Episode #20: Restoring Balance In Your Life – A Math Mentoring Moment with LISA GEGGIE
We speak with Lisa Geggie, a teacher of 24 years and self proclaimed perfectionist. and a brave, caring human being. Lisa, like many of us, spends countless hours of after school time, weekends, and evenings planning her lessons and activities for her students benefit. She’s been eating, breathing, and sleeping math lessons and she wants to desperately know how to help her students and GET HER LIFE BACK! Listen in as we help her realize she has the tools herself to address this big issue.
- How to prioritize your to-do list to gain more time back in your life.
- How to go slow so you can move fast.
- How powerful moments can be created with reciprocal teaching.
- The two different types of division, and why students need to know about it.
- Why saying yes to a choice means you have to say no to other choices.
- Why being intentional will impact your students at a deeper level.
- How to plan your planning time.
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Lisa Geggie: I’ve got gifted kids this year. Those kids are going through those. I’m creating my own this year, spending time creating new ones. Again, though, but I’m spending all this time doing this. How do I get my life back? I want to give my kids all these opportunities, and I want to give them these great things and I want their scores to be fantastic. But I also-
Kyle Pearce: You’re listening to Lisa Geggie, a teacher and self proclaimed perfectionist and a brave caring human being. We spoke with Lisa who admits that she herself struggles with math at times, but adds that struggle gives her a unique advantage and that’s what drives her dedication to help her students overcome those struggles.
Jon Orr: Lisa, like many of us spends countless hours of after school time, weekends and evenings planning our lessons and activities for her students benefit. She’s been eating, sleeping, breathing math lessons, and she wants to desperately know how to help her students and get her own life back.
Kyle Pearce: Listen in to this math mentoring moment with Lisa as we talk about prioritizing our time, how to go slow so we can go fast, and how being intentional with our choices will help our students learn at a deeper level. Stick around as you’ll hear Lisa develop a plan for herself on how she can move forward.
Jon Orr: All right, play that wonderful intro music.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr. We are two math teachers who together…
Kyle Pearce: With you the community of educators worldwide, who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement, fuel learning and ignite teacher action. Welcome to episode number 20. Restoring balance in your life, a math mentoring moment with Lisa Geggie.
Jon Orr: Before we dive into our talk with Lisa, we want to thank you for listening to us wherever you are. In the car, gym, in the kitchen, washing dishes or maybe on your prep time. If you’ve listened to us before and enjoyed the episode and got some value out of it, we’d love to hear about it. Take a quick moment, write a short review on iTunes. Your review will help the show make it to the ears of other educators. Here’s a short review from Chris Elisa on iTunes.
Jon Orr: I love to listen to this podcast. Jon and Kyle’s love of math is contagious. I listen to their podcast episodes every morning when I drive to school, most of them a few times already. Making sure I have not missed some good ideas to improve my math instruction. Is reviews like this or tweets back to us or posts on Facebook that give us more motivation to keep these podcast going. Knowing that we’re helping teachers make math moments that matter is just music to our ears.
Kyle Pearce: All right, let’s jump into our conversation with Lisa Geggie and how she will claim her time back.
Jon Orr: Well we are here with Lisa Geggie and Lisa’s got some challenges that she’s been working through. We want to chat with her about those. Lisa, welcome to the show.
Lisa Geggie: Hi, I’m glad to be here.
Jon Orr: Why don’t we start off the way we always start off our mentoring moments? Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? What’s your teaching story? What’s your journey?
Lisa Geggie: I am in my 24th year of teaching, I spent 17 of those years in first grade. I spent two of those years as my district math coach, which I absolutely loved. I loved that job. Eventually, I see myself going back to that type of job. Then I’ve spent five years in fourth grade, which I’ve also really loved. I guess I didn’t realize how much I would love being in an older grade level until I actually spent time doing it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything above six year olds, until I actually did it. I’m glad I did that.
Lisa Geggie: Our buildings move to grade level centers this year. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. I don’t know how your building is setup.
Jon Orr: No. Tell us about that.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, fill us in on that.
Lisa Geggie: Our buildings have always been set up with kindergarten through fifth grade all in one building. This year, our buildings were moved to kindergarten, first grade and second grade in one building, third graders and fourth graders in another building. Then fifth graders in their own building. They share the building with preschoolers as well, but majority is just fifth grade. I’m teaching in the three four building and so we mainly have a pretty big focus on our state testing.
Lisa Geggie: Again, I don’t know how your buildings work with that, but we have a testing what’s called the air testing that happens in the spring. That’s pretty much where our main focus is starting in January. We spend a lot of time with that. Let’s see, what else? I absolutely love what I’m doing except for the stress of testing. I absolutely hate that we get into that hole of okay guys, it’s January now we have to really focus in on our testing skills, getting ready to get that big test out of the way at the end of April.
Lisa Geggie: I think probably my biggest flaw is that I’m a huge perfectionist. That’s probably where my big problem comes from that I wrote to you about. I can’t let things go. I have to have it exactly perfect. That’s pretty much my story.
