You Do You: Being Your Authentic Self

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Tony Jones, Mahomet, IL

I recall as a young teacher feeling very inadequate when I would compare myself to other teachers to see if I measured up (what psychologists call Social Comparison Theory). I am not sure as a veteran teacher that I have overcome that feeling all that much. I see some of the great things others are doing and immediately feel the pressure to do something equally worthy. Often, it would cause me to attempt to emulate their ideas (even using the exact lesson) in hopes that it would magically transform my classroom. Sometimes it worked, though more often than not it did not work. And when it didn’t, I felt like a failure.

It was even worse after attending a conference where incredibly gifted leaders and teachers shared some of their great ideas. I could not wait to get back to my classroom and implement these new ideas. And, despite taking detailed notes and fleshing out the ideas, the borrowed activity never seemed to have the impact I had hoped for. Once again, I felt like a failure.

Recently I came across a video on Twitter in which a teacher had transformed her classroom into a “Hogwarts School.” It was AWESOME! It was near Hollywood perfect in its final product. It would be the envy of any teacher. But, as I read the thread of responses, I noticed something that made me pay more attention. Beyond the multitude of positive comments and approval, there were also comments about how much pressure some teachers, particularly young teachers, might feel when seeing this. Many teachers may feel inadequate when comparing their classroom to something like this. And this may cause many of them to feel the pressure to create the same type of environment in their own classroom. The problem is that the ability to create a classroom like this one is nearly impossible for most of us, whether that is due to money, time, or the artistic ability needed to create some of the things that were present.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have LOVED to be in that classroom. It was warm and inviting. It was straight-out-of-Hollywood, showroom-worthy perfect. And it was so aesthetically pleasing. I applaud the teacher for being incredibly creative and amazingly artistic. But, given my artistic abilities (or lack thereof), I would have never been able to create anything near that.

Yet, in our day of the perfect Facebook family life, the Instagram influencers, the transformative viral YouTube video, the incredibly poignant Ted Talk, and the unspoken mandate to engage every student, perhaps we have unwittingly made some teachers (most teachers?) feel very inadequate.

I believe that teaching is far more art than science. Our students have so many different personalities and they have a wide range of life experiences. There are so many needs to meet in the classroom, needs that are not mentioned in the curriculum. And there are so many raw and unedited emotions that emerge from students (and teachers) on a daily basis.

While each day in your classroom should be planned, it can never truly be scripted. Students go off-script hundreds of times a day. Some of my best days have been when we have gone off-script. We need to see the students in our classrooms as people first and students second. The minute we do not is the minute we fail to connect with them in meaningful ways that can have lasting impact.

Please hear clearly that this is not to advocate for a dismissal of the curriculum nor the abdication of lesson planning. However, creating an environment where students feel safe, feel cared for, and connected is far more impactful than the perfect lesson plan. Creating this environment is not as much about how your classroom looks and how your class routines are implemented as it is about how students feel when they approach you in your classroom.

You do not have to keep up with the Joneses, live up to some unrealistic reality you have created in your mind, or create the best lesson plan of the 21st century. In other words, you do not need to try to be someone you are not because you see another teacher as the pinnacle of the profession. Help your students believe in themselves and help them bring out the best in themselves. You will do that best by being authentic — being the very best version of you for the students you teach.

So, a simple word of advice for you: you do you. Honor who you are, honor who your students are and be the best teacher you can be in your own situation and within your own context, comfortable in your own personality. In doing so, you will begin to have an impact on the success of the students in your classroom and truly make a difference in the lives of students.

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.