Curriculum, Must-Reads, Professional Development

BOMish: Jan 2020 {“All Things Being Equal”}

book-of-the-month (1)

All Things Being Equal: Why Math is the Key to a Better World

math
[Photo from Penguin Random House Publishing]
  • The Stats: 304 Pages, published January 2020
  • Who Should Read It: New and veteran teachers to math and anyone wanting to be inspired and/or rethink their relationship with math!
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥♥
  • My Thoughts: All Things Being Equal is part social justice manifesto, part growth mindset companion reader, and part practical guidebook. Author and founder of the Jump Math program, John Mighton, is a self-described late-bloomer in math and has himself grown from math-queasy to a mathemetician in his 30s. Mighton has an approachable tone and brings you along easily into some of the math “traps” students and teachers can fall into. For instance, Mighton is a true believer that anyone can learn math and that it’s often just taught in ways that are inaccessible or relies heavily memorization without the fundamentals (which make the most sense). Mighton spoke to me especially in his beliefs of not creating “low floor, high ceiling” problems, but rather, aiming to get the entire class to succeed. He advocates for this by breaking down math problems into their simplest, easiest to understand forms- something he notes few teachers generally take the time to do, favouring what seems like a more efficient route, but leaving many students behind in the process. Indeed, Mighton convinced me that students who already know the steps won’t be bored in this process either, as they have time to practice and apply, or the opportunity to mentor students along the way.  Further, Mighton’s approach also includes myriad reasons why math is imporant. While I didn’t need convincing, his passion for math as a subject in and of itself, and the success with which students can realize within math pedagody in particular, is an admirable one (check it) and further reinforced my belief in strong, inclusive math programs. The book makes the most sense within the context of the Jump Math program, founded by Mighton himself. I recommend this book without reservation for your 2020 reading list, however, to get the most out of it, make sure to carve out time to investigate the Jump Math website, resources, and/or webinars. 
Educational Theory, Professional Development, Recent + Research-Based, Technology

Looking to 2020: New Year’s Teaching Resolutions!

With a new year comes new opportunities to reflect one the year, which many do with a look towards health, habits, and perhaps even new gym memberships (go for it!). Why not do the same in the classroom? In January, I wrote about how teachers can use the new year as an opportunity to re-evaluate classroom norms, habits, and goals. As we round out the year, let’s take a look at what we can reflect on and look forward to as teachers in the new year. What will I be doing? Check out my 5 resolutions!

Audit My Classroom Library

Library Audit BINGO, created by Dr. Katherine Fishman-Weaver; from Edutopia

Dr Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, faculty at the University of Missouri, recently created a brilliant Classroom Library Audit BINGO, as featured on Edutopia. The audit itself addresses common problems in classroom libraries and is an invaluable, even fun, resource. Fishman-Weaver’s BINGO game is especially helpful for any teachers who feel intimidated by the grand task of ensuring they have representative and inclusive libraries.

Expand Classroom Inclusivity

It’s 2020, and dialogue has changed significantly. Things on the news become more and more raw, real, and scary and include difficult topics, such as consent, racism, homophobia, violence and terror, hate speech, and more. Our students are witness to these things daily, from the news to YouTube to all sorts of social media platforms, and beyond. While it’s ultimately up to each family to decide how, when, and in what manner they talk to their children about the real, raw, and scary, as teachers it is a disservice to ignore these topics. At times, however, it’s challenging to know where to begin. The most trusted and courageous resource I have found is Teaching Tolerance. This website includes easily adapted lessons, learning plans, student tasks, teaching strategies, learning plan tools, film kits, and posters on a wide range of topics for grades K-12. My resolution is to use 1 resource per month from Teaching Tolerance.

Experiment with Apps for Inquiry

Just a small sampling of the TONS of games and resources available through the Goose Chase app.

Confession: technology is not intuitive for me, particularly when it comes to using apps. I find I’m always a bit clumsy with respect to how to best incorporate apps into the learning, rather than have the app take over the instruction and learning entirely… though I’m learning sometimes this is okay, too (for example, MathGames or RAZKids). I’m going to challenge myself this year to get comfortable and plan a lesson around ONE app, and go from there. (I like setting goals I know I have some hope at achieving!). The app I’m thrilled to try is Goose Chase: an interactive, customizable scavenger hunt app and one that is easily adaptable and lends itself well to discovery, student-directed learning, and inquiry. I was introduced to the app as an online Learning Design student through the Harvard Extension School, and I loved it! I’m particularly excited to dive into the full Game Library that Goose Chase provides, which includes topics from Christmas wreath coding (cool!) to English language learning to ecology to field trips, and seemingly everything in-between!

Practice Responding Over Recreating

As mentioned in my November post regarding B.C.’s curricular overhaul, Indigenous knowledge and philosophy are critical pillars and lenses for learning and teaching. One of the key learnings for me in navigating and re-calibrating my positionality in response to these curricular changes has been the notion of responding to, instead of recreating, cultural practices, traditions, and art. My resolution in this regard is to continue to challenge my lessons and applications of the First People’s Principles of Learning, particularly in the way of how students can respond to art, stories, and lessons. Specifically, I’m creating my own essential question: What is the most valuable, meaningful, and authentic way students can connect to their own and other’s cultures? Luckily for me (and all B.C. teachers), there is the First Nations Educational Steering Committee (FNESC), who have SO generously provided extensive lesson plans and classroom resources addressing this very need. B.C. Ministry of Education also has some excellent resources to help guide me on this question.