Kyle Pearce: Thank you for sharing with us. Sorry, did you mention whereabouts are you from? Where are you coming in from?
Lisa Geggie: I’m from Wilmington, Ohio. It’s about halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati in the middle of [inaudible 00:05:30].
Kyle Pearce: Nice, that’s I75, right?
Lisa Geggie: Correct.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. We’re just a hop, skip and a jump from… We’re probably what Jon? Four hours from Columbus.
Jon Orr: Yes.
Kyle Pearce: We’re just southeast of Detroit in Windsor Ontario Canada, so we’re not too far away. Actually I was in Ohio last week up in Sandusky, doing a little bit of Castaway Bay with the family and some friends.
Lisa Geggie: Nice.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, small world.
Lisa Geggie: Yes.
Kyle Pearce: We’re wondering… You’ve mentioned a few things here. Very interesting organization of how now your boards like. Was it K through five school now it’s separate buildings. Are these different buildings on the same property or are they actually physically in different locations?
Lisa Geggie: They’re physically in different locations. Each of the buildings that our grade levels are housed in, used to be our individual K through five buildings. The building that I currently teach in used to be a K through five building and ironically, it was the building that I taught in all of my years that I’ve been here. I’m one of the few teachers that didn’t get moved out of the building that they were in. This building used to be a K five building, they’ve just reorganized the structure of the grade levels and then they just placed all of the grades three and four kids in this building then.
Kyle Pearce: Interesting, and about how many students in your building anyway?
Lisa Geggie: About between 230 and 240 students.
Kyle Pearce: Okay, that’s good size.
Jon Orr: Good size, not bad size.
Kyle Pearce: You mentioned state testing. So Ohio common core state or no?
Lisa Geggie: Yes.
Kyle Pearce: Okay, so common core state and then the air testing is the state, I guess, version of the standardized tests that helps to determine whether students are achieving or not, I suppose.
Lisa Geggie: Right, absolutely.
Kyle Pearce: Well, before we go deeper in there, we’re wondering, why did you want to become a teacher? Can you tell us a little bit more about early on, what inspired you to want to get into education into teaching in the first place?
Lisa Geggie: It’s funny, so many people have asked me that in the 24 years that I’ve been a teacher. It’s funny because I answer it the same way. I absolutely have no idea. I wanted to be a vocal and instrumental performer when I started my career choices when I was probably in elementary school. Then I realized the older I got that that’s probably not going to be a realistic goal as a professional and even just as a person who needs to feed my family.
Lisa Geggie: Most people in life cannot be a performer and have enough money to survive on. I decided, well maybe I’ll be a music teacher. I love to sing and I love to dance. Those might be things I would be good at. Then I went away to college and I looked at being a really small fish in a really big pond and thought, wow, I thought I was pretty good at this, but maybe not as good as I thought.
Lisa Geggie: Then I got connected with a group of… I don’t know, they were puppet players, but a lot of them were hard of hearing. They did a lot of different kinds of puppetry and things for students that had multiple disabilities. I got caught up in that group, and figured out that there were ways to be a teacher as well as a performer and decided that that might be something that I was really interested in. I got involved in that and decided that being a teacher would be fun.
Lisa Geggie: I’ve always been a caregiver, babysitter. I love to explain things to others. Used to play school as a child. I mean, I don’t know any teachers that didn’t use to do that. When my music decision didn’t pan out, I guess teaching just seemed the most logical second step. It’s always just been the right fit. You know how it just feels right and you just know that that’s what you’re supposed to do. For 24 years, it just feels right. It’ll probably just be right until it’s time to move on.
Jon Orr: Your story relates to me a good amount in the sense that, I guess in two ways, one is, I bounced around before I settled down on what I really wanted to do. I was in this program at school, and then I changed to this program and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, even though I came from a family of educators. My dad is a math teacher. I wasn’t sure. The second thing that resonates for me is it sounds like you with your performance background here, teaching is a little bit of performance too. I think that what we’re trying to do lately is try to not perform for our students, but spark that curiosity for our students.
Jon Orr: Sometimes we have to put on a little bit of a show to do that. I got to definitely come into the classroom with high energy, even though I might not feel like it. Otherwise, no one in my class is going to even want to be there. I definitely have to put on that performance for my students just so that they feel welcome. So they feel they’re in a place they would choose to be even if they didn’t have to be there? This is a common question we have to ask everybody.
Jon Orr: Lisa, what is your most memorable moment from math class? So this could be a memorable moment as a teacher, but also think back to you as a student? What would be that memorable moment that just pops in your memory when you bring up the words math class?
Lisa Geggie: Well, it’s hilarious. If you were to ask my mother when I was 10, 12, 14, 16 years old, will your daughter ever be a math teacher? My mother would have said, Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? She’s the worst math student you will ever meet in your entire life. If you were to ask her as a college student or a high school student, will your daughter ever be a math teacher? She would have said, are you kidding me? That’s a joke. She will never be a math teacher. She’s terrible at math.
