The Elephant in the Room

As I have been preparing to start teaching in OMG just a few days, assessment has been on my mind; I want/need some sort of formative assessment to get a feel for what understanding exists within this new (to me) community of learners.  What sort of sense-making has taken place, what models do they use, what is their common language?  I know the scores on a textbook test being left for me are going to tell me diddly.  I have developed strong beliefs about what school should look like (and why)— students actively making sense of ideas, learning from and with each other, valuing, making visible, and actively promoting their thinking— and have focused much of my formal and informal professional learning on how to create such a culture.  Yet when it comes to assessment that actually supports my pedagogical ideals, I feel a tad undereducated.  And I need answers STAT.

It does not make sense to invest time in building a safe and equitable thinking and learning culture, to empower students to deeply understand and connect mathematical ideas, to develop and apply calculation skills meaningfully…in short, to make thinking and learning the currency of school, and then not let them spend it at assessment time!  Whenever we evaluate student work with points, grades, or even levels of proficiency (yes, I said that), we send a completely different message about what and who is valued and the purpose of school:  grades and “right” answers and the students who know how to get them.  This is NOT what I want!

What does make sense to me is assessment that is rather indistinguishable from the regular activities of learning, something that involves students in a meaningful and reflective manner.  Something that they actually value because it is FOR them, is designed to both reveal and represent their current understanding to them, not just me.  This IS what I want!

Crazy?  I don’t think so, I just need help in making it a reality.  I feel like there is a ginormous gap in education conversations around assessment (and it onerous sibling, grading).  Not sure of the reason for this deficit.  Overlooked? Avoided? Too mandated? Ignored? It concerns me that much of what little I’ve read assumes/accepts testing and grading as natural and necessary parts of the Game of School.  Sure, there’s some clarity around terminology— formative vs summative, assessment vs testing— as well as some examples of “how” (such as proficiency rubrics, or not using zeros) but not so much when it come to the really, really important question:

WHY?  

Figuring out Why requires us to deeply examine and unflinchingly question still-prevailing status quo practices and compare them to our beliefs and values.  My gut tells me that assessment and grading are not in line or caught up with current practices that are shared in progressive face-to-face and on-line education communities, and therefore, send a conflicting message that undermines change.

Of course, I may just be completely ignorant and you will now kindly steer me to some excellent resources.  Until then, I’m going to do what I always do:  Make Shit Up figure out/find out what assessment that supports, promotes, and honors a thinking and learning community looks like, try it out on some real, live students, and learn.

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Sometimes you send up a flare and the Universe notices.

Last post, I said I wanted to belong.  Guess what happened?

I was recently offered and (duh) accepted a longish-term sub job at a school where I have previously taught.  While the search for a permanent teacher continues, I will be teaching four different ‘levels’ of middle school math for six to nine weeks.  I am SO EXCITED for this opportunity to put into action many of the ideas, values, and beliefs I have reading about and reflecting on over the last three years!  I really do feel wiser, and that feels good. 

This past week, I’ve been cramming.  Carefully read three more chapters of  Creating Cultures of Thinking.  Finally perused  Geoff Krall’s thoughtful blog series  from the summer, which I kept meaning to get to but never did.  Have finally had a couple brief yet valuable twitter experiences. 😆 Revisited several pertinent and inspirational blog posts:  Mark Chubb’s “Never Skip the Close”,  Sara van der Werf’s “Name Tents with Feedback”  and Fawn Nguyen’s “First two days of school” .  I’ve reviewed the routines in Illustrative Math , a stellar curriculum I upon which I am planning to lean heavily.  (Need something similar for Algebra, hint hint!)  Somehow I hope to get in some training in Notability and Google classrooms as well.  I don’t start until the 18th, but much of my time before then will be given to prior commitments.  Most of my anxiety circles around wanting to be fully prepared hahaha, wondering how to deal with the early and long hours and exhaustion, and related to that, what I need to do to keep family time sacred and create/sustain a reasonable sense of balance.  

