Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reflecting on Year Three Goals


So I am at that point in the summer where, with three weeks left to go until students are sitting in front of me, I am trying to juggle lots of math ed summer reading that I haven’t done yet, big-picture thinking for school leadership, making decisions about my classroom for the year, and concretely planning my first couple of weeks. I need to start to pull together everything I have thought/read/learned/talked about math education this summer and prioritize it into goals. 

But before I do that, I want to reflect on my goals from last year:
  1. My students and I will build a culture of student ownership in my classroom (through SBG, group work, and student-generated questions).
  2. I will give more distributed practice (through homework and intentional placement and revisiting of big concepts).
  3. I will do a better job at building procedural fluency from conceptual understanding.
  4. I will plan my lessons farther in advance in order to maintain some life-work balance.

Although I did not in any way achieve everything I planned, I did have some elements of success with each goal:
  • Student ownership through group goal-setting and table captains
  • Elements of solving equations and/or representing and comparing linear relationships (what I see as the main threads of eighth grade) appeared in every unit
  • Linear relationships “challenges” as a form of spaced, varied, interleaved practice
  • The piggy bank principle story and the soda machine analogy served as a really solid touchstone for conceptual understanding about equivalent equations and functions, respectively
  • In general waiting longer to get to formalized procedures
  • In the spring, staying at work until I finished for the next day led to actually having some time in my life where I wasn’t thinking about teaching

I also found myself focusing on a lot of things that I hadn’t anticipated in my goals:
  • By the end of December, my students and I had created a classroom that had neither productivity nor joy. This led to my primary focus for the next couple months being on building honest, authentic relationships with students and leading class through partnerships with them (a coach from my grad program wrote up our work together here).
  • I also was part of a group of teachers, supported by the Deans for Impact, that spent this spring thinking together about how to apply research about cognitive science and learning to the classroom. Besides continuing my work with spaced, varied, interleaved practice, I also got really into framing/motivating questions.
  • And finally, in the last two months of school, I focused on open questions, thanks to some excellent PD led by the other math team leader in my school.  We used Marian Small’s differentiation book as the basis of a lot of our work.

The least “successful” part about my goals from last year was my elaborate plan for goal #1, where I worked out what the different components of each part was, how they built, and what I would introduce when. This didn’t leave me flexibility and just didn’t make sense once I actually got to know my classes. I was also super excited about student-generated questions last summer, but I did basically nothing with that. The idea itself or the routines I had to implement it were not broad enough for me to leverage students asking questions in order to be able to learn math.

 As I think about making goals for the next year, here are my guidelines for myself:
  • I can’t change or do everything that I want to do. At TMC, Dylan Kane suggested that changing 10% of your practice each year was a reasonable expectation. This means I need to prioritize.
  •  Choose goals that I think will have the most impact on my classroom. I think my criteria here are goals that I am excited/interested about, aren’t too hard to implement, and are can be repeatedly leveraged for kids to learn math.
  • At least some of my goals should be concrete, but also have lots of more abstract implications. For example, at PCMI, we heard Sam Shah talk about his Sam goal of “have kids sit in groups.” That is delightfully concrete but there is so much underneath that.
  • Have some idea of how to start trying to achieve that goal, but know that the how will probably change.
  • Be open to new goals or switching goals that are necessitated as I get to know my new students and the new environments of my classes.

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