Lisa Geggie: Then it’s ironic that I ended up being… I’m departmentalized. I teach math to all of the fourth graders that come through, I don’t teach any other subjects. No language arts or anything. I only teach math. I think that’s probably why I’m good at what I do. Because I struggled with math for so long, that it makes me more aware of those kids that struggle. In the past, I’ve always had very low math students. Not even low achieving math students, but math students that just take a long amount of time to understand multiple repetitions. So probably my most memorable math moment was last year’s group of kids.
Lisa Geggie: Last year was a tough group of kids. They had so many baggage things that they brought with them that I wasn’t prepared to deal with all the time and they weren’t either. They made some days really hard. Not because they made it hard on me, but hard emotionally to hear things that they were bringing with them. We have a very high free and reduced lunch population. It’s a pretty low income group, not everybody, but it’s overall a pretty high low income group. But there were so many great moments with them. I know that if you talk to any fourth grade teacher and you ask them what is your least favorite thing to teach? It’s long division.
Lisa Geggie: Giggle giggle, because that’s everybody’s not in winx thing. They’re like, gosh, long division. I thought I had covered just about every way possible to do this. I’m asking on Twitter, how do you do this? I’m asking on Facebook. What do you do? I’m asking in every blog that I could possibly ask. What is something different? I am a 24 year veteran teacher, how am I still trying to figure out some new way to teach math.
Lisa Geggie: Finally I said, they must be finished listening to me. If you had to listen to me for 180 days in a row, maybe they’re done listening to me. I paired them up, I ranked them one, two threes and fours. I paired the fours with the twos and the threes with the ones and I gave them a problem. I said, fours teach… I had the fours teach the twos and I had the threes teach the ones. I’ve made them do that three or four times.
Lisa Geggie: Then I gave them a new problem and I flipped it around. I made those ones teach the threes and I made those twos teach the fours and I stood in the middle of my classroom and cried. They were doing it. It was just in there. I didn’t do anything other than give them a math problem on the board. Those kids were teaching each other how to do it and it was just because it wasn’t me. When I asked them at the end of the class period, I’m like what was the difference? Why was it different when that kid was teaching you to do it and I was teaching you to do it? They just said it was a kid. Those kids were talking in a different language than you were. I had no words. I mean, I’m almost crying right now. It was the best feeling ever.
Jon Orr: It sounds so powerful.
Kyle Pearce: You mentioned also going back to your mother saying that she wouldn’t have pictured you becoming a math teacher. We’ve mentioned this on a few previous episodes about… There’s a little bit of an advantage there when you didn’t have the math come to you naturally. Some people say it just clicks. I often wonder whether is it really clicking or is it just that you have a good memory and you see patterns and you can follow those patterns, but do you really understand what’s going on there? For those who have a little bit more of that struggle, I feel like those are the students who have a thirst for that conceptual understanding. They actually have to understand how this is working. They’re not going to be able to just follow steps and procedures.
Kyle Pearce: That’s a really interesting story. Sometimes, even though you might have had some struggles when you were in school with mathematics when you were younger, but at the same time, even then, even though you have that advantage, so you have probably that empathy. You understand where students are coming from, there is something very different about the language that students use when they’re at the same developmental level, than we as adults do, because we have that curse of knowledge. There’s so much that we just know to be true now, that it’s really difficult for us to unpack how those things actually work.
Kyle Pearce: I think that’s a really cool strategy to get kids to actually have to be reflective and think about, well, how is this working? If I have to explain it to another student, then I can’t just show them the steps. I’m going to have to actually try to convince them somehow.
Lisa Geggie: It was a really fun day. I have… That moment, I don’t think will ever leave me. Just the look on their faces. It was a really fun day. In all of my 24 years, I think that was probably the best day I’ve ever had in math class.
Kyle Pearce: I know here in Ontario, we teach long division in grade five. It’s… Just the idea of division in general, can be really challenging. Partially because for us, we might not realize how it works and the ins and outs of it. It’s only been recently that I actually reflected on the fact that there was two different types of division. Oftentimes, when we introduce dividing and division to students early on, we usually do so through fair sharing, which is also called partitive division.
Kyle Pearce: That’s something like, there’s 27 candies, and there’s three kids so I have to split those 27 candies into three different groups to see how many each kid gets. But then as soon as we cross the line to this long division land, oftentimes without knowing we flip to a different type of division. We flip to quotative division that goes into how many times does three candies go into 27. What the result is, is actually how many students you’d be able to give three candies to.
Kyle Pearce: Even some of that, I wonder if… When teachers constantly talk about how long division is their big struggle, I wonder if we tend to… the two types of division, whether there might be a little bit of a bridge there and playing in some of the concrete land a little longer before we head into some of that abstract land. Whether that might serve a little bit of a purpose for some of the students.
