San Antonio, Texas
April 5-8, 2017
I enjoyed traveling with my conference buddy, Stephanie Blair (@welblair). Dinners on the River Walk, the boat tour, Mathalicious Happy Hour, Desmos Trivia, the MTBoS Booth, Tracy Zager signing my copy of her new book, Elham signing Chrissy's copy of her book, dancing at 8 am on Saturday morning, MTBoS game night - all great moments, but none of these were my favorite.
I often find myself in a place after a day or so of conference sessions where I wonder, "what are we doing?" We've had NCTM standards, including process standards since 1989. Why are so many teachers still teaching they way they were taught and focusing on procedures? I know it's easier to try to fill the "empty vessels" of your students' minds, but are they really learning? We've had access to so many opportunities to shift our mathematical (and teaching) mindsets: books, blogs, conferences, twitter chats, the #MTBoS. Why does it seem like we're banging our heads against a wall with so many teachers? We still have a society that allows people to say "I'm not a math person." As Mike Shaughnessy once said, "don't say that in public!" How can we really influence instructional change that impacts our society's view of mathematics?
So, here I was, kind of down, and I ran into Chris Shore (@mathprojects). I knew he would understand the issue. He did. Here is one thing he said that gave me hope:
"We can't teach them everything we know, but we can teach them to think the way we think."
I want all teachers to care about student thinking. I want them to wonder what students think and why. I want teachers to provide opportunities for students to solve math problems using their intuition and reasoning.
He also shared results of a Gallup Poll on Workplace Engagement. He said about 1/3 of US workers across all professions are engaged in their work and actively trying to improve. He reported that there are fewer disengaged teachers than in other professions, but there's still a big group that aren't engaged in their work.
I waited to write this post until I found the report:
And the State of America's Schools Report:
It's an interesting report. The 1/3 engaged seems steady, but about 50% look unengaged, and 15-20% disengaged. The number disengaged went down to 14% for "matrixed" positions where employees are on multiple teams that report to the same supervisor.
From the State of America's Schools Report (2014):
So, I have more questions. Instructional coaching often assumes that teachers want to improve. This research implies that only one third of them do. The rest don't necessarily want what we're selling. How do we help them see the need for instructional change? Teaching is so complex. There's always room to grow - for teachers, coaches, administrators - everyone!
How do you work with the unengaged teachers in your schools? I usually assume everyone wants to improve and just carry on... What do you do?
Next post will be on my favorite NCTM session - a much lighter (on your feet) experience!