no support, developed severe anxiety, and almost quit teaching. I changed schools, spent my second year recovering from my first, and spent my third year rethinking grades and trying out standards based grading. I finally feel like I’m in a place to revamp this aspect of my classroom. I am armed with a lot of great strategies that I have stolen/borrowed/learned from the MTBoS. In particular, I want to try clothesline math, which one doesn’t belong, algebra tiles, open middle, and notice/wonder. During one of my graduate classes this summer, I had to plan a differentiated unit and was surprised at how easily I was able to incorporate these ideas into what I would normally do. I arranged my student desks into groups of four and spent the first week discussing group norms. We start content on Monday and I’m excited to try out these ideas!