I have a tendency to overthink (which may look at times like procrastination).  There are so many options and many decisions to make, and am working to gain focus and determine what my educational “big rock” priorities are (student relationships and student learning!), what would be nice, and what to let go, and what battles I can’t fight right now.  Decisions need to be made so I can move forward.  So far, this is where I’m at:

 

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Although students at this school know each other well— its a small-town K-8 AND its six weeks into the year— I don’t know them at all as people or as learners.  Nor do I know what sort of classroom culture I will be inheriting (although I have some sneaky suspicions).  I’m trying to figure out the right the balance between developing a thinking and learning culture and moving forward, deeply, with content.  Usually when you’re a sub, you have to work with the established culture.  However, since I am going to be there awhile, I definitely want to invest time in developing culture, even for this relatively short period, even though it may be dismantled when I leave.  

How could I not?  

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“The circle must be broken.”

 

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I have read and re-read and started processing Chapters 3 and 4 (Language and Time, respectively) in  Creating Cultures of Thinking by R. Ritchhart.  Mind blowing.  (Download it on iBooks to read and discuss with me!)  I am beginning to see some recurring themes: beliefs, values, choices, and messages.  Passive vs Active student roles (my personal soap box).  Its about CHANGING THE PARADIGM so that students and teachers experience different learning stories.  (If interested, my visual notes are below.)

Serendipitously, Dan Meyer  recently blogged about teacher’s beliefs and how our own experiences as students shape our pedagogical choices.  He asks,

 “What experiences can disrupt the harmful messages teachers have internalized about math instruction?

I appreciate this question for two reasons.*  a) the numerous responses were varied and offered sensible ideas I recognize as useful and timely as I find myself gradually drifting toward a mentoring role and b) the question moves us beyond information/opinions about beliefs and pedagogy toward at least a partial yet practical solution to a very real problem: lack of significant and sustainable change.  If a person in education (any position, right? This is not just a math thing!) has not yet had a disruptive experience that “breaks the circle”, reading or being told about a different paradigm is not too likely to yield a shift in values.  If the horse isn’t thirsty, it’s just not going to drink.  Or it may believe a constant state of thirst is the norm and blindly accepts it.  Or the horse feels threatened by a top-down decision that it must drink this water, now. Or it might be really OK with a drink if it just could make sense of what the hell that meant and looked like and had genuine and ongoing support in making it a reality.  

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Change is imperative, and paradigm-altering experiences are definitely one way to get there.  Creating Cultures resonates with me because my beliefs already align with the author’s because, fortunately, I DID have a disruption in my learning experiences that impacted my beliefs. Cycle broken, singing now possible. Also, I tend to be rather reflective and highly interested educational cultures.  But that’s just me, and obviously everyone is different.  What if this (or another) book was assigned and the plethora information within it overwhelms me so I just keep doing what I always have done?  The wonderful suggestions solicited by Dan (video recording with reflective analysis, joining a math teachers circle, imagine something different and plunging in, becoming a learner to gain perspective, shifting from talking to listening, etc.) all seem to share a common trait:  these teachers are the horses that already recognized they were thirsty and went looking for water on their own.  It seems first-hand experiences are the most powerful, but I wonder about colleagues who are not at the point of seeking water (yet).  Not that they are intentionally staying away, they really do care (because they’re people, not horses); honestly examining individual or group experiences, actions, messages, and practices is an emotionally challenging endeavor and knowing so may be enough to want to avoid it. 

What I wonder is, what are possible, effective ways to invite horses educators over for a drink, so to speak, so that many more disruptive experiences can take place?

I invite you to share your suggestions in the comment section.  This is a genuine question I have, so I am looking forward to your insights!    

PS.   I find it interesting that for some commenters to Dan’s post, drill-based math instruction became the question to discuss.  Hot Topic #358.  Interesting reading, to be sure.  Like all other highly-debated beliefs in education, there seems to be too much polarized “This OR That” going on, and not enough This AND That, carefully and thoughtfully balanced to promote learning.  We’re not just emoji yellow OR Tardis blue— it is much more likely that most (if not all) of us are some lovely shade of green.  Which means instead of an all-or-nothing tug of war more productive discussions (and PD**) could focus on examining beliefs, with honesty and without threat of judgement.  Our beliefs shape our actions, our actions send clear messages, both subtle and obvious.  What messages are being sent?  Are they supportive of or detrimental to learning experiences students have today?  

