Episode 207: Choosing To See: An Interview with Pamela Seda
In this episode we speak with Dr. Pamela Seda. Pamela has over 30 years of educational experience and currently lives in metro Atlanta. Pamela has held various positions in mathematics education including high school mathematics teacher, math instructional coach, college math instructor, and K-12 district math supervisor and she is the co-author of Choosing To See: A Framework For Equity in the Math Classroom.
Dr. Seda is passionate about changing how students experience mathematics, especially those from marginalized groups, and advocates for mathematics instruction that develops all students as mathematical thinkers and problem-solvers.
- What is the ICUCARE framework and why you should be implementing all 7 parts;
- Why an equity framework is needed;
- How being a “warm demander” can allow you to expect more and get more from your students;
- Why you need to just “start” and try something;
Pamela Seda: My goal as a teacher is to uncover the brilliance in every kid. There's some brilliance there. There's something that they contribute. There's some knowledge. And that's my job, is to figure out how to contribute. How to help them contribute to the conversation and including my own knowledge. So every time that I taught a class, I always learned more about whatever it was that we were learning about.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it.
Pamela Seda: So I just think that helping students develop competence and confidence is-
Kyle Pearce: In this episode we speak with Dr. Pamela Seda. Pamela has over 30 years of educational experience and currently lives in metro Atlanta. Pamela has held various positions in mathematics education, including high school mathematics teacher, math instructional coach, college math instructor, and K through 12 district math supervisor. And she's also the co-author of Choosing To See: A Framework For Equity In The Math Classroom.
Jon Orr: Yeah. We are excited to bring you this episode. Dr. Seda is passionate about changing how students experience mathematics, especially those from marginalized groups. She also advocates for mathematics instruction that develops all students as mathematical thinkers and problem solvers.
Kyle Pearce: Hey Jon, I'm super excited to dive into this one.
Jon Orr: Let's do it.
Kyle Pearce: So here we go.
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are from makemathmoments.com and together-
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem based math lessons that spark curiosity-
Jon Orr: Fuel sense making.
Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Jon, it is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to share the voice of Pamela Seda tonight with the Math Moment Maker community. So awesome to not only bump into Pamela at NCTM and say a quick hello in the hotel lobby. And then also last week I had the opportunity to listen in on a virtual session that she was running for the OMCA here in Ontario. And guess what? I'm super excited to dive even deeper with her with you here today.
Jon Orr: Yeah. We're excited to talk with her about her framework that she built a long time ago and then has been consistently sharing it across all the places that she goes. The ICUCARE framework for equity in the math classroom. So we're going to talk about some elements of that framework and how it can apply to your classroom and what you should be thinking about. So we've got some nuggets, activities also that can go a long way in your classroom. So let's get to it.
Kyle Pearce: Here we go.
Hey, hey there, Pamela. Thanks for joining us here on the podcast. We're super excited to have a nice chat with you. First of all, having the opportunity to run into you at NCTM recently and also having a chance to catch some of your session at the OMCA meeting here just a few short weeks ago. So how are you and where are we chatting to you from?
Pamela Seda: I am doing wonderful. I hail from the ATL. Atlanta, Georgia. Well of course a suburb of Atlanta. I actually live in Stockbridge. But Georgia's just one big suburb seems like.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. Pamela, we've read up on you, we've watched your sessions before. Would you mind telling our listeners who may not know a little bit about yourself? You just said where you're coming from, so Atlanta, Georgia, but maybe give us a little backstory on yourself and what got you into education and where you are today.
Pamela Seda: Certainly. I am a recently retired math educator.
Kyle Pearce: Congratulations.
Pamela Seda: I just retired this past May so that I can do this consulting full-time. I'm the co-author of Choosing To See: A Framework For Equity In The Math Classroom that I co-authored with Kyndall Brown. Over the past 30 years as a math educator, I started out as a high school math teacher. I was a instructional coach while I was working on my doctorate. I taught in the math department for two years and I've been a district math supervisor for three different school districts in the metro Atlanta area.
Jon Orr: Wow.
Kyle Pearce: Nice.
Pamela Seda: And so I can't tell you a time that math wasn't my favorite subject. Math was just always my favorite subject, so it seemed natural for me to teach it. But I did for a short stint, decide I wanted to major in engineering and so I went to Georgia Tech, which is what brought me to Atlanta. And then I came to my senses in the middle of my junior year and decided I wanted to teach.
