I can almost detect in the air what a new school year smells and feels like. Crisp, early, fall-like mornings that give way to stuffy classrooms in the afternoon from the solar heating of late summer. But, there’s also an energy – a distinct buzz – that it’s time to nurture and develop a new set of students. What’s not to love about all their spiffy new school supplies, fresh haircuts, and wide-eyed optimism? And while our students are getting geared up to learn new things, so should we.
Frankly, we live in Iowa. Outside of a handful of districts, we’re all teaching in rural schools. Your PLC may be amazing, but there’s a larger math community out there that can enrich our ability to teach content with more effective pedagogies and greater student engagement. Remember the days when each of our districts created our own set of math standards – the ones you knew like the back of your hand because you spent endless summer hours hashing them out with district colleagues? It would have been an interesting study to look at all those side-by-side. Just how similar or different were those from district to district? I fear that if we had embarked on that sort of review, we would likely have discovered just how isolated we really were – and probably still are. No students can afford to be the bearers of the short-end of the equity stick. It’s not just good practice to hone our teaching craft; it’s our moral obligation. A stagnant, isolated curriculum is one of the biggest – and most silent – threats to our students’ potential.
I hope you view ICTM as I do: a vehicle for collaboration in the broader network of mathematics educators. I have few other chances to intimately hear about work going on across our state – from our youngest students to our college classrooms in regards to math education. ICTM has helped me create special bonds with educators, coaches, and consultants across Iowa, given me opportunities to grow professionally though sessions, and fostered new perspectives and ideas from our journal.
It’s time to focus on our biggest educational challenges, and make a commitment to affect change in those areas. Maybe you want your students to dialogue more about math concepts, so you implement number talks (or math talks for your discipline) that train students to engage in deep discussions. Perhaps it’s time you ‘nix the tricks’ that are catchy and fun, but don’t teach the mathematical content you really wanted your students to know in the first place. Did your district go to a no-textbook curriculum and you need instructional ideas? That’s how ICTM can support you. Take advantage of the expertise of our “Iowa math family.” Join a conference session – better yet – present on what is working for you. Read or write articles for the journal. Most of all, engage in your profession because I need you, and so do my students. Otherwise, we’re just isolated educational silos, where some students get the best education and others don’t even realize what they missed out on.
It’s a new school year. Join me – and let’s make this the best year yet by implementing some new best practices. As my husband would say, “Go teach ‘em up!” We hope to see you at our fall conference on October 9th.