*Also note how Dan’s question was open-ended and accessible to everyone, and how he refrained from sharing his thoughts until he had respectfully listened to other voices.  I see what you did there, Dan.  Smooth move.  

**If you’re part of a group that examines culture in your classrooms, department, or school you could call yourselves….Culture Club!  (If you don’t get that lame joke, you’re too young.  Look it up.)

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Villians vs Heroes (A call to action.)

Incredible.

First, a little context:

My granddaughter is über-prepared and excited to enter Kindergarten in a few weeks.  Her 5th (unicorn-themed) birthday falls 22 days after the state cut-off date, so last May she had to demonstrate end-of-year proficiency  in order to enter Kindergarten 22 days early.  Yes, END of year.  She is (without any bias whatsoever, right?) a happy, curious, enthusiastic learner.  Like many kids, she’s a sponge, soaking up everything in her path, freakishly observant, perseveres like nobody’s business, memory like a steel trap.  Sings at the top of her lungs, too.  Just the other day, she was reminding me her bedtime was 8 o’clock and asked me what my bedtime was.  I told her usually around 10, and she comes right back with, “That’s two minutes after my bedtime.”  Not the right time unit, but definitely knew the difference was two.  Damn, girl.

She also confided this little gem:  “I hope we don’t have to do math in Kindergarten.”

WHAT????!!!

Somewhere in her short life-time of learning, she has developed an idea of what “math” is, and she already dreads it.  This is the girl who counts to 100 just for the hell of it, points out patterns she sees, and makes numerical comparisons.  Her parents did not drill her with flash cards or give her a barrage of worksheets to complete; they merely helped her learn the language and meaning of numbers by counting with her—steps up to the top, apples on the page, carrots on her plate.  Some other ideas, like patterns, developed in pre-school.  Yet she does not want to do math in Kindergarten.  Incredible.  I was so floored I did not have the sense to ask her more about her concerns, a missed opportunity I hope to rectify soon.

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Speaking of incredible, The Incredibles 2 was a summer movie that did not disappoint.  There’s a connection here, trust me.  (Small spoiler ahead.     Skip a bit if you need to.)

In the movie, Mr. Incredible is trying to help his son, Dash, with his homework.  Which homework?  MATH, of course, and everybody is Super Frustrated.  Dad wonders if new math has been invented since he was in school, and Dash informs him that he is not doing it the way the book says to do it.

Is this funny?  Sort of, maybe, I don’t know.  It IS definitely something that many (most?) people relate to, a shared, all-too-familiar reality, an inside joke.  Oh, goodie; math, the dreaded subject that has the power to unite us through misery, generation after generation. Hahaha?

On the way home, my husband just knew I was going to bitch about address that scene.  If “doing math” is perceived as a frustrating, required chore in our culture, even to an almost five year old, doesn’t that say something is definitely NOT RIGHT and CHANGE is urgent? How can our culture jokingly, begrudgingly accept this as normal, even perpetuate it?  If so many learners, from toddlers to great grandparents, from educators to policy makers, believe with conviction that “real” math is the drills/rules/tests/memorizing you do in and at school, (and you are either good/fast/smart/superior or bad/slow/stupid/inferior), while simultaneously denying “real-ness” to any mathematical reasoning beautifully and successfully applied outside —or even inside—school, doesn’t that scream volumes that something is MOST SERIOUSLY DEFECTIVE and EFFECTIVE TRANSFORMATION is effing imperative?