Lisa Geggie: I did do a lot more with base 10 blocks this year than I’ve ever done for that reason. This group of kids seemed to need more. Just reading a lot more about that this year. I didn’t… I guess I’m going to tell on myself a little bit. I guess I didn’t really even think that there were two different types of division. Not really understanding that until I did more reading on it, seeing that and understanding it myself, letting them have that time to go through the manipulative stage and then letting them go through that more abstract stage until they go through and can actually put it down on paper with numbers. That really helped them a lot more this year.
Lisa Geggie: I guess them understanding it a lot more came from me taking a lot more time letting them go from concrete to pictorial to abstract. That helped a lot this year.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, for me those are my big aha moments. I want to tip my hat to you for… We all have so much work to do in understanding how math develops, and how we move through the developmental trajectories. I think it’s great that you’re where you are and you’re continuing to learn along your journey. I think that’s all that matters. When we know better, we do better and we all have so much to learn along the way.
Kyle Pearce: Why don’t we continue along here? What’s on your mind lately? What struggles or challenges have you been experiencing along your teaching journey? What did you want to chat with us about today so we can unpack it together and see if we can come up with some plans or strategies?
Lisa Geggie: Well, I mentioned earlier that I am and always have been a perfectionist. I am not judged based on my testing scores but in my own mind, I am judged on my testing scores. I am very proud of the fact that I do very well. I push my kids very hard throughout the school year and I’ve always been a teacher that is very proud of her scores for her children. My kids do really well, year after year on those tests, and not because they’re really good for 70 minutes for two days, but because I feel like I can give them a lot of opportunities.
Lisa Geggie: I was listening to episode five last night, I think it was last night. Nicole was talking about she uses estimation 180. She was using [inaudible 00:19:46]. She was talking about Dan Meyer. She was talking about these different things and I’m thinking, I’m Xing them out in my mind. I’m like, yes, I do that. Listening to her, I was thinking she and I are almost the same person.
Lisa Geggie: The things that she was doing, she was talking about using the [inaudible 00:20:05]. Those are things that I use too. In fact, I’m having my kids right now create their own, because those are the kinds of things that I love to have my kids do. That’s part of my problem. How do I simplify those things? How can I get some of my time back? I’m spending hours. We’re going to say 12 to 14 hours on Sundays, lesson planning. One to two days after work, after school for maybe three or four hours until maybe eight or nine o’clock at night, after school working.
Lisa Geggie: I come into school at 7:30 an hour before my contract time every day. I’m spending 20 to 24 additional hours every single week planning and making and finding and organizing and creating and searching and putting together resources for the week. I think the most frustrating part is that my scores went down this past year. I feel like I’m working and working and I’ve got all these great things. I’m not disorganized.
Lisa Geggie: If you look at my room, everything is tidy and organized and put together but it’s so many good ideas and so many cool things and so many of those experiences that I want to give to my kids. There’s not enough hours in my day, and I think every teacher will tell you that. I have a 70… No. 90 minute math block this year. I had 70 minutes last year. 90 minute math block this year, and it is pretty well organized.
Lisa Geggie: I mean, I listened to you last night talk to Nicole and I know you recorded hers a long time ago, but I listened to you talk to her about reorganizing that time and being really mindful of how you use that time. You talked about the three act math tasks. That’s what I presented at the Ohio math conference on and that’s something that I am so passionate about. I do those very frequently, almost one a week or more. Sometimes a little bit less like right now with the holidays, and not doing that for your whole class period, but adding it in, spending about 40 minutes at a time on those.
Lisa Geggie: I’ve got gifted kids this year and so those kids are going through those. I’m creating my own this year. Spending time creating new ones. Again though, but I’m spending all this time doing this. How do I get my life back? I want to give my kids all these opportunities, and I want to give them these great things, and I want their scores to be fantastic. But I also want to spend time with my family. I also want to make sure that my laundry is caught up and all the things that I want to be able to do in my own life. How do I get everything done?
Kyle Pearce: I think that’s a huge issue. I think so many teachers are facing that, especially in today’s connected world, we’re seeing so many great ideas out there. More than ever before, when I first got into teaching that didn’t exist. That connection with other teachers across the globe to see what’s going on in their classroom was not an option. It was… You saw what was going on in your apartment or your school, and then it was more manageable. But I totally relate with the I’m seeing so many great things. I want to include all of them into my classroom.
Kyle Pearce: I see that struggle. I think we have some ideas that we can share with you because I’ve gone through that situation and I’ve got some suggestions but before we dive into that, what have you tried so far to… You recognize that this is a struggle for you. What have you done or what have you tried successfully or maybe even unsuccessfully, so far, to address this issue of yours?
Lisa Geggie: With everybody I guess.
Kyle Pearce: Ours, everybody’s.
