Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine

Week 4 (February 1-7) Professional Learning

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  • 01 Feb 2013 12:34 PM
    Message # 1195745
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Reading:

    Pages 39-43
    and
    Pages 113-119 "What the World Needs Now:  Math TLC's"

    Discussion Prompt:

    The reading, this week, focuses on Professional Learning.    Compare and contrast the professional learning that you are part of as a participant or as a presenter/facilitator to the standard set by Steve.
  • 02 Feb 2013 2:49 PM
    Reply # 1196615 on 1195745
    Lisa Russell

    I work at one of the three high schools within an RSU as a 9-12 math teacher and as department chair.  I work hard to keep my department current with local and state initiatives and at times it can be overwhelming.

    I’m a participant in professional learning in my building, in my RSU, in my community and at the college level, but what I will focus on in this post is my participation as a teacher in the movement towards Mass Customized Learning (MCL) in my RSU.  The RSU that I work in has made a commitment to move towards MCL.  This vision is very frightening to many teachers and administrators.  The vision to others is an opportunity to bring change to an education system that doesn’t work for today’s students.  I personally look at this movement as well as Common Core State Standards (CCSS), as an opportunity to pave the way for education reform. 

    When our entire RSU staff is brought together for professional development “too much passive listening” time is spent and attention is lost probably after the first hour.  Usually there is not enough “time allocated to the process” and “improvement doesn’t happen in an environment of isolation”.  There is always “fear, discomfort, and an unwillingness to change”, but what I can say about our move towards MCL is that the RSU has embraced this movement.  Staff is being sent to conferences to hear Bea McGarvey’s vision, to view the potential benefits of Educate software, they are taking building field trips to go visit other schools who have moved to MCL, and staff is being encouraged to go on additional school visits.  All of this is happening even though we’ve had budget cuts.  The commitment is there and this is a big piece to making change happen.  This is changing mindsets and motivating teachers to help create a culture of change.  Yes, of course we still have many teachers who are uncomfortable and who are still moaning & groaning about MCL, but as more teachers go on school visits and have professional development I think more and more will jump on the train of change.  Since I have been in education, I feel that this initiative is the one that has been most supported.  Educators know that our 21st Century Learners need a different system to allow them to be successful in the world today.  They know that the current system is “no longer good enough”.

    We have Bea McGarvey coming to speak to our staff in March.  After a Bea McGarvey conference this week, that about twenty educators attended over a four day span, we formed a large group circle and discussed what we felt our staff would and wouldn’t like to get out of our day with Bea.  It was clearly determined that we didn’t want the “let’s-herd-them-into-a-workshop” type of day, where we would just all sit in the auditorium for 6 hours being lectured, because we all know that doesn’t work.  The group discussed some ideas that will be brought back to the MCL Task Force group this week to outlined how the workshop would be most beneficial to all in attendance. 

    I’m not real clear about the reading on pages 113-119.  I do believe in a majority of what was stated on these pages and yes, it would be nice to have Math TLCs, but I don’t understand how that would be supported in small schools and districts.  I do whole-heartedly believe in coaching, collaborating, and supporting each other at many levels, within your department, building, district, and even further.  Is this a futuristic want/need?  I will be interested in reading other posts.

  • 03 Feb 2013 11:18 AM
    Reply # 1197177 on 1195745
    Nancy Sirois
    When I started teaching in Portland 12 years ago we had the old Addison Wellesley textbooks and that's what we taught.  The pages were busy and it was all about us, the teachers, doing a lesson and the students then doing the work.  I did not enjoy teaching math this way.  I found myself moving out of the book more and more because I was boring myself, let alone my students.  As a school the primary teachers had different math programs (6 different ones) and intermediate had Addison Wellesley.

    A few years ago we adopted Trailblazer Math and it changed everything.  As a staff we all worked together and as grade level teams to use one program. All of a sudden we spoke the same language, had the same goals and worked together to build our expertise in teaching math.  This wasn't a one-shot-deal type of professional training but a weekly, in depth look at our instruction and our own skills as math teachers.  We have continued to set goals and work as teams around math and the change has been dramatic.  Several years later, I believe we all feel that we have become stronger math teachers and better meet the needs of our students and help them be mathematicians.
  • 03 Feb 2013 12:35 PM
    Reply # 1197236 on 1195745
    Annie Wallace

    Most of my professional development, when I began teaching about ten years ago, came from going to workshops.  A few were very good and well worth the time and truly helped me as I began teaching, but most had a couple of things that were good to know and could pull out and do/build upon, but for the most part there was too much time being spent on nothing for the few little things worthwhile --- and while I am thankful for those few little things, I am not sure the cost-benefit was good. . 

    Then the school that I was at decided to focus in on writing in the content areas and brought in people and used the experience and talents of in-house faculty.  With this we had to work on building reading and writing into our curriculum and worked with each other, shared ideas, and talked more….and it was tied into our yearly goals, so we also had to reflect upon what we had done, why we did what we did, the results and provide samples of student work…..

    I also found that when I participated in a class, either online or in person that these also helped me and built me up as a teacher professionally and helped me to better guide my students in their learning.  I am also finding that reading this book with the focus questions each week is also good…although I do not always respond myself; I have gained a lot in reading others’ responses and am learning from their thoughts and experiences…. Especially as I am now in a role of working with and helping others in moving forward with transitioning to the Common Core and the change it means in teaching and curriculum…and as Mr. Leinwand continually stresses…. It is the teaching that matters most…and to help bring about focus on effective teaching and learning (not just in the students, but in ourselves as learners also) rather than just the text book has been a challenge for me.

