GMD Newsletter – February 8, 2022

Curated By Nate Goza @thegozaway
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Online Professional Development Sessions

Tonight at 9:00 PM EST

Flexibility Through Facts

Presented by Ann Elise Record

Fluency has three aspects: flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy. Let’s explore the heart of the strategic thinking for all 4 operations and discuss how we can begin that conceptual understanding while developing students’ fact fluency. Not only will students develop fluency for their basic facts, but they will be setting a foundation of flexibility that will naturally progress to their grade level content. Together we can create positive math journeys for ALL our students!

Click here to register for this webinar!

Coming Up on 2/22

Developing Mathematical Literacy through Equitable Teaching Practices

Presented by Farshid Safi

How do we develop mathematical literacy with our students through equitable teaching practices in order to make sense of an ever changing world? In this interactive session, we will explore intentional ways to effectively engage K-12 and post-secondary students in collaborative practices that leverage their identity, brilliance, and lived experiences. Together we will highlight specific ways in which mathematical reasoning plays a pivotal role in making well-founded decisions to bring about a more just society.

Click here to register in advance for this webinar!


#GMDReflects Part 3: Looking Outside of Ourselves
This is Part 3 of the year-long #GMDReflects series. In part 1 (linked here) I introduced the practice of Self Study as a tool to help guide our actions as math educators to better reflect our values as human beings, and in Part 2 (linked here) I shared some details about my findings. I also extended the invitation to join in a Self Study project of your own. In each part of this series I will be sharing prompts to guide your self-study, they will also be shared on Twitter with the hashtag #GMDReflects.

In the introduction of this series I outlined 5 features that any effective self-study should include:

  1. have a clear focus: address 1 specific practice/dynamic
  2. be systematic: observe, reflect, change, reflect, repeat
  3. be honest: you will learn difficult things about yourself, that is precisely the point
  4. include feedback from others and artifacts 
  5. result in professional and personal change
The first three features have been covered in Parts 1 and 2, in this part we will think about artifacts and feedback.


If you, like me, are examining teacher-student communication, take a close and dispassionate look at whatever written communication you have on hand. Review all of your report card comments with a researcher’s eye; see how many and what kinds of emails you’ve sent to parents and administrators about students; assess the tone and details of emails sent directly to students; take another look at the written feedback on your most recent batch of assignments before returning them. What trends and patterns do you see?

We leave a lot of evidence about our (conscious or unconscious) thoughts, beliefs, and values in the artifacts of our work. While we may not be conscious of the different ways in which we communicate to and about students, they are. Students compare assignment feedback, report card comments, and even our email responses or response time with their peers. This kind of audit is a worthwhile activity and, in my experience, it is easier to develop more equitable systems for written communication than it is for other kinds of behaviour.

Include Feedback From Others

Despite the name, collaboration is a critical part of self-study. Once you have determined your focus and spent some time observing your own practice, find a trusted colleague to act as a thought partner in your journey. An outside view can help us gain deeper insight or a new perspective on our work.

Depending on your needs, your thought partner might provide:

  • space for you to process difficult realizations or emotions as they arise;
  • honest feedback on your practice based on their observations;
  • insights or potential actions related to the focus of your self-study.

Some years ago, a friend and colleague asked me about my experience with a student who we will call Maya. I taught Maya the year prior and shared my experience of her as hard working and funny, but not particularly excited about math. My colleague told me that she was having trouble connecting with Maya. Even though she was struggling with the course content, Maya was not receptive to my colleague’s attempts to support her and their relationship was becoming challenging. We have these conversations often as educators — searching for insights into challenging students — but our conversation went deeper. My colleague had come to me after a reflection activity that revealed a concerning pattern. She went through her class rosters to make notes on each student’s progress and found that she was consistently struggling to connect with Black girls (like Maya). After we discussed Maya, she shared this revelation with me. I didn’t have answers for her, but I gave my colleague a non-judgmental space to think aloud, express her feelings, and begin to think of next steps. The conversation has stayed with me for years. I was taken aback by my colleague’s honesty and vulnerability, but I was especially impressed with her resolve to grow. She did not come to me to verify that Maya was, in fact, a difficult child, or in search of some kind of absolution from a Black woman for her challenges with Black girls, she came for information and received it with an open mind.

So I leave you with that advice: as you deepen your reflection and self-study, keep an open mind to the information as it presents itself.

I look forward to connecting with you at #GMDReflects. – Idil Abdulkadir (@idil_a_)

Wanna Quit Teaching? You’re Not Alone. Three Ways to Reclaim and Rekindle Our Professional Flourishment

You don’t need me to tell you how demanding and outright exhausting it is to be a classroom teacher. And given the realities of our professional landscape these days, many of us are more than just exhausted. Every passing day, I hear more stories of teachers who feel defeated, demoralized, and ready to be finished.

What is flourishment and why is it essential to our work?

Think of your best moments as a teacher—moments when you saw all of your students curious and thriving, developing positive identities, and actively engaging in thinking, reasoning, and debating with each other. Professionally speaking, nothing nourishes us quite like those moments, right? We feel validated, enthusiastic, and filled with a desire to flourish. I call that  feeling “flourishment.” It is our most precious resource as imperfect teachers because it’s what keeps us going day to day and year to year and gives us the courage and resolve to remain unfinished and continually striving for betterI think we are all craving—needing—more flourishment, perhaps now more than ever.

