All posts by sheilafrederixon

Is Love Enough?

Back in August I wrote down the following reminder to myself, “if you aren’t improving you are falling back, it is almost impossible to stay stagnant”. When I wrote this down, I was hoping to remind myself to continue to improve my practice. I was motivating myself to take on things like supporting my colleagues, designing new innovative projects, become National Board Certified, and bettering my school community to name a few. All these ideas seemed amazing and ways to impact the world around me.

As April rolled around, I was sitting with my assistant principal, and he said basically the same thing to me I written down in August. This time those it didn’t inspire me the way it did 9 months ago. I wasn’t energized any more. All the work I had taken on just felt like work that wasn’t pushing me in ways I had thought. On the surface, my administrators and colleagues still talked about how excellent I was doing and the impact I was making. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel or see it, and now I all I could think about was how I had been feeling stagnant in my career and ability as a teacher. Did this mean I was actually falling backwards?

I began to doubt if I was in the right path, is this career choice right for me. I knew I loved teaching, I knew I loved kids, and I knew I loved curriculum. However, I found myself wondering is love enough overcome this stagnation I felt. I began to think about other paths that would be right for me. As forever a Type A planner, I even starting making lists and brainstorming different things I might want to do. Even as I began to make these plans and brainstorm, I kept teaching on the list because leaving would be the most heart wrenching thing I could do.

Fast forward to this weekend at the Magnet Schools of America Conference, the keynote address was done by Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers. He started his session saying that he knows we as teachers are overworked, under paid, under appreciated, and have millions of completely valid reasons to leave the classroom, but his goal was to give us one reason to stay. As he said this all I could think is, “I already have my one reason to stay [the kids I love], but is loving the kids enough?” Over the next hour, he spoke about his life. This wasn’t just a retelling of the story of Freedom Writers, but he spoke of math teachers, coaches, lunch ladies, and yes an English teacher impacted his life. During this time, I was reminded how Hollywood made it appear that only one person impacted student, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He spoke of truly a village who helped raise him into the man that stood before us.

As the hour was wrapped up, Manny shared with us a story from a previous talk he gave. The story went like this:

He was in Texas discussing the idea that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Then a true blue cowboy stood up and said, “No disrespect but that is simply not true. Yes you can’t force a horse to drink, but you sure as hell can put salt in his mouth to make him thirsty.”

He then challenged us to be the salt for our students: be the salt for the student who loves learning and school, the salt for the student who is only at school for the sports, be the salt for the students who struggle, and be the salt for students like him, who have more going on than anyone can ever imagine. He challenged us to go back to our classrooms, keep fighting the good fight, for our kids need us more than we know, and to make our kids thirsty to learn and better themselves.

As I walked out of the talk, I was feeling inspired and reminded that although my job was hard and I didn’t feel like I was making a difference I probably was impacting someone. I pulled my phone out of my bag for the first time in the last hour (a testament to how engaging Manny was as a speaker) to find a message from a former student. In this message, she told me about the impact I had made on her. She talked about how she always felt safe in my room, that I was a person she could turn too, and on top of that I was a fabulous teacher. I don’t share this to toot my own horn, but to explain the shift that has happened.

These two experiences reminded me that despite all the reasons I want to leave, my reason for staying is better than all of them. I love the kids. I love joking with them, teaching them, supporting them, and inspiring them to be better people in whatever manner they choose. One day this love may not be enough, but for now it is all I need as a reason to stay.

Now that I have decided I couldn’t possibly walk away from the kids I love, I need to find a way to make sure I never feel the way I felt sitting in the conversation with my assistant principal wondering if I was actually getting worse at my job. I don’t yet have an idea how to do that, but now that I know what I want I can start figuring that part out.

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KSTF Summer Meeting Reflection

The last week has been tremendously reflective for me. For the last five years, I have been part of the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) teaching fellowship program. This program has helped me learn, grow, reflect, and become the teacher I am today. In a way, the last week was a goodbye to all the amazing people and learning I have done for 5 years.

This last week wasn’t just about reflecting and enjoying one last time with the amazing 29 educators in my cohort. We also did some serious work, and I want to share my takeaways from that meeting with explanations where needed.