Kyle Pearce: Well we are lucky that that did take place. So nice that you had an opportunity to try something and then realize you know what, I'm going to hop over here and hang out with all the wonderful educators in the math community. That is fantastic. So you've already given us a bit and myself knowing some of the things and reading some of your past work, I know this about you, that math has been something that you've always been very fond of. So I'm very curious to hear when we ask you about your own math moment, it sounds like there's probably many of them. But I'm wondering when we say your math learning experience, what would be a math moment that pops into your mind that you're able to share here with our wonderful audience?
Pamela Seda: Yeah. I can recall in sixth grade ... I think that was the first time I can remember participating in inquiry based learning and it still sticks out in my mind. I remember our teacher asked us to go home and find some circles. Some tops, some lids. And so they were all different size. So I think I brought the top to an oatmeal container or something like that. And she had us take some string and measure the circumference of it. And then she had us measure the diameter and divide that number and then we put all our numbers on the board. And lo and behold, my eyes just got really big because we all got really close to 3.1 something and I still remember that moment. I just still remember the power of that. Being amazed. And so from that moment on, it was very crystal clear to me where pi came from.
It was never something that was just memorized. And I wish I could say that I had many more experiences like that in my math education, but that's the only one I can really remember having. All my other experiences were pretty much traditional teacher, get on the board, tell you how to do the steps. But for me, just because I love math so much, if it didn't make sense to me, I made it make sense. I would make up stories or things that I would connect it to on my own to make math make sense to me.
Jon Orr: Pamela, you said that math was your favorite and always was, and you shared your moment there that I don't think it's a surprise to all of us and all of our listeners that you had that one moment. Probably not too many moments like that in the future. I think Kyle and I would echo that in our experience as well. But what would you say when you say math was just always your favorite, what is it about math that just grabbed you? What is it about just the subject itself and your experience that said, this is why I've always loved this?
Pamela Seda: I think for me it was certainty of it, the security, the fact that if I knew that I followed a certain path that I could "get to the right answer". It's not even just the get to the right answer. I think it was more that there are rules of math, there were theorems, there are things that consistently work and that I could count on. So because there were these things that I could always count on, I could use those to reason my way and to solve problems. And I think for me it was just out of all the subjects, if I took a math test, I knew if I knew it or if I didn't. I always knew how well I did. I could say, "Oh nope, I bombed that one." Or no, I knew that I knew it. And I think it was just that certainty that I really liked.
Jon Orr: Yeah. It's powerful.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I like that. It's like a predictability. It's almost like if you put in a certain amount of effort, you know you're going to get something on the other end. You can put that effort in there ... Yeah, I really like that. And it's interesting because you had mentioned about the inquiry experience with pi that you had and how you don't remember ... And maybe there were some others that were out there and maybe they just didn't resonate in the same way. But then when you think about that as your moment and yet I look at someone like yourself or someone like Jon or myself, we had very similar experiences. We felt like we knew what we were doing when it came to math and I feel like we were lucky in that sense that it worked for us in that manner. Yet it doesn't work for everyone in that manner.
And I think that's something that all of us have come to realize. And that inquiry experience you shared, I would be so curious if you could go back to all those students who were in that classroom with you. And some of those students might be like you who went on and really loved math and then others may have gone on and maybe really disliked math. But I wonder about that one experience if everyone or if a good chunk of people felt good about that because of that inquiry experience. So it's something we can't really find the answer to, but it's something that always makes me really curious because I truly believe that that sort of experience allows everyone to come together and go, "Oh, this stuff is pretty awesome. There's something really cool about it."
So my wonder is how did your experience, whether it be this math moment with inquiry or just your love of math, how did that influence your experience in the classroom as an educator? Did you early on have the foresight to reflect on those things and bring that to your classroom? I openly say it all the time, I didn't early on. I was immature as a teacher and I didn't think of those things. Did that influence your teaching or was this something that you've learned through experiences and through some of the challenges that you bumped into along the way?