There’s plenty of resources and information available explaining to how we, as a society, evolved into this detrimental not-really-learning culture.  You can’t blame kids or their parents; look at the learning experiences they have had! Unfortunately, there is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle going on with school and home experiences that is stubbornly impervious to healthier, alternative messages.  Status quo is a powerful, yet strangely invisible super villain, my friends.  MTBoS  participants, Desmos, and Illustrative Math , are just a few of many top-notch super heroes fighting the good fight (FOR FREE!), but lets face it, many more are needed in order for new visions to gain a foothold and gather enough momentum to become the established, embraced norm in our schools, homes, and communities.  

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In an effort to arm myself with information and a vision and thoughtful strategies to BE THE CHANGE, a teaching friend and I have started reading Creating Cultures of Thinking.   It inspires and resonates with me.  FWIW, below are my take-away notes on the first two chapters.  I happen to have time right now to process at this level, which feels luxurious and worthwhile and helpful.

 

 

I know you are busy because you’re educators, yet I invite and urge you read this book and examine your beliefs.  This is a call to action, folks, worthy of your precious time.  Please share your thoughts, insights, learning stories, and/or questions with me as you go, and if you are in a classroom (any content, any grade) describe the shifts you are consciously making and their impact on classroom and school culture.  Involve others as much as you can, including me!  If you live within driving distance (say an hour or so from Wilsonville, OR), I would be delighted to get a cuppa or glassa with you and dig into hidden messages and visible thinking. 

Grab your cape and let’s go. 

We must settle for nothing less!

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Urgent Questions

For more time this afternoon than I’d care to admit, I’ve been attempting to organize my ongoing and somewhat rambling thoughts around teaching, learning, and mentoring.   Much of my reflecting goes on in my head and never gets formalized somehow via blogging or journaling; worse yet, I don’t have much opportunity to actually talk with other educators about these kinds of questions that, IMO, really, really matter.

This graphic is a product of my organizational efforts, and it became my first ever #MTBoS tweet. Amazingly, I immediately received a comment and a ♥️ . Well, that was cool, but I have more to say 😉

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It is my belief that these urgent questions (and their natural sub-questions, including WHY?) should be seriously, honestly, and throughly addressed, ideally as a school, or at least as individual classroom teachers. How we respond speaks volumes about our pedagogical beliefs, the culture of our schools or classrooms and, for better or worse, most definitely impacts students and their learning.

I invite you to consider any or all of these questions, and to share your thoughts in the comments. Or on twitter, if you can find my tweet! (Sorry, I don’t know how to direct you there…) Over time, I will do the same.  ♥️

A Graphic Conversation

Last October I was out of town during the NW Math Conference held in Portland, OR. I was pretty bummed, especially when I read that  Fawn Nguyen  was the breakfast keynote speaker. OK, “bummed” is not anywhere strong enough. I ended up getting up at 5 that morning to drive back to Portland (do you know how freakishly dark it is along I-84 at 5 in the morning?) just to go to that breakfast. The food was meh, but Fawn was lovely, wonderful, smart, amazing, funny….as expected; then I hightailed it back to my other commitment.

Months later, I am finally getting around to writing about something she included in her presentation that stood out for me. (There were many somethings. Plus, she made me cry at the end.)

From Jordan Ellenberg’s book,  How Not to be Wrong, she shared and spoke about this graphic:

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I have re-constructed it with blanks, because I think it is really cool, discussion-worthy, and relevant for ALL subjects:

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Right?

More recently, I came across this graphic on Steve Bohnam’s  blog:

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Which I also modified, because I am going with the premise that more discourse and sense-making can take place if there is a little less information.

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I think both of these these graphics could launch some amazing conversations around and examinations of practice.  Notice and wonder, kids!  As always, please share your thoughts; comments are open.

Half-baked is better than nothing.

Like you, I have a zillion half-baked thoughts and ideas going on in my head.  Stuff that I’m reflecting on, stuff that I find interesting, perplexing, important, and would love to talk about.

One of the things that keeps my thoughts from showing up here is a silly yet persistent notion that whatever I post needs to be Complete and Polished.  Insightful.  Worthy.  Intelligent.  Helpful.  Because that’s how Everybody Else’s blogs look to me.