Lisa Geggie: Well, sometimes, I’ve tried to share the load, offering I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this for me with other teachers. Sometimes that’s hard. Especially when, again, I hate to admit it and any teacher that I work with would say the same thing, “Well Lisa, you’re just too particular. You want it done a certain way.” And it’s absolutely the truth. I ask somebody to do something, and then I end up changing it or doing it differently, because it wasn’t the way I wanted it done.
Lisa Geggie: They’ll nod and smile at me and they’re like, “Well, you’re just going to do it over anyway, so why do you want me to do it?” Sharing it or asking somebody else to do it. It’s been unsuccessful like that. I’ve tried to do… this year, my sister in law helped me start something with hyper docs. My kids have been doing hyper docs in my classroom. That’s freed up time for me to be able to go through and level out kids and let them do different things.
Lisa Geggie: But again, I’m spending a tonne of time creating those and leveling those and giving those opportunities to do those cool things on mine. There again, I’m spending all that extra time outside of class so that I’ve got class time that’s free to do things with kids. Then finding three are tasks. I’m finding those outside of time, I’m giving those to kids to do so I have time during class to spend with them.
Lisa Geggie: I’m still doing all that stuff outside of class instead of finding things. I don’t know. I mean, have I done anything any better? I feel like I’m doing more and more and more rather than less and less and less. Easily I can say, I found a lot of good websites that have given me things like going to lots of three act task. Things are out there now. Like, Tap Into Teen Minds I’ve used a tonne, because I can adapt it for my gifted kids. I can adapt it for my kids that take a little bit more time.
Lisa Geggie: Steve [inaudible 00:25:44] I don’t know how he can give 5000 different things and how does he do that for free? Good grief. This guy does he have nothing better to do? I love him. But he gives-
Kyle Pearce: I wonder if he will be on the podcast one day with the same challenge of how do I get my life back? How do I get my time back?
Lisa Geggie: Because this guy is amazing.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, Steve is great.
Lisa Geggie: It is amazing to me and I met Dan Meyer at The Ohio math conference. He is an absolutely amazing man too. How does he have time to do all of these things? I asked him, he’s like, “Well, I’m a good time manager.” I thought it was too until 2:00 am on Sunday and I’m still working on math stuff for school.
Kyle Pearce: Right.
Lisa Geggie: My husband’s like, we’ll set a timer. Well, then I don’t fall asleep, and I lay in bed and I think about the 30 things I have to do on Monday morning.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, I can relate. I know that for the majority of my career. I definitely… I’ll call it a struggle because I was very particular as well. Most people know me as a pretty easy going guy. But when it comes to the way I did things in my classroom, I really liked doing things my own way. That could be a good thing or it could be a really bad thing. I guess it really depends on how important the time is, like gaining a little bit more of your own free time, or whether could it possibly be that you enjoy using your free time to do that tinkering.
Kyle Pearce: I know for me, I think it’s maybe more of the latter. That doesn’t make it any better because I know that there’s some times where I do things in a very particular way and oftentimes afterwards, I lead that lesson. I scratch my head and go, “Wow, I spent a long time on that and that did not go very well.” or, it was an activity that literally took 10 minutes. I’m like, well, clearly the payoff, the reward was not there for all of that. The sweat and tears that I put into that.
Jon Orr: But you would have enjoyed every minute of creating that activity. Like you said, you’re viewing it and I concur because I do the same thing is that we’re viewing it as our hobby to work on these things outside of class time. When people say, how do you have time to do that? Well, there are people that do other hobbies and I guess I just don’t do that. I choose to work on creating math problems that I find interesting or activities that my students will benefit from or sharing resources on the blog page or doing what we’re doing right now. I get a lot from that myself. So I make that choice. I prioritize that for myself to say I want to budget time to do this because I love doing it.
Jon Orr: But I do also have to budget time to spend with the family. The phone goes away. The Internet’s turned off during these times when the kids are at home and when it’s time to sit down and watch a show with my wife on Netflix. Definitely a lot of prioritizing has to happen when we have so much we want to do.
Kyle Pearce: Also thinking about that prioritizing. Deciding what I think is going to make a difference. I’m wondering, when you begin your planning, are you giving yourself, are you allowing yourself that amount of maybe reflection? We’ll call it pre planning time to think through the big idea of your lesson tomorrow and what really matters. I think everyone struggles with this. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy doing the planning. You might realize that, “Hey, wait.” Maybe it’s because I like planning and that’s why I dedicate so much time to it.
Kyle Pearce: But at the end of the day, though. If I can find a better way to think about what I’m hoping the learning outcome is going to be tomorrow, and really tried to at least try to create two groups. I have all these ideas, and I go like, these ideas over here might actually have some sort of impact, like a positive outcome when I do them with my students. Maybe these ones over here, maybe they’re not as important.
Kyle Pearce: I know I’m leaving that very wide open right now but oftentimes there’s things that we tend to do. For example, is it worth it for me to format that handout differently than my colleague across the hall? Or was the way she had it formatted going to do and achieve the exact same thing? Could I take that time and dedicate it towards maybe something different? Maybe the consolidation activity or whatever it is that you’re planning.
