Monday, April 9, 2018

True Confessions of A Math Teacher

During the 2018-19 school year, I'm interested in presenting on the valuable role that reflection plays on our growth as professional educators. Part of that growth is recognizing where we were in the past and how those moments in time have helped us grow to where we currently are as professional educators. My session would most likely be titled:

Therefore, I'd like to share a true confession with you about a concept I once taught and how it wasn't the most conceptual way of teaching it to students. I'll admit, it was a gimmick. I had plenty of gimmicks, but I'm only sharing one for now. Come to my session and I'll share a few more. Because of my desire to improve and grow as an educator, I stumbled upon a more conceptual way to teach the concept.

I'm hoping you will join me in learning more about our craft of teaching through the power of reflection.

  Click here to learn my true confession and complete a survey. 

In doing so, I hope you will take a couple minutes to confidentially share something about your growth with me. All responses will remain confidential. THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!
Click the link above.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

I Answer 3 Questions I Often Ask Others

During the 2017-18 school year, I've definitely made a a conscientious choice to limit my online interactions. Simply put, my children are receiving my time and energy and that is what's most important to me (and them of course). That said, I feel I have learned a great deal this year in my role as an instructional coach, but haven't taken the time to share with you all. Here is a brief summary framed around three questions I often ask teachers about a lesson or task they did with their students:
• what successes did you have?
• what challenges did you have?
• what advice would you give a teacher new to this [lesson/task]?

Regarding the 2017-18 school year so far, here are answers to my own questions:

(1) What successes have you had?
This is my fourth year as an instructional coach and I'm laughing and shaking my head at how green I was during my first three years as an instructional coach (or instructional idiot). One of the skills I have come to realize is most important in education is listening. Take the time to listen. Don't listen with the intention to make a suggestion to fix someone's problem. Listen to them. Learn from them. Find out what's most important to them. Listen to learn. Listening allows you to make connections with that person. Ask open-questions that allow teachers to share. Listen. When you think they're done telling their stories, ask questions that dig deeper, allowing you to learn even more about that person, whether it's their personal story, their educational story, or their aspirational story.

Collect stories.
This comes from the "Art of Coaching" by Elana Aguilar. Our district's coaches group has been reading Elana's book throughout the year and most of her strategies always go back to collecting the stories of the people you support. At least that's my interpretation. And how do you collect stories? By asking questions and listening!

Let me give you specific examples without identifying any of the teachers I work with.
If I didn't take the time to collect stories by asking questions and listening, I might not have learned a teacher's story about getting into education late after being divorced and losing a child. I might not have learned about a teacher's hardship with divorce and living between two places while trying to do right by their child. I might have never learned that a teacher has a farm and rides their horse frequently. I might not have learned about a teacher who loves to go thrift-shopping. I might not have learned about a teacher who is new to teaching and their previous math teacher is a teacher I supported two years ago. I might not have learned about a teacher and their adopted children. I might not have learned about a teacher going through their second battle with breast cancer. I might not have learned about a teacher's love of the outdoors and traveling. Needless to say, these personal stories take the coaching relationship to a level I never would have imagined. The work we do as professionals stems from a better personal understanding of each other.

(2) What challenges have you had?
Vision and Systems
Imagine listening to two bands play live music. The first band sounds great. You might not know why, especially if you're not a musician. Here are some reasons why they might sound great. All the instruments are tuned and their volume seems to compliment each other. The musicians know when to start and stop the song. The singer has a good voice because they are in key. And there are way more reasons why a band might sound good to your ears.
On the other hand, the other band sounds awful. Again, you might not be able to put your finger on why the second band sounds awful, but I'll give you some potential reasons. One or more of the instruments is out of tune. One or more of the instruments' volume is obnoxiously too loud. Maybe the musicians don't have confidence in starting a song, the tempo is off, they miss a transition, play off notes, or the singer is out of key. Again, multiple reasons why a band might sound awful.

You don't have to be a musician to tell a good band apart from a bad band. The point is we recognize when something is off and when something is on. Let me explain why a band might be on or off: vision and systems.

Typically, a band that performs well, started with a vision (or goal). For example, a blues band wants to perform cover songs of their favorite artists. For them to accomplish what they envision (their goal), they need to put into place a system that will accomplish said vision. Their system might include, but not be limited to the following:
• create a set list
• schedule rehearsals
• be on time for rehearsals
• establish norms at rehearsals
• have tuned instruments
• listen to each other when rehearsing their songs
• identify parts of songs that need more refinement
• and the list can go on

If a band who wants to perform well has a vision and a system, they're more likely going to sound great when performing in front of a live audience. Often times, bands that sound exceptional put a ton of time, care, passion, and attention into their system. When bands sounds like garbage, they lack the system (and sometimes talent). During the last four years as an instructional coach, I've been part of both bands. Bands that have a clear vision and system and bands that lack a vision and system.

