Episode 229: You Have Time For This – Trust Us!

Apr 17, 2023 | Podcast | 0 comments



We dug into some survey data around why teachers are limiting their PD experiences or completing opting out and the results are kind of shocking. 

Stick around and you’ll hear why teachers are opting out of math PD and what we can do to help these fellow educators. 

You’ll Learn

  • Why are teachers feeling overwhelmed this year?
  • Why some district PD programs are great for their educators and why some need an overhaul;
  • How can you ensure you are meeting your math PD goals for the year; and, 
  • How a district’s PD goals can align with its teacher’s goals. 


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Kyle: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.

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

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

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

Kyle: Yes, that's right, Jon. So as we dig in today, actually this episode really came together based on some events that happened over the past week. We were actually launching one of our courses and something we often ask educators, those educators who choose not to partake in the course, is we ask them where or why they chose not to. And this year, more than ever, we received a certain response from those educators and it actually had us thinking, and even a little bit worried, about those trees that we're trying to grow those math class programs that we're trying to grow.
Because, Jon, I don't know about you, our Math Moment Maker community, we like to consider them the top 1% of educators, not because they're the best educators out there, but in terms of commitment--

Jon: Right. I think so.

Kyle: ...in terms of trying to dig deeper and trying to grow, nourish, and nurture their tree, their class program. And some of these responses sort of hit us a little bit harder than some of them in the past.

Jon: Yeah, I think you're right there with the 1%. The 1% is the people that are stepping forward to say, "Look, I'm looking to strengthen certain aspects of the six aspects of my classroom tree, and I'm actively involved in trying to do that." And now we've got even more teachers that are stepping forward and enrolling in our courses, in our professional development options at Make Math Moments.
What Kyle is saying is there's also a good handful of folks who are listening to the podcast, they received our email, they said, "Hey, look guys, I really like these resources that you're sending to us each week." But then they're like, "The course isn't for me." And that was why we tossed this question out to the community is to say, "We want to do our best at Make Math Moments to help as many educators as possible change their classroom into a classroom that strengthens that tree for all students."
And one of the ways we do that is here on the podcast, another way we do that is the courses. And so we want to help as many as we can, so we reached out and said, "Hey, how did we miss the mark for you specifically, because we want to help you change the way you want to change. We want you to help set your goals and then achieve those goals." So we wanted to learn what is it about this particular course that we can change or modify or adjust so that it's right for you.
And, Kyle, I think a lot of the responses, like you said, they're coming back very, very similar. And I think this is natural, I think we expected this from educators, but we've got most of our educators are saying like, "Hey, well you guys didn't miss the mark, it's just I don't have the time to invest in this course." And I think every time we talk to teachers here on the podcast, time is always a factor in professional development in resources that are happening in the classroom. It's always coming down to time.

Kyle: Yeah, for sure. And something we're hearing from some of these emails back from educators, again, as you mentioned, one email in particular said, "You didn't miss the mark. This year, I'm finding that emotional issues of several students is taking all of my energy and resources to manage and help them. I come home exhausted and need the afternoon and weekend to recover and do it again." And this particular educator we know is a deep, deep learner, has attended so many of our webinars that we do in the evening time, some of our Q&A sessions. And the part that really got us is that some of what we would say are our most motivated, most eager to learn from the past, are now saying that they don't have the energy, the time, the mental availability in order to engage in this work.
So when we really think about this, and let's think about this from a numbers perspective, it's a math podcast here, okay, Jon? So for example, each week typically we get on average around 12,000 educators listening to the podcast, which is a great number. We're so, so excited to have that audience. But when you compare that to the number of school districts in the US alone, we're talking about less than one educator per school district are tuning into, this is one of the top math specific podcasts out there. And you're wondering to yourself, wow, these are, again, the go-getters. These are the people who are really committed.
If we look at the number of schools, there's 115,000 schools over in the United States alone. And our email list, we have a little more than half that number of educators on the list. And they're from all over the world, but we're talking about less than one educator per school are a part of the Make Math Moments community. And what these educators are saying, we're talking about the ones that have gone above and beyond to try to push their thinking, their PD, their pedagogy, their content knowledge further, they're now saying, "Even I am now struggling to find the time, the energy, the availability in order to push my practice even further."
And that for you and I, I know made our heart sink a little bit because we're going, holy smokes, there is so much work for us to all do collectively in mathematics education, and if our go-getters are even saying, "I've got to throw in the towel a little bit here," it definitely concerns us that our trajectory, which has been upwards and positive and pushing forward, it makes me wonder how are we going to ensure that this work happens maybe during the school day?

