Reflections of a 1st year coach

This 2015-16 school year is wrapping up ever so quickly. As I’m doing with my teachers, it’s only befitting that I complete one myself—and that’s my own end of the year reflection.  I must practice what I preach and do my own debrief.

My year in review….

  • I’m on all 8 elementary campuses  This doesn’t sound impressive (I work for a small district), but it was one of my goals and I achieved it.  I left my middle school math position only knowing a few elementary teachers.  It was always a hurdle (not an obstacle) to work in some way, shape, or form and get on each elementary campus.  It took a full year…but I did it.  Curiosity fostered, word spread, and my grass-roots campaign was a success. I now have around 40 teachers that I support.giphy-2 
  • More PD than a girl can ask for – I haven’t been to that many conferences as a classroom teacher.  As a math coach, I got more than my fill this year.  No regrets.  I went to the Calif. STEM conference, followed by Calif. Math Council conference in Palm Springs, a few days in Beverly Hills at a HMH Leadership Summit, and then a big finale up in San Francisco at NCTM’s annual conference.  I heard and met such influential people such as Dr. Jo Boaler, Marilyn Burns, Graham Fletcher, Robert Kaplinsky, Andrew Stadel, Emily Diehl, Annie Fetter and so many more.  My head has been spinning with everything that I’ve learned.  It’s been quite a year for my professional development.  
  • Our work – I specifically use the word “our” because I share.  I share plenty of routines, suggestions, and help, but I’m a strong believer of collaboration. My teachers and I have worked on Brian Stockus’ numberless word problems, 3 act lessons from Graham Fletcher, Robert Kaplinsky’s Open Middle problems, Fawn Nguyen’s Math Talks, situations from “Would You Rather?”, used “Which One Doesn’t Belong” pics, and so much more.  We’ve read from blog posts from Kristin Gray, Joe Schwartz, and Graham Fletcher. A big thanks to MTBoS for their inspiring work.   And our work will continue next year as my teachers are looking to push their practice further.  The upcoming year makes me giddy with math excitement!!!!giphy
  • Not just a coach – Even though my title says K-6 math coach, I have learned that this job encompasses so much more.  I not only supported, but I listened, I learned, I cried (yes..it’s true), I thought, I noticed, I laughed, and I empowered my teachers.  I’ve been their biggest cheerleader, their collaborator, their therapist, their friend, their colleague, and their shoulder to cry on.  I have also learned that my most poignant and memorable moments are not only the victories with my teachers, but the downfalls too.  And that’s ok.  We’re all learning together.  But in the end, I got my biggest rush from seeing my teachers walking taller, smiling from ear to ear, giving me high fives, and celebrating their achievements.  My teachers knew that they were doing marvelous work.   There were days where I’ve skipped lunch to run from classroom to classroom, but it’s all worth it to have seen the students benefit from the awe-inspiring teachers I work with.  The tears I’ve shed for them have been out of pure joy and excitement.  
  • Many names   Hilarity has been running amok when I walk into certain classrooms. Apparently, my teachers and their students have been giving me nicknames. It started with a kindergarten teacher calling me the Math Wizard. (Wow…should I start wearing purple cape and big pointy hat?) Fourth grade calls me the Math Master.  Not to be out done —6th graders have started referring me as the Math Goddess. (I picture myself with a white toga and gold jewelry.  Or maybe something in a painting from Botticelli. )  And lastly, a visit to some 3rd grade teachers got the me title of “The  Crack Dealer”…because my math is so good it’s like crack. (How these teachers know about crack…I don’t judge.)  I look at it as a form of sentiment.
  • Starting this blog – This blog has been such a success.  It’s been my success in that I’m documenting all the good work being done at my district.  I’m sharing ideas.  I’m being a part of a bigger network (#MTBoS)).  My teachers are enjoying that their work is being publicized.  One teacher was walking around telling people “I’ve been tweeted.”  Other teachers printed out some of my blog posts about their classrooms and posted them at their Open Houses.  And it’s been a magnificent outlet for me.  I have learned coaching can sometimes be a solitary job.  We are in the background. Our work is intangible. However this is certainly one way to connect to the bigger world out there.  