But if I believe (as I do) that the primary purpose of this blog is for my learning and growth, then it stands to reason that it is completely acceptable for me to share thoughts that are still rough, still in need of additional reflection, and definitely in need of feedback (hint hint).  Writing helps me focus and gain some clarity, and lack of some imagined perfection or level of “doneness” should not prevent me from posting.  Right?

With that said, here’s a taste of what’s rattling around in my mind of late:

Calculating is not mathematics.
Spelling is not writing.
Decoding is not reading.
Memorizing is not learning.

So what is?

IDEAS.

Noticing, wondering, questioning, exploring, making sense of, using, testing, revising, expressing, connecting, analyzing, creating….

When a classroom or school or societal culture values performance and test scores, then teaching and learning evolve around that which that can be easily tested and graded.  Facts and rehearsed processes.  Right and Wrong answers.  Sort to accelerate and remediate.  Rewards and punishments, smart and…below grade level.

The development and questioning of ideas is messier, less quantifiable, harder to teach, harder to nail down.  It’s much more difficult to describe a students growth over time than it is to rank them.  More challenging (and rewarding!) to work with a student’s competencies and current understanding than to fault them for their deficits and errors.  A great shift in values needs to take place; teachers and students will spend their time and efforts differently.  What does this look like?  What’s my role?  How much time will this take? Yikes, what about the risks?!

Teaching is complex.  Learning is complex.  Learning about teaching is complexly complex.  Formal and informal professional development tends to focus on examining, questioning, and improving what teachers and students do and say in the classroom.  Planning and launching lessons, selecting worthwhile tasks and activities, anticipating student responses, questioning strategies, orchestrating discussions, making connections, closing the lesson….perplexity, curiousity, intellectual need, genuine engagement….active learning culture, growth mindsets, metacognition…. ALL REALLY REALLY GREAT and REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT and REALLY REALLY NECESSARY.

Yet the Student Learning Experience encompasses more than “The Lesson”.  What about homework?  What about assessment?  Grades?  What about __________? Without examining and questioning and improving ALL components, without implementing changes simultaneously, progressive efforts become at best undermined and at worst derailed and rejected. What’s the point (asks a student) to make sense of these ideas or persevere on this task, if they only thing I will be tested on for a grade (the only thing that matters) will be whether or not I can calculate the right answer?  Why should I be curious?  Why bother making connections?  Explain my reasoning? Transfer ideas?  Develop relational understanding?  Just tell me the trick/hack/rule.  That’s all I need to survive.

That’s what my dad did.  That’s what my grandma did.  That’s all math is.

#Me-me-me

I still don’t understand twitter. That is, I get how it works, how one can write and read tweets, like/dislike tweets, comment on them, retweet, etc., (whether or not they contain truth or have value).  All actions that seem available in all forms of social media, including blogs.  I get that it is about sharing.

I am not inclined to have my personal or professional life revolve around social media.  Maybe its generational, maybe it just me being selective or making priorities. Maybe my skepticism and reluctance are based on misconceptions and ignorance. Or all of the above. I know I am not interested in the self-centered, everybody-look-at-me aspect, although I don’t think that’s what people have in mind when they encourage me to get on twitter for professional purposes.

I guess what I don’t understand is, what DO they have in mind?  What is it they are asking of me? Why do they feel this is important?  What are the advantages and disadvantages?  Is it possible to use twitter to have a worthwhile conversation? If so, how?   I am not even sure what questions to ask about twitter that will convince me that it is worth my time and effort.

What am I missing, here?

PS.  In the spirit of making it all about me (and to include a visual in all this boring text)… lookie what I did!

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UPDATE (10 minutes later)

It occurs to me that maybe I should stop overthinking and just get a twitter account and start looking at what y’all are doing and saying.

Competencies

Its been so long since I’ve blogged that I had to look up my password.

One of the many reasons for my little hiatus is that there are plenty of UH-MAZING blogs out there– that people actually follow and read– making what I think and wonder and write about rather…superfluous.