KSTF Summer Takeaways: A Top 10

  • All stories are important and sharing honest truths is critical to growth
    1. As our last cohort debrief we did a protocol 6 words, 1 word. In this protocol we went around a circle and shared 6 words that represent where we are now in our teaching practice. Then we repeated the process with one word. It was such a powerful experience to hear my cohort share the truths of their lives (good, bad, and ugly).
  • Grouping students in ways that allow them to be involved increases ownership.
    1. I attended an amazing session by Sarah DiMaria (@MsDiMaria) where she shared her grouping strategy. She runs a mock draft where students complete blind resumes and other students draft each other based on skills needed to make the perfect team. I am so excited how this can allow groups to be the most balanced since drafts are made on skills alone & at the same time gives kids ownership over their group.
  • Finding alone time is integral to my ability to be present when I am with others.
    1. This truth is much more personal. As I get older, I am discovering I am becoming more and more introverted. When I am in situations where I have to constantly around people, I find that if I don’t take 15 minutes during the day to truly be alone –no electronics to digitally engage, I will end up checking out in the middle of conversations I want to be having. I think I just need those few precious minutes to help me recharge to be fully present later.
  • Leadership is messy and undefinable, but the struggles being shared empower others.
    1. As part of the 5th year of the fellowship, we explored teacher leadership & told our story of the experience to younger fellows. From our debrief following and reflecting on my experience of being a younger fellow, we came to the conclusion that stories that aren’t neatly tied up at the end are more powerful because it allows others to connect in unique ways.
  • It is not belittling to treat adults like students. I am a good teacher so those skills can and should translate to facilitating adults.
    1. For a while now, I have struggled when leading workshops & meetings about how to best facilitate. I want to make meaningful space for the people I work with, but I am always concerned that if I treat them too much like my students they will feel disrespected. From leading a workshop this summer & participating in debriefing that with my coach, I have discovered that those skills do translate and it isn’t wrong to use my teacher moves with  adults.
  • The super teacher narrative is frustrating, and it is important to be humble in success.
    1. As part of every summer, we read a book and invite the author to speak at summer meeting. This year we read Mission High and instead of having the author attend, they invited the teachers the book was about. It was powerful to see these teachers, who are portrayed as superheros in the book, share their weaknesses and struggles in the profession.
  • The fellowship is what you make it, and I have truly loved my experience.
  • I need to step back from KSTF (physically) and it is ok to take gap time.
  • Equity in my school is critical to me and I want kids to feel valued in all classes.IMG_0421.JPG
    1. As we wrapped up the year, we began to explore what changes we want to see in any aspect of education or our life. To do that I made a concept map. In it I explored all sorts of aspects of my practice & life. From this experience, I saw that equity of all students in my classroom and my school is important to me–I am not surprised. I have not decided where I want to go with this yet, but I plan to find allies in my school to help me do something about inequities I see.

 

 

  • These people and this organization has impacted me in ways I struggle to articulate,  but I am a better human because of it.

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The 2011 Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Teaching Fellows.
 

TMC16 Reflections

Last weekend, I got to attend Twitter Math Camp (TMC). I know those three words strung together sound insanely ridiculous. Like how more millennial can I get, I attended a meeting of people who previously I had only interacted with or heard of on Twitter. When you add math camp to the end, it just pushes the idea over the top into nerdy ridiculousness. Before you judge this too much, know this group of teachers was one of the most welcoming and amazing group of people I have worked with. From the moment I arrived, I felt part of the community. Everyone was so friendly and excited to share their practice with others. This group of teachers took risks, were vulnerable, and supported each other in ways I never expected.

Some may be wondering how I ended up at TMC. It started on a total impulse. I had heard about this awesome conference of amazing math teachers. One day during my plan in January, I saw a call for presentations and on a whim I applied.  Imagine my surprise when I found out I was accepted. My immediate response was to say no. There was no way I was qualified to present at a conference with these amazing teachers who I had watched from afar on the internet. In the end, I decided to give the presentation and not chicken out. I am so glad I made that choice. Even though, it was scary the attendees of my session were super supportive and had great conversations about how to integrate social issues into our mathematics classroom. The process of presenting in such a supportive environment helped me think about how to best engage attendees to my session. For instance, the project I picked involved a lot of explaining of teacher moves. If I had picked a project that was shorter, the attendees could have completely experienced it as a student. This would have allowed them to truly see and experience how PBL and Social Issues connect in a mathematics classroom.