My hopes in the new school year…

  • PresentingI, along with one of my kindergarten teachers, submitted a proposal to speak at California Math Council conference.  We should be hearing by June if we are chosen.  It’s been a goal of mine to be a presenter and I’m lucky enough to have an amazing collaborator that’s willing to do it with me.  Fingers crossed.  Even if I don’t present, I’m bringing a bus load of teachers with me so that they can share the excitement and inspiration of a conference.
  • Publishing – While at the NCTM conference, I approached the Calif. Math Council booth and thanked them for my free ticket (I had won via Twitter).  We started chatting a bit. One thing leads to another and they are asking me to write an article for them because they never have enough elementary articles to publish.  I walked away with the silliest grin on my face.  How cool would it be to have my thoughts read by teachers -?  The thought is mind-blowing!
  • More – More teachers to support, more students benefitting, more ideas of professional developments (that I can give), more lessons to design, more empowering, more smiles, more laughs, more math!!!
  • This blog – Over the summer, I hope to grow the capacity of this blog.  I want to share my 3 act lessons with everyone.  I haven’t had time and some of my lessons are unfinished, however I still want to build more content.  

It’s been an incredible year of learning.  I wouldn’t change anything about it.

And, I finally have to give a shout out to my husband, son, and parents for putting up with my craziness this year.  I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support.  They are my cheerleaders.

(I’ll continue posting over the summer months as I always have plenty to say.)

Until next time,

Kristen 

No numbers…no problem for Kinder

Just when I think that the year is coming to an end, and all the outstanding math is coming to a close….one teacher always surprises me.  Mrs. Z is at it again….being an exceptional kindergarten teacher.  She’s tackled the 3 Act lesson, she’s mastered the 100’s chart, and now has been experimenting with numberless word problems.  She had taken a particular interest in them after I had introduced them to her through Brian Bushart’s blog. Mrs. Z’s work is always intriguing and I’m always thrilled to be invited to watch.

On the first day of her new venture with a numberless word problem…Mrs. Z created her own and posted this..IMG_6872

First Mrs. Z posed the question “What’s a numberless word problem?”  The students quickly raised their hands and answered “words turn into a problem”, “something you have to read,” and “no numbers.”  Mrs. Z went on to explain how she was going to be telling a story and that they had to figure out the missing parts.

She had the students close their eyes as she read the story to them.  She then had them discuss what they had pictured in their heads with their partners.  Next they discussed as a whole class what they envisioned.  Once everyone had a picture of what was happening, Mrs. Z started asking the class what good numbers they could use. As you can see in the pictures below, the students came up with different combinations of numbers to add.  They also proved how they could add them up.

One student tried to answer “TWENTY HUNDRED MILLION!”  Mrs. Z calmly replied “that many would not fit in my yard.”

After finishing her circle map of possible answers, she had the students try their own.  And this is what they came up with.  Love seeing them verifying their answers at such a young, impressionable age.  

Mrs. Z was completely thrilled with the results as was I.  She asked me for feedback, and the only thing I could think of was to try giving them an answer to work with and seeing what combinations they came up with.  Would they work with number bonds, manipulatives, or draw out their answers?  

A few days later, she wanted to try again and invited me in to watch.  Here’s what she first posted.

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First, Mrs. Z started with notice and wonder.

Notice –  It’s about cookies.  I see sight words.

Wonder – What kind of cookies were there?  Did he get sick?  

She once again practiced with different combinations that make up 12 cookies.  They even discussed whether or not zero cookies were eaten on Monday and 12 cookies were eaten on Tuesday.  

One student wanted to come up and show the class how he counts his numbers together.  All the students had a turn showing Mrs Z. what combinations make up 12 using unifix cubes.

 

Next the students were given a similar problem about more cookies eaten by George.  This time he gorged on 18 cookies.  They were asked to find out all the possible combinations of 18 as they could. 

They were given unifix cubes to start with.  This table decided to first count their cubes to 18 and compare (to make sure they were all the same).

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Once they counted out their cubes, the kiddos got to work.  The table I sat at needed help, so I engaged them a bit.  I told them to close their eyes and break their stack of cubes.  After they opened their eyes, they counted their two stacks of cubes.  

 

The highlight of my two days with kindergarten was one sprightly pony-tailed girl named Lauren.  She ran up to me after she had finished her work and proclaims “PICTURE TIME!”  I nearly fell out of my chair in laughter.  (Do you think the kids know me or what?!?!)IMG_6968

 

Until next time,

keep smiling & keep laughing!

Kristen