What’s Your Teaching WHY?

This morning at the airport (At 5 fricking o’ clock! I need to fire my secretary for scheduling this flight. Oh wait. That’s me!) I was answering emails and a timid voice interrupted my thoughts.

Excuse me. Are you a teacher?

This always makes my heart happy. As a middle school teacher, you often believe the kids won’t think twice about you once they leave your room. Why would they, with all the distractions the world has to offer?!!

So when a former student not only remembers you from looong ago, AND takes the time to share her experiences and life journey with you, you tear up just a little. You remember that these precious moments are WHY you were born to be an educator.

My WHY is simple. I love seeing my peeps have the “click” in math. I love learning about these humans, with all their quirks and unique personalities. I love supporting them and inspiring them to do great things. I just love THEM.

What is your WHY? Ponder, remember, and remind yourself of this through the year.

Have a great 2019-2020! I KNOW it will be a year to remember! 💕

What’s Your Teaching WHY?

How Do Our Beliefs in Math Affect Our Students?

I was honored to work with amazing teachers this week. We took a survey from NCTM (National Council Teachers of Mathematics) on our beliefs regarding student learning and our instructional practices in mathematics. This, in itself, led to amazing discussions about what we truly believe math IS and how we interpret that into instructional decisions within our classrooms.

But then we took it further. We got into groups and discussed not so much whether we agreed or disagreed, but whether it was a productive or unproductive belief in respect to student access and learning.  Here are two to consider:

There were fantastic discussions about these particular ones, especially for educators of EL and SPED. We also considered how parents might respond to these. Powerful conversations around access, flexibility in thinking, understanding conceptual and procedural mathematical ideas, and yes, fluency.

Here was the point. Our beliefs, whether productive or unproductive, affect our attitudes towards mathematics and the children we are blessed to teach. Those attitudes affect the actions we take. Who gets to answer which questions? Who gets the “tough” tasks and who has to keep doing drill and kill worksheets? Who gets to explore puzzles and who has to retake tests or do homework (because their home life doesn’t lend itself to being able to do it at home)? And those actions MATTER. They affect the results you will get from your students.

Belief chart

So as you gear up for this school year, consider taking the beliefs survey yourself. Even better, have your team take it and REALLY dive in to what beliefs are productive an unproductive. The more we reflect, the more we can grow and be effective at what we truly want; to teach students to love, learn and understand mathematics. Have a great year!

For the beliefs survey: 2017_06_19_Holstrom_Grady_2BeliefsSurvey


How Do Our Beliefs in Math Affect Our Students?

Show Support (In 5 Words or Less)

It is Teacher Appreciation Week here in Texas. To show my support of teachers, I am dedicating this week’s blog to them. Now don’t get me wrong. Gift cards, flowers, and thoughtful cards from the kiddos (maybe wine…) are all great ways to show how much you and your tiny human appreciate the person who spends more time with them in the week than you do. But here are some ways in your daily interactions to show you care.

  1. I support you.   I cannot emphasize the importance of these three words. Knowing that a parent has your back is an amazing feeling. Educators go through a lot of schooling and training to teach our tiny humans. They know A LOT about children and how they learn. Let them do their job, and support them in whatever way you can.
  2. How can I help? Similar to #1, but requires action on your part. Come in and read to the kids. Help staple papers up on the bulletin boards. Donate materials/gift cards/Scholastic books. Clean the desks on a Friday afternoon. Not available during the day? Ask to have sent home items that need to be torn out, cut out, colored, etc. One year a parent asked to photocopy my papers (This was GOLD, people!!!!). These four words not only show you support your teacher, but you know they work their butts off as well. 
  3. What did he (or she) do? Favorite personal story. Picking up Ev (who is now a teenager) from preschool, I noticed a note in his cubby. I opened it as they were bringing him in from the playground. Ev: Is that from Mr. ____? Me: (Knowing it was a Birthday invite and not from his teacher…) You tell me. Ev: Yes. Me: Well then, what does it say? Ev: (spills his guts.)  Later that night I received a phone call from Mr. ____. I felt horrible for him, as he started by defending himself first. I cut him off and just asked, “What did he do?” And Mr. ____ sighed and said, “Wow. Thank you for believing what I have to say.”  People, these are tiny humans, and they are going to make mistakes. If you think your child will not cover up or lie to your face, then you must have the most angelic child ever, because that just does not happen in my world! Now, I recognize there are two sides to the story, but take into consideration that one side is an adult and one is a child. Do not immediately go on the defense. If you show you support your teacher, your child will behave as such.
  4. How can we help (insert child’s name here)? Every child needs to know that we are working together. It is the triangle of learning: the teacher, the student, AND the parent. Children need to know that learning occurs outside of the walls of their school. The more you can support their learning at home, the more they will see value in what they are learning, and the more they will engage in the learning process (and the more they learn!).
  5. Thank you. No two words are more important. Well, unless you say, “Thank you for…”. That may be even better. So here is mine. Thank you, teachers, for giving up your personal time and resources for my children. Thank you for loving learning so much you want to share that love with others. Thank you for putting up with my oldest’s sassiness and snarky remarks (Wonder where that comes from?!). Thank you for giving extra encouragement and love to my tiny human when he is frustrated or sad. Thank you for being your amazing selves and teaching others.

Much love to all the teachers out there! Jen

Show Support (In 5 Words or Less)