Jon Orr: I found one thing that helped me prioritize, deciding where to invest that time in my planning was I realized, like you, there was so many things I wanted to implement. I’m a high school math teacher who teaches three different preps every semester. That’s three different planning periods, three different courses. When I’m deciding, do I want to do this activity or this activity, I saw this one on the internet, I want to try that. I bookmark that one, I want to bring that in. I only have so much planning time to get that ready. I know that I’m going to have to make a sacrifice somewhere.
Jon Orr: I started to say to myself, I’m going to pick one thing today that I can be proud of. I’m gonna pick one thing that I’ll learn how to do or I’ll try my classroom and then that one thing, I’ll either have that success in my back pocket and then tomorrow I’ll do another thing. I’ll choose something else to learn or something else to try or maybe extend the thing I just tried and run with that for a little bit. After a while, you’ve got a pocket full of things that you’ve tried and pocket full of things that made work and all of a sudden your tool belt it’s a little bit bigger than it was before.
Jon Orr: You sacrificed some other things, like when you say, yes, I think Kyle, we heard this quote, I can’t remember where, but when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to other things. When we want to say yes to all of those things, you’re saying no to a lot of other things like your time. What I’ve been doing is saying no to other things so that I can say yes to one thing. Over time it builds up and then you get better at these other things.
Jon Orr: One thing to remember is that the downside of social media these days is that you have to remember that most people share only the good things happening in our lives, on Facebook or in their classrooms, like on Twitter. When you scroll you see everyone is always doing these amazing things and you’re trying to catch up, and you’re really only seeing their best 20%. You compare that to your worst 80%. It’s a no win situation when you do that.
Jon Orr: I was guilty of that. I was seeing all of those amazing things and I’m like, I got to do them all but I had to step back and say no, I’m going to do one thing. I used to take a picture of it. I would take, here’s the one thing I’m going to do, I’m going to run in my classroom, I’ll take a picture of it and we’ll move on. That’s the one thing I want to be proud of today. Tomorrow, we’ll do something different.
Lisa Geggie: Well, the question that I have is you had said that you start to pick up one thing at a time and you start to fill your tool belt. I think that’s my question. Okay, I have this tool belt, and I’m full of things. I’ve made these escape the room activities. I have this great lockbox, My kids love these. I’m using three act tasks. I’m using hyper docs. I’m doing these create your own activities. I’m using [inaudible 00:32:55]. I’m using quizzes. My kids are making their own. I’m using which one doesn’t belong.
Lisa Geggie: My kids are doing [inaudible 00:33:02]. I’ve got all of these great things. I picked up all these one things all the time. My tool belt is full. How do I prioritize from those things now? How do I decide about those?
Kyle Pearce: That’s a great question. I think, as you mentioned earlier, Nicole, when we were having a math mentoring moment with Nicole Martin, she was struggling with some of the same things. I think, it sounds to me and this might be maybe jumping to a bit of a conclusion, but it sounds to me you put a lot of weight on your shoulders. A lot of pressure on yourself to not only try to help your students do well on those test scores like you had mentioned earlier, but it also sounds like you almost put a lot of pressure on yourself to be doing everything.
Kyle Pearce: The challenge with that and everything that you just named, and I’m sure that’s probably just some of them. I’m sure there’s others that you haven’t, those are just off the top of your head. In some ways, doing too much, that might actually work against you. Not only against you in the classroom where maybe there’s just so much going on that it can make it difficult for us to keep our eyes on the goal. That goal, obviously is going to vary from teacher to teacher from school to school, and so forth.
Kyle Pearce: But for me, what I’ve tried to do better, and I say I’m still trying. Definitely no expert here but trying to think of what that learning outcome is for my lesson tomorrow or for the unit or for whatever it might be and trying to really evaluate those different tools that you had mentioned, to determine are those tools going to help me achieve that goal. I know for the longest time… I was big into technology, my whole tapping to team minds. The name of that site came from me getting an iPad project, a grant from the government. I had… Every kid was one to one with iPads and I thought it was the coolest thing ever and we found ways to do everything on the iPad.
Kyle Pearce: At one point, I had to stop and look and go there’s a lot of things that we’re doing on these iPads that really aren’t helping and it might actually be hindering some of my student learning because it’s like great, we figured out how to do it but I had lost sight. Maybe back then, maybe I never really had my sight on the true learning goal. The true learning intention. It was a distraction.
Kyle Pearce: I’m not suggesting that’s the case here but when we put so much pressure on ourselves, and we don’t do it intentionally, it can be really difficult. It can cloud our vision a little bit, and sometimes it can make us sway away and veer off the path. It sounds from at least a student success or student achievement perspective, it sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of really good things.