Full disclosure, my background is in mathematics education and I primarily work with math educators, so I view and translate my thinking through the lens of math teaching. That said, anything you read here is generalizable. I’m so concerned about our collective sense of efficacy as teacher—especially math teachers—that I wrote a book about it. The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher: A Journey to Reclaim Our Professional Growth outlines a journey we—K-12 classroom math teachers and those who directly support our work—can take together to reclaim control over our professional growth and rekindle our sense of professional flourishment.

Here are three “beacons” that can serve as guiding principles for us on our journey to becoming more fulfilled and nourished teachers. For each of these beacons, I invite you to take a specific action that can nourish your teaching passion and help you discover ways that you can flourish at your craft.

Beacon #1: Flourishment requires a lot of grace because it requires us to break down the silos that divide us.

I want to tell you something: math class doesn’t work for all of my students. Even during those stretches when my flourishment is elevated, I know that some of my students aren’t having enough positive experiences in my classroom. And despite my best efforts, I know that there are always a few students who think less about themselves mathematically when they leave my classroom at the end of every school year. My failures trouble me deeply.

If you’re feeling insecure about your teaching expertise, you are not alone. Each and every one of us feels troubled, perhaps even a twinge of shame, by the outcomes we are experiencing in our classrooms. And if you’re thinking about quitting because you don’t feel like a very good math teacher, I want you to know that you belong, you are capable, you are not alone, and I am honored that you are my colleague.
I tell you this because being an imperfect and unfinished math teacher requires a lot of grace, and it’s something that we must learn to give to each other. The siloing effect of school structures and our teaching schedules normalize the professional act of teaching as a private practice conducted alone behind closed classroom doors. As a result, we often find ourselves without the necessary relationships we need to talk authentically about our teaching struggles and to collaborate together as active partners who support each other’s professional learning.

Action to help us break down the silos that divide us:

Find a teaching “buddy” or two or three. Meet a few times a month after school and talk about the passions that drive you as a teacher. Try to choose moments when you know that you can relax and not have to worry about what’s next.
Here are some questions to help you get started with having authentic conversations.

  • What is your teaching story? Tell each other about your career path and how you came to the position you are in.
  • What is your math story? Tell each other about your experiences in math class as a student. How might your personal relationship with mathematics impact your teaching, for better or worse?
  • What does your ideal math classroom look, sound, and feel like? What “human data” are you striving to achieve with your students? What data are you seeing in your classroom that troubles you the most?
  • What do you want your legacy to be as a teacher? How do you want to be remembered by your students? By your colleagues?

Beacon #2: Flourishment is something we must bring about for ourselves and each other as capable producers of our own professional knowledge.

We work in a system of math education that is designed to serve its own needs, not ours. The current structure of math education is designed to standardize the teaching and learning of mathematics, establish tools of accountability and assessment, enforce compliance to mandates by attaching funding to performance, and to implement these tasks as efficiently as possible in a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic approach. This top-down philosophy extends to professional development where we are positioned as passive consumers of our professional knowledge rather than capable producers of it. And despite decades of research that tells the professional development is underperforming, it has remained relatively unchanged. And it’s time that we do something about it.

Our need for a robust sense of professional flourishment is  uniquely individual. It  requires a teacher-centered, teacher-directed approach to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in the classroom. We must take more ownership over our own professional development and position ourselves as capable partners in each other’s professional growth.

Action to help us direct our own professional learning:

Spend time in each other’s classrooms. Even 20 minutes every other week can be enough to help you shift some thinking. The purpose of these observations is not to evaluate your colleagues. You are there to watch math class from the student perspective and to think about your own math class and your own instructional craft. Even your presence in the classroom has a powerful impact on the students in the room. From their perspective, they learn to see us as life-long learners who are continually striving to improve.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself while you watch:

  • What are students seeing from their perspective?
  • What is being valued most in the classroom? Are students valued for giving the right answers? Or are they valued for their thinking and reasoning behind the answers they give?
  • How is authority shared in the classroom? Are students expecting the teacher to be the answer key or do they turn to each other to see if their answers agree?
  • How is student voice elevated in the room? How are they valued for what they already know from their lived experiences?

After observing, think about your own actions as a teacher in your own classroom. What might you do differently? How can you make math class work for more of your students?

Beacon #3: We find flourishment when we align our practice with our purpose.

In our current culture, we’re incentivized to value test scores as the measure of our success. The constant (and ever increasing) focus on assessment data continually threatens our sense of flourishment. Most of us didn’t become teachers because we wanted to treat our students like they’re test scores that need to be raised. Our teaching hearts are nourished by more noble calls to action such as social justice, equity and fairness, and the emotional well-being and intellectual development of the young people we teach. We want our students to feel capable, to be curious, and to have a math story that is unfinished. And we want to be remembered as loving mentors who challenged them and believed in them.

Action to help you align your purpose with your practice:

Imagine it’s the end of the school year, and you are interviewing your students about their math identity. What do you want your students to say about themselves? What beliefs do you want them to have about their math abilities? How do you want them to feel about themselves in math class next year? How do you want to be remembered by them in the years to come?

Your answers say a lot about your passions as an educator and what motivates you to flourish. With this in mind, collect data from your students that can help you improve in ways that matter to you. Too often, the only evaluative feedback in math class goes from us “down” to them. Find ways to elicit feedback from your students. These can be weekly surveys or “report cards” where students reflect and write about their experiences or they can be done orally as a group.

There are no quick fixes to the formidable obstacles we face. These three beacons may not be  a magical salve for all that ails your teaching spirit, but I hope they help shift some thinking about what you need to be nourished as a teacher. I hope these actions help you find ways that you can grow your craft as a capable teacher passionate about the well-being of the students in your care.

Written by Chase Orton (@mathgeek76)

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