Thursday, May 28, 2015

Number Talks

A year ago before leaving for summer break,  I received a new Math book, Number Talks,  from our Assistant Principal, Suzanne Shall.  She said she knew I would like it and even spent some time to show me the part I should read over the summer.  I did.  I am not a Math person but this book was pretty easy to read... although I did glaze over some of it, I think, because I just didn't have enough background knowledge to anchor some of the ideas.  Very few K-1 teachers choose early childhood because they want to be Math teachers.  Most of us dream of teaching children to read and we just teach the basic math fundamentals.  But today the expectation for Math is different.

Our first grade Math lead, Cheryl Dillard, taught several teacher meetings over the year from the book and I would reread the chapters again, each time internalizing more of the information and trying pieces in my classroom.  I knew it was making a difference because I could hear the difference in the conversation and vocabulary that the children were having.  But I knew that what I really needed was a Math book study where I could read each of the chapters again, ask questions, and have discussion and instruction to help me implement the strategies into my practice.  I really needed to understand the big picture and then to put the pieces inside that master plan.  I asked for the book study early in the year for K-1 teachers that were interested, but the books are expensive, and at our school, the perk of doing a voluntary book study on your own time is that the Principal tries to find the money to buy each participant the book.  I don't know about where you teach, but where I teach, money is really, really tight and she simply couldn't find the money to buy the books, even though we all agreed that this was instruction that was really needed in our primary school.

I knew time was running out and I knew I still needed the professional development (it's really all about me!) so I asked if teachers would buy their own book, could we do the book study?  But... the Principal was really adamant that teachers should not have to buy the materials to teach if they were willing to give their own time to do extra professional development.  Finally, with only six weeks left in the school year, the Principal somehow found the money and eight teachers came together for a book study, taught by our Assistant Principal (we do not have a Math Coach).  Is this ideal timing?  Heck, NO!  But we had no trouble getting these teachers to commit, meaning that they would be meeting all the way until the last week of school.  No teacher REALLY wants to be reading, thinking and meeting the last week of school and no Assistant Principal (who is also the testing coordinator) really has the time to plan professional development to inspire a group of K-1 teachers.  It's just too much with everything else going on as the school year closes.  BUT... meet we did and the time was engaging and filled with electricity and excitement.  We were able to think about what we HAD done this  year and how we would do it differently next year with all that we were learning.  We had a chance to discuss how it all fit so perfectly into the county's new adoption of EngageNY.  For me, it put the pieces together.  I will never teach Math the same way and probably for the first time in my career, I know exactly what I should be doing with my youngest students that are struggling. I actually have techniques and strategies that will make a difference.

We are sending the best prepared first grade Math students that we have ever sent to second grade, but I can't wait to see where we are able to take next year's group.  I just can't thank Susan Phillips (she swore she had to sell one of her kidneys to pay for the books!) and Suzanne Shall enough for making this professional development a reality.  I can only imagine how many children will benefit...

No comments: