Episode 228: How Can I Help My Colleagues Slow Down? – A Math Mentoring Moment

Apr 10, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



This week we speak with Rose Piso, an elementary interventionist teacher from Seneca Valley. Rose is dedicated to helping her students feel confident, accomplished, and proud. Rose also knows that there are topics and strands that we teachers should spend more time developing conceptually with our students rather than simply showing students an algorithm and moving on. 

How can Rose help the teachers she works alongside with recognizing the importance of teaching developmentally? What strategies and structures can she put in place to strengthen her whole school’s math program? Stick around and find out. 

This is another Math Mentoring Moment Episode where we speak with a member of the math moment maker community where together we brainstorm strategies and next steps for teachers to overcome pebbles they have in their shoe. 

You’ll Learn

  • What PD structures can a teacher implement without the support of administration?
  • How can a teacher influence their peers without stepping on toes?
  • What are the most important big ideas to focus on when teaching mathematics?


Take the Make Math Moments Math Program Assessment Tool [Classroom Teacher & Leader Versions]

Join the Academy – Free for 30 Days


District Leader Resources:

Take the Make Math Moments Math Program Assessment Tool 

The Make Math Moments District Planning Workbook [First 3 pages] 

Learn About Our District Improvement Program


Are you a district mathematics leader interested in crafting a mathematics professional learning plan that will transform your district mathematics program forever? Book a time to chat with us!

Other Useful Resources and Supports: 

Make Math Moments Framework [Blog Article]

Make Math Moments Problem-Based Lessons & Units

Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Rose Piso: So, what I put in in the chat is, for example, how do I get my colleagues to slow down? Because we're all so worried about that flipping test at the end of the year. And I'm from PA, Pennsylvania, I'm not Ontario, I know you guys are up in Canada, but I know you have that same type of situation. You have that same end of the year test. And I hear my colleagues time after time after time inaudible

Kyle Pearce: This week we speak with Rose Piso, an elementary interventionist teacher from Seneca Valley. Rose is dedicated to helping her students feel confident, accomplished and proud in mathematics. Rose also knows that there are topics and strands that we teachers should spend more time developing conceptually with our students rather than simply showing students an algorithm and trying to cover it all.

Jon Orr: How can Rose help the teachers she works alongside with recognize the importance of teaching developmentally? What strategies and structures can she put in place to strengthen her whole team's math program? Stick around and you're going to find out.

Kyle Pearce: This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we speak with a member of the Math Moment Maker community just like you. And together, we brainstorm strategies and next steps for helping to overcome the pebbles that they have kicking around in those shoes. Here we go. Welcome to the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr. We're from makingmathmoments.com.

Kyle Pearce: This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six-step plan to grow your mathematics program, whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

Jon Orr: And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like a strong, healthy and balanced tree.

Kyle Pearce: If you master the six parts of an effective mathematics program, the impact of your math program will grow and reach far and wide.

Jon Orr: Each week, here on the podcast, you'll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back the confidence and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or educators you serve.

Kyle Pearce: Each and every day, we're chatting all six parts of the tree are involved in any effective mathematics program. But one area today is going to stick out like a sore limb, because we're going to talk about the limbs of the tree, which represents either your school or district professional learning structure. Or if you are a classroom teacher, you can think of this section of the tree as your professional learning plan, the plan you have for yourself. Stick around and we're going to work with Rose to help strengthen that part of her mathematics program tree.

Jon Orr: And what's interesting you'll find in this conversation, is that Rose comes to us with a very common problem, or a pebble of when we have teachers working together. Rose, being an interventionist teacher, is seeing that the classroom teachers are moving a little too fast and wishes that they could slow down a little bit to work developmentally with some of the students who need that extra support and teach it at a deeper level.
It's understandable that teachers move a little bit faster because they're concerned about covering all the concepts, we talk about that here. So, we think back to the tree in the six parts of the program, Rose is kind of suggesting that the teachers she's working with need help on the branches of the tree, which is our pedagogy, our teacher moves. We talk about, she might be able to help with suggesting some structures on what they could do to change some of that. It's also linked to the roots of the tree. If teachers had a better understanding of teaching developmentally, they might be able to introduce that in the classroom. However, in this episode, we help Rose herself with a professional development plan that she could put into place in her school with the teachers so that they can take action to carry out those other elements of the tree. So, we are covering a lot of ground here in this episode.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Let's dig in and we're going to turn it over to Rose.

