Can I tell you something, that I am not particularly proud of?
I used to really not love math. I was no good at it. No really.
Now as an adult, I know I am not supposed to say that, because it reinforces misconceptions and mindsets, that reinforces certain teaching methods, that reinforces mindsets and so on and so on. But as a child who went to school in the 90s, I can honestly trace my first panic attacks to a subtraction lesson, a fraction test, and later a timed multiplication test. (Also, I know I am dating myself here: is going to school in the 90s make me old or young? I'm not sure.)
When I first started my career as an elementary school teacher, I mostly just turned a page of a workbook to keep up with my school's pacing calendar. I knew I was supposed to have students use manipulatives a lot, but I didn't really know how to do so in an impactful way.
When I became a middle school humanities teacher, I was off the hook for a while. Until one year, through some unknown celestial event of higher enrollment and decreased staffing I had to teach a section of Grade 6 mathematics. I knew a little more by then about teaching and project based learning, but I still was very dependent on the adopted textbook. Oddly enough, after the first quarter benchmark testing (yes, it was one of those situations) my sixth grade math students had demonstrated the highest growth of any of their peers in our very large urban district. District officials came in to observe and ask me questions. Meanwhile, I was terrified that they would find out that I didn't actually know what I was doing or even deeply understand math the way I was supposed to. In retrospect, I do believe that my students' growth was due to my robust conferring practices, differentiated strategy group lessons, and mindset work that I had transferred from my Humanities workshop and elementary days. However, as sixth grade math went on- my own conceptual understandings certainly hit a wall. Knowing how to solve an algorithm only gets you so far. I was relieved when the year was over.
When I moved overseas, post graduate degree, I started specializing as an English as an Additional Language teacher. At my school, an immersion school for multilingual students with an American high school curriculum, co-teaching was the expectation. This school had deeply invested in content and language integrated learning. Students were learning the English language alongside grade level expectations across the subjects. The stakes felt high. Many of our students were emergent bilinguals in 9th grade, with a curriculum gearing them for AP classes. I was the EAL specialist for the English, Social Studies, and Art Departments. Again, I was off the hook for a while, besides an occasional collaboration with a math teacher. At this point I had a fairly large toolbox for teaching vocabulary, but the upper level concepts of math that my co-teachers tried to explain to me gave me the sweats. As a co-planner my go to line was "I'm excited you love your content. I want to understand the gist, but what does a successful answer sound like? That will help me target the language our students need."
At my next school. I was the EAL teacher in Grades 1-5, with 9 different co-teachers. Here I was, back in elementary school. It is through some of those co-teaching partnerships that I began to fall in love with math. For that I am grateful!
I'll share more in my upcoming Part 2. Lots of strategies forthcoming!
Like so many others, the pandemic shifted my practices of teaching and learning. As a teacher, I had to figure out ways to ensure students had meaningful, engaging, and interactive learning that nurtured their continued content learning, language acquisition, and connection. As a professional learning facilitator, I had to design for adult learning that was also meaningful, engaging, and interactive-with educators who were equally tired of screens and burning the candles at both ends. I adapted. I had to. It was my mission to make online professional learning workshops rich in discussion and resources, while also making it joyful and relationship driven.
All that being said, it was such a delight to be back in person facilitating in-person professional learning workshops this past month. It was exciting to dust off some discussion strategies that could not transfer to online spaces. It was equally exciting to integrate new learning from online tools into the in-person spaces.
Additionally, there are increasing opportunities for hybrid learning, I have a few upcoming this semester. Hybrid professional learning creates access in new and exciting ways.
How do I juggle the needs of the different spaces? Different learning spaces often need tailored strategies. What is the common thread? Joyful learning. Laughter. Reflection and collaborative conversations through cognitive dissonance and growth. Serving multilingual students is joyful. Transforming our practices and systems can be too.
English Language Learner Specialists of Asia (ELLSA) held their professional learning day online. This event was missed after pandemic related hiatus. Practitioners from international schools across Asia presented on topics they were passionate about that advance our discipline. The entire lineup was great and there was something for everyone. My talk Make the Co-Teaching Road By Walking can be found above.
Have further questions about implementing co-teaching systems at your school? Want to co-reflect with your co-teacher? Contact me today to set up a coaching session.
I will be presenting at the ELLSA PD Day this April. My talk is called "We Make the Road by Walking: Deconstructing Deficit Systems and Mindsets-One Co-taught Classroom at a Time."
Workshop Description: When our perceived co-teaching is steeped in medical model deficit mindsets of "support and services" we will always be bound by "caseloads" and fear of emergent bilinguals. When our co-teaching embraces shifting mindsets, capacity building translanguaging pedagogies, multilingual ecologies, and scaffolding with promise we have the opportunity to transform ourselves and our classes with love. Many school structures and systems build upon unconscious and conscious bias reinforce inequitable educational experiences for our multilingual students in the classroom. And yet...the charge is real. As EAL specialists how do we make grassroots change to system one co-taught classroom at a time. This presentation will explore multilingual mindsets, co-planning, structures, and storytelling methods to make the road by walking.
Back by popular demand! I am partnering with Knowledge Source Institute in April. I look forward to bringing this conversation to a new group of co-teachers.
I am an MLL specialist, coach, and educational consultant that is dedicated to building a more transformative educational landscape that honors linguistic diversity and challenges societal paradigms.