Pamela Seda: Well, I will say when it comes to inquiry based learning, that definitely was not on my radar when I started teaching. That wasn't something until later when I started attending professional learning conferences and started being around other like-minded people. The inquiry based learning was something that definitely came much later in my teaching career. But the one thing that I can say from day one in the classroom was that it had to make sense. The stories and things that I used to create on my own to make sense out of the mathematics, I passed those on to my students and that's how I taught. I never taught in a way where it's like just do the steps and just memorize them. I never taught that way because that never really worked for me. If it didn't make sense, because I loved math, I had to make it make sense to me. So I would grapple with it or create something. So those are things that I passed on to my students.
Jon Orr: Yeah. That's important because we often reflect and I was like Kyle, where I was a very traditional teacher. But I remember saying one of my first few years and when especially completing the square was something that I would teach and I'd be like, "Oh man, I just got to get through this today because somebody's going to ask why I got to do half of this B term and I got to square it and put it in here. And I'm not ... Just do it." And I had a degree in mathematics and I-
Kyle Pearce: I don't know why.
Jon Orr: And I knew, I was like, "Okay. Just got to do it this way." And I shake my head and when I think back and I wish going back that I'd make sure that it made sense so that my students could make sense, which is the pathway I'm on now. But I wish I could go back in time.
I think all of us would wish we could go back in time for certain things with certain students. Pamela, we'd love to keep riffing on the old days here, but we'd love to also talk about the framework that you've been building and have built. The ICUCARE framework. I think you spent so much of your dissertation back in 2008 on and continue to advocate for educators all over. We just recently watched you in Los Angeles at the NCTM conference. At what point did you decide to say, you know what, yes, I have to develop this framework and share it with the world?
Pamela Seda: Well, I will say when I went into my doctoral program, it was for the purpose of finding answers to the achievement gap. I had read a lot of things out there, but it wasn't acceptable to me that there was this gap that had been very persistent. So that was the reason I embarked on a PhD program was to find some answers. And so I was in that program when I first heard about Gloria Ladson-Billings work, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. I was like, "Oh my gosh, this so resonates with me." And so I think just in finding this framework and being able to adapt ... Because I actually found the framework in the multicultural teacher education literature and then I adapted it to math class. Because when I first saw it, someone had adapted it for an English language arts class and I was like, "Well, if they can do it for ELA, I can do it for math."
And so after I graduated, I started sharing it wherever I could. At that time I was an instructional coach, so I used to share it with teachers that I worked with. In my district, they pretty much gave me free rein. They didn't have many people who were offering professional learning around mathematics. And they said, "We need some more math courses and you can do whatever you want." And so I would share the framework there. And at that time it wasn't ICUCARE, it was just these seven principles. But one of the teachers who came to my session said, "Dr. Seda, this is really good, but you got to help us out. You got to give us a acronym or something to help us remember this." So that's when I went back to the drawing board and out popped ICUCARE.
Jon Orr: That's what we do in education, right?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I love it. And the beauty is ... Okay, I've heard three letter acronyms and four letter, but when you have ... This is great because it's easy to remember, but it has so many great elements in it. So just for those who are listening, they're going, okay, ICUCARE, what is this? So I'm just going to read it off, but then I want to dig into some of these. The reality is we're probably ... There's so much here. We're probably going to have to pick what's on your mind lately to dig into. But for those who are listening, the I, include others as experts. For C it's be critically conscious. Understand your students well. I love this idea of, again, getting to know your learner is so important. Use culturally relevant curricula. Assess, activate, and build on prior knowledge. Release control and expect more.
Talk about the full spectrum from getting to know who your students are, making sure you're aware of who your students are and being conscious of how and what we're teaching. Ensuring that we're not in control in the classroom. I want to hear from you, what's on your mind right now relevant or related to this framework that you want to dig into? What's the thing that you're most interested in trying to inspire educators to do more of in the classroom?
Pamela Seda: Yeah. I think to me, what's on my mind right now is why equity framework is needed. And I think about ... I actually started teaching in 1991, right when the NCTM standards came out and that was my bible. And so we've been doing reform efforts for 30 plus years and haven't seen the achievement gap narrow. Matter of fact, in some places it's even widened. And so one of the things that I realize is that there's a lot of good math ed research that's out there, but because of stereotypes, sometimes even our best efforts or our best intentions don't impact the students from marginalized groups because we don't take into consideration the role that stereotypes play and how they operate on our students and how they operate on us. And so I think this equity framework ... Even for me, because I had the pleasure of not only being an instructional coach after I finished my PhD program, but I also even went back to the classroom and had four years as a classroom teacher having the opportunity to implement these principles.
