We might not be doing it right but we are doing it better.

Have I talked about Bryan before? I can’t remember.  We did our credentials together than I went away for four years and he worked for the High Tech Schools.  He is a deeper thinker than anyone I know and can ask 100 questions while only answering one. (A skill that occasionally drives me nuts)  Weirdly enough when I moved home to work for my new school Bryan started a job as a Math Coach in the same district. So we work together, which is rad.

Now I get to be one of the schools implementing Bryan and Abi‘s teacher partner program.  My school is a special case in a lot of ways and we might not do it completely as written in Bryan’s post. But we are doing some of the things he talked about and I am just going to write up what our first department meeting looked like in terms of this program.

First, some information about my school.  I teach at a Health Sciences Magnet school in a public district.  We are 3 years old with 240ish a grade (currently we only have 1/2 a class of seniors).  Our scholars are 60% Hispanic, 30% White, and 10% everything else. 60% of our scholars receive free and reduced lunch.  Our scholars travel in 30-40 student cohorts that are mixed ability through all their classes which means two things: 1) we do not track and 2) they spend all day with the same kids. Our students have 75-85 minutes of math everyday all year.  (This is not true for all the schools in the district)

And now back to the program. We have two people in the role of teacher partner this year.  Since this was our first department meeting about this they explained what they would be doing in this role.  Essentially, it sounded like they would be helping us focus our thinking through data collection, classroom visits, covering for us to make classroom visits, and leading conversations to help us grow as a department.  Overall real good stuff. They each get one release period to help make this happen.

Then we jumped in on the topic of the day: Structured Math Talks (side note: if you use Kagan structures this is very very similar).  First we partner talked on the purpose/ importance of SMTs.  Then we all shared out and made a list of why they are important.FullSizeRender-1

Next we watched a video of three of us setting up SMTs.  (I might post my little part later.)  As we watched the directions were to watch the setup of the STM then state any noticings or wonderings we had.  I thought about Max and the Math Forum all day.


We did all of this in about 45 minutes.  SMT is going to be our department’s focus for the next month or so. We are going to try to do more of them, watch each other, and talk about it.  We are going to look for opportunities in our lessons as a grade level team for places to implement them.

At the end of the meeting Brent (one of my colleagues) made this comment, “Last year I thought implement one a week would be overwhelming.  Now I try to do this everyday.”   #totes

I’m gonna talk more about how and when I do STMs  in a later post because this one is more about the structure of our teaching partner program.

Two finals things: 1. I am going to try to be uber reflective this year 2. I only wrote this cause Bryan asked me and he’s my boss.  Just Kidding.  He’s now real upset I wrote that he is my boss. He is definitely not. Though I did write this because he asked me to after writing it I know, as always, that this post is most useful and meaningful to me.

p.s. gosh I love talking about teaching and how to make it better.


3 thoughts on “We might not be doing it right but we are doing it better.

  1. Hi Anne!! Thanks for the write up!! It’s super interesting to me to read about the ways you and your colleagues are finding ways to use this structure that feel productive for you all. A couple things that stand out to me…

    – Having a group focus (structured math talks, for now) seems like it might have some added benefits. It might be that you all learn more about the topic by digging in together, since everyone is acting and thinking towards a shared goal. It might also be that the group focus keeps/brings you all closer together as a group.

    – Related to the bullet above, the group focus seems like it has given direction to your efforts to collect and analyze classroom video. This seems far more productive to me than the haphazard ways classroom video is sometimes used. In essence, it has become “data” for your own questions about teaching. Very cool. Also, it seems that having that sharp focus has allowed you to take and analyze very short video clips (2-3 min per clip), which I think has a lot of advantages both in terms of the sustainability of the work AND in what you all might gain from those efforts.

    – I’m excited about the ways you all are using the structure and time as a way to study your own TEACHING PRACTICES as opposed to other conversations that might have less of an impact on teaching and learning (pacing, grading, etc.). It is also cool to hear that you are looking at student activity as a way to think about those teaching practices, starting with what you see (or don’t) in student thinking/interaction that excites you all and then backtracking to teaching practices that fostered that activity.

    Keep us posted!!!


  2. I think Structured Math Talks are a great strategy. I also use many Kagan-ish protocols and some actual Kagan structures in my math classroom. I find when students have a structure, they have more buy-in and are more engaged. I was reading your post about being able to go see other teachers teach and have them watch you. Could you use this opportunity to work on SMTs? I have found in my experience if you choose a specific strategy to focus on (like Number Talks or SMTs) the time is valuable. Just an idea. Thanks for posting!


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