“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan Watts
After several years of teaching at the elementary level, I took a leap to a new district where I began teaching middle school mathematics. Looking back, I cannot believe how much I grew personally and professionally in that single school year. I began the year on maternity leave with my second child, having lessons prepared with the traditional, “I do. We do. You do.” style, a gradual release of responsibility. It was the way I was taught at that age. I quickly realized that I wasn’t hearing that “buzz” of learning in my classroom. Where was the discovery? the sharing? the community? It didn’t sound like my third grade classroom. My teaching style was lost. After lots of trials, failures, and efforts, even more work began, I jumped and made a change for my students.
I ditched the textbook. I researched and copied and pasted, and I made lessons from some pretty amazing resources I stumbled into along the way. Every night was spent this way, with hours and hours of planning and editing, stuck on repeat. Sound familiar? I wanted to create something that allowed my students to discover, to notice and wonder. And finally a brand new curriculum from Open Up Resources was sent my way.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
I dug right into it. The day after I was given an account with the Open Up Resources 6-8 Math curriculum, I taught a lesson from Grade 7, Unit 7 to my mathematicians. Then I taught another, then another. I knew this was what I was trying to create from scratch and some research. A curriculum with focus, active learning, and coherence. After some summer training focused on effective instructional routines and a book study with 5 Practice for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion, by Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein, my school adopted the curriculum.
The first full year of teaching with Open Up Resources 6-8 Math was an eventful journey full of ups and downs. I analyzed and grew in my teaching by recording and watching myself, engaging in professional discourse with my middle school PLC, and finding a network of amazing teachers on Twitter. I engaged in Zoom meetings with the organization to give feedback and ideas for improvements for the curriculum.
That next summer an application was put out for teachers with experience in teaching the curriculum. There was a need for teacher leaders as this free middle school curriculum was put into the hands of more and more educators across the country. My first thought was, Why not try for it? I was offered the opportunity to contract work through Open Up Resources as a teacher coach.
I was confident in my abilities as a teacher, in my learning, in my growth. But I only had right around 250 Twitter followers. And then, BOOM! Self-doubt flooded my thoughts and feelings. What did I really have to offer to help and support teachers from everywhere? Why did they choose me? Imposter syndrome.
I often look back at the beginning as an Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Community Coach. I still don’t have the nerve to go back and watch my first-ever Zoom PLC meeting, but I can clearly see how much I have grown as a teacher, as a person, and as a leader. I recognize that my confidence in myself has grown exponentially, though the imposter syndrome sneaks into my mind every now and then.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.”
My favorite experience as a Community Coach up to this point has to be the first-ever HIVE Conference in July 2019. HIVE allowed me to meet hundreds of passionate math educators from all over the United States. The friendships and connections I made from those three days are stronger today than ever. HIVE gave me a network of amazing educators. I value the opinions and ideas of these new colleagues. I came back to my classroom with a lot of ideas, changes, and improvements. HIVE made me a better teacher and coach.
I’m still pinching myself with where all of this has led me. This summer after HIVE 2020 I will be starting a full-time position with Open Up Resources as the Teacher Leader in Residence. I will work with the social media communities we’ve built from the ground up to make the curricula even better. I will get to work with educators like yourselves, across the country every single day to offer professional learning customized to exactly what you need in your classrooms and districts. Here’s my favorite part: I will get to develop all of these professional learning offerings by contracting phenomenal teachers in the trenches, like you, to coach and provide leadership and learning opportunities for educators everywhere.
I cannot wait to see all that we will continue to do together as a learning community. I look forward to the impact this will have on young learners as we grow in these education networks. I am absolutely thrilled to learn, grow, and share with all of you! We’re truly better together.