And what it did for me is things ... For example, I used to use a lot of Kagan cooperative learning strategies. But with the equity framework, it started making me think about, "Well, how do I implement this strategy so I can lift up my low status learners?" Something I never would've thought to do before because I didn't have that lens. I wasn't paying attention. Or how might I implement this task and how might I just change it just a little bit so that it is culturally relevant. It's just things that I was doing that with best practices in math ed weren't necessarily meeting the mark because I wasn't thinking about how does this impact my students who are being operated on by stereotypes that exist in our society?
Jon Orr: And I agree with you. It seems like we should be spending time or thinking, why is it needed? You said you're spending a lot of time noodling around your head is thinking, we have this framework, but why is it needed? Why haven't we been doing this all the time? And it's like, why isn't it in our mindset to think about this as part of teaching? And I know that when I was going through college or teachers education programs, it's like something that ... It wasn't talked about. It wasn't something that we brought up and it wasn't something that when I started teaching, things that we thought about. And so great now to see a framework like this and go, you're right. Why haven't I been doing this? It's so important to think about that.
And when we think about these elements, it's like, okay, well maybe I wasn't doing it this way, but now I know I should be thinking about that. And I think that's an important thing for all teachers to bring into their classrooms. And one of the first one here, which you have is include others as experts. I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit for us, because I think you talked about being critically conscious and we talked about understanding our students well, but what about including others as experts? That first one you have here. Would you be able to elaborate that on it and why that one's important for us as educators in the math classroom?
Pamela Seda: Yeah. Of course in traditional classrooms, the teacher is the expert and passing on all their knowledge as if we can just open up kids' heads and pour in there. We know how effective that is. Including others as experts-
Kyle Pearce: And we continue to try to do it every time.
Pamela Seda: It requires us to redefine what expertise is. And I remember listening to a video. I actually got this from Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings. She says, "An expert is anyone who can contribute knowledge to the group." And it's not about who knows the most, but who can contribute knowledge. And so that means instead of having the teacher and all these individual learners, you have a community of learners. Your classroom is a community of learners and your goal is to allow every student to create structures and routines in your classroom that every student has something to offer, that they can contribute. And having students be able to view themselves. So one of the things I've recently realized that my goal as a teacher is to uncover the brilliance in every kid. There's some brilliance there. There's something that they contribute. There's some knowledge. And that that's my job is to figure out how to contribute. How to help them contribute to the conversation and including my own knowledge. So every time that I taught a class, I always learned more about whatever it was that we were learning about.
Jon Orr: I love it. I love it.
Pamela Seda: I just think that helping students develop competence and confidence is the, I guess, result, the end product of helping kids understand that I have something to contribute to the knowledge of the group and that we're learning as a community, not just as an individual.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. And it really exemplifies the idea that the collective is always better than the individual. So even though there is one person in that room that has many more years on the earth than the others in the room, when you add up all the years of all the people in the room and all the variety of experiences and all the cultural differences and places of experience that they've come from, and you bring that together and you just think of how much more powerful that is than having this one thought, this one perspective being shared, in a way almost like indoctrinating a group of students to think in the way that that person does. Good or bad. But just being able to have that sharing is so great. And Jon, I don't know if you went there, but we just had Jim Strachan on and he had referenced about his classroom as well, that it was about making sure students were leveraging all the collective expertise in their classroom and really promoting that I am just one source of knowledge, but there is so much more knowledge out there.
I want you to go and I want you to have discussions with others so that they stop looking at you as the educator and as the expert. So I love that. Now, dare I put you on the spot. Do you have any kind of ... You know there's people out there that are like, "Yes, I want that. I want that for my classroom." Are there any routines or any maybe beginning of the year of activities that you use to try to help students start building towards that sort of mindset or that sort of, I guess, expectation in your classroom? Or is this something that just slowly and gradually is developed throughout the year? I'd be super curious and I'm sure there's people leaning in right now.
Pamela Seda: Yeah, sure. Some of my most effective routines and strategies just totally happen by accident because I messed up on something and decided. And so this is one of those.
Jon Orr: The way it goes.
Kyle Pearce: Amazing.