For example, Ilana Horn’s insightful, intelligent, inspirational blog.  Informed and intriguing.   I recently started following, and back-read several posts she has written on status in the classroom, in part because I believe know status is deterimental to equitable learning yet is created and deeply ingrained and even actively perpetuated in the Old School system/institution of teaching and learning.  She explains it all  very clearly in a series of posts:

Status: The Social Organization of “Smartness”

Seeing Status in the Classroom

What Does it Mean to be Smart in Mathematics

Recognizing Smartness and Addressing Status in the Classroom

This morning (since I kind-of overdid it hauling bark dust yesterday), I decided to chill a bit and create a list of competencies I value in my classroom.  Not besides “fast calculations and right answers”, but instead of.  A definite and requisite shift in classroom currency if one is striving to achieve an active and equitable learning culture.

In no particular order….

Curiosity.
Perseverance.
Observation.
Students in the role of sense-makers.
Connections between mathematical ideas.
Connections between representations and models.
Clear communication of thinking (the WHY), even if incomplete or unsure.
Active and intentional listening to all peers.
Self-reflection.
Metacognition.
Multiple strategies and solution paths.
Gaining insights by making mistakes.
Willingness to revise thinking and understanding.
Great respect for the value of every person, their learning, and the strengths they already have.
Genuine Questions and Wonderings.
Collaboration in learning as a community.
Flexible thinking.
Creative thinking.
Visual/alternative representations of reasoning and ideas.
Connections between multiple representations.
Connections between different strategies.
Patience.
Perplexity.
AHA and WTF* moments.
Growth.
Active awareness and regulation of learning.
Attention to reasonableness of solutions (yours and others’).
Private time to think (and respecting it).
Critique of thinking, reasoning (not people).
Critical and deep thinking.
Understanding the thinking of others, even when it differs from your own.
Respectful disagreement.
Respect for (and celebration of) strengths and strategies that differ from one’s own.
Genuine/legitimate peer support in learning.
Growth mindset.
Engagement and involvement.
Willingness to start even if you are not sure.
Equitable collaboration.
Consideration of ideas other than your own.
Ability and willingness to adjust your reasoning/opinion and change your mind.
Learning from peers.

Wow, that list is a lot longer than I expected.  Which would you add, revise, or omit?  Why?

Here’s what I might do with such a list.  At the beginning of the school year, cut it up and have students in small groups sort them into 2-5 or so categories, their choice.  Sorting activities are a worthwhile way to get kids talking to each other, voicing opinions, making choices.  Listen in, because you’re finding out about them, too.  Notice common choices as well as different ones.  Ask groups to explain their categories to you.

Then, as a whole class, share and discuss.  Ask them to notice things.  I have NO IDEA what will happen here, but I’m wondering if anyone will notice that “right answers”, “smart”, “good grades”, “fast thinking” and those types of competencies typically over-valued (and detrimental to learning) are MISSING.  So are generic behavior-type rules, like arrive on time, do your homework, pay attention….Will they notice the focus on inclusiveness and learning instead of on first and fastest?  Will they identify with some of them?  I’m really curious about how kids will sort these and what they will say!  Finally (if there are enough common themes?), use their input to develop a SHORT list of classroom norms that recognize and support these valuable competencies.

 

 

*Probably should change this to WTH What the Heck, or HIW Hold it, What!? Or some such thing more socially appropriate, right?

WTF moments are not moments of frustration, though.  They are moments of realizing something is amiss, some reasoning, intuition, or process is not going the way you expected, or the solution make no sense.  Disequilibrium and perplexity reside here.  In a sense, these moments are insights, too, a realization that an adjustment is needed;  understanding WHY one path works and the other does not paves the way to the bigger insight (AHA!) and gains in learning and understanding.  When students people share their thinking, they tend to leave the WTF moments out and share only what worked, saving face and strengthening the currency of “right” answers.  However, in a healthy, inclusive culture of learning, WTF moments are valued as an important and natural part of the learning process, worthy of sharing, even celebrating!   “First, we thought….because….then we. saw…realized…tried….because….figured out….learned….”. Even “First we tried….because…not working……and now we wonder….not sure….have some questions…..”

