Online Professional Development Sessions
Tonight at 9:00 PM EST
Reigniting our passion: Ten tips to thrive post-pandemic (are we there yet…?)
Presented by Sean Nank
Here we are, still perpetually caught in a purgatory none of us saw coming. Let’s talk about what really happens in classrooms, help each other to re-center our efforts, and explore actionable steps to embrace math, value every student, and advocate for your classroom while staying true to and rediscovering your passion for mathematics in a (hopefully soon) post-pandemic era. We will discuss 10 strategies and mindsets no one has told you – but they should have! Whether it is your 1st or 41st year of teaching, come learn how to embrace your passion for teaching. Topics include knowing your why, thriving with any colleague or administrator, and advocating for students via voice and choice. Leave with actionable steps to help take care of yourself, your colleagues, and your students while using your personal stories to learn how to do and be better together.
Click here to register for this webinar!
Coming Up on 4/19
Powerful Moments in Math Class: Why Certain Experience Stand Out for Students and How to Create More of Them
Presented by Mike Flynn
As teachers, we want our lessons to leave a long-lasting impression on students. When we understand the psychology behind our memories, we can use that knowledge to design powerful moments for our students. According to Heath and Heath (2018) memorable positive experiences contain one or more of the following elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. We will learn how to leverage each of these elements in math class to create meaningful and memorable experiences for all students.
#GMDReflects Part 4: Resisting Inertia
This is the fourth and final part of the year-long #GMDReflects series. Before I jump into today’s reflection, here is a brief summary of what we’ve discussed so far.
- Part 1 (linked here) 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.
- Part 2 (linked here) summarized some details about my personal findings and linked to research on how socioeconomic class affects our behaviour in academic classrooms.
- Part 3 (linked here) presented the idea of looking outside of ourselves — to artifacts of our work to trusted colleagues — in order to learn things about ourselves that we might not be able to see through introspection and observation.
- From the beginning I extended the invitation for you all to join in a Self Study project of your own and share your reflection on Twitter with the hashtag #GMDReflects.
My journey in self-study began when I read a research paper on Ontario classrooms (like my own) which found that (1) teachers talk to boys more than girls, (2) teachers discipline Black boys most often, and (3) White, middle-class boys get more positive contact with a teacher than any other group. I wanted to see if the same dynamic existed in my classrooms, and sadly some version of it did. Even as I received positive feedback from girls and from Black, brown, and immigrant students and their families, I was dismayed that boys (often white, often affluent) and students from affluent backgrounds were claiming a disproportionate amount of my time in the classroom.
This realization led me to the most important lesson that I have learned through studying myself: when we join a system, the inertia of the system implicates us all. If inequity is built into a system then we, as agents of that system, will be the agents of inequity. It is not enough to have good intentions, the right values, or even belong to marginalized groups. Nor is it enough to make cosmetic changes – when inequity is systemic and baked into the culture of an institution, change only happens when we are intentional. We will be agents of inequity unless and until we intentionally and actively push back.
What I have shared in this series is not a guide to systemic change, it is just a tool to begin to see ourselves within a system. How and where are our actions fortifying inequities? How are we perpetuating larger trends that lead to marginalization and pushout? Where can we individually make changes to radically disrupt the power and resource imbalances in our classrooms?
There is lots of learning to be done about how to teach in more just, equitable, and less oppressive ways; ongoing introspection and honest self-evaluation are a critical part of that learning. Books and webinars will not change us unless we want to change, learning about injustice will not change us unless we believe that we need to change.
Above all else, if you have been following the series I hope that you take this message with you: systemic issues live within us and changing a system starts with changing ourselves.
Wishing you strength and fortitude in your journey – Idil (@idil_a_)
Grading Policies that Work for Kids
Last summer our district was challenged to read the book “Grading From the Inside Out” (GFIO) written by Tom Schimmer. It was a comprehensive look at how standards-based grading can “establish a new mindset, followed by new practices that will alter the grading and reporting realities within any classroom.” Archaic practices are explored with updated and relevant practices explained. My biggest take away from this book is the notion that we should be “using assessment in service of learning rather than exclusively for evaluation.”