Pamela Seda: One year during pre-planning, I spent all my time trying to get my room together. And when it came time for Monday for school, my syllabus wasn't ready because I didn't have it ready. And so rather than starting with the syllabus, I was like, "You know what, I'm going to start with a math problem." And I started with a problem called ... I call it the bingo problem. It's just a five by five set of squares. And I asked students, I just drew in a picture and I said, "Tell me how many squares there are." And then I would have to say, "The answer is not 25. There's more." Right? I have to tell them. Because they would say 25 and stop. So I had them start doing that problem on their own, individually. And then after a certain amount of time, then I put them in pairs. So they had to write their answer. Whatever their individual answer was, they put it on that blank.
Then they worked together in pairs and whatever answer they came into agreement in pairs, they put that answer on the blank. And then I had them work in groups of four and whatever answer that was, they put that on the third blank. And then we came together as a class and whatever the answer we came to in agreement as a class they put on there. So what they got to see was the progression of the answers. And so then I had them reflect and I said, "Okay. Which answer do you think is most accurate and why?" And then I asked them, "Which pairing, which type of group structure did you enjoy the most?" And so then we just had a little conversation about, a lot of them liked working by themselves. They enjoyed working by themselves the most. But then they realized that was the most inaccurate-
Jon Orr: That's a good one.
Pamela Seda: Answer. And so I told them, this was the first day, I said, "You are going to have the opportunity to work in all of these group structures. Sometimes you're going to be by yourself, sometimes you're going to work in pairs. But just understand that I may ask you to come out of your comfort zone because we understand that when we work together collaboratively, we end up with a better product, per se."
Kyle Pearce: I love the progression of that.
Pamela Seda: And I started doing that every year after that. I never get the syllabus on day one anymore after that.
Kyle Pearce: And that's what you say to administration. You're like, "This is why I don't get my syllabus done on time."
Jon Orr: That's amazing. I don't think I heard that activity, Kyle, before. I've heard the 20 count the squares.
Kyle Pearce: I've heard of the problem but not done in that way.
Jon Orr: The way you organized it just makes so much sense. We have so many teachers reach out to us on what do we do on the first day? How do we build community? How do you convince students to work in pairs all the time or in groups or collaborative activities? I like the way you've structured that. I think it does hit on so many things by saying, you are going to have these different experiences. You are going to get to work alone. We're not going to work in groups every single day. You're going to have work time, but you're not going to work by yourself every single day. And it's that progression of going, yeah, it is more accurate. We get more information. Two minds are better than one is our big aha moment. And a lot of students want to ... Especially I've experienced, when we move up the grade levels, I got a lot of senior students who would rather work independently and go, "I just want to get it done. I want to crunch this out." And they're like, "I don't have time to work with that guy over there and that person over there." And I think that activity can be powerful to bring back throughout the year and go, "Remember the 25 squares and remember how much more we got out of working together than we had just individually?" I think that's super powerful.
Kyle Pearce: And I think as well when you think of the progression of working individually and then kind of work and branching out and branching out and noticing that as we add more perspective, as we add more expertise to the conversation, that things become more precise, more accurate. And then on the other side too, it also had me reflecting that I think we've all been in a situation where you get together with a large group of people to make a decision on something, but you haven't had enough time to reflect on it on your own. And it almost highlights ... And I think we do this a lot in our classrooms to try to be "collaborative". So we put students right into groups, right into groups, right into groups without giving them an opportunity. Kind of do some independent thoughts. And it's not that you have to come out with the right answer. That's not the intent. It's just to be able to get your head wrapped around what's going on to get yourself comfortable. Almost to give you an opportunity to, I don't want to say take a side, but to have a stance on something. So I could come to this conversation and bring something of value instead of bringing you my, "I'm not sure. Why don't we try this or why don't we try that?"
Jon Orr: You're saying, "I haven't even wrapped my mind around what we're doing yet and now I have to interact with you as well."
Kyle Pearce: Exactly. You're balancing a couple things. You have the social norms you have to deal with and navigate and then you also have to think about the actual mathematics. So it's interesting. It makes me rethink how I lead activities. I typically will go straight to some groups and it makes me think about how important that independent time to get yourself comfortable with what's happening. Maybe try something just very rough and then to be able to come together and go, "Hey, now I feel like I have an idea to share in the group instead of coming in and feeling like I'm spinning my tires or I'm getting nervous or anxious that I don't have something of value to offer." So I think a lot of quick wins on that one. So way to think on your feet there my friend. And thank you for a late syllabus.
