Sunday, November 12, 2023

Creating a Connected Math Classroom - an NCTM Reflection

 In October, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm blogging through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

On Friday, I was excited to attend Rebecka Peterson's session.  I've known Rebecka for many years and I've had the chance to hear her speak before, but I think her NCTM talk was the best one I've heard yet!  Rebecka is a math teacher in my town and a dear friend... she also happens to be our National Teacher of the Year!  Rebecka's talk was on Creating a Connected Math Classroom and it fit so perfectly with Tim Kanold's session Teaching with Heart and Soul!  

Rebecka started her talk with a quote that always makes me think of her - "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."  (You can click here to read her daily classroom reflections on the One Good Thing blog.)  One of the things she mentioned that stuck was that the more time we take to notice the good, the more good we will notice.  This reminded me of the cognitive idea of "frequency bias", where once  you start looking for something, you see it everywhere.  

The big theme of Rebecka's talk was Connections.... Connecting to our students, to parents / guardians, to the community, to ourselves, and to others.  

With students, she looks for ways to get to know their stories.  A few years ago, Rebecka started scheduling individual time for students to come in and introduce themselves to her and tell their stories.  I admire her so much for this as that idea of scheduling 150 individual blocks seems so very daunting, but also so very powerful.

She also mentioned parent connections through daily emails home as part of her "daily good things".  I have done this in the past as well and it is super powerful.  I got away from it a bit over the past few years, but I need to get back to it.  In HS, parents don't always hear about the good stuff going on with their kiddos, so it's a great thing to be able to share that good news with them!

She also mentioned the impact of building community in your classroom - of students knowing how much they are loved and cared for.  Little things like recognizing a birthday or the end-of-year traditions can really help to build that culture of caring.

Some of these ideas I've borrowed from her over the years, such as the holiday ornament, but others I'm definitely stealing moving forward!  I love the idea of playing soft instrumental music and the thumbprint canvas - I really wish I had started that idea as a new teacher!  Another idea I want to steal... I've had parents ask me to sign a copy of the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" at the end of the year, but I never thought about turning that around and having my OWN yearly copy for each student to sign!  What a brilliant idea!  (Are there any other book suggestions for this?)

She also talked about connecting students to themselves... having them reflect with things like their own One Good Thing journal or weekly exit tickets.  I used to be really good with those, but time and energy gets away from us... I need to get back to it!

One of the ideas I loved was her daily menu of activities, including the Tuesday Tips like sharing an easy cookie recipe or adulting tips like the gas tank arrow on your car.  

Rebecka also mentioned how important it was for us to connect to ourselves, which reminded me a LOT of Tim Kanold's Quadrant II time.  

One question she asked us was "What matters to you?", then ask ourselves how we can incorporate that into our weekly routine.  

This was definitely one of my favorite sessions of NCTM because it gave so many practical and doable suggestions for how to build community in your classroom.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Using Manipulatives in Geometry - an NCTM Reflection

In October, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm blogging through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

One of my favorite sessions from the conference (and one of the few sessions where we actually DID math) was on Using Manipulatives in Geometry and was presented by Erin Schneider of CPM.  I have long been a fan of the CPM curriculum and I wish it was available in my state!

One of the first activities we did was using an 8 foot length of yarn that had been tied into a large loop.  Erin asked us to work with our team to use the yard to create the solids shown in the picture.  This was a great team-building exercise and a great activity for post-lunch time on the first full day as it got us out of our seats, talking / communicating with other people, and using spatial reasoning.  I jotted in my notes that this would be a fabulous first day of school activity (or first day of the SA/V unit) for my Honors Geometry kids, so please hold me accountable on this one!

From there, she moved to talking about a Kaleidoscope and its use in Geometry.  I remember LOVING my Kaleidoscope as a kid, but never thought about how I could use it in my classroom!  She started with a video for us to notice/wonder, then we used hinged mirrors to create our own to explore polygons.  (You can see her image at the bottom left of the collage.  When I got home, I immediately searched Amazon for cheap mirrors that I could use.  I found some plastic ones and when they arrived, I taped them together and started playing!  Every student that has noticed the hinged mirror has been fascinated with it!