As with many districts, our grading policies are very clearly defined so that all stakeholders can understand what is expected:
- Grades should reflect a student‘s relative mastery of the curriculum and should provide feedback on student progress. Students will be able to receive credit for evidence of increased mastery for major grades 84 and below for a maximum score of an 85. Students scoring an 85 or above on the original major grade will not have an opportunity to reassess for a higher grade.
- Students will have a window of five school days after the grade is returned to re-assess. (Remediation and reassessment must be completed by the end of the five-day window.)
- Reassessment may be targeted to areas not mastered on the original assessment.
- Requirements to reassess, such as attending tutoring sessions and/or completing remedial assignments, will be determined by campus guidelines.
- Minor/Major Grades that are completed on time, but students didn’t demonstrate mastery:
- Minor grades can be reassessed/corrected up to a 70%.
- For minor grades, students should have at least two or more opportunities to show mastery (up to a 70%).
- Major grades can be reassessed/corrected up to an 85%.
- For major grades, students should have at least one more opportunity after the original assessment to show mastery (up to an 85%).
Does this look familiar? So deeply rooted in policy. I posit: Shouldn’t our grading policies be deeply rooted in student SEL, future ready skills, and a general desire to teach students to love the learning processes?
Changing grading policies is not a task designed to be tackled quickly nor without deep consideration of student needs. I dug into the process a little this year and am excited to share what I have discovered.
The first discovery I made when I moved past the 5 day required time limit and allowed students to set the time for their retesting was that students took more ownership of their learning. Not all students, but a majority. This came with heavy modeling and explanations at the onset. Our team developed a tutorial tile on Canvas (our LMS). On this link were videos, practice websites, worksheets, as well as our classroom resources that students could access at any time to review, rehearse, reconsider. Putting the responsibility back on the student to access the materials, practice, develop their own questions for the teacher, and arrange a tutorial time for follow up led to a more meaningful learning process. Let’s be honest, chasing down students and demanding they learn on MY time just doesn’t work for any of the parties involved and is a vibe kill to a positive learning environment. But when students come prepared with questions and ideas to share developed on their own, the learning process becomes a celebration and takes on a new frame of mind. In these tutorial and reassessment sessions I had students explain to me how their learning had grown and what their thoughts were about what hadn’t worked the first time around. The metacognition piece has helped my students grow in their learning capacity this year and their trust in themselves.
Allowing students the time to take responsibility for their own learning is a necessary part of SEL as well as many of our core character traits (grit, perseverance, attitude…). My students have adapted to a growth mindset this year thanks to my adapted grading policy of retesting until they show mastery. They know that one test grade does not dictate the end product. They have learned to think through what they understand and what they don’t. They’ve learned to seek out activities on the tutorial site that will further their learning on concepts they don’t have mastered yet. The retest until mastery concept allows students to focus on their specific needs. This is a brilliant concept that I love using in my classroom. It’s taken the pressure off of students to perform on demand. A challenge I have faced is the mindset that we are not preparing students for the real world. I truly get that, but my 6th graders are not at all ready for the real world, nor should they be. These small steps I’m taking are developing their future ready skills and when adult life comes I know they will be prepared to tackle the challenges.
Beth Collins, a science coordinator in my district put it this way: If one student learns to ride a bike and one student takes a couple more weeks to get it down, didn’t they both learn to ride a bike? So why does one student get the mastery score, and the other receives a reduced score only because their learning was delayed? Archaic thinking. But I understand why this mindset exists:
- Students won’t learn to study and do it right the first time.
- We are giving students a free pass to be mediocre.
- I have to create so many different assessments.
- How do I keep track of who mastered what and when?
There’s lot of barriers that prevent teachers from jumping in with both feet to this concept. The archaic grading policies are still posted, and it’s been a challenge to change minds on my team. I hope to be a leader for change in my district to see the principles in GFIO become our norm. I encourage you to check out “Grading From the Inside Out” and see how it can guide you to making your grading practices more meaningful for students, yourself, and all stakeholders. I love teaching students to love the learning process and I’d love to share more if you’re interested in learning together. You can find me on Twitter.
Written by Casey Gordon (@mscaseygordon)
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