Pamela Seda: Well thank you. I know that oftentimes when you were just talking, to me, it was like students need to have some time to make sense of the problem before they have something to even contribute. But oftentimes, I don't know about your students, but my students would think, "I'm just supposed to look at the problem and it's supposed to automatically make sense to me." Not understanding that oftentimes there's something you need to do. You might need to draw a picture, you might need to try some things, you might need ... Usually there is some process that you have to go through, some effort to even make sense of the problem. And I think that's important to communicate to kids because if you don't, some kids will mistakenly think, "Well, I looked at this problem, it doesn't make sense to me, so I must be dumb. I must not be a math person."
Jon Orr: Right. Yeah. I'm just reflecting myself. Really important ideas for sure.
Kyle Pearce: Jon's in space there. Jon's in space.
Jon Orr: No. I was just like no. I just keep reflecting. Good stuff. Pamela, I'm wondering about the R in the ICUCARE model, the release control, about empowering students to take ownership in their learning. I think that's something I didn't as well on my pathway didn't realize the power of that until later. But I think some people might say release control. Do you mean gradual release of responsibility? I wonder if you want to enlighten us about why that one is such a powerful element to include in the framework.
Pamela Seda: Certainly. Firstly, I think we really deceive ourselves into thinking that we have control because learning takes place inside a child's mind. So the fact that I can control something that happens in someone's head is just kind of ludicrous. So that to begin with.
Kyle Pearce: It's inception.
Pamela Seda: Unless I can read minds, I can't control learning. But what can I control? I can control the environment. I can control what kids experience. So that's firstly. It's just be honest with ourself. We really can't control what happens inside of a student's mind. So a lot of that has to do with just being honest. And then the other part is if we really want students to own their learning, which is what most every teacher said they want to do, is we will have to give them opportunities to grapple with the information. So it's funny that you mentioned the gradual release of responsibility because I know that that was just a fancy way of saying traditional math instruction, which is kind of what I was engaging in when I first started teaching.
Jon Orr: I do, we do, you do.
Pamela Seda: The problem with gradual release of responsibility, it starts with the teacher. That's the problem to me is when instruction begins with me as the teacher.
Kyle Pearce: Your circumference lesson didn't happen or your pi lesson or experience didn't happen if it was led in that way.
Pamela Seda: Absolutely. Absolutely. But gradual release of responsibility was so entrenched and so embedded into so many places that I was responsible for. I knew that I couldn't just go into a school that had these posters. I do, you do, we do. I do, we do, you do. That I couldn't just come in there and say, "Hey, you're doing it wrong."
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, that's not a good strategy.
Pamela Seda: Exactly. So what I did, I said, "Well let's just put a you do, we do in front of it." Because I understand the idea behind it is we need kids to get to a place to where they're confident in being able to repeat whatever the practice is, whatever the strategy is, that they can develop some level of fluency with it. And I get that part. But if that's where you start, then kids haven't had a chance to do any of that sense making.
Kyle Pearce: They didn't do mathematics.
Pamela Seda: Absolutely. So I just put in front of ... I said, "I'm not getting rid of the gradual release of responsibility, but let's give them an opportunity to do some sense making first."
Kyle Pearce: I love it.
Pamela Seda: So then let them grapple with it on their own, let them grapple with it with some classmates, have some conversations. So then when I get to the I do and I'm talking, I have something to build on that I can connect it to this work that they've already been doing and it's going to make so much more sense to them.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I see that what's popping into my mind, Jon and I refer to this as the real flipped classroom. We have coined it that way. Not the videos. We're talking, just flip that around. And like you're saying, that is a massive release of control, which might maybe make some educators nervous because what will happen? But I guess that's the real question is what could go wrong? Nothing can really go wrong because you still have the opportunity to consolidate, as we'd call it, after the students have done this work. In your lesson that you remember as a student, I'm sure the teacher didn't just ... If students came back with all kinds of different numbers instead of 3.1 something, it wasn't like the teacher was just going to let it happen. No. The teacher now gets to take that and now gets to reiterate. And I'm picturing your idea about building that expertise in the room. It's like you're starting in a similar fashion where you're giving students an opportunity to grapple a little bit.