In the workshop, she was using it to explore polygons and central angles, but it could also be used to explore rotational / reflectional symmetry as well as building the Area Formula for Regular Polygons.  

We were already running out of time, so she shared some quick ideas on various topics before moving on to using a pantograph for dilations.

You can use 2 identical rubber bands and tie them together as seen at the upper right here.  Draw a small pre-image (seen here as a small heart at the corner of the paper, then set the point of dilation (here, it was off the paper) with the knot of the rubber bands on top of the drawing.  With your pen on the paper, use the knot to trace the pre-image and your pen will be tracing the enlarged image.  Sadly, I've already done dilations in general, but this could be a fun way to introduce similar polygons, so I'm excited to try it!

As I said above, this was definitely one of my favorite sessions of the entire conference and I was able to walk away with ideas that I could easily implement, so I consider that a huge win!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Teaching Math with Heart and Soul - an NCTM Reflection

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm going to blog through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

My first session at NCTM was the perfect start to the conference!  I had heard of Dr. Timothy Kanold multiple times and had read some of his work on PLCs, but this session focused mostly on his books Heart! and Soul!.  It also touched a bit on his book about Educator Wellness and all three books quickly went on my TBR list!  I have started reading Heart!, so I'm sure I'll be updating this with take-aways from that book as well.  (Anyone want to #eduread it with me?)

Dr. Kanold started his session talking about the importance of gratitude and shared about his family tradition of asking "What was the best part of today?" around the dinner table.  He asked us to send a text of gratitude to someone who made it possible for us to be at NCTM.  While he was talking about this, I thought of Rebecka Peterson, our National Teacher of the Year, and how she credits the One Good Thing blog for being such an instrumental part of her teaching journey.  Funny enough, Rebecka walked into the session a few minutes later, so obviously Dr. Kanold's session blurb resonated with her as well!

Here are some of my jotted notes from Dr. Kanold's session:

  • Can we fully give ourselves to our work and not get lost?  (Answer - Yes, but you do have to take care of yourself!)
  • Presenting ourselves in a high positive happiness state affects how well students learn in our classes
  • How can we embrace joy amidst the daily chaos?
  • Joyful people are hope providers
  • Compassion - caring / support / love... emotionally mourn the setbacks of others and cheer on their victories
  • What evidence can you show that your school has a compassionate culture?
  • Acts of compassion helps us sustain.
  • What acts of compassion would we see at your school?  
  • An antidote to burnout is self-compassion
  • Residue of self-compassion is joy
  • There is power in journaling over verbal processing... journaling dissipates the emotion
Then Dr. Kanold shared with us about the Energy States.  (The math teacher in me doesn't like how the quadrants are numbered, but anyway....)

In the classroom, we would like to be in Quadrant 1, but there is a natural drive to Quadrant 3.  He said that "Internal Balance is the key to well-being"

How do we achieve that internal balance?

KEY - Q2 time time is required daily!! 

Some more jottings about this idea:
  • Be intentional about time for solitude (referenced Sherry Turkle - purposeful solitude with an embraced silence)
  • Give your brain time to be quiet
  • Daily quietude required
(Side note - I LOVED this idea.... I need that quiet time, not just as an introvert, but now I know it helps me stay more balanced!)

Dr. Kanold ended his session with some tips on self care and the Wellness Framework, which had some really great tips, including Drink the Stupid Water.  I am the world's worst about drinking water, but I am making an renewed effort after his session.  

He also talked about the importance of movement and not comparing yourself to others because if you are moving, it counts.  His last tip was about the importance of sleep and gave us some suggestions on how to get the best rest.

My biggest take-aways:
  • Quiet time is required to keep us in a positive frame of mind.  Go for that walk, sit outside, read the book, meditate, whatever it is that gives you time to find peace every day.
  • Drink the Stupid Water - hydration is so important and if you get thirsty, it's already too late and your body is dehydrated.  Start your day with a bottle of water beside your bed.
  • You are harder on yourself than you should be and we are not as kind to ourselves as we are to others.  Give yourself grace
  • Find moments of joy and gratitude in every day