A few years ago, I read a book by Burkins and Yaris called “Who’s Doing the Work?” It’s a fabulous book. I now follow a learning community they have created on Facebook. The other day, this photo was posted. It was captioned: We had such a wonderful time filming next generation shared and guided reading lessons this week! Stenhouse Publishers is accelerating the production process so that we can debut the videos at our full-day workshop in Hurst, TX on November 3rd! We are so excited! Come see! https://buff.ly/2gsHVgd (I pulled that directly from their Facebook page.)
This photo has been alternately bothering me and making me feel vindicated. You know when you watch a demonstration video and the whole time, instead of thinking about how great the teaching is, you’re really thinking, “There’s no way that could happen quite like that when there are 23…25…37….kids in the class.” Well, here’s proof that the videos aren’t actually set up in a “real” classroom setting. I mean, I already knew that, but it feels good to have it validated.
I spent a few days this week learning from Cathy Fosnot. What I mean is Cathy and I hung out and talked about math. There were about 25 other people there on Tuesday, and maybe 125 there today, but I still feel like it was me and Cathy getting together to talk about math.
Cathy had a variety of videos to show that showcase her work, and to help me (Ok, “us”) learn from her methods. One of the very first things I noticed was that there was so much background noise. There were actual other kids in the classroom also having math discussions. Cathy was talking to a small group of kids while the rest of the class was also working on their investigation. This is how it sounds in my class too! I am chatting away with a few kids, and brilliant things are happening, but I’m also using my peripheral vision to make sure naughty things aren’t happening, and once in a while I have to sort of tune out of the conversation, or say, “Hold that thought…X! SIT DOWN AND DO YOUR MATH!!…ok..go on.” That’s reality. What this showed me is that it’s okay that sometimes I am giving a group less than my full attention during a conferral. That doesn’t mean great things can’t happen in my room. It does mean I need to remember to turn on the voice or video recorder when I sit down for an important conferral because I just might miss a bit of it. It also showed that brilliant math conversations happen spontaneously in lots of math classrooms when the situation has been properly set up. It doesn’t just happen with a hand-picked group of children in a quiet one on one setting, which is then edited to highlight the moments of brilliance. I feel like I am probably going to be able to pull together some examples of how this has happened in my own classroom in the past few weeks, and I’ll be able to do it easily. (But I will probably have to wait until next weekend because I was away all day and my house shows it. But I might also decide to just throw out all of our dishes and clothes and just blog all day tomorrow.) My point is, it’s happening in my real life!
Another thing that stands out this week is how it feels when your teacher is enthusiastic about your response. Cathy talked about celebrating what our students say. She did this over and over too, and not in a way that seemed put on or like acting. She really was enthusiastic about responses people gave, even though those people were adults. On the second day, I was part of a large group that was sitting in the fishbowl. She was giving us Number Strings to work on and talk about during a demonstration lesson, while others in the room observed. Having seen this on Tuesday, I knew when she told me to sit in the horseshoe that I was going to have to do math in front of a group of my peers. First reaction: PANIC! I couldn’t figure out which chair to take with me, I couldn’t figure out where to put my chair or my phone, I sat down only to realize I’d not brought paper with me incase I needed to write something down because I can’t keep it all in my head like other people can. My heart was beating fast! But it took no time at all for me to feel at ease in Cathy’s class. I knew she wouldn’t call on me if I wasn’t ready. I could see that when she called on people, it was after she had heard that person talk to a partner and knew there was something good to say. In a way, having her call on my partner and I to share our conversation was a confidence boost because I knew she’d already heard us say something good and important. Her enthusiasm was confidence-building, and contagious. I want to make sure I am passing that on to my class. If you’re near my class this week, and hopefully often after that, I hope you’ll hear that in my voice, as “Oh my goodness! Did you all hear that great thing that X said? Isn’t that amazing?!” echoes down the hall.
The other thing, which is really an overall shift in my thinking in general, is that subjects shouldn’t be (maybe aren’t) compartmentalized. I’ve gotten so used to thinking about covering this idea from this subject or math strand, and then moving on to another and not letting them all weave together. In one Number String today, Cathy had us learning about division, fractions, ratio tables, spatial representation and reasoning, and general number sense. And I could see how with careful note taking I could have comments for a report card for 3 different math strands, without teaching 3 separate units. See? Master teacher! Because math has not been my strong suit in the past, I have not always easily seen the connections between ideas. I mean, I can see how Number Sense connects to lots of places, but mostly that was me saying, “Oh yeah! Number Sense is everywhere!!” while secretly hoping nobody would ask me to prove it. But if you asked me to prove it today, I could give you multiple examples. That might not seem like a big deal to everyone, but it was a big deal to me. Is a big deal to me. Sometime I might show you the long range plans I have created for this year and last. They aren’t a list of things I will cover in each term. Instead, I made a….circle? Maybe a mind map? Not sure how to describe it. But anyway, it’s a visual representation of how I am now seeing the subjects all work together -as if there aren’t 12 separate curriculum manuals, but just 1 called “Mrs. Corbett’s Class”. I like it.
Ok. Once again I am at the end and my post is getting too long but I don’t really know how to sum it up. It’s all still jumbly. But the parts are coming together and I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday!