Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Moonshot Thinking

Many of you who read my blog know that I am in my second year as a Curriculum Coordinator.  I think I have expressed the struggle I am having in my transition from guiding students to guiding adult learners.  As I participate in twitter chats, I find myself sharing what I did as a classroom teacher rather than what I am doing with my adult learners. What does any of this have to do with Moonshot Thinking? Please keep reading because I will get there.


Back in 2010 as a math project fellow, I watched the following TED talk by Dan Meyer: 

Your Math Class Needs a Makeover:

This TED talk sent me on a trajectory of which there was no return. I had recently become a connected educator and was devouring the resources and information on twitter and other social media outlets. I was obsessed with making mathematics meaningful for students and progressed in the following ways:
  • Using my boring weekend family antics to create math problems for my students. This reinforced the connections and relationships, a great first step, but it was all about me... CLICK HERE for examples
  • Next, I looked for high interest resources for creating math problems and I even held a parent problem-solving day CLICK HERE
  • Then came the incorporation of Common Core and infusing literacy into my math classroom, which I called "Common Core Mondays" (that was our PLC day and I had shortened periods).  Career Earnings Example
When I left my mathematics classroom I was not sure how to transfer this somewhat innovative thinking to my new job.

Then a few weeks ago I was preparing my presentation for the California STEM Symposium CLICK HERE and as I prepared, I came across the video Google released on February 1, 2014.  The video became the cornerstone for my presentation.  

Moonshot Thinking:

As I watched the video over and over, I copied down the following quotes:

“Choosing to be bothered by something”
"You have to start over"
“How might I think differently about this?…”
“We don’t know how to do this yet, we are going to do it anyway”
“We are doing this not because it is easy, but because it is hard”
"I believe in the human spirit"
“We are a species of moonshots”
"Courage and persistence to try..."
" You can make amazing thing happen..."
“When you find your passion, you are unstoppable”
Another light bulb moment: All of the above quotes drove the why and what and how and where and when that started the snowball effect of change in my mathematics class.

These quotes are now driving what I am doing as I work with district teachers and administrators to shift the instruction that is happening in our classrooms which directly impacts student learning and achievement. It is not easy work, but it is extremely important.

Here are some ways my perception is shifting:
  • I am working to build relationships by having #noofficeday once a week to get into classrooms and observe, and connect with teachers by having positive interactions as often as possible.  
  • As I build relationships, I take notes on what I am seeing using the following: Classroom Observation Google Form, I send positive feedback and I gain an awareness and understanding of what is going on in district classrooms.
  • I see myself as an instructional coach who asks questions to guide teachers and have them reflect on their practice, which is how I ran my mathematics/science classroom using Standards Based Grading/Learning (SBG/SBL) to guide students in facilitating their own learning.
    • (TANGENT LIGHT BULB MOMENT: I have been struggling with getting teachers on board with SBG and SBL, and writing this post has enabled me to realize that by modeling with teachers perhaps it will transfer to what they do with their students... I need to think about this - Sorry about my OUTBURST, now back to our regularly schedule blog post)
  • I find working with the most challenging students/teachers important and rewarding.  
  • Just like working to make learning for my students meaningful, I want to make sure that the teachers I coach are empowered to change.
  • I want to provide monthly opportunities for teachers to come together and learn from each other, unfortunately the district will not be able to provide compensation for the teachers.
As I face challenges, I think back to the quotes above.  All of the quotes remind me and drive me.  At the end of the day, when I am feeling discouraged, I have these posted above my desk to remind myself why I have been and educator for 25 years.  When I look at my 8 year old son, I am driven to work to improve education not only by taking baby steps in my district, but also by doing the following:
  • Modeling failing forward
  • Sharing all I do with my Professional Learning Community on Twitter and Google+
  • Instead of judging and evaluating, using a growth mindset - What have I done right?  What could I have done better? 
  • Modeling reflection, not to the obsessive level I do, but to get teachers to think about changing their practice
I am so overwhelmed with how to change or shift or guide teachers to change their instruction to provide active learning rather than passive learning.  I have so much respect for the teachers in our district. They truly care and are passionate about teaching, but these shifts and changes need to happen.  
I am taken back to when I was a high school math wiz - an obedient algorithm follower.  My sister was horrible at math (it took her 4 years to pass Algebra 1) and my parents expected me to help her. Unfortunately at that time, I could only follow algorithms or rules and I could not understand why or how my sister could not just follow the rules.  My sister need to understand why things worked the way they did.  

I want to make sure that I do not create obedient rule followers whether they are students and/or teachers.  Please give me ideas and input.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What does 58% on a Math Test Mean to a Third Grade Student?

This week my third grade son brought home his first math test and there was a glaring 58% written in red ink with a large circle around it.  So many thoughts ran through my head as I tried to hide any reaction from my son.  There were also many frustrations welling inside me, but I wanted to turn this into a positive learning experience for my son, not a punishment or rag session.

I want to begin by saying that Tater's teacher is wonderful.  The red inked 58% was a result of the influence of her third grade team, and the fact that most teachers have no idea of the implications putting a meaningless grade on a paper has.

My first thought was WTF this is third grade...  My next thought was - who is this grade for?  My son has no idea what 58% means or the fact that he got 14.5 points out of 25.  It is all meaningless to him and for all he knows it is over and done.  That grade was meant for me, his parent.  I was supposed to get upset, take away television and electronics as a punishment for not achieving a higher score/grade.  The learning opportunity was done for both teacher and student.  Luckily for my son, the learning was far from done.

We sat down at the kitchen island and went through every question on the test.  I calmly told Tater that we needed to find the parts that were easy for him and the parts that were difficult.  I made sure to make it a positive interaction because I wanted to understand exactly where his struggles were without making him feel stupid.

As a huge proponent of Standards Based Grading I looked at evaluating his test using different criteria than assigning points to problems.

The test had the following areas of emphasis:
Even and Odd Sums, Commutative Property, Rounding, Addition of 3 digit numbers, Subtracting using Regrouping

This is what Tater and I discovered when going over his test:

  • He understands when a sum of 2 numbers will be even or odd
  • He understands commutative property
  • He can add three digit numbers 
  • He can round numbers to tens, hundreds, thousands
  • He struggles with subtraction with regrouping
  • His struggles with reading contributed to his low score
If I were his teacher, these are the notations I would have made.  Instead his teacher has a 58% in her grade book.  She has not noted that he needs help with subtraction, reading the problems, and explaining his thinking.  

Here in-lies the problem: Once the grade was given both she and Tater were done.  Instead of this assessment becoming a conversation for further learning and growth, it is an end point for both teacher and student and that is a tragedy.

As Tater and I worked through the problems he realized how he mis-read or skipped over important information.  We also established some strategies for him to be more careful when reading and solving problems.  We even developed a strategy to help him explain his answers and problem solving processes.  

I have not asked his teacher for a re-do, but I will be doing that soon.  I will also use this experience to find ways to move the teachers in my district towards standards based grading.