So what's my challenge? My challenge (moving forward) is getting frustrated when I'm part of an educational "band" that lacks vision and system, especially when the strengths and passions of students and teachers are not being utilized. I don't always know how to constructively voice my concerns or ask questions when the vision is unclear and a system is lacking? How do I use my strengths and passions to create and/or enhance a vision and system I am proud to be a member of? I have more questions than ideas here and will continue to look for guidance in this area because I get frustrated when I see great potential untapped.

However, it has been beneficial that I've been part of both educational "bands". The experiences have allowed me to appreciate the effectiveness of vision and system. My high school director is amazing and has great vision and systemic thinking. Having been part of the systems this person has created, I learned a great deal. I'm not done learning as I still have plenty to learn.

(3) What advice do I have for a teacher new to this?
Listen, collect stories, and be patient.
As I expressed above, the more I listened to the teachers I support with the intention to learn more about them and what's important to them, our work will be more meaningful and productive. For example, as an early instructional coach, I often identified what I thought the teacher needed. Nope, don't do that. With experience, I learned to listen to what was important to the teacher and I often verify it by paraphrasing it back to them to be sure.

Collecting stories simply means learn more about the people you interact with. Whether it's your students, your colleagues, your neighbors, or your mail carrier, everyone has a story that's worth knowing. Imagine how meaningful it is when you share your story with someone and they remember it next time you see them or are mindful of a tough situation you're going through. Listening and collecting stories of those we interact with is a gift we can frequently give them.

Being patient is a general statement that can translate to "it takes time". The longer I'm in education, the more I realize things take time. Just like a good performing band, it takes time. I can't appreciate where I am now if it weren't for the instructional coach (idiot) I was a few years ago. Now, I'm just less of an idiot. I'm grateful for the teachers I've supported because they've had patience with me and allowing me to grow as a coach. How unfair would it be to them if I didn't reciprocate that same token of professionalism? Therefore, anytime you would like to grow as a professional, parent, friend, neighbor, or person, be patient with others and be patient with yourself.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Where's Andrew Been? I'll Tell You

Hi everyone,

I've been quiet lately, but there's been a lot happening.

Some upcoming opportunities:
I'm excited to be giving a two-day workshop here in California on October 6-7, 2017 through Grassroots Workshops.
This two-day workshop is near and dear to my heart because it's designed with math teachers in mind. The purpose of the workshop is to strengthen the teaching tools of those who attend so they can go back to their classrooms and:
  • help students strengthen their number sense
  • use student thinking to drive their math instruction
  • use problem-solving as a vehicle for conceptual understanding

I share more in the video below. I really hope you can make it. Bring a friend!
You can register by clicking here.

Grassroots Workshop Promo from Mr.Stadel on Vimeo.

Family (math) Fun:
This summer I've had a blast doing mathy things with my kids. Thanks to Christopher Danielson and John Stevens. Danielson shipped us out some really cool math boxes that included really cool books, puzzles, and wooden tiles for us to play with. Learn more about them here. John Stevens wrote an awesome book, Table Talk Math. Recently, my kids and I have had some fun and low-risk math-type conversation over these sweet placemats he recently made available. Check them out!

My new-ish role:
I'm starting my fourth year as an instructional coach in my district. We coaches will be expected to support teachers in all subject areas. Our work with teachers will be to focus on specific teaching goals and objectives of their choice while in conjunction with their site goal. It's a new challenge for me and I've already learned a great deal from my fellow coaches and the teachers I have worked with.

One part of my new role is to support a small cohort of teachers who are working with 9th grade students in an algebra enrichment type course. The purpose of the course is to provide students with the conceptual understanding and number sense necessary to transition successfully to a full year of Algebra in 10th grade. We've already explored Number Talks, Clothesline Math, and Which One Doesn't Belong. Visual Patterns is on the horizon and we are using a Standards-Based-Grading model with reassessments to provide ongoing support for student.

Maybe you have seen my Clothesline Integer Game. Leave it to the awesome math community to make it better. I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Geoffrey Dean and he shared his adaptation of the game; students could play in small groups and try and get 5 In A Row. I'll ask him if I can share it on the page above. I took his adaptation and made a desmos version of it.
In the algebra enrichment course, we will also be trying out this desmos activity on multiplying integers using a number line.

My Master's:
I'm pursuing my Master's in Educational Technology.
Talk about adding even more to my workload. Ha!

That's maybe a fifth of what I've been up to lately... but who wants to read more? Ha!
Hope you are doing well and your year is off to a great start.