Maybe it's alone at first, then I'm going to draw on my neighbors. And then you as the educator are going to take those ideas from around the room and try to make meaningful connections. Not show and tell, not every single person has to say every single step that they did. It's we're going to take the meaningful little pieces that are going to be really helpful and relevant for people to take with them. And you still get to do that part. You're not losing all control, but you've given students this opportunity to actually be in control of the flow of the learning anyway, which I think is so fantastic.
The last thing I do want to hear your thinking on, I know I would love to be able to stay all night and chat about all of them, but tell us something here as we get close to the end of this conversation about expecting more. Because I think this is something that as educators, I think a lot of educators, I think from my own experience, I wanted to be a helper.
I wanted to make sure every student got through. And I now realize later in my career that I was actually lowering expectations in order to try to do something. I had good intentions, but the result wasn't actually a good thing. That wasn't the way to go about it because actually my students, they will rise to your bar. And when I'm lowering that bar, that's where they were just trying to get over that thing. Tell me more about that and how as educators, can we be more, I guess, cognizant of this and maybe shifting our thinking about expecting more versus trying to lower expectations in order to ensure students "get through"?
Pamela Seda: Yeah. There are two things that come to mind. First is I'm thinking about that warm demander and that for students, being kind and communicating your care is utmost important. But it needs to be also coupled with demanding. And that research has shown that those warm demanders are most successful. I know that I have, as a high school teacher, probably tended more to the demanding part, but realizing that even as students did things that I didn't want them to do, they may have been disruptive in class, that doesn't mean that I don't hold them accountable, but I realized that I can always do it in a kind way. That being mean or harsh is never called for. That you do demand. I have had high expectations. But that warmth and that communicating to students and actually saying as research says, when you follow whatever your instruction is with, "I have high expectations of you, but I know that you can meet them."
When you communicate that to students, it really is a motivator. And research says that that works especially for students who have been marginalized. So that's one thing that comes to mind. Being that warm demander. And then the second thing is, I remember coming to a classroom when I was a math supervisor, observing this middle school classroom and they were teaching decimals and they were just saying, first you line up the decimals and then you add this to the right. And they were given all the steps. And it was just bothering me to no end and I couldn't figure out ... I was trying to label, if I figure out what is it that bothers me so much about this lesson? Because everything else in the classroom, they had their grips, they had their stations, they had their instructional bulletin board, they had their standards on the board, all that surface stuff that administrators look for.
But this lesson was just really bothering me. And then I remembered that day getting to that school, and this was the third time I had been at the school and I still needed my GPS to get there because I am directionally challenged. And that's when it hit me. The reason I still needed a GPS was because I was depending upon my GPS. And what is about the GPS that hindered me from being able to figure out how to get there by myself? And it was what I was paying attention to. I was just paying attention to step by step to step by step instructions that I wasn't paying attention to landmarks and the things around me. So I had nothing to build on my spatial sense or my sense of direction. And then that's when it dawned on me, that's what she's doing. She's GPSing her students and then she wonders why they can't get there by themselves later.
And so I started sharing that analogy with my students to say, "Don't let anybody GPS you. What does that mean? It doesn't mean that people can't help you." But I said, "Don't ever do something that doesn't make sense to you. So if someone's explaining something to you and it doesn't make sense, then you ask whatever questions you need to ask. But never just blindly duplicate what somebody tells you to do, even if it's the teacher, if it doesn't make sense." And I find that makes kids then, that just raises their expectation that I expect it to make sense. And more importantly, they expect it to make sense. And that just changes the game for them.
Jon Orr: Right. Totally. And that makes so much that it's expecting more. Like Kyle said, they bring up to the bar, you're bringing them up to the bar. And I think we don't do that enough in our classroom. Many of us teachers, I think we come out of days and we're like, "Man, that was a tough day." And then that we carry that into the next day and it allows us to have that deficit thinking. And I think that carries forward to kids sometimes. And if we got to think about not having that, think about the good stuff that you can go and bring into the next day. And then that can perpetuate, say, having those high demands on students after you've had those tough days.
