It’s spring…the snow has melted and the birds can be heard singing and chatting through the trees. Spring is a time of change, growth, and new beginnings…and as the title of this blog “the chrysalis chronicles” makes connection in some aspect of how I am continually evolving and growing and opening up with these changes, risks, wins, and fails in a digital world.
For me, spring makes me stop, take a breath, (a nice deep breath) and set aside time to have a quick glance back, before continuing forward on whatever and whichever path lays ahead.
To put this into a tangible perspective, tomorrow is my second Teacher-Led Evaluation. My first meeting back in the fall, outlined and displayed where I was within my PGP (Professional Growth Plan) outlined areas of my own identified next steps, as well as highlighted artifacts of growth for myself and of/for my students, in particular throughout my journey on increasing problem solving abilities and skills at the middle school level.
Since that meeting in December, my journey has naturally continued, where I continued to enhance, tweek, and re-learn myself from making adjustments and enhancements in teaching and promoting problem solving strategies. In brief, I added the taught strategies to everyday quizzes and tests, I brought in the language and repetitive nature of the skills to everyday math tasks, and more importantly to everyday real life skills.
How? Through a system of trial and error, and the beginnings of work on a prototype cycle…the second part of this journey was documented in detail, in a post just over a month ago; entitled; (uni)cycle: getting started. So why this title? As much as a prototype cycle, is exactly that: a cycle, it also lends its use to many other areas when one is on a journey. Go forward, what works, what isn’t, what to change…go forward…what continues to work, what doesn’t… and on and on…At this point…PGP or not..problem solving or “insert other domain here”, really isn’t the point. The bigger, more important mark, is that we are doing it. We are jumping on a wheel (uni; first go around) and eventually will gain traction with another set of wheels (bi-cycle *post coming soon!*…. then tri, etc etc.) all moving, stopping to see what is working, what’s not, and what needs to change to keep going….but with more wheels and even more momentum.
With the skill, content, and areas covered of the what, and how, it’s always a good time to take a quick glance again at who. Who you are internally, personally, and professionally, and how you (me in this instance) can improve. Yes, those who know me, know me very well to know that I am my worst critic (I have a feeling most of us are.) Compliments can fly over my head as butterflies scattering around in a field, never coming to land, and if they do, they are gone in an instant. This is something I am working on, not for validation or accolades of a job well done, but more in terms of working on the lines of not having to have a complete or perfect product all the time. Being a perfectionist can be the hindrance of completing any task. I’m working on it…
So to guide any reflection to gather a glimpse of the past and growth; questions, (helpful meaningful questions) are required and welcomed to guide our thoughts.
So in a self to self Q & A, here is an interesting transcript of that conversation….
Q: Has my shift to the Middle School this year helped my ability to individually goal-set with my students?
A: Yes! It absolutely has! Being able to bridge the gaps and strengths of students (of mixed abilities) when separately teaching grade levels has become second nature and authentic in terms of being even more familiar with the material (as a facilitator of the knowledge) to know what came before, what will come next, what a student is ready for, how to challenge or provide necessary support for this student.) Teaching and being exposed to the classes consecutively, as a subject specialist, has made my job, more of a continuum. Working through the first/second cycle of the problem solving “prototype” advances the ability to personalize a student’s learning. For a concrete example, by using the language, and adding the language to everyday tasks, students who require scaffolding use the check box to prompt their thinking, while those in need of a a challenge can use the same check box to think at various scenarios that push their thinking, and allow them to naturally explore the next stops of their math continuum.
Q: What have I learned about Middle School that impacts what kinds of math experiences students are having prior to Middle School.
A: Being able to start “top-down” on this journey has been extremely eye opening. Even the students have seen and felt the most valuable feedback and experience here. When I (we) heard in class:
I wish someone had taught this to us before
~Grade 8 Student
We stopped the lesson and actually addressed this comment in class. In this authenticity, the student expressed how easier some of the material could have been, one student even remembering a word problem from last year for a solid connection. Problem solving feelings stick with kids. If you feel you can, or feel you succeeded, you go on with more confidence, as just like anything else, when you don’t have a good feeling or memory, you want to give up earlier and not take risks. So similar to many things and experiences in our lives. These statements and thoughts don’t guide me to think what isn’t happening before middle school, but what can we add and change to enhance this confidence and risk taking, through repetition and positive exposure for an extra year…and extra two years…what if we started with similar language right from the beginning?
Q: Have you coached other math teachers/resource support of the middle school team?
A: Yes. This year I have been helping plan, guide, co-teach, as well as share resources to best practices with some of my colleagues in the primary grades. In terms of support with resource coaching, I work closely with the resource team to ensure that work is differentiated and that alternative methods or enrichment materials are being addressed and explored. I would not be fully honest, if I said that it was going seamlessly. The positive experiences, openness and guidance, we all have down pat and is working. The timing is the major issue in where we need to pin down and focus in on. This leads into my next question…
Q: Where does your expertise and resources available to you through your external work live at the OJCS?
A: To expand: I currently sit on the executive board of COMA (Carleton-Ottawa Mathematics Association) and for the past three years have been a chair on the planning committee for the annual Provincial OAME conference this May 2019. Should I probably promote my involvement in this? yes…Is it hard?…sometimes, it is hard to “toot your own horn” so to speak, but I need to just do it. So look for something pushed out in the next few days. As for the previous answer, around coaching and providing support, the administration has granted leave for my fellow OJCS teachers to join me on this conference to learn, re-learn, and bring back new and current practices to the OJCS. If time didn’t happen naturally, this way it lends itself to an external learning and shared experience. I’m even organizing a slow chat during the conference, and perhaps an OJCS dimension to have as many teacher participate in some manner, even if they are not physically there!
Q: What are some of your next steps?
A: At the moment, I can currently working on the second cycle with a primary grade and teacher with problem solving, I hope to add a grading scheme and a rubric to help collect data for myself and the students in their learning. Hoping to review and rehash new material with changes for September for middle school and grades four and five…then if still viable- see what the younger grades bring. Also, bridging the gap from another previous question around working in Middle School in consecutive grades, I would love to have time set aside to dive deeper into finding and exploring avenues to continue to push the learning further (accelerating and/or enriching) and even possible streaming features within OJCS middle school math learning. I am currently starting this process, by requesting meetings and calls with Ministry around grade 9 course work, and protocols. It’s a long process, and lots of hoops, and more information to find. In concert with this, it is pertinent that before any new curriculum is agreed or explored as a math department, that some ground work is set and work put into researching and developing ideas of “what” is actually going to be taught. Working “top down” here is essential as knowing where the students are going…needs to be established to be able to offer a meaningful time and experience here at the OJCS.
So as I begin to turn forward again to continue to move and work further…I take time to acknowledge the work that I have done and work that I still need to do…until another break, and another deep breath…
….and my next quick glimpse back.