Learn!

This one may seem like an obvious one, but too often, teachers can get bogged down in the many day-to-day details that go along with loving and wanting the best for our students and their learning…that we forget to take a breather and look around. My goal/resolution there is simply to keep my ears perked and stay curious about new ways of teaching and learning. All of our students are so beautifully unique, and any expansion of our pedagogical toolkits can only help everyone. Recently, I’ve been diving down the rabbit hole of Whole Brain teaching...which seems great and also quite controversial (is this not true of everything to some degree?). To be honest, I don’t know much about it! If you do, what should I know?

  • What are your teaching resolutions for 2020?
Curriculum, Professional Development

Reflections on Updating Teaching Credentials, BC’s New Curriculum, and the Philosophy of the Perfect Stranger

Earlier this year, I became an official Permanent Resident of British Columbia, having spent the last several years travelling internationally for my career in global education and prior to that, as a classroom teacher in Colorado.

My move to Canada coincided with a relatively recent curricular change across British Columbia, one that arguably moves B.C. to more appropriately prepare learners for the 21st century and incorporates a more progressive definition of learning and the processes of learning. The changes in the curriculum include philosophical and structural changes, as well as the language used throughout (ex: Assessment AS learning vs. Assessment OF learning).

I cannot speak to the previous curriculum, however, I’ve become quickly acquainted with the new curriculum this year. {As a noteworthy aside, my teaching experience and credentials were not recognized by B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch, and I have been in the process of undergoing teacher certification through the University of British Columbia (UBC). At first, admittedly, it was a tough pill to swallow returning to school for another Bachelor’s degree in a subject I already have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in, however, I am very grateful the for the opportunity to have this extended and personalized professional development. I am thoroughly enjoying being on the student end of things again and highly recommend the Teacher Education Program at UBC. We could all use a professional tune-up at someone point in our professional careers!}

But– enough about me! Let’s talk curriculum.

When I moved to B.C. and became involved and connected in education circles, I often heard references to “the new curriculum,” but struggled to find a fully comprehensive document that gave quick, digestible information about the specific changes. The most helpful article I came across that spoke to (and answered!) my questions was a blog post from the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning at Vancouver Island University. The post details the 5 major changes of B.C.’s new curriculum and these include the following:

  • 6 Core Competencies [photo 1]
  • Concept-Based Competencies [photos 2 & 3]
  • Graduation Assessments (for Secondary)
  • Competency-Based Assessment (aka- Assessment as Learning)
  • Aboriginal Knowledge and Ways of Knowing

{For a slightly more comprehensive but still easily digestible resource, the B.C. Teacher’s Federation also put out a very helpful, easily navigable online magazine detailing the 2016 curriculum changes in depth. Check it out!}

Overall, all of these changes support inquiry-based learning and prepare learners how to think and problem-solve versus simply memorizing information and/or having success on exams. The shifts move students towards processes of learning, rather than the assessment of learning. The curricular changes align so well with my teaching philosophies, and what I’ve been equally impressed with is the freedom with which teachers can and do practice this curriculum.

Photo Courtesy of FNESC.ca

The most important learning I’ve engaged in this year has been unpacking what it means to decolonize curriculum, particularly through Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation initiatives. I have also seen what it means to open up a curriculum that includes different ways of knowing, particularly Indigenous knowledge and the First People’s Principles of Learning. This year has been particularly intense in a necessary way, as I’ve been exposed to and un-learned many structural and systemic ways of thinking that have been (and continue to be) oppressive and marginilizing, particularly to Indigenous Peoples. Two things have opened my eyes and served as guides for me with respect to how I can teach with more permanent social justice lens: the First People’s Principles of Learning (seen in the photo on the left), as well as as the notion of the Perfect Stranger.

The FPPoL are deeply embedded into the B.C. curriculum… and make so much sense for all learners, young and old, and regardless of cultural background. Included in these principles are philosophies on sacredness of knowledge, intergenerational learning, and cultivating a deep reverence for living things. Perhaps my favourite principle (though, they all resonate with me) is “Learning takes patience and time.” As teachers, so often, we are trying to fit everything in– every standard, every big idea, every assessment and then sit back and hope our students “get it”… when in reality, the concepts and ideas we introduce may not be able to take root until our students have more, different, or alternative life experiences. And that. is. okay. It is beautiful, in fact.

In addition to the FPPoL, another major (positive) disruption in my thinking came from Dr. Susan Dion, who is an Associate Professor of Education at York University in Toronto. Dion uses the phrase “perfect stranger” to describe the “safe” position many non-Indigenous educators can take when asked to teach from an Indigenous perspective (as the B.C. curriculum requires):

his position, a perfect stranger, allows teachers and actually all Canadians to be off the hook when it comes to thinking about Aboriginal issues, thinking about Aboriginal people, or the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. There was a desire to distance themselves from the issues and to say, this has nothing to do with me. 

Dr. Susan Dion, from https://vimeo.com/59543958

Dion’s words spoke to me and make me wonder if and how I have written something off as being irrelevant to me, or deciding to use my positionality at the expense of someone else who did not have the voice nor advantages I do. Definitely give Dion’s video a watch. It is an essential message for all educators.

  • What is some of the most impactful professional development you’ve undergone?
  • What does it mean to be a perfect stranger to you?