Rose Piso: I have, in the last five years, transitioned over to a math interventionist. I have basically landed in my dream job, because that is truly where I find my strengths. I like looking at those kiddos and saying, "What are you not getting?" So, what I put in in the chat is, for example, "How do I get my colleagues to slow down?" Because we're all so worried about that flipping test at the end of the year. And I'm from PA, Pennsylvania, I'm not Ontario, I know you guys are up in Canada. But I know you have that same type of situation. You have that same end of the year test. And I hear my colleagues time after time, after time, "I have to get here. I have to get here."
And let me just give you a quick example. I worked with a group of learning support students who needed, a small group today on a test, a fraction test. I was even involved in the making of this test and as I was giving it, I'm like, "I hate this test." And let's just get to going through stages and it was mixed numbers to improper fractions. That's important. It's important to know that that's a number greater than one and how do I fix it and all that. And when those kiddos got there, they had no idea what was being asked of them. And so, I know that a procedure was taught in the classroom, but the understanding wasn't taught.
And that's where I am right now. I am very stuck in, "How do I get my colleagues to understand, it is so much more, it is so much more than the procedure and it is 100% about the understanding?" And I know that when they slow down to do the understanding, they worry about, "I'm not getting enough done," and that's my pebble. I listen to the podcast, this is going to sound terrible, but I know that what I'm thinking is correct. Do you know what I mean? Slow down. And if they just get it, then when they see the answer of 6 and 8/8, inaudible bat an eye, that's seven. But now I just... It's a frustration and it's a systemic thing that I think we worry about this test and it's just a struggle. 32 years, I'm struggling because I just feel like there's better that we can be doing, and that's where I'm kind of at.

Kyle Pearce: First of all, bravo to you and I would agree, I believe that you are correct as well. I'll put it that way. But something we see happening a lot, and it happens not just in the classroom, it happens in other aspects of life, when you know certain things that you do are not the right move, but then we end up doing them anyway, right? It's almost like, in your mind you go, "Well, I know I need students to understand number and operations." That's the thing we preach nonstop. It's really, at the end of the day, there's so many things in math that are in the standards or in the curriculum and we are like, "Got to go and check that thing off." We know at the end of it, they don't actually have a solidified understanding of what it is. And that oftentimes what's hindering them there is number sense in operations, but yet we don't seem to build in that time.
And in reality, it's almost like when we get stressed we just go, go, go, right? And it's almost like you almost lose all sense of logic and you're like, "Well, if I just go as hard as I can, maybe I'll get there." And in reality, we know it's just not realistic. I'm wondering, what have you tried so far? And you're in an interesting role because you're an interventionist teacher, so you're not a supervisor, you're not an administrator, you're a colleague and I'm sure you're also in the back of your mind thinking, "I don't want to be that person who was going around and pointing fingers and telling people what to do." Has there been any strategies you've tried or has this been more of silent like, "Oh, I just wish people would pick up on it."

Rose Piso: No. I think I'm pretty lucky in the fact that my colleagues, I guess respect, I don't know if that's the word to use, but they do respect. I'll come in, and literally just tonight my colleague who gave that test, I texted her and I said, "I have a thought. How about we break in some small groups tomorrow and let's really hit those concepts? I know these two kiddos that I had didn't get this and let's revisit those concepts."
I am in a unique position where they do, I guess respect is the word, that my experience in the fact that I am willing, I will find a resource. I have sent your website out, I'm like, "There's tasks here. Even if you don't subscribe, there's tasks here. Use this, use this." I'm respected in that respect. I'm able to say, "Hey, how about we try this?" I'm lucky there.

