October 31, 2018

Language to Describe Families #MTBoS #Demographics

We recently had some great conversations on twitter about the lack of racial diversity in the #MTBoS and the fact that this partially stems from the fact that people who tweet with the #MTBoS talk almost entirely about math without addressing equity. Quite a few people said, “But I can’t talk about equity on twitter, it’s too public!” I have a few thoughts on that, but I’m going to focus on just one today. Part of addressing equity is realizing that everyone’s teaching situation is different. So I’m inviting people to blog and tweet using both #MTBoS and #Demographics. Share something about your context. Then share something you do that might be different from someone teaching at a school with a different population.

I taught for 10 years at two schools. Both in Massachusetts. Both small cities. Both with large immigrant populations. One was 90% Latinx, the other one 50% Latinx with more racial diversity in the remaining 50%. Both had lots of kids in poverty. Both had lots of kids living with single parents or otherwise non-traditional households. This last detail is the focus of today’s post.

Early on in teaching I realized that lots of my students lived with just their mom. So instead of saying, “Can you ask your parents?” I changed my default to, “Can you ask your mom?” In my head this made sense because kids who live with both parents could ask their mom, as could kids who lived with just their mom. Looking back I think about how this reinforces women as the primary parent responsible for the kids. Not cool! I also knew some kids didn’t live with their mom, and while I generally my kids well enough that I would adjust, still not cool as a default. Especially when I accidentally asked a kid who didn’t live with his mom to have his mom do something and he got really upset. That made me stop and think about the language I was using. I hope this post catches you before you encounter a kid who will get really upset, and make you think about the kids who might be kinda upset when you talk about mom, dad, or parents.

So what’s a better alternative? “An adult you live with” is a solid choice when you’re addressing the whole class. Knowing each of your students well enough to know who they live with is ideal. I’ve taught kids who lived with one parent, two parents (which might mean two moms or two dads), an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, an older sibling, a foster family, and lots of combinations of these options. When you’re addressing letters home, “parent/guardian” is a good standby. To make that work all the way through the letter (and avoiding gendered language as a bonus), calling the kids “your student” is a good alternative to “your child” or “your son/daughter.”

I’m so excited to be working somewhere that has already thought about these things! One item on the list of ways we avoid bias in the IM curriculum is by explicitly not assuming kids live with their parents. So we estimate audience members in the auditorium, not parents. The family support materials also reference “your student,” not to mention they’re called family support materials, with no limitation on who can be defined as family!

What are some of the demographics of your classroom? What choices have you made to adjust for your unique population? Share them with #MTBoS #Demographics.

August 6, 2018

Discussing Diversity

Before TMC I invited people to have conversations about diversity before, during, and after the conference. While at TMC I attended the morning session with Marian Dingle and Wendy Menard titled Taking the Knee. It was powerful and important. I valued the designated time and space for conversations as well as activities that pushed my thinking about equity. I want to have more of these discussions throughout the year but I’m not sure how to. Even within the normed space we had built over 6 hours of in person discussion, it was challenging to be brave enough to push back against each other’s ideas and language. How do we build a supportive space for teachers to examine their own identity and how identity, equity and social justice impact education?

To have these conversations all year, here are some things I think I’d need:
- A safe, private space
- Norms that are clearly, regularly stated
- A moderator who enforces norms
- A small community where I get to know people
- A leader (the moderator?) who provides topics for discussion (articles or questions)

I have been reading articles, engaging in twitter conversations and writing blog posts about these topics. I plan to continue doing those things, and I think that my private and public work would both benefit from this in between space.

I think we could do this on myNCTM or on slack. It needs to be a private space where we can control who can join and I really appreciate threaded messages for asynchronous conversation.

Who is this “we?” That’s where I’m hoping you come in. I don’t have the time to run this conversation, but I do have time to help get it started and to engage. I want to be careful that we do not ask a person of color to do all the work of educating white people who are interested in learning more. A side bonus of having this conversation in a private space rather than on twitter is that people of color won’t accidentally come across conversations where we are trying to figure out how to avoid microagressions, for example, which I imagine would be an unwelcome reminder of past experiences.

I could imagine starting with a group of anyone interested in any conversations about identity, diversity and equity. Then if we got enough people we could split which will allow us to keep small groups and potentially separate into affinity groups. I’ve heard that MfA has started affinity groups and I’d love to hear more about how that is working!

