Friday, February 7, 2020

My week at ICMI25

For the past week, I have attended the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction Study Conference at the University of Lisbon.  This lovely building has been a place where I have learned so much more than I ever expected from the math education research community.

The city of Lisbon is beautiful, full of a rich history and some of the kindest people I've ever met.  I am so very grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity and do not know how to adequately express my appreciation to the organizing committee or to the participants of ICMI25 for welcoming me into this shared learning space.

Today is our closing ceremony and I can't believe that the week is almost over and it will be time to go back to my classroom.  Please don't get me wrong - I miss my students, my family, my routines - but I have learned so much during this week and I don't want that to end either. :)

Last spring, when I was approached about attending ICMI25, I was extremely nervous.  I've never travelled internationally and what could I really bring to the table?  I have had the opportunity to learn with and learn from some of the greatest minds in math education research this week and I'm sure if I had known that prior to attending, I would have been even more nervous, and probably some major fan-girling would have occurred. :)

Some of my take-aways this week -

  • The food is amazing.  Last night, I had a pepperoni pizza that was quite good, even if I've not mastered the art of eating pizza with a fork and knife :)  Also, while I've enjoyed everything I've had, some things like cold cuts at breakfast or that bacon isn't the bacon of my world, has been interesting.
  • The people are even more amazing.  Over this week, I've had some very deep / rich conversations and I've learned that if you truly want to see some passionate people, just ask a researcher about their area of interest / focus in their research.  I've been so impressed by the work that is being done here and I've made some wonderful connections this week.  I look forward to the collaborative partnerships that will result from this conference.
  • Turning on the lights of the hotel room was about a 10 minute puzzle for me until I finally realized I had to insert my room key to make the lights functional :)
  • Coffee is a bit different here than back home and take-out coffee cups don't seem to exist in the hotel.  However, I greatly appreciated the daily coffee breaks for a shot of caffeine as I am working 6 hours from my normal time zone. :)
On a more educational note...
  • In my working group this week, I had the opportunity to learn from 18 different papers / presentations and I was able to take away something from every single paper, even if my take-away wasn't quite what the researcher had in mind.
  • The problems that I see in the USA aren't limited to the USA.  For example, one of the presenters spoke about teachers in her country using the mathematical representations from their textbook without really knowing WHY they are using them.  I think that is an issue we encounter as well and it's important to ask ourselves WHY is this the tool / representation that I am using to communicate with my students and fellow teachers?  What is the benefit it gives to build understanding?  
  • One of the most important learnings for me personally has been the defintion of collaboration as it applies to teacher development.   This gives me a much greater insight into how to define our district "collaboration days" and how I can take this information back to my school to strengthen our program.  
  • I'm fascinated by the idea of "Lesson Study" and want to learn more, especially on how to incorporate it into the realities of my teaching life.  From what little I've understood, it seems very time consuming for implementation, so I don't know how to incorporate it in a way that isn't quite so overwhelming.  There were several papers written about it, so I'm sure I'll be doing more reading over the next few weeks.
  • In a sense, this week has been very affirming to me from a classroom perspective.  I've read papers and listened to presentations regarding quality classroom questioning practices, anticipating student responses, peer feedback regarding lesson plans and assessment, multiple representations (graphical, tabular, verbal, algebraic, pictorial), and other topics that have been areas of focus for me over the years.  I've been glad to learn that I am on the right track regarding my own classroom practice, even though I have a long way to go.

There is so much to learn and so much that can be learned, that it can be overwhelming at times.  I want to implement all the things, but I know that's not feasible.  Over the next few weeks, I really need to focus on what I can do to take what I've learned this week and implement it in my context.  I need to go through the papers I've read and hopefully get a chance to read some of the papers from the other themes to narrow down to the top few things that I think can create sustainable and reasonable change in my classroom and in my site.  

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