Before That….

I got so gung-ho about my previous post on our First Ever Talking Points that I forgot I already had a draft in the queue.  So here it is, out of order.  Not that it’s earth-shattering, it’s just part of the journey.

“Jackie” and I met on Labor Day to do some planning. We decided that margaritas would impede rather than enhance our productivity. Hmmm.

In my ongoing effort to keep our work Jackie-centered and not Pat-centered (yes, this is difficult for me!), I asked her where she wanted to start. She obviously had been thinking about this (YAY) because she got right on it:

I want to use activities and tasks that engage students and move their learning forward.

(As I write this, I realize that I SHOULD HAVE asked her what she meant by engaged, and for examples of what she didn’t want. Agh! Missed opportunity!! Valuable mistake!!!)

What I did instead was to clarify “engaged” myself– mentally engaging, requiring active thinking. Not busy work. Some people think busy (and quiet) = engaged.

She and the other 7th grade math teachers at her school have agreed to start with ratios and proportions. I unfortunately continued to stomp idiotically all over her space by suggesting that we determine what the Big Ideas were (stomp stomp) and then bulldozed ahead to tell her what I thought they were. (STOMP STOMP STOMP!)

*sigh*  I think I get overly-enthusiastic because I have spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking and reading and writing and thinking some more about ratios and proportionality. (Integers, too, BTW.) And I don’t have an outlet, except this blog that remains unread. However, the point of this blog- reflection-journal-thing about Jackie and Pat’s Great Adventure is for me (Pat) to learn, and what I am learning at this moment is that I need to BACK OFF a bit and provide Jackie room for her voice. I still wonder how I should go about preparing, content-wise, for collaboration without over-preparing and as a result, overstep.  Even if she agrees with me, it’s not OK. How do I know if she really agrees? I will never know what she thinks or wonders about if I don’t shut up an listen.

Hmmm, it’s just like teaching. Wellwaddayaknow.

Back to the story, us sipping our very fine water and me saying I thought the Big Idea (that unfortunately gets overlooked) in proportional reasoning is that ratios (and rates) are all about RELATIONSHIPS.

One of us (I hope it was her) suggested we do some actual planning. We penciled in two days for WIM Week 2 Day 1 to develop group norms and introduce growth mindsets. Then on my first day volunteering, we’re going to introduce the Talking Points protocol together.   After the weekend, she’s going to do a shorter TP related to ratios, and launch a task comparing prices of liquids (inspired by this post by Dan Meyer). To practice with proportional ratios, she’s going to ask students to bring in a favorite family recipe. On Wednesday, I’m going to sub for her (how great is that?) and do WIM Week 2 Day 2, which fits well with our Big Idea of RELATIONSHIPS.
Being even less familiar with Talking Points than I am (isn’t it great that she is willing to trust me and try?), Jackie has questions. She’s wondering about their purpose and use,  just trying to wrap her head around it. It was a bit challenging for me to answer her questions satisfactorily because I only know what I have read and have no personal experiences or training, either.  It just sounds…right.  Returning to her original statement about “engaging and moving learning forward”,  I reiterated that it’s value lies in engaging every student in a manner that feels equitable and safe.  If I understood her correctly, she is struggling to see how to intentionally use TP to move learning forward. Now I wonder, too.

With that question unresolved for now, we came up with the first ratio TP to assess/access student prior knowledge before launching the Price of Liquids lesson.

If Ken takes less time on his morning jog than Barbie does on hers, he’s a faster runner.

UPDATE: I have developed these additional points and sent them to Jackie for her to edit (add, delete, re-order, re-word, whatever).

TP (Ratios)
1.  If Ken takes less time on his morning jog than Barbie does on hers, he’s a faster runner.
2.  The United States should switch to using the metric system.
3.  Percents are ratios.
4.  Ratios are really just fractions.
5.  I use math when I shop.
6.  Numbers in math are easier to understand when they are in context and mean something.