April 25, 2015

Teacher Leadership

If we hung out at NCTM you might have noticed something different about my name tag. Not the amazing #MTBoS label, or my orange T (where are you bead buddy??) but the lanyard. I'm all about the recycling so I grabbed a comfy lanyard with an organization I don't mind advertising for. Teach plus is about creating opportunities for teacher leadership - those are leaders who are still in the classroom. This year I had the opportunity to join the teacher cabinet in Salem (where I live and work). I wrote the article below for a local education newsletter that apparently doesn't update their website.

Salem Teachers Cabinet a Chance for Inspiration and Impact

By Tina Cardone

A math teacher at Salem High School, I have every intention of remaining in the classroom until retirement; working with students is my passion. With eight years of teaching under my belt, I am also ready to lead beyond the classroom. I’ve written a book on teaching math, Nix the Tricks, and I am an active participant in a Twitter community of math teachers. I also have ideas for improving teaching and learning in Salem. That is why I was proud to be selected as a member of the Salem Teachers Cabinet.

The Teachers Cabinet is made up of ten outstanding teachers selected to advise Mayor Kim Driscoll and the School Committee. We will participate in monthly meetings this school year at City Hall that include teacher leadership training, discussion of current issues in Salem Public Schools, and time to work in small groups. Those working groups are researching issues of our own choosing. The topics we decided on are teacher retention, teacher leadership and use of time in schools. Through the course of the meetings we will gather relevant information for our topic from Salem schools and other communities, organize our findings, and prepare a memo, which we will present to the School Committee on June 15.

This is an opportunity for me to dedicate time to an issue I care about -- use of time -- and engage in conversations with other educators across the district. The opportunity to see different perspectives will allow me to deepen my understanding of the strengths and growth points of our amazing city.

Our first meeting last month highlighted many aspects of what our city has to offer. As we introduced ourselves we shared histories (we have career changers, early-career teachers and long-time educators among us) and current positions, but we also shared hobbies. A surprising number of us included aspects of the city of Salem in that list -- eating out and exploring the history and culture of Salem were popular choices. (My personal goal is to eat at all of the restaurants in the city, but it’s challenging to reach a moving target!)

The stories about students that each cabinet member shared were the ones that really hit home. We told stories of students who seemed lost, but were making invisible strides; of students who didn’t believe in themselves, but accomplished great feats; of students who struggled, but wanted something so badly that they were willing to put in the extra hours to get it. These stories brought their narrators to life as they relived powerful memories. And they reminded me of why I teach -- the students. I look forward to working with these eloquent educators to help bring the students alive for Mayor Driscoll and the School Committee. I hope these leaders in turn will make sure that our district is always focused on how we can serve our population of students.

As my book explains, there are no shortcuts to helping students understand math. There are also no shortcuts to figuring out what is right for Salem’s teachers and students. It takes teachers and decision makers working together to bridge policy and practice. That is what the Salem Teachers Cabinet is doing. I’m proud to be a part of it.

April 24, 2015

Ready to Learn

Cross posted from One Good Thing.

Since we had so many snow days, we lost two days of April break, today being one of them. When class started this morning my co-teacher and I had two students. It’s a contained class of seven, but still, two kids! Despite the lack of classmates, the pair dutifully estimated and shared their reasoning. My co-teacher volunteered to be the grapher in our model “describe the graph to someone who can’t see it” game so both students could play describer. Then we discussed some vocab and the two students played the game together. In other words, class proceeded exactly like normal. In fact, the two focused even better than normal, despite the fact that half the school was absent, more than half the class was absent and most other teachers were just playing a movie. When kids show up to school ready to learn, it is so important that we honor that and provide worthwhile activities. They just might rise to your expectations. 

April 23, 2015

Explore MTBoS - How to Help

In case you've missed our tweeting and the Global Math presentation Tuesday, we are running a series over at Explore MTBoS for people new to the community.

This week people are reading and commenting on blog posts. I can certainly use the reminder that comments are a good idea when reading. It's been great fun getting email notifications of comments on this blog. We encouraged people to sign up for notifications, so if you respond to their comment they should know. Feel free to do so!

Starting on Saturday the 25th we'll be explaining about Twitter. Twitter can be overwhelming with all the shorthand we use, so we are running a few Q&A sessions. Veteran tweeps, it would be most appreciated if you were available and watching the #MTBoS hashtag to assist in orientating people.

30 minute Q&A sessions:
Monday 4/27: 4 pm ET, 7 pm ET
Thursday 4/30: 9 pm ET
Saturday 5/2: 9 am ET, 12 pm ET

On Saturday, May 2nd we will talk about how to organize all the information people have gathered! Twitter and blogs can quickly get overwhelming and that's the point where many people quit. To prevent that, we'll talk organization strategies like blog readers. If you've read or written something about how you manage the information overload that is #MTBoS, please leave a comment here so we can include it.