Jon: You're right, that does bring up that important question of how do we set aside some time or how do we budget this time? Because it is time that we do have to allocate, right? There are so much time in the day, there is only so much bandwidth that we can manage ourselves. And if we're feeling burnt out, if we're feeling that it's too much, but how can we help teachers figure that part out?
And I know that there are some folks who have dove in and shared back with us how they manage that in their day-to-day time, like in their school time or after school time. Because this work is important. It is important enough for us to make sure that we do include this time of our days.
I know that some folks have looked at it as almost like a reverse engineering approach to thinking about how to achieve, say, this learning. For example, somebody shared back and said, "What I did is every morning..." This is outside the school day, Kyle. They said, "You know what? I read the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and it talked about getting up a little bit earlier and the fact that if we got up a little bit earlier..." I know that we're adding extra hours into our day when we do that. And the book does a great job of highlighting the benefits of waking up a little bit earlier than your normal.
And more importantly, it's not to get stuff done, it's about to feel whole. It's about to reflect on what you can control of the day and what you can't control of the day. It's almost like there's this meditation piece to it. But the other part is that you can schedule some small chunks of time in that morning to work through what you want to work through. And I think when you set goals of saying, "Look, I'm dedicated to changing my craft. I know it's tough. I know that I've got only so much bandwidth. I know I only have so much time, but if I really want to make the change in my classroom based off the goals I'm setting for myself, how do I do that?"
And this particular person said they got up a little bit earlier and they dedicated 15, I think it was maybe 20 minutes every morning to work through, say, I think it was an online course, or maybe it's to read a book on the subject or it's to better their content knowledge. They said, "You know what? I'm going to dedicate 20 minutes every day to doing something to better myself as an educator." And then when you think about the compounding effect there, or even just the additive effect there, 20 minutes even just five days a week is a hundred minutes in a week. And I know that turns into a lot over time.
For example, our proportional course, every module is about an hour's worth of time. And we say that that proportional reasoning course, even though it's about bettering yourself in understanding how to teach proportional reasoning, but way more strands than just that, you could get that course done in nine weeks because you've just done a hundred minutes per week. That's nine modules.
All of a sudden it's like nine weeks, 20 minutes a day, by reverse engineering and breaking it down into small chunks, you can easily see that you can make and achieve the goals you set for yourself so that it seems manageable and all of a sudden by the end, you've got this huge outcome. You've added new skills, you've got new ideas, you add new resources to your classroom, and you're helping more students.
And also if you do it like I do it in the morning too, is you're helping yourself set the stage for the day. And that can go a long way for that mental capacity that we need to start our jobs, because this job is a taxing job mentally.

Kyle: Well, and what I'm hearing, Jon, is this is sort of like a message I'm hearing from you to those top achievers, right? We're talking about those go-getters who are listening to the podcast. That's you listening right now. You're that 1% we're talking about, or less than 1% of the community.

Jon: Who are dedicating more time.

Kyle: Right. And that's an amazing strategy to help them work through some of those pieces. So I've got some thoughts on that for that audience, but then I also want to share some ideas, or maybe some wonders, for the other part of our audience, and that'll come out in just a bit.
But I love your Miracle Morning piece there. I also read the book. Actually, it was you that recommended. We flip book ideas and titles back-and-forth quite a bit. So you and I are actually becoming much better at finding those times. And whether you want to be that Miracle Morning person, you don't have to be that guy. But the wonderful thing about it is that you can actually integrate it at different times in your day.
So for some of you, if you're thinking, "Okay, the mornings though." I was always the guy that I would be like, "Okay, I'm going to get up in the morning and I'm going to do my exercise." So I'd often do my run. I'd do a few things with weights and so forth. And I say "a few" because it's clearly not that much. If you look at me here, these pipes are not that big.
But something that I changed recently was instead of going for runs, what I've done is I've actually shifted towards I bought a spin bike and I put it under my standup desk, and now I feel like I can accomplish some of what you've just said in the morning and still accomplish my exercise time. So it's like I'm not compromising that part of my day.
And I'll just be honest and say, I felt like I was getting up early enough already to do that work that I'm like, "I don't know if I want to do that." So if you are sitting there going like, "Ah, Jon, I already get up early and I already do this, that, or the next thing," thinking about how you might be able to integrate it.
The other option is you can make a commitment at another time in the day. But the fear, I guess, I have in sharing that idea, and maybe you're committed to it, but as the day goes on, things start piling up, stress starts piling up, you start to get mentally tired as well, and it becomes easier to potentially skip or miss those things.

