A Blog by Carnegie Learning
Bringing This to Life in Your Classroom
Click here to read the companion post to this piece by Jadon, student, and Celeste Bolin, Co-Director at One Stone High School.
FEAR. As teachers, there has been some point in our careers where we have been motivated by fear. Some will more readily admit it than others, but we have all asked ourselves similar questions.
These are all real, legitimate questions and fears given the system that we teach in. It is these questions that can cause us to forget one of our most important roles: the role of a learner.
One Stone coaches like Dr. Celeste Bolin embrace the role of a learner as they work with students. The story shared by Celeste and Jadon shows how Celeste, as a coach, embodied a learner mindset. She had a desire to learn what the students were interested in and what knowledge they were bringing with them. Celeste also stretched her knowledge, worked in collaboration with students, and as a result, modeled what it means to be a learner.
As part of the learner mindset, we need to show students our passion for the content. That passion is not just in the joy we get from what we are working on that day, but in the wonder and intrigue that we have as we look at the material differently or see a novel approach to a task. I love math, and students know that. When I was in the classroom, there was a point in every class where I excitedly revealed that the concept we were exploring was my favorite topic so far that year. Even though I knew the math I was teaching, I still let the wonder and explorations of the students be contagious. As students shared, I questioned and explored right along with them, much in the same way that Celeste questioned and explored the lifespan of the landfill with Jadon and Dylan.
It is in these moments that we have to remember that the fear of imperfection prevents us from fully modeling the habits of a learner. Celeste embraced her lack of a correct answer or pathway and became a learner alongside Jadon and Dylan. It wasn’t about giving them an answer, but helping them find the path and tools that would lead to a solution. As a result, Jadon and Dylan respected Celeste more and gained more confidence in themselves as learners and problem solvers. For many of us, we know the content we are teaching backward and forward. We have to intentionally find moments to capture the wonder and give our students opportunities to grow in that same way.
It can be challenging to find wonder in our content every day, especially if every day consists of worksheets and procedural activities. How much wonder can we, the experts, find in a bunch of straight-forward computations? The wonder we can capture is in trying to learn what students know.
All of this is the formative assessment data that we collect daily. Celeste’s actions captured what we need to do once we have that data. She found out where the students were at and helped them gain the tools they needed to keep growing. We need to do the same thing. We need to use that data to help guide our next steps such as small group instruction, reminding students to go back and reference the resources they have access to, or providing them with extension opportunities to continue to grow and challenge their thinking.
Zig Ziglar said, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything and Run,’ or, ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” We can choose to concede to fear, forgetting everything we have learned through professional learning opportunities and conversations with colleagues, and run back to our comfort zones still in fear we are not doing right by our students. Or we can face that fear and recognize it as an intuition deep inside that is calling us to make a change for our students. We can rise up and model what it means to be a learner, embracing the same mindset as One Stone coaches like Celeste that allow students to push us just as much as we push our students.
The choice is yours. I hope that you choose to model the learner mindset by showing students your passion for the content and embracing the wonder that still exists in seeing different approaches and being willing to challenge your own understanding. I hope that you let students see that you find wonder in letting them share their thinking and bring their knowledge to the table, and that you use it to drive them forward in their growth as mathematicians.
Sarah Galasso began her career teaching secondary mathematics in Anaheim, CA. Sarah’s passion for math education and supporting diverse learners led her to an opportunity with the University of CA, Irvine, providing professional development and supporting local school districts as they developed K–12 standards-aligned math curricula. She also partnered with Student Achievement Partners to review instructional materials and write a series of blog posts on the Standards for Mathematical Practice for AchievetheCore.org. Now, as a member of the Carnegie Learning team, Sarah works with educators across the western U.S. to help them bring math to life for their students.Explore more related to this author
I hope that you choose to model the learner mindset by showing students your passion for the content and embracing the wonder that still exists in seeing different approaches and being willing to challenge your own understanding.
Sarah Galasso, Lead Math Solution Specialist, Carnegie Learning