Kyle Pearce: Sometimes I wonder if maybe we have to stop and think about okay, am I trying to get too much in here and when’s the right time for this tool and for that tool? Something we suggested for Nicole in that last conversation was really about maybe trying to get yourself some… We’ll call it categories or groupings of these types of activities sort of are similar in nature. They helped me get to a similar goal or similar outcome.
Kyle Pearce: If I’m using one from this category, maybe I don’t consider any of the others today. It just automatically shuts those down just for today then maybe tomorrow we go back into that trick bag or we’ll call it the tickle trunk, the math tickle trunk, and pull this one out. Because in reality, if I’m just jumping around from this tool to that tool, to this tool to that tool, it can be not only overwhelming for me, but can be really difficult for me to keep my head on straight and keep my head in the game.
Jon Orr: And for the students to see what’s coming out them each day, but I wanted to bring up your memorable moment that you said at the beginning about how all you did was flip it around and asked one group of students to share their thinking and teach the other group of students and how easy of a plan that was for you and how much of an impact it had on the students. Like what Kyle said, you’ve got all these tools in your belt. Now it’s time to focus on which tool is going to make the most impact for those students for that particular learning goal.
Jon Orr: If you think about your memorable math moment there, that was a great tool for that moment, or that plan was great for that moment. It doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to be amazing. It was something that was right for the kids at the right time. You got a lot of value out of that for the kids. You felt that too. That’s something that I’ve done too is you’ve got all these things, and now it’s narrowing down what is going to make the most impact for this particular learning goal.
Lisa Geggie: Right. That was notebook paper and pencils. There was nothing flashy about that at all.
Kyle Pearce: I’m so happy you made that point there, Jon. It totally went over my head but I’m just picturing in my mind. Sometimes those are the best math moments for students. I wonder if even coming back to the making math moments three part framework might be maybe a place for you to start with sort of strategizing what goes where. We always talk about the sparking curiosity is a big part of our planning considerations, and then the fueling sense making. So like the math idea here, Jon and I oftentimes go back and we mentioned that we did all kinds of stuff with react math tasks.
Kyle Pearce: We tried to use a lot of these warm up activities like estimation 180 and all these different things. But, the next part we didn’t spend enough time paying attention to and that was the fueling sense making. We could fall into that activity trap of all these great ideas and they look really great on The surface but if I didn’t attend to that fueling sense making, which I didn’t for the vast majority of my career. What I ended up doing was I taught rules and procedures right after.
Kyle Pearce: Like you, I saw some of my standardized test scores go down. We also need to consider is that this is a different group of students. If standardized test scores go down, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s anything I did. It’s just a different group of students. I hope one of the big messages here is to make sure that you don’t put too much of that pressure on yourself. Realizing that maybe I want to focus on that one thing for tomorrow, one thing that’s going to spark that curiosity, but then how am I going to pull the math out here and bring it into the open? Those are big things for me. Jon what are thinking?
Jon Orr: Definitely and I just wanted to pose this question Lisa. I can imagine three months from now and you made some changes to your schedule, your time management, what do you think that would look like for you three months from now? What would you want it to look like?
Kyle Pearce: In my classroom or…
Jon Orr: All. You’ve said you’re planning time is eaten up and it’s eating into weekends and nights and family time. That’s a big issue for you and all of us. If you could imagine restructuring some of that to get some of that back after our conversation here today. What would that look like for you? Once you think about that? I think the next question I’m going to ask is how are we going to get there?
Lisa Geggie: I think I’m going to plan my plan time. Does that make sense?
Jon Orr: Yes, it does.
Lisa Geggie: I think I’m going to make a plan for my plan times. I get 40 minutes of plan time daily. Unfortunately, that falls in the last 40 minutes of my day. I’m usually pretty wiped out by the last 40 minutes of my day, because as you can imagine, I don’t really stop. I think I had 12,000 steps in by lunchtime today. I am not one who sits still. I don’t know if you can tell that by the last 45 minutes worth of our conversation, but I’m not one who sits and lets the grass grow under my feet.
Lisa Geggie: I’m one who goes and I get things done. I think though that I need to maybe have a plan for my plan time, and maybe having a guaranteed thing that needs to be finished during that time. I understand that things do come up during that 40 minutes. My administrators may come in and I may have a meeting during that time, which is going to throw… That 40 minutes is going to be out on that day and a parent might call or an email might need to be attended to. There are always going to be things that will come up during that 40 minutes and it seems like that 40 minutes really only becomes 15 by the time I do all the things I need to do housekeeping wise like cleaning off the top of my table where things just get thrown.
Lisa Geggie: Because again, I don’t just sit at my desk. I just throw stuff there as the day goes on, because I just don’t have time to deal with it and checking email because again, I don’t look at email really from eight o’clock in the morning until almost four in the afternoon. So, those things I have to take into account, but I think it takes me less time to clean off my desk and check my email than it does to recreate something or to do something that I need to find like putting together a part of a hyper doc or finding a specific [inaudible 00:42:34] task that I want.