Jon: Totally.

Kyle: So these are some great strategies for--

Jon: I was just going to say, think about all those times you thought, "I'm going to bring home this marking."

Kyle: How did that go?

Jon: And the marking's in your bag, and your marking's sitting in the bag and then you wake up the next morning and you're like, "Oh, right. There it is still in the bag."

Kyle: Yeah.

Jon: It's because you're mentally exhausted.

Kyle: You finally dust it off and you're like, "Oo, that's been sitting there longer than I thought it was."

Jon: "Oh, darn."

Kyle: So that's where that audience for you listening about how you yourself can potentially start to think about, hey, if you want to make certain changes and time is getting you or even stress or that overwhelm. Some of these emails came back and people are like, "I just feel overwhelmed." Well, if you tackle some of this work before the school day starts, not only will you be able to accomplish that goal, which is going to be a great quick win for the day, but it also might set you up to actually help to reduce the amount of overwhelm in your classroom. So if it has something to do with behaviors, if I'm pushing my practice forward, if the goal is to try to help me throughout the school day, that can be a huge, huge win.
Now, for the other people in the audience, Jon, we know that a good chunk of our audience are leaders in the math space. This might be administrators or coaches or consultants or someone at the district office, superintendents and directors, listening in. You're go-getters too. That's what landed you in those positions. But I guess my wonder for you is, okay, if you can benefit from this Miracle Morning idea or structuring that into your day, I've got a funny feeling you might already have some of those routines built in, just given the fact that you're in the role you're in.
But my wonder for you is that if the message you're hearing here is that such a small percentage, such a small fraction of your school or your district are those people who are listening into the show right now or on that email list where they're less than 1%. So if we do the numbers and we look, it's like under one teacher per US school is on our resource list where they get tips and all of those pieces. My question for you, if you're involved in any sort of district level PD is what's your next move? What's the move for your leadership team if you know that even the go-getters are feeling the push, feeling the pressure?
We can say it all we want. You can send out emails and you can try to motivate all the educators that are in your system, the reality is that that's going to be a really, really hard sell. So it makes us wonder about that tree and our district math program tree and how we're shaping up specifically the limbs of those trees, because the limbs is the PD structure for your district or your school that holds up that big massive canopy. All of the work around pedagogical content knowledge, all of the resources and tools, they're up in that canopy and that is holding those up. And if we're not carrying for those limbs, those limbs get weak, they get brittle, and they start to break. And that is a massive challenge.
So my wonder is, and I'm hoping that for you, you're thinking about this and going, what sort of PD structure do we have in place to offer educators, both optional, but then also some job embedded, which may not be optional PD, right? It might be PLC time or it might be actual pullout sessions for teachers to engage in the learning throughout their working day.
I feel like all of the districts we're chatting with more and more those budgets are getting tighter and that PD time, that commitment to trying to grow our human capital, to build capacity in the math leaders in our schools, those are the teachers that are doing the work in the trenches, in order to build that capacity and to try to keep it and sustain that over the long term. We're seeing less and less of it at probably the worst possible time.

Jon: Yeah. And think about if we can strengthen those limbs up and we can embed some of that professional development that the teachers need, how that's going to make them feel in terms of that overwhelm. I know that many district leaders will say, "I don't want to provide PD now, because I don't want to overwhelm my teachers." And usually when we hear this, what's really happening is that district leaders often are deciding, this is the PD for my teachers based off their goals, but they haven't actually ventured out as much as they should to talk to their teachers to see what their goals are.
Because if you're a teacher and you're hearing that, hey, you've got something that's going to help me fix my pebble in my shoe, I want to know about it because if it can make my life easier, if it can make my students more engaged, if it can make my students learn math deeper and it helps me and it's presented in a way that doesn't make me feel overwhelmed, then I'm all for it.
And then if that solves that pebble in my shoe, think about how much those teachers are going to say, "I don't feel that taxing overwhelm anymore." We want to change that mindset or that feeling that these teachers are having right now. There's a lot going on right now that's making teachers feel burnt out and overwhelmed in the classroom. And if we can craft that professional development so that it's important for teachers...
Because the other thing, Kyle, so many district leaders we talk with, they're going, "Buy-in is so important. We've got to get our teachers to buy into this program." And we say, "Well, yes. For sure." So what have we done in the past that makes teachers feel like that PD is the right PD for them at the right time? And a lot of times they haven't considered that. So when we are crafting these PD experiences during the daytime with our teachers, how are we bringing in their own goals and their own thoughts and ideas on the professional development so that they're like, "Sign me up"?