Jon Orr: And it sounds like they're lucky there too.

Rose Piso: Thank you.

Jon Orr: It sounds like you go about it in a very-

Rose Piso: I love what I'm doing. I truly do. And I love when a kid says... For example, the other day they asked me to do an enrichment. Which is kind of funny because when you work with the kiddos that are in need the most, you need a little perspective every now and then to do some enrichment. And we were doing some addition of fractions and I related it to money and to see a kid's eyes light up when I said 1/10 plus 3/4, and they were like, "Whoa." They were able to relate that to money and they were like, "That's just inaudible."

Jon Orr: A money model, that's awesome.

Rose Piso: It was super cool. But anyway.

Jon Orr: Nice.

Rose Piso: So, I have that respect. It's not that I can't go in and go, "Hey, what do you think about trying this?" And I've walked into classrooms where they're like, "What do you want to do? Hey Mrs. Piso is here. What do you want to do today?" I have that. I think now I want to branch to my K-4 kiddos. I'm a 5-6. I sit in the 5-6 area. I know that it is some of our K-4 instruction. I think we introduce algorithms too soon, I think those types of things. And I don't think, as I know you'll agree with me, it has nothing to do with effort, teachers are doing their best.

Jon Orr: Totally.

Rose Piso: I think it has everything to do with, "I was taught this way, so this must be the way I'm supposed to do." And so, I'm kind of begging and pleading administration like, "Can we fix this? Can we give these teachers who are probably fabulous reading teachers, some math instruction?" There's you guys out there. There's so many sites out there that are saying, "Oh my gosh, there's better, there's better." How do I convince people, "You're not doing anything wrong."?

Jon Orr: And you're absolutely right. We need to have those PD structures. And if I had to guess, because I had that mentality about not wanting to deviate from getting all the concepts and topics and strands out there in the open when you have a list of stuff to teach. You've got teachers who are relying on, "I know that if I follow this plan, I will cover everything I'm supposed to cover." And then, we always try to make sure that we're helping our kids get to a particular level.
But I think what most teachers are hesitant on, this is my guess when with talking with them, of being one, is that, "If I go down this path, I know that I can check all the boxes that says, 'I showed all this stuff.' And then nobody's over the top of my head going, 'Did you show all this stuff?'" And you're like, "Yeah, I showed all this stuff." "But if I go down this path over here, which might mean I don't cover everything in detail the way I've been covering it this way, I might miss some nuances in some of these bigger ideas. So, I'm going to hit all the big ideas following this path, but I'm going to miss some nuances in a couple of these areas. But I don't know what that path looks like. And I don't know, is that path going to get me in trouble? Am I going to miss some boxes along the way and therefore parents are going to be knocking on my doors?" There's a lot of uncertainty that most teachers feel going down that path and are afraid to take it, mostly because they aren't sure of the success. There's a risk there.
And I think if we remove that risk somehow, with the professional development, with a scope and sequence document, with saying, "Look, if we go down this path over here, we're going to hit all of these big ideas. We're going to go hard on a couple of these because they're worth more, they're more important than a couple of the nuances over here." Do I have kids that I want to show those nuances to that are ready for it? Of course. And we've got small groups that can do that. We've got small groups that can hit hard on these areas over here, but I think if we can dedicate some PD time to helping teachers see that there's no risk in going down this path and actually letting them know there's no risk to go down this path, we would see a lot more teachers change.

