Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door

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You Are the Missing Link

Silver chain in circle with an outstanding golden link - 3d render

You’re a teacher.  It’s summer.  What are you doing?  If you’re like me, as you clean all the parts of your house you neglected during the school year, you find yourself reflecting  and thinking about what’s next.

WHAT IS next in education?  There are problems.  We see it.  We are frustrated.  Most see their voice as too small to matter, but I think our voice is where the solution lies.

Sure, I’ve got my list of things that need to be at the top of education reform, and the crazy thing is, it’s not curriculum.

We the teachers are a collective army of people that care enough about the future of our world to give up our dreams of wealth in order to give our lives for the education of others. So let me ask you, if we are willing to invest ourselves in such an admirable way, why are we settling and waiting for others to jump in and rescue us.  Nothing will change until we look long and hard to see how we have contributed to the problem and how we hold the answers to the future.

I am in no way slamming teachers.  I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you.  You are creators, innovators, encouragers, cheerleaders….did that just describe you? What about this one… You are tired, negative, frustrated?  I’m learning that they way we choose to speak about what we do, creates our experiences.

So let’s start here.  What if, for the rest of your summer, you spoke about teaching, every single day, as if it were THE BEST JOB EVER.  If you did that for 30 days, without fail, then your brain would actually change the way it thinks and the way you associate with your job.  You would become creative, innovative, passionate, encouraging people.  Imagine how your class would change.  Imagine how your school would change.  Imagine the collective force we would become.  Who’s with me?

More to come on reforming education, but let’s start with ourselves.




We’re Baaacckkk!

Keep Calm Back

       Sometimes the best ideas are SO not what they are cracked up to be. We decided about 10 months ago to switch to our own domain to make it easier to manage and easier for everyone to keep up with us.

     That was just not the case. In fact, what it DID do, is it encouraged us (discouraged, really) to stop blogging. We really haven’t published a lot of posts because we felt uninspired.

I don’t know about April, but I have had one of those years that you can either complain about. (And unfortunately, I have…) OR you can embrace the challenges and determine to learn from them (which I eventually decided to do). So, this has been my great learning year.  All of you teachers out there who think that you are the only one who struggles to teach, keep up with the day to day tasks of teaching, balance life on top of that, with extra curricular activities, oh yeah, and families…believe us, you can take comfort knowing that you are not alone.

So, to those who try to keep up with us, we are sorry for letting you down. We truly didn’t mean to leave you in the dust; it’s just that we actually got lost in the dust and had to engineer a way out of it. And we did. After all, how could we continue to promote STEM if we couldn’t engineer a way to reach learners who came to us drastically below grade level in every subject. Not just a small group of students, but the entire grade level. Is everything perfect now? Are kids suddenly reading on grade level? Have they aced math this year? No. To all of that. No. But what I CAN say is that they have made tremendous progress, and we can definitely celebrate that!

Subscribe to our blog as we will share the resources, ideas, and strategies that eventually helped us to emerge from the dust, brush ourselves off, and gain the courage to face our fans again. We hope it will help you as much as it has helped us!




You Know What They Say About Assuming…

As a teacher, I have always known that connecting the curriculum to “the real world” is important, but I am just now beginning to understand what a HUGE difference it can make.  I have begun incorporating 3 Act Tasks and other similar activities in my classroom – and I have found that they not only reveal rather large gaps in student learning of the general content, but also in thinking.  Today fascinated me.  I chose to do Robert Kaplinsky’s task “How Much is a 1/3 a Cup of Butter.”  We had great discussion about how 1/4c could be right in the middle of the stick of butter. We modeled how you could take 2 sticks of butter and line them up, so that it would be easy to see that the 1/2c is at the end of one stick, we took time to point out 1/4c, we talked about what we knew about fractions, and we even took time to discuss what we noticed when we looked at the 2 sticks.

Let me stop here and tell you that I really thought I had blown the whole lesson.  I was thinking to myself that I taught them too much and now it would be way to easy.  After all, these kids are gifted…young, but gifted nonetheless.  So imagine my surprise when one student labelled 1/3 cup right after the 3 Tbsp. mark and then justified her answer by saying, “Well, I see 1/4 cup and if you take away one Tbsp. then you have 1/3 cup.  I  asked if anyone agreed with her answer and every kid raised their hand.  So next I had the student point to where 1/2 cup is.  (Remember, it’s labelled at the end and we already had a rather lengthy conversation about it.)  They agreed it should go after the 2Tbsp. mark.

I kept going with their line of reasoning, but I told them I was confused because we now had two different places labelled 1/2 cup.  I then asked which was bigger 1/2 or 1/4.  One girl immediately said 1/2 is bigger, then she drew 2 rectangles and showed 1/2 on one and 1/4 on the other.  When I asked her how she knew, she said her teacher told her last year.

That was a TREMENDOUS moment in our classroom.   I realized how students can know how to solve a problem on paper, but have no idea how it connects to real life.    See, I assumed that if they could determine what fraction was larger – that they would be able to solve this task.  Little did I realize, that their understanding had not progressed beyond solving naked math problems.  That’s a good place to be for a time, and there was even a time in my career when I would have thought that was perfect. But the reality is….they can solve our traditional problems while lacking understanding.  It’s our job to take them from doing math to understanding math.  It’s our job to provide rich opportunities, expose gaps and not merely assume they get it.  It’s an exciting time to be in education.

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