The final exploration on May 9th will be other resources. If you thought of something that exists in the community that we didn't highlight at the booth, please use this form to let us know. That way we'll have it for future booths and for the site.

Finally, if you're interested in being a mentor to a new #MTBoS explorer, do so! Reach out if a new person follows you. Help out if someone is struggling with hashtags. Add a nice, extra welcoming sentence to your directory entry. My last 'hobby' is "helping people explore the #MTBoS (please tweet or email me with questions!)." Reminder: to edit your card, search for yourself and choose Edit in the bottom right corner.

April 22, 2015

NCTM Boston - The Experience

It was awesome!! Despite my whining I had a great time prepping for the booth and figuring out how to best display all the amazing aspects of our community. The weekend itself was a whirlwind of people. I hardly left the booth to go to sessions, not because I was stuck there, but because a session could hardly compare to the energy or the people at the booth. I got to introduce people to the existence of our community, greet people who were just getting started, expand the horizons of people who knew about one aspect of our multi-faceted corner of the internet and connect avatars of old friends to three dimensional walking, talking beings!

I put all the photos I compiled into a google+ album. Soon it'll have one of those cool story things but I don't feel like waiting to post this.

If you have any thoughts on the booth, please share them. If you want to run one at a future conference near you, please sign up. Thank you so, so much to everyone who made this an awesome experience.

April 20, 2015

Thoughts on NCTM as an organization

As a final tweetup with NCTM annual conference attendees, I met up with Justin, Fawn and Raymond for lunch. Raymond pushed us to think deeply about some not so simple things. Mostly we talked about what NCTM's role is in our professional lives. I made a few claims, I'm throwing them out here tonight expecting you to understand that they are thoughts of the moment and I'm not even consistent across the list, let alone consistent with my actual beliefs after some more sleep. Please ask questions and discuss in the comments.

- NCTM is huge and my voice isn't well heard there. It's tempting to spend my time elsewhere. I can read about lesson ideas on blog posts, engage in conversations on Twitter and see people at TMC.

- I happily work with NCTM when invited! When I was given the opportunity to contribute to the MTMS blog I was thrilled to do so (1, 2, 3, 4).  Once invited, I even gave some feedback since I felt like I might be heard (the locked comments without a link to log in is deterring, writing posts in word documents isn't ideal).

- I also engage when it's really convenient. I attended the regional conference when it was in Hartford (where my parents live) and the annual conference when it was in Boston (where I live). However, other conferences are not even up for consideration because the cost of registration + travel + hotel is all coming out of my own pocket. I don't get enough in return to make it worthwhile.

But NCTM is huge and I should make an effort to engage, right? It's supposed to be our professional organization and if I don't like the way it works, the correct response is to fix it. There are two aspects to the 'huge' descriptor. First, it's so big it moves incredibly slowly, change is hard and complex. Second, it has access to impressive numbers of math teachers.

- In an attempt to find utility in the NCTM journal I receive, I made a resolution to 'live tweet' at least one article from each journal. When I open the email knowing I'm going to read at least one, I usually end up reading multiple. But when I open the email as another in a page of things that feel like spam, nothing seems engaging. I would love to create a culture of tweeting about journal articles so more of us would read with intention. Maybe you'll join me in this resolution and if enough of us play along NCTM will pay attention?

- Obviously I did make an effort to engage because we had a booth. This was part me pushing and part invitation. I hope that we opened the lines of communication with some of the people in charge so that MTBoS voices might come through a bit louder. I think it was clear to everyone who stopped by the booth that we are a strong contingent of math teachers. I also hope that it was clear that we aren't recruiting teachers away from NCTM but instead made a large internet community jealous of our weekend and that's another reason for them to move toward NCTM.

I believe in the teaching practices that NCTM shares. The process standards were the precursors to the CCSS math practices. I studied them in school and valued their importance. But then to get out into teaching and not see teachers using those standards? And to hear people's reactions to the CCSS? You'd never think that our largest organization said these things years ago. I read an article about researchers from Japan coming to the US excited to see how people used the process standards in the classroom and then being shocked that the classrooms reflected none of the research. What's the point of having a huge organization with tens of thousands of members if no one is acting on what they say? I exaggerate, there are people acting on the research, but I hypothesize it's a small percentage of the membership. That task seems daunting and the temptation returns to focus my efforts on my community of teachers who want to engage.

Note: I fell asleep while writing this last night and finished the afternoon. Apologies for the complete lack of links.