Rose Piso: I totally agree. I'm so tired of using the pandemic as a situation, but I think the pandemic gave me time as an educator to sit down and go... I mean, as an interventionist, I was hit or miss when I was grabbing my kiddos. So, what do I fill my time with? PD. I suddenly became this person that went, "Oh my gosh, I never thought like that, I wasn't taught that. That was not my education." So, I'm saying at 29, 30 years of being a teacher, all of a sudden I went, "Oh my gosh, there's better ways to do this. There's really cool stuff out there."
And I don't feel like anything that's out there now is just cool, it's real. This is the way people should think. This is the way. And when I pull those kiddos in small groups and I use ratio tables and we talk about, "You never have to subtract again, you could never regroup ever again. You could just always add on, use open number lines." And you see that kids' eyes open and I think, "Where did we go wrong? How far back do I have to go? Is this a first grade thing? Is this a second grade thing? Where can I help these kiddos be more successful so that I don't have kids, put me out of my job, don't need an interventionist at 5-6 because we got them at K-4." And I guess that's just my struggle right now and how do I approach my administration and how do I tell my own children, I have three children on my own, "If you're going to bring up a problem, be willing to be part of the solution."

Kyle Pearce: I love it. And I can hear that in what you're saying here. In this conversation, I can hear that you definitely are not putting a blame out there, you're not just putting it off. You understand there is a problem, there's a challenge. And something that I'm also hearing, you're not saying it explicitly, but I'm hearing you know that you alone can't solve it all. This is going to have to be a group thing and it's going to take time, which is hard, because it's almost like you're going to have to have two sides of your brain working. You're going to have to have the, "What I can do now for these kiddos", as you said, and you want to keep doing that work and that's amazing. Knowing that it is an impossible feat for you to go back and help get everybody to where they need to be right now.
The reality is, here's the crazy part. When we really use logic and say, if a student makes it to, say grade five, and they're with you and they're working at a grade two level or a grade three level, they took five, six, seven years, depending how many kindergarten and pre-K years are, they took six or seven years and lost time, they lost three years worth. To try to catch them up is going to take you significantly more time to do that. So the reality is, it's helping them see small gains and helping them to see gains is really important and we have to look at that as a win.
But then I go over here and it sounds like, not only do your colleagues likely look up to you, you're calling it respect, but I'm going to say they consider your voice being an important voice. It sounds like you don't try to come in and shove people around, which is fantastic because that doesn't get you anywhere.
But I wonder if maybe, you had mentioned the idea of professional learning with admin, and I'm wondering if you were to think about, maybe it might be in a series of a couple meetings and it could just be a 10 minute conversation, but meeting with admin, getting a sense of what PD structures are in place now and then maybe what's available. And what I mean by available, is sometimes admin may, and it depends, every district's different, but sometimes admin have the opportunity to assign different educators to different parts of the building for, whether it's supervision, whether it's all of these different things. And if you can get a good sense of how that's working in your building, maybe you already have that sense and then you were to walk away and you were to try to craft some sort of opportunity for PD time to be reserved. And maybe it already exists now. Maybe it's not being maximized or utilized in the most beneficial way or productive way. And if you were to be able to maybe grapple on that, some admin are going to be so supportive and like, "Yeah, let's dig in." Others are going to be like, "I'm so busy." And in that case, you're going to need to come with an idea like you had said.
But the deeper you can get into the process in terms of, "How is this working structurally?" And then also, admin may or may not be willing to do this. If you're able to get a better sense of, "What does PD budgets look like or sound like? Do we even have one in the school? Is it being utilized?" Some schools are like, "I don't want to stress the teachers.", so they send the PD money back and they think they're doing teachers a favor. But really, it's like maybe if that was available and you were able to help them with that, maybe you could be someone who starts this initiative that will continue to give even after you do decide, you had mentioned going to retirement workshops. At some point you're going to move on. But imagine if you could help them get that process started. It won't be finished by the time you're ready to move on to other things. But at least you know that hey, you're creating the environment for this change to actually happen.
And again, it will probably be slow and maybe tediously slow, but it might be something for you to think on. And maybe that's a mark that you can leave in that building for those students.

