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.

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