In addition to presenting, I was able to attend some phenomenal sessions. This summer I had been thinking a lot about how to help my students see themselves as mathematicians. TMC had tons of phenomenal sessions around this idea. It started with Jose Vilson’s talk around equity in math education. He spoke about how important it is that the most at risk students have access to and see relevance to high level mathematics. Following his talk, I attended a session around how to support students mathematics identity. This was a very moving session for me because it allowed me to start think about what I do to affect student’s identity. In conjunction with that session, I attended a session to get teachers thinking about their own biases around students. These two sessions together have given me tons of ideas about how to approach my principal about having these types of conversations with my staff. I think that having the idea of student identity and equity at the center of our work as a staff. I think it is important for us to discuss and now I feel like I have the tools to help approach this subject.

Coming away from TMC, I feel more inspired than ever. I have so many ideas about how to bring students identity into my classroom. The most tangible thing I plan to do is begin to a Friday segment called “Mathematicians: Not Just Old Dead White Dudes”. I got this idea from the fabulous Annie Perkins, she has students request the type of mathematician they want to hear about. Then she researches the person and gives a five minute talk about that mathematician. My hope is to extend this to make it so it builds on my letter writing last year. I hope to create the opportunity for students, if interested, to reach out to these mathematicians to learn more.

My Passion & Curiosity Quotient

Over the last year, I have been working on how to best bring technology into my classroom. Through my course (CEP 810, 811, & 812), I have learned that technology goes beyond the digital technology we think of. Finding ways to integrate technology depends on many different aspects of a lesson.

This week as my final course winds down, I reflected on how things I am passionate and curious about extends into my classroom and helps my students better develop their understandings of mathematics.

Instead of writing an essay about these reflections, I put them into a Prezi. All the pictures in the Prezi come from my classroom, my schools website, or my own twitter feed. You can view the Prezi here.

References
Friedman, T. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0

Wicked Problems of Education

Over the course of CEP 812, we have been exploring the Wicked Problems of Education. There are many different problems facing education and many different solutions. Our group explored the problem of how to keep education relevant in a changing world.

The Problem:
Our world is constantly changing, we are more interconnected than ever. However, as people argue education is not keeping up with the changing world of education. In today’s world, there is more access to technology, people are working more closely together than ever, and contents are more intermingled than ever.

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The Solution:
Our group analyzed the research and came up with a possible solution, presented in the white paper below.

Changing my Infodiet

This week in CEP 812, we began to think about our infodiet. What type of resources do we draw on to develop our understandings of the world and education. As the world changes, we are able to draw on more and more resources. However as James Gee explains in Anti-Education Era, “You can, if you want, ensure that you never see or hear viewpoints you do not like or face people who do not share your values, interests, and viewpoints. You can customize your politics, just as you can customize everything else, and always hear arguments you already agree with and news reports that never venture far from or challenge your worldview.” (Gee, 2013, p. 117). So as Gee argues, even though we have so much available to us, humans customize their information to reinforce their view points. Eli Pariser refers to this phenomenon in his TED talk as filter bubbles.

filterbubble
One affinity space, I have found I am particularly engaged in is Twitter. I had a Twitter account I used prior to CEP 810. However, that class really pushed me to expand my understanding of how to leverage Twitter. Since that class, I now often reach out to other teachers asking for advice, to share curriculum, or follow conversations. I even sometimes join the conversations, but I have not actively contributed to a specific one. I also have been able to network with other teachers interested in using technology in my area through #CapitalAreaEdTech. I  have begun to follow a number of accounts that share education related articles, blog posts, or tips. Having these resources have been invaluable to me in finding ways to improve my practice in my classroom.
twitter feed

As I began to reflect on my filter bubble, I start to look at my Twitter feed with a more critical eye. I realized I have done some diversifying in the views of what I follow, but not nearly enough. Very often the people I follow on Twitter are educators who I believe will push my thinking. However, I often see them as pushing my thinking in the direction I want to go. For instance Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) always pushes my thinking with his blog posts and writing about a whole range of issues: what it means to teach math to underserved students, what it looks like to be a teacher leader from the classroom, and how to be an advocate for your kids. Although he pushes my thinking, I definitely see him as a like minded educator, who values things similar to me.