Rose Piso: And like I said, I am fortunate, I have teachers that are like, "Okay Rose, how do we do this?" and I slide things in and I try this. And it's interesting, it's just one of those, I don't want to shove anything down anyone's throat, they have to be willing to take it. So, I think getting a admin on board and just taking a look at needs. We just had a meeting today, I have some teachers that are delving into small stations, rotation of stations in the classroom, 'cause we have various ability levels in our classrooms, as does every classroom across the country, it's not heterogeneous grouping anymore.
But there's just so many things. I just feel like teachers are focusing and struggling with so much and I want to help and I want to walk away and go, "We've done the best." There's so many, you two and Pam Harris and Christina Tondevold. And there's just so many good people out there and it's like, "How do I get people..." And I'm out of the child rearing, my kids are grown. I have the time to sit at, what time is it, 9:05 and talk to the two of you. So, I know these people with little kids don't have this time. So, it's just one of those things that I want to leave my mark, as I said. I want to walk away and say I did the best for my district and help these people.

Jon Orr: Yeah. And I think you're doing that. It sounds like it. I can imagine you are absolutely doing that just from being here at 9:05 on a Wednesday evening, I think you're leaving that legacy behind for sure. And I'm wondering, I think I can see some wheels turning right now, but what would you say is your next move right now?

Rose Piso: It's kind of funny you say that because I literally, just before we got on, I was in my email and I had just sent an email to our assistant administrator who is in charge of elementary. And as I'm in the emails, I saw your email and I'm like, "Let's see what's happening here." So that's how the two things coincided. And I just sent him in a message and said, "Can we sit down and talk..."

Jon Orr: I love it. Great.

Rose Piso: "... Just hear me out." 'Cause we have a good relationship. So I just said, "These are some things that I'm thinking." I think that's really kind of where I am. I can handle it in my building because my teachers respect what I do. District wide, I have to get admin on my side. And so, literally before I logged in, I had just sent that email. So, I guess we'll kind of see what goes from there and I'll just keep plugging forward.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Well, one thought I have. So now you've got some ideas on what you might want to talk about. It sounds like you already were on that train of thinking, which is great. So maybe some ideas ahead of time as to the questions you want to ask and the things you want to learn. But also, I want to equip you with something before we wrap up here for the night. You may or may not know, but we actually have a math program assessment that we've developed. It's actually created for classroom teachers now, but originally it was district leaders. So we have a district leader version, which is also beneficial for school leaders. So I would articulate-

Rose Piso: Oh, you had that in an email, right? It was kind of a-

Kyle Pearce: ... We sure did.

Rose Piso: ... Okay.

Kyle Pearce: So what you might want to do before you meet with admin, is maybe you want to take a peek at that. John will toss it in the chat for you. But that could be something. It's makemathmoments.com/grow. And basically, it will take a little bit of time, it's about 12 minutes. But it asks and it goes through the six parts of the tree, which we represent. Our tree represents the math program, an effective math program.
And what it helps you do, is it gives you some talking points as to where are we in terms of our own school journey. If it was at a district level, it'd be for our district math journey. And that could be helpful for you as a team to kind of think of, "Where do we want to focus? Because if we don't..." I'm sure you have tons of ideas on where to focus. But if you can start with something and work your way out. And then, there are opportunities, what they'll get is a report and it'll actually focus in on one of the six parts based on the survey responses or the assessment responses.
So, something for you to consider. We also work with different schools and districts, so try that, have a look at it, and then if that's something that your admin is eager to dig into and want some additional support, that's something that we and our team can meet with you, have a chat, whatever it looks like and sounds like and craft what that might look like based on, not only the assessment, but also where you folks are and what you're considering doing for short term, but also for more longer term goals as you've articulated here.

Rose Piso: Perfect. Yeah, I do remember seeing that. And I almost remember jumping into it one night and being one of those, I wasn't in the right place, in mind frame to answer all those questions.

Kyle Pearce: You definitely want to carve out that time. Make sure it's like, "I'm going to put that..."

Rose Piso: Yeah. For sure.

Kyle Pearce: And that could even be something that you and your admin do together. Again, may or may not work out that way, but we always find people have really great conversations, try to articulate those questions or word those questions in a way that will get you thinking about maybe some of the things that haven't come up explicitly and may bring or shine the light to a part of the math program that actually might be the challenge. I always say, students struggling in math, that's the smoke, but you really want to go and follow the smoke to find the fire. And really what we're trying to do with that assessment is help you find the fire so that you can extinguish it. Or I guess if fire's a good thing, spread it, I'm not sure, but.

