Wednesday 25 July 2018

Unsolicited Post-TMC Advice

I have been staring at a blank page for some time trying to figure out how to frame what I want to say. TMC18 has come and gone, but the energy that fuels the participants lasts far longer than the four days of the conference. The ideas that are planted during those four days spark enthusiasm and give new life to tired souls. I do not want to dampen any of that enthusiasm but want to throw in just a note of caution.

I have now taught for 24 years and the 24th was, by far, the most difficult. For whatever reason, there was more negativity from both parents and students this past year to the point that I questioned whether I wanted to continue teaching. Although a number of teachers had to deal with these storm clouds, I think I felt it most because I do things differently. I spiral my curriculum and my homework, I don’t teach from the textbook, I implement the elements of a thinking classroom. I do these things because I truly believe that they have a positive impact on my students’ learning. But not following the pack means that difference gets pointed to as the reason for any issues. And as much as I wish I could let all the negativity wash off like water off a duck’s back, I can’t. I take things very personally and felt crushed. I’ve been trying to let it go and get past it, but it all came flooding back when Julie Reulbach had everyone tweet out why they are a great teacher. All I could think is “I’m not” and I sobbed through most of her keynote. I have great friends who have told me that I am good at what I do, but the seed of doubt that has grown over the past year is hard to dismiss. 

So here is my advice. Don’t try to do ALL the things. Choose your #1TMCthing and dive in but if you are making substantial changes to what is considered the norm at your school, make sure you have a support system in place first. Knowing that someone has your back is empowering, just as finding out that no one really does is heartbreaking. Set yourself up for success and don’t forget that you’ve got the #MTBoS on your side.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

TMC 2018 - We Have So Many Questions!

Image result for tmc18 logo

Last week I had the privilege of being at TMC18 in Cleveland and was honoured to present a morning session entitled "We Have So Many Questions!" with Sheri Walker. Sheri and I work in the same city, but not at the same school, so we collaborate over email and occasional meetings at PD days or over coffee. We both like to create rich questions that promote deeper thinking in our students and help them make connections. These types of questions were the focus of our morning session (6 hours over 3 days). We had our participants work in random groups of three on whiteboards (#VNPS) on interesting questions (we did lots of math - yay!) before creating some of their own. We were so fortunate to have the most amazing group of educators who were all willing to jump in and try new things. They were a joy to work alongside - helping each other, pushing each other's thinking and ours, too.

Morning Session 2018 (+ Graham & Jon)

The link to the slides is included below so you can get a sense of the kinds of questions we shared, but I thought I would give those of you who were not part of our session a taste of what we did on days 2 and 3. So get out a pencil, pen or marker and do this question. 

(Don't worry - I'll wait and post some pictures for the interlude.)

Graham attending to precision

Danielle was super proud of this one!

Not that interesting, right? It looked interesting and different when I saw it here, but it turned out to be super easy if you know that the diagonals of a square are perpendicular. But I still thought it had potential. Potential to be turned into a good question so Sheri and I worked on doing that. We would each try our own thing then ask questions then try some more, look at each other's work, get new inspiration and keep going. This is how we collaborate. Before I share what we came up with, I would like you to see what you can do to make this question better. I'll wait.

(A few more pictures...)

Amy & Brad deep in thought

Pam with all her group's WODB reasons

Amy, Mary & Danielle doing a little WODB

Danielle, Sara, Mary, Pam, Mark & Brad working on Algebra 2 questions

I would love to see what question(s) you created - post them in the comments or drop me a line.

Here is what I ended up with. Assuming the same diagram and that segment AB is horizontal, make the coordinates of A(a,11)...

Q: Find all possible values of a.
Q: What value of a will give ABCD the greatest area?
Q: Determine the equation of AC [if D must have integer coordinates].

Interestingly enough, each group in our session went down a different path with this prompt. 

Sheri working with Mary & Amy; Angie & Brianna creating a cool WODB in the background

This set the stage for day 3 which was all about creating your own questions. I hope that we will all continue to share what we create over the upcoming school year and inspire each other to get the best out of our students.

Click here to see our slides.