July 12, 2018

Diversity at TMC

It's a conversation that comes up every year. And this year I want to push up the timeline.

We want our community to be welcoming. TMC organizers have been intentional about that goal every year. We expand our efforts with each conference, but there is still more to do. We've considered whether everyone who finds us online feels invited to speak up. We've considered how to include math teachers from different regions. We've considered how to support introverts and people who are shy. We've considered how to incorporate various grade bands and roles in education. Now it's time to consider race.

Last year Grace Chen, Brette Garner, and Sammie Marshall ran a morning session titled "What is the relationship between the Standards for Mathematical Practice & equity?" and Grace gave a powerful keynote titled "The Politics(?) of Mathematics Teaching." Both sparked conversations that started at TMC and continued into the rest of the summer and well into the following year. You can follow parts of that conversation on twitter using #TMCequity and in the blog post archive. As part of the conversation, they discussed the whiteness of TMC. That conversation inspired a flex session on the last day of the conference to look at the statistics of who is at TMC.
We engaged and recorded the flex session conversation in a google doc.

Out of that discussion we decided that TMC needed a mission statement to help us make decisions about which approaches would best align with TMC's values. While some people worked on that, many other people worked on writing their thoughts out in blog form (see below). As things do, this conversation fell out of focus as the school year demanded more and more of people's attention. I would love for you to bring your attention back to thoughts on diversity at TMC. I invite you to have conversations on twitter (feel free to use #TMCequity), but even better, to have conversations in person. If you'll be attending TMC this month take some time to look around the room. Who is represented? Who is welcomed? Who is missing? And why does that matter?

Jenise Sexton
https://jenisesexton.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/being-black-at-tmc/

Marian Dingle
http://www.mariandingle.com/blog/still-thinking-about-twitter-math-camp-tmc

Grace Chen
http://blog.graceachen.com/2017/07/tmc17-reflection.html
http://blog.graceachen.com/2017/08/why-strive-for-diversity.html

James Noonan
https://scholar.harvard.edu/jmnoonan/blog/why-should-we-be-more-diverse

John Burk
https://quantumprogress.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/why-is-tmc-so-white-one-idea-for-change-lets-invite-the-neighbors/

Chris Nho
https://nhoskee.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/reletsretirethemtbos/

Michael Pershan and Marian Dingle
https://problemproblems.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/talking-about-diversity-in-education-with-marian-dingle/

May 14, 2018

Dr. Danny Martin

Marian Dingle is an amazing presence in this community. Everyone please take a moment and thank her for being an incredibly patient and persistent voice for marginalized communities. Every time she reaches out to me I am so appreciative that she thinks of me as someone worth having conversations with, and worth continually prodding to use my privilege in positive ways.

Tina, you titled this post Dr. Danny Martin, why are you talking about Marian Dingle? Because, dear reader, the most recent message I got from Marian was about Dr. Martin's NCTM talk.

I had the privilege of attending NCTM annual last month, and took a break from my #MTBoS cheerleading at the booth to attend the Iris M. Carl Equity Address. Here are a few things I tweeted while there:




I said these things, I posed that huge question that really made me think (Why does reform self correct in ways that sustain black oppression and dehumanization?), and then I jumped on to the next thing. I listened, but did I really hear? I certainly didn't spend the time to do a deep reflection of my role in this message. Marian popped up in my messages to ask the question, why aren't people talking about this? And I decided that we could and should fix that.

So, I'm inviting anyone who wants to join the conversation to read Dr. Martin's book The Brilliance of Black Children with us. I don't have a plan, but Annie Perkins (@anniek_p) has made the generous offer to get us organized. For now, I'm going to continue adding people who express interest to this post and update it as we make more plans. Please comment or tweet to let me know you'd like to join in so we can keep you in the loop!

Those possibly interested (people who replied or retweeted a tweet about the book chat). You might want to follow these people:
@dingleteach, @korytellers, @wmukluk, @anniek_p, @lybryakebreab, @gwaddellnvhs, @heidifessenden, @mrkitmath, @maxrayriek, @bridgetdunbar, @mrsg2nd, @reilly1041, @mathhombre, @mathteachscholl, @riphyskin, @nomad_penguin, @wwndtd, @k_hitchcock, @occam98