Rose Piso: Yeah, depends on which kind of fire you're putting out, for sure.

Jon Orr: Rose, thanks so much for joining us.

Rose Piso: Awesome.

Kyle Pearce: Hey, hey friends. In today's episode, I hope that you got the message about the limbs of the tree. The limbs of the tree are all about your professional learning team or your professional development structure if you're a district or school leader. If you're a classroom teacher, this might be your professional learning plan, the one that you set for yourself. Sometimes it's mandated by the district or by your administrator to hand this in. What's on that thing and how do you plan to go about it? If your professional learning team structure or your own professional learning plan isn't inviting to the teachers and the colleagues that you're working with, or it doesn't sound like something that you're actually interested in engaging in yourself, then you will not be able to support the work over the long term and create the momentum that you're looking for.

Jon Orr: So your action item here is to think about the conversation we just had with Rose in thinking about, if you're working with teachers yourself, we all work alongside teachers, we work maybe in collaboration with teachers. And sometimes you're like Rose, you're supporting the students that are in other classrooms. What action are you going to take to help steer or align the thinking between you and the team? And there are some suggestions that we gave for Rose to talk with her administrator on how to implement some of those types of techniques. What are you going to do to help create alignment amongst the professional development amongst your team? That is the challenge you're facing right ahead. How can you step forward into tomorrow and think about improving that team aspect?

Kyle Pearce: I love it my friends. Maybe you felt like this episode resonated with you. That might mean that focusing in on the limbs is where you need to go next. But maybe this one didn't necessarily resonate with you, maybe it's one of the other five parts of the tree. The reality is, is that just like trees, we do not stop growing. We are never, there is no end to this learning journey as an educator, in particular a mathematics educator.
So what we're going to encourage you do if you haven't yet, is head over to makemathmoments.com/report. And what you're going to have the opportunity to do, is to click on a button and it's going to ask you, "Hey, are you a classroom teacher or are you a leader?" Meaning a school leader or a district leader. You're going to pick one of those two assessments and that assessment's going to ask you over about 12 minutes at time, it's going to ask you a bunch of questions. Some of them are kind of hard, and this is just to gauge a sense of what's working well in your classroom and where there's maybe some areas that we haven't been focusing in on. Some of these areas you might not have even had on your radar. That's the goal of this assessment.
So go ahead, take the 12 minute assessment. What you're going to get right after is a customized report that's going to summarize the six parts of the tree, but it's going to also funnel up to the top, the specific part of the tree that you might want to hone in on now. Because the reality is, you can't fix everything overnight. Pick one thing, work from there and then work your way into some of the other parts of the tree. Go ahead, makemathmoments.com/report and you will have the opportunity to get your customized math improvement plan in your inbox.

Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don't miss out on the new episodes as we put them out on Monday mornings, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. Also, don't forget, we have show notes and resources and links to anything that you heard here in this particular episode over on our website, makemathmoments.com/episode228, makemathmoments.com/episode228.

Kyle Pearce: I want to thank you all for listening in to the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast, where we help you grow your mathematics program just like a strong, balanced and healthy tree so your impact can reach far and wide. Well, until next time, my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us

Jon Orr: And high five for you.

powered by


Download the Cheat Sheets in PDF form so you can effectively run problem based lessons from a distance!

MMM From A Distance Cheat Sheets Smaller.001


There is a LOT to know, understand, and do to Make Math Moments From a Distance.

That’s why so many Math Moment Makers like YOU have joined the Academy for a month ON US!

You heard right: 30 days on us and you can cancel anytime. Dive into our distance learning course now…

Make Math Moments From A Distance Course
LEARN MORE about our Online Workshop: Making Math Moments That Matter: Helping Teachers Build Resilient Problem Solvers.

Thanks For Listening

To help out the show:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.

In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.