Capture

In the spirit of diversifying my infodiet. I added a ton of new resources to my Twitter feed. I added these sources for a variety of reasons. Some have recently published articles about how technology is not the fix all we had hoped in education. For someone who has a very tech focused Twitter feed, this will be a big shift in perspectives being offered. Others (@GoogleForEdu, @geogebra, and @mathalicious) were added to help support the development of my wicked problem (how to keep formal education relevant). Ironically to my last point, our focus is how bring technology into a classroom can help keep formal education relevant. Finally others were added to help give me multiple views of issues facing teachers in Michigan (@MEAOnline & @mieducation). When I was looking for ways to add to my infodiet, I was shocked to see that I did not follow either my union or the Department of Education since they both have a direct impact on policies that affect my classroom.

My hope is through expanding my information diet, I will be able to now know more sides of an issue that what was currently being presented on my Twitter news feed. I would love to still add more to my Twitter feed, especially bloggers who present interesting perspectives on the issues facing teachers today.

Resources

Gee, James Paul (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.

Nothing but… (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gi/5497134432

Pariser, E (2011, May 2). Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=B8ofWFx525s

Technology Integration at Everett High School

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As part of CEP 812, we began to explore technology integration in our settings. To see how our colleagues are integrating technology into their classroom, I had my colleagues take a survey. This survey asked them a variety of questions regarding how they use technology and what type of professional development they would like to help support them in using technology. The results of the survey were very illuminating. You can read about the results in this essay.


As I reflect on these survey results, I was floored by the amazing technology work my colleagues are doing in there classroom. What shocked me was that many of us are using similar technologies, but our building has done nothing to support these technologies. I wonder how can we build support for each other with in our building, so we don’t each have to discover the technology on our own?

I also was shocked to see that some of my colleagues felt they didn’t have a support system. I have always found our community super supportive, but I guess everyone doesn’t feel the same way. I wonder how we can build in a support network, so no one feels unsupported in their practice?

How can smart people be so stupid?

This question has the topic of conversation this week in CEP 812. As we read Dr. James Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era, we examined reasons humans are so terrible at solving complex problems of our time. There are so many things that contribute to why humans are so stupid. We don’t understand the limitations of our own memory, we fall into pitfalls of status and solidarity, and our institutions are frozen in thought just to name a few.  The following essay is my response to Gee’s arguments and why I believe humans are struggle so much at solving complex problems.

How can smart people be so stupid?

Using Digital Tools to Help Students with ADHD

I have always felt strongly that I am here to teach all the students I have, not the students I want. I feel I constantly hear, “if only we had kids that….” This statement has always rubbed me the wrong way. Yes it is a struggle to engage some students, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage those students. That is what made me so excited about this week’s activity in CEP 812. All year, I struggled with how to engage and help focus my students who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As I was reading the research and looking for a tool to help support my students, one of my colleagues suggested Reflex Math. It does cost money, but my colleague has an account and let me use her account to explore. The more I explore and played on the site as a student, the more I realized how perfect this would be for students with ADHD.

Reflex Math is a website that help increases the mathematical fluency of students through a game based platform. As a middle/high school teacher (my building is 7-12 and I have taught both 8th grade & 9th grade), I have found one of my biggest issues is the mathematical fluency of my students with ADHD. Many times this disorder has caused there to be gaps in their mathematical knowledge. This is because many time students with ADHD are in general education classrooms with “teachers who may be unaccustomed to making modifications in their curriculum” (Reeve, 1990). I know I have felt this way many times. As I (and my students previous teachers) have not found ways to make modifications for them, the gaps in their mathematical knowledge have grown larger.

I see Reflex Math as a way to help fill those gaps in mathematical knowledge. In Reflex Math, the teacher is able to set up an account and monitor the student’s’ progress. Students mainly work on addition/subtraction or multiplication/division facts. This allows students to increase their fluency and feel more confident when it comes to using those facts to solve algebraic problems. What makes Reflex so wonderful for students with ADHD is it offers immediate feedback to students on how they are doing, as well as, playing a game. According to Yehle & Wambold (1998), having immediate feedback is one way to keep students with ADHD engaged through technology. This system is well beyond just basic flashcards. It is set up for students to play games and solve puzzles while completing the math facts.

To help further explain how Reflex can be used and works in a classroom, I have created a screencast.

References

Reeve, R. (1990). ADHD: Facts and Fallacies. Intervention in School and Clinic, 70-78.

Yehle, A., & Wambold, C. (1998). An ADHD Success Story: Strategies for Teachers and Students. Teaching Exceptional Children, 30(6), 8-13.