Lisa Geggie: Maybe setting a specific time limit and at least getting it started during that time limit. Maybe Monday is putting together a skeleton of these are the things that I want to do. Then maybe each day of that week putting together one piece of it so that on Sunday, I’m not so overwhelmed with starting from square one because I think that’s my problem. I put it off until Sunday because typically I’m doing other things or busy or traveling with my family, with my daughter, my son for their sporting events. On Sunday, I finally get home and I finally get my school workout and I think, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got so much to get done.”
Lisa Geggie: Maybe if I have all those things started, because I have a specific schedule Monday through Friday of things that I need to finish, maybe then if I have a good start on it, it won’t seem so overwhelming by Sunday, and maybe it won’t be 12 to 14 hours worth of stuff that I’ll have to work on on Sunday afternoons.
Kyle Pearce: That sounds like a great plan. I was going to ask you what your biggest takeaway was from this conversation, but I feel like you did a great job articulating it. Was there anything else from the conversation today that resonated with you. Maybe it’s something… It could be something that you want to put into action right away like the schedule you just articulated on or maybe it’s something that you might have to take a little more time to reflect on. Is there anything else that you wanted to share before we wrap up for today?
Lisa Geggie: I think I really want to look at how to categorize some of those things that I use. When you said to put them together into ways to use them. I’m not entirely sure how do you categorize three are tasks? Because they’re not really… They go with a specific skill, I have to really do some more thinking about that, because you said what makes the most impact? What tool would you use that works the best for that? I have… I made a list of the things that I use.
Lisa Geggie: I guess, trying to figure out how would I put those together into different categories so that I could say, well, today I want to use… or this week, maybe because I don’t do it day by day, I usually do it for the week. Thinking about how I want to create a category for that, because I really am not sure how I need to do that. I’m not sure what that means exactly. I think thinking about that.
Kyle Pearce: That sounds like a lot of falling into that before moves when we talk about igniting teacher moves and thinking about how structurally things might look. It can be just really rough on its edges. Jon and I are big fans of whiteboards. I have a huge one in my office at home, and one at work as well and always just fully loaded with all kinds of ideas as well. Well, this has been such a great conversation so far. We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to spend with us and really to put all fear aside and just come out here and share all your ideas wide in the open with all of us and all the listeners at home. We’re wondering, are we able to maybe follow up with you, maybe six to 12 months to just check in and see how things are going and possibly get you to come back on the podcast?
Lisa Geggie: Absolutely. I’d be happy to.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff.
Kyle Pearce: That’s fabulous.
Jon Orr: Lisa, on behalf of both myself and Kyle, we definitely want to thank you for joining us here today. We hope you got a lot out of this conversation. I know that we did. It definitely makes me think about my planning and work home life balance. It’s always great to think about those kinds of things for myself. I thank you for bringing that up today.
Lisa Geggie: Thank you for spending time with me tonight. I appreciate it. I have a lot of things I want to think about now. So goodnight.
Kyle Pearce: Thanks so much, Lisa. We look forward to staying in touch and don’t be a stranger in between. We’ll bring you back on the podcast maybe six to 12 months from now but in between, definitely stay in touch and hopefully we can continue this conversation.
Lisa Geggie: Sounds great. Thanks a lot guys.
Jon Orr: You know Kyle speaking with Math Moment Makers like Lisa here is so inspiring. Because like Lisa, all the teachers have been so brave, honest and clear on what they need to improve on. I loved how near the end of the conversation she developed a plan for herself to move forward and make changes to claim her life back.
Kyle Pearce: I completely agree Jon. Sometimes it can be difficult to think things through on your own. I think really all we did to help was just gave her a listening ear. I think she managed to really craft that plan for herself. If you’re listening at home, make sure you’re talking to your colleagues, make sure that you’re collaborating, just throw those ideas out there in order to try to get yourself your own game plan in order to be the most effective teacher, but also maintain that balance in your life.
Kyle Pearce: This was another math mentoring moment episode with many more to come, where we’ll have a conversation with a member of the making math moments that matter community like you who’s been working through a challenge and together we’ll brainstorm ideas and next steps to help you overcome it. If you want to join us on the podcast for an upcoming math mentoring moment episode, where you can share a big math class struggle you can apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. That’s makemathmoments.com/mentor.
Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes as they come out each Monday morning, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode20. Again, that’s makemathmoments.com/episode20.
Kyle Pearce: You can also find Make Math Moments on all social media platforms and seek out our free private Facebook group Math Moment Makers K through 12. Don’t miss our next episode where we’ll chat with thinking classroom guru and the vertical whiteboard master himself. Peter Lillardah.
Jon Orr: But if you’re not interested in waiting until then, why not watch our four part video series to help build resilient problem solvers who don’t want to stop learning when the bell rings. You can find that free four lesson video series at makemathmoments.com/lesson1. Again that is makemathmoments.com/lesson1.
Kyle Pearce: Well until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.
Jon Orr: And high fives for you.
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