Kyle: Right. I love it, Jon. And you really just brought into focus something that is always happening in the background and can sometimes be missed even when we're referencing this tree, the math program tree, is the sun, the soil, the water for the tree. It's easy to see this big massive tree. And the tree stands there whether the sun is out or whether it's not, whether it's raining or whether it's not, whether the soil is actually nourished or not. We don't notice those things as much. We just look at that tree.
And when you think about it, that is all the mindset and the beliefs part of that tree. So as we're thinking about our PD structure, and this is for you go-getters who are listening in the classroom as well, the sun, soil and water for you is your own professional learning plan. For a district leader, we talk about how this is your actual PD structure for the educators that you serve. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the soil, the sun and the water is all about shifting mindsets and beliefs, and that involves a lot of work.
It's really easy for you and I, Jon, to sit down and go, "You know what? Here's what needs to change: this, this, and this. And if we just all do that, everything's great." But then when you actually get into the woods, there's a little analogy with the tree there, but when you actually get in there into the thick of things, you start looking at those details and you dig deeper, you realize that these are massive rabbit holes and they need to be explored. But the difference is it's not something that can just be done in a one and done PD day. This is work that has to happen over time.
And the same is true for our math educators. Our educators, over time, need to be building in an opportunity for them to engage in that learning. If your district or your school isn't providing that for you, you're going to have to step up and try to figure out, "How am I going to get this for myself? Because it matters to me, it matters to my student, and ultimately, at the end of the day, it helps me as an educator so I can get through the day and feel like I've done something valuable and I feel as helpful and as enabled as I possibly can to serve students."
Now, is it your responsibility that you do that? Ah, that's a debate. Because I would argue the real responsibility is on our schools and on our districts, but what do you do when someone else doesn't take that responsibility? If they don't, then you've got to make a choice for yourself and decide, "Do I want to go through?"
And, Jon, you and I were there for many years. Not to say that my school or my district weren't trying their best at the time to support me, but it took me a long time and a lot of failures to finally go, "You know what? I'm not just going to keep showing up and dusting myself off every day. I got to figure this out." And that's what got us on our journey.
So hopefully some of those Math Moment Makers listening out there are continuing, you're willing to push down that path, but specifically for those decision makers, for those district leaders and those school leaders, thinking about how you can craft that program in such a way that's actually going to have an impact and an influence, a measurable impact and influence so that you can see that everyone's heading in a direction and that each school year isn't us shining the flashlight in some new part of this very dark room.
And that's how a lot of educators feel. It's like, "Whelp, the flashlight's shining on this idea now. We're going to do that for a little while. That's going to fade away. Nothing really will change. And then we're going to flip the flashlight over here, and now we're going to focus on this."
We really want to start thinking about that big picture. What is it that we want? And then we start to craft what does the next few months look like? What does the next year look like? What does the next five years look like? What do I want students to say when they walk out of any classroom in my school or in my district? I want them to have similar responses, all positive responses, and ones that you can be proud of because of the hard work you're doing in the planning and delivering of this professional learning structure.