Pamela, let's review the seven pieces of the framework one more time before we say goodbye here. But the first one was the I, the include others as experts. The C was be critically conscious. The U was understand your students well. The other C is used culturally relevant curricula. A is assess, activate, and build on prior knowledge. R is release control and E is expect more. The seven pieces of the ICUCARE framework. Pamela, before we hang up here and say our goodbyes, what would be one big takeaway that you'd like to leave a final thought with for the Make Math Moments Community?
Pamela Seda: I will say start. Try something. One of the reasons we wrote the book and gave a lot of specific strategies is that there is no one right way of doing this. The framework is a way to think about the work. A lot of the things that I shared in the book was, even I said earlier was trial and error. And sometimes you never know what's going to impact a kid. You never know if something's going to get through. But these are some things to try. And you may have to tweak them, but it's important to get started. Just to start the work, start somewhere. And I've given a plethora of ideas of things to start.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And yes, you have. You've given so many ideas here. And I think this big takeaway, we cannot stress it enough because everything we do in this podcast, for example, we talk about ideas, we talk about ideas, and it's not to overwhelm. And I worry oftentimes that educators really stress themselves out when they think about all the things they could've, should've, would've done. And then it almost puts them in a bit of paralysis analysis mode where they'd like, "Ah. What do I do? Where do I go?" And you are absolutely right. It's like you just start and you will figure things out as you go. There is no perfect right first start. And I think you had mentioned it a couple times in the episode, and I hope people reflect on this, that a lot of the work you're sharing in the book was through making mistakes and trying and experimenting and it not working the first time and changing it the second time and forgetting to do the syllabus.
We all have those challenges. I think every educator who's listening, they can relate to those things. And I think so often when we share strategies, it's so easy to make it look like it was always so clear cut, organized, and straightforward when in reality it is so much difficult work. So thank you so much for sharing that big takeaway. And again, Math Moment Maker community, reflect on that. It's just about starting. It's not about perfection. And you know what? Hey, guess what? Give it some thought yourself and then start opening up to your community of educators and that expertise is going to start spreading. You're going to start seeing all of the different expertise that people can bring to the group. So awesome stuff here, Pamela. Pamela, co-author of Choosing To See, the ICUCARE framework and an amazing, amazing wealth of knowledge that you've shared with us here to help build our understanding and the Math Moment Makers' expertise across the world here. So thank you so much. Where can people find more about you and your work?
Pamela Seda: Yeah. My website is said educational sedaeducationalconsulting.com. But to make it easy, you just put in pamseda.com, P-A-M-S-E-D-A.com. You can get to my website. And so there is my contact information and you can find out more about the ICUCARE framework. And then I also have my store there so that you can buy the book there as well as other educational products to support the ICUCARE framework.
Jon Orr: Amazing, amazing stuff. Thanks so much, Pamela, for joining us here and we wish you all the best in the coming rest of this year and next.
Pamela Seda: Well, thank you. I was so glad to be here.
Kyle Pearce: Have a great evening. We'll chat soon.
Pamela Seda: Thank you.
Kyle Pearce: Well, as always, Math Moment Makers, we learned so much. And as we had mentioned, one of those themes that I heard in this episode was this idea of the collective expertise of the group. We are doing that each and every week here on the podcast and today's episode really allowed that to shine through. So for me, that's my big takeaway and that's one of the ideas that I'm going to be hanging onto with so many other nuggets. So my question for you is, how are you going to make sure that the big ideas from this episode don't wash away like footprints in the sand? Are you going to chat with a colleague? Are you going to leave a comment on the show notes page for this particular episode? Or are you going to go over to YouTube, hit like and comment on the podcast video? However you choose to do it, we are looking forward to seeing your thinking and also taking a few minutes and responding.
Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on our next episode as we release them on Monday mornings, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, whatever one that happens to be, whatever one you're listening on right now. Hit the like button or the follow button or the subscribe button and we'll hit a little message here and it beams right to your phone and it tells you when the next one comes out, so you won't miss it.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. And while you're at it, ratings and reviews always fill our hearts and let us know that people are listening. And it also helps to spread the word to new listeners from around the year. Or around the world, I should say. Not around the year, but all year long. Friends, show notes, links to resources and complete transcripts to read from the web or download Take with You can be found over at makemathmoments.com/episode207. That is makemathmoments.com/episode207. Well, my Math Moment Makers friends, I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High Fives for us.
Jon Orr: And that was a weird one. High-five for you.
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