From my time spent in other teacher’s classrooms and teachers visiting my classroom, a common theme always emerges about sharing mathematical ideas and activities for classroom use:
- Many teachers have unique ideas that are worth sharing with others (even if these teachers don’t agree that they have great ideas).
- Many teachers are looking for ideas to utilize in their own classrooms so the wheel does not have to be reinvented.
I am continuously living on both sides of this fence. I enjoy sharing what I have done in my classroom, whether it is through blogging (pagingdoctormath.blogspot.com), formal presentations, journal articles (bit.ly/2jIbN8o), or teachers visiting my classroom. Many years ago I thought that I had nothing to share with anyone that would be impactful. One of my colleagues encouraged me to present at the AEA 267 1:1 Conference (probably not the official name), and I was mobbed with so many questions at the end of my presentation that my perspective on how I could help other teachers changed quickly. I had a lot of ideas worth sharing, and the questions from other teachers helped me to reflect on those ideas, fine tuning my ideas for the benefit of my students. I don’t think my blog gets a lot of hits, but enough that I get emails and responses about the posts and how my blog has impacted classrooms. I also normally have one group of teachers/ administrators from various districts that request to come into my room each week to observe and ask my students and myself questions about what we are doing in class. It turns out I did have some great ideas, and you probably do too.
As far as acquiring ideas for my classroom, I would say 80% of the tasks we do come from Twitter. I do not have a textbook, nor do I want one for my 7th and 8th graders. I also don’t have a lot of collaboration partners being in a small district. There are so many great resources available for free. Twitter helped me discover Dan Meyer’s blog (bit.ly/1u7foLJ), Estimation 180 (estimation180.com), and When Math Happens (bit.ly/2jnzQWM). Those free resources, along with many others have been the driving influence for my classes. I take those ideas, and tweak them to fit my classroom values and philosophies to help give my students a great experience. It’s wonderful if you come up with your own ideas and materials, I do, but understand that there are outstanding resources for free if you know where to look. Always be weary of online resources. Find sites you trust and weed out the trash.
Here are steps to help you get started sharing and gaining ideas for your classroom:
1. Open your classroom to anyone who wants to observe. This works on both levels of sharing. Teachers get to see what you are doing to gain ideas, but as the host, you can gain ideas from those teachers as well to help improve your practice.
A new teacher in my district wanted to observe my classroom, and when I told her she could come in any time, I think she was in shock. I don’t change my plans for when people come in. My room is open to anyone. What you see is what you get, and that is ok. You want to present the most accurate version of your classroom so you can get and give genuine advice and feedback.
2. Start a blog using Blogger (it’s free), and start sharing something. Whether it is ideas or pictures of student work, you would be surprised who you will help, and what feedback you will receive. I didn’t understand the impact my small blog had until I received emails from teachers in Hawaii and Australia. You can also start by presenting your ideas at conferences. Start with a small, local conference, which there is plenty of.
3. Be active on Twitter. If you don’t have an account, make one. If you have an account but don’t use it for educational purposes, change its purpose. You can make so many connections and gain access to free resources by following the right people. If you need a few people to start with, go to my Twitter page (twitter.com/Doctor_Math), click on FOLLOWING, and browse the people I interact with.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You never know what ideas you can give and receive and whose students you can be helping have a better overall mathematical experience.
Dr. Clayton Edwards
AEA 267 Regional Director
Grundy Center Middle School