Jon: Kyle, I think you've got some great ideas here for our listeners. And if you think about some of the action items here we want to leave you with is, if you're a district leader, you're thinking about what are my goals for this year? What are the objectives that we want to achieve? And how can I structure the limbs, that's what we talked about here on this podcast, that's the professional development structures of the district, so that it helps the teachers with what they need help with and meets your objectives?
We talked about mindset, which is the soil, the sunlight, the water of a tree. We need to make sure that we are crafting our programs so that teachers feel like leaving their pebbles in their shoe and helping them with stepping forward into their own professional development journeys. So we talked about those things for sure.
The other thing, Kyle, as an action item I think we should be leaving with people, is going back to thinking about the 1%. We've got 1% of the teachers in your school listening to this podcast, which is a form of professional development that you folks have stepped forward and said, "I have worked this into my day. I'm driving to school right now, and I've put two things together," like Kyle suggested. He's on his bike while he's answering emails or learning about different content knowledge in mathematics. You're driving to school also making sure that you're doing two things at once to accomplish your goals.
Maybe there's a teacher out there at your school who's looking to change but hasn't figured out yet that they can accomplish these two things with one approach. They're not going to be getting up in the morning early, like I was doing, like my example was saying, but you can, say, share the podcast with them and go, look, "I think you're a great fit to listen to this podcast, and you can listen to it on a way to your schools as well."
And the sharing there will create more social awareness of what needs to happen in mathematics. And all of a sudden now we don't have 1% listening, we have a little bit more listening. And then all of a sudden our competencies in mathematics across North America, across the world, are changing because of some of the work that you folks are doing already.
So that's our second action item here, is to share the podcast right now with a friend. Send it to somebody right from your phone, or email a link to a podcast and say, "Look, I think you should listen to this. You can do it this way. You can listen to it on the way to work." Give them an action plan of how to make that happen. I think a lot of people would appreciate that.
So, Kyle, we talked about the limbs of the tree here to strengthen. We talked about the mindset, which is our soil, water, sunlight. These are the things that we're highlighting in the limbs, the limbs being that professional learning planner or professional learning structure. If you're a district member, if the professional learning team isn't inviting your teachers into that mathematics or a meaningful story, we talked about that, of bringing it in, making sure teachers feel like they're being heard, you're not able to support that work over the long term and create the momentum. And we just talked about how we can create momentum.
So let's make sure we are doing those things to move forward here, Kyle, and grow this tree.

Kyle: I love it. What a great summary. So it sounds like everyone listening has some action item, be it sharing, be it setting yourself a plan on how you are going to take yourself to the next level, or a district leader, which might be some sharing, but it's going to take a little bit more work, right? You're going to have to start thinking about what are we doing as a school or as a district, and how do we push ourself forward?
Whether you are in the classroom or whether you are at the district level or at the school level making leadership decisions for mathematics, we encourage you to dig into our math program assessment. This is about a 12 minute process, it's going to take you, in order to answer some questions. Some of them you're going to be very familiar with, and then others may be new to you.
And the intent of these questions is to try to help not only you get a sense of what's really going on in mathematics right now, but then to also help to direct your attention to a starting point or a next point, because you probably started this work. Where do I go next? You can do that by visiting MakeMathMoments.com/report.
And when you're there, it's going to say it's the classroom assessment, but you can just click on the button. It will ask you, "Are you a teacher or are you a district or school leader?" And it will take you to the appropriate assessment. So if you head to MakeMathMoments.com/grow, you'll be able to take that 12 minute assessment and then right afterwards, based on your actual answers to those questions, you are going to get a customized report, some summaries of that part of the tree and the work that you can begin doing now, be it for yourself and your own program as a classroom teacher or as a school or district leader as you continue to plan forward and strengthen those limbs of the tree as we work through all the other five parts of that math tree.

Jon: Hey, did you know that we put out these podcast episodes every Monday morning? And if this is the first time you've listened, then we welcome you. We welcome you. And hit subscribe so that you don't miss out on the episodes as we publish them on Monday morning.
Now, if you've listened to a few before and you're subscribed and you've done everything you need to do, other than maybe hit the "review" button or the "leave a review" button and leave us a message on how the podcast has impacted you in the classroom.
If you haven't yet subscribed, but you've listened before, hit that "subscribe" button as well. Show notes and links to resources, and don't forget, we have complete transcripts that you can access, head on over to MakeMathMoments.com/episode229. Again, that's MakeMathMoments.com/episode229.

Kyle: Hey, my Math Moment Maker friends, remember you're in the 1% of those math educators out there, so good on you. Thanks for listening. And remember here at the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, we are here to help you grow your math program like a strong, healthy, and balanced tree so your impact can reach far and wide.
Well, until next time, my Math Moment Maker friends, I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon: And I'm Jon Orr. High fives for us, and a big high five for you.

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