    In reflecting on what I feel has benefited me the most as a professional, it is the learning situations presented to me that make me focus, reflect upon, look at from various perspective and sometimes puzzle over or rethink things, apply and have some follow through responsibility .  And when I think about this, it is these types of things that also help our students move forward in their learnings….

  • 03 Feb 2013 5:56 PM
    Reply # 1197423 on 1195745
    Mary Belisle


    The professional learning that Steve mentioned is a goal of many districts. In the 9 years that I have worked as a math coach and leader I have seen big changes in how things work. When I started, my main goal was to get everyone teaching roughly the same thing at the same time. This seemed simple yet difficult because there had been more individual choice before this. After a few years of herding cats it (uniform instruction) become accepted and most instruction topics and assessments are exactly the same for teachers  Then the real work began of trying to discuss and improve instruction. In the midst of this common core came along. Reading it at first did not really show the vision of where this is going. Now there is a great shift towards examining assessment and seeing how this will drive instruction. This is great! But it is not the only thing required of any teacher or leader. Many other things are part of professional development that are necessary, at least from an administrative view - teacher evaluation changes, date management systems, RTI, etc. wow! Learn these , use these, teach, improve climate, and wait ! do this work towards common core and do it well. Some of these things are part of the giant bandwagon that continues to parade by in education. How to separate this from common core which offers so much hope of improving math education. Get a good nights' sleep and take your vitamins!   ;)
  • 03 Feb 2013 9:42 PM
    Reply # 1197585 on 1195745
    Tina Meserve
    The research about what doesn't work in professional development (listed on page 39) has been reported for quite some time yet most districts still devote a considerable amount of PD money to one-shot workshops. If we can transform our culture so that teachers have regular, ongoing opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues, not only will our teachers grow in creativity, teaching methods and content knowledge, but our students will experience more equitable learning experiences. Teaching will become more of a profession focused on collective responsibility for student learning. The final bullet on page 40 supports this concept of collective responsibility, it says, "Teachers' work and accomplishments are made transparent within a culture of shared accountability for success." I think LD 1858 (Teacher and Principal Evaluation) will be instrumental in changing professional development practices too. Since a portion of evaluations must include student learning, it will benefit teachers to work together when planning learning experiences. Now we just need to devote the money saved from eliminating one-shot workshops and establish structures and rewards for high quality collaboration amongst our teachers.
  • 04 Feb 2013 3:07 PM
    Reply # 1198566 on 1195745
    Angela Marzilli
    The components of effective professional development that Leinwand describes are certainly the types of professional development experiences I would like to provide for the faculty members I work with.  However, as a STEM Coordinator with 8 schools in my job description (not to mention three other disciplines) it is difficult to work with every teacher at that level.  I'm not complaining; I love my work and I do the best I can with the energy I have.  I just truly believe that, for both students and faculty, the school calendar needs to be looked at more closely.  
    I know that adding time to the teacher work day or year requires a lot of negotiation around contracts and finances, and this isn't the year to speak about adding anything that costs more (although, following that argument, is there ever a good year?). There must be a way to think creatively about giving teachers more quality professional development experiences around teaching and understanding math.  For example, this summer, I'm working to develop a type of lab summer school experience, where teachers can work with students on math, observe each other, look at student work, and make planning decisions together.  It is the same summer intervention we always offer, but adding a teacher development piece I hope will make it even better and serve more than one goal.  I just think we have to begin thinking creatively if we are going to provide the kind of quality professional learning teachers and students need.  
  • 04 Feb 2013 7:22 PM
    Reply # 1198814 on 1195745
    Sally Bennett
    I am very lucky to be working with a nucleus of math teachers who are committed to their craft and their students, however there simply is not enough time in the day or energy to do all we wish to do.  The best PD we have is when we get uninterrupted  release or summer work time to go off on our own to test and share, truly share, the materials we have created with one another.

  • 04 Feb 2013 8:13 PM
    Reply # 1198869 on 1195745
    Kate St.Denis

    Professional Learning – here’s what works best for us right now:

    • common study groups by grade cluster where we actually do math together, link learning to practice standards, and ponder tough questions about effective instruction

    Examined through the lens of Leinwand, we could improve upon this by sharing and critiquing lesson plans, observing each other’s practice, and looking at student work. Math TLCs are what could move this forward. But, here we are in a state immersed and quite taken by the Mass Customized Learning Movement. In the MCL framework, I see the focus on the tracking and reporting of factual and measurable responses and skills and not on the quality of instruction. Is there a place where the two can meet?

  • 05 Feb 2013 7:38 AM
    Reply # 1199256 on 1195745
    Maggie Griswold
    "Teachers' work and accomplishments are made transparent within a culture of shared accountability for success." is a good place to start.

    I also think that the same way CCSS is shifting our instructional focus from teachers to students, it seems that the focus in professional development needs to shift from the agents coordinating the PD efforts to the teachers. As classroom students are individuals with unique strengths and challenges, so are teachers. 

    When did we stop asking teachers what they think about the road to take and what they want their focus to be? PLC's and Grade-Level Teams setting yearly goals were steps in the right direction, but they weren't always led by the teachers.
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