The seasonal shifts at the time of Spring Break are always ones that catch my attention. This year it feels as if spring came early to Beijing as I sighted my first open flower during the initial week of March. This was definitely a first in my six Beijing winter-to-spring transitions. Leaving Beijing for the NESA conference in Bangkok was highly welcomed though not because I needed to thaw out. I came looking for some inspiration and thoughts as we move into the last bit of the school year. The lure of a workshop hosted by Dan Meyer first drew me and while that portion of the conference has been great, I have also enjoyed several of the keynote presentations.
A few nuggets to bring back & keep asking
- is the work being done by my students beautiful?
- is the learning playful?
- are students engaging in meaningful thinking / action?
- do stories connect the learning taking place?
- are the stories of the learners in the room being shared?
The conference kicked-off with a celebration of NESA’s 50 years and a video featuring past students. These adults are 3rd Culture Kids so their thinking and statements were of high interest to me not only because my classrooms are populated by these students but my daughters are also navigating the world of various cultures and searching for identity. A few questions raised include…
- How does growing up internationally effect your identity?
- What is home?
- How do we start in a new community? & How do we welcome others into our community?
- How do we continue to celebrate home cultures while sharing and learning of all the cultures in our school?
- Friend groups: where are the boundaries between groups / how does one cross boundaries between groups?
I have to admit that these questions are not ones that are front and center in my classroom. They don’t have a strong place within the mentoring program. I think they should. I want to bring these questions in and begin honoring more students by upping the premium placed on their stories, their development of identity and the need for each student to learn more about their peer sitting across from them in class.
These thoughts were immediately followed by a panel reflection by Cathy Berger Kaye, Ben Mardell and Tom Schimmer. Their thoughts seemed to focus on the tensions that take place in our teaching worlds. This tension could be part of the reason that the essential questions about student self from above are not addressed. Tom Schimmer discussed the conflict between standards and standardization. We can’t all hop down the same bunny trail, we need to be responsive to our students and he urged us to think of assessment as more than what do you know and also focus on who you are. As an added push, he added in the reminder that
foundational knowledge is critical in order to think deeply and collaborate with others.
Cathy Berger Kaye urged us to think of curiosity as a driver. I’ve heard many parents lament that their learners are not passionate. That’s ok, they are 12! Have these learners be curious about the world and about learning. Surprise the class. Shake it up!
Where is the productive disruption in our classrooms?
Ben Mardell asked us to embrace a framework of Yes, and…He asked us to consider how our learning spaces are playful and embrace the pedagogy of play.
Day 2 commenced with Steve Barkley discussing coaching and student achievement. His personal story of how he began teaching – with so many other adults working with him in his learning space – is so different than mine. I feel that my path of the lonely teacher road is more commonly followed by members of this profession. This year has been a great contrast. I have worked closely with GQ – sharing students, space and curriculum. I feel that I have questioned my on practice more than ever and have massively increased by bag of teacher options. How can we move all of our classrooms and buildings to a culture where teachers occupy the same space more often? Steve referenced the work of Ron Berger and asked us if our students consistently do work that is
But what about the mathematics?
Yes, math was discussed a plenty as well. I’ve followed Dan Meyer’s work for years and he has given me plenty to think about as well as plenty of activities to work on with my students. It was nice to finally meet him and listen to him share thinking. Dan focused on storytelling.
Good stories have a clear goal.
Good stories show, not tell.
As storytellers find out, the timing of information is always important. In our own mathematical stories, how does the problem unfold? Remember:
You can always add to a problem. You can’t subtract.
How do we support storytelling in math and other thoughts…
- Desmos has lots of great activities. Personal goal: Work more with the activity builder. Can I better integrate this powerful tool with science?
- Continue with estimations. I liked how Dan used Goldilocks when discussing estimations: Too high, Too low and “just right” . Students framed their thinking with the too high and too low but shared out just rights. Goldilocks as a language tool is one item I’ll definitely switch too. Also, a focus on the just right. I think it will help my class conversations move forward a bit quicker as I’ve often discussed all estimations. It is highly likely that a wide range of estimations will still come out with only the just-right values to think about.
- You can always add to a problem. You can’t subtract. Important – slowly release the problem.
- Two goals should always be constant: Purpose of task & a connection of “old stuff” to “new stuff”. Is my thread always clear to students?
- How would you test your idea? Justification is challenging for students. How can problems be presented so that there is the possibility of testing ideas. Students should be able to grapple with the uncertainty of their thinking and develop ways to test their ideas.
- Need to know example. Would this lead students into wanting to better combine like terms?
Students pick 3 numbers. Decide upon them as a class. Evaluate the expressions for each of the 3 numbers.
Expression 1: x2 – x
7 + 2x – 2 x2 + 5 – x2 – x + 5x + 3 x2 – 6x – 12
All in all, there is plenty of thinking for me to walk away with. Thanks to Dan and the other presenters for a great few days!