Episode #287: How To Coach Math Teachers Through Questioning: A Math Mentoring Moment

May 27, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

As a math coach, how do you get teachers to open up to you so you can best serve them? What purposeful questions can you put in your “back pocket” to keep the coaching alive instead of just turning the session into “show and tell” ? 

Listen in to this episode as we chat with first year math coach Connor Wagner from Pittsburg. Connor has had great success as a classroom teacher and coach, but sometimes struggles with how to keep the teacher reflecting and holding back on advice giving.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to utilize and tweak techniques like the “Pebble in Your Shoe” to identify subtle yet significant challenges in teaching practices. This strategy prompts reflective thinking and continuous improvement among teachers.
  • Insights into the critical role of listening and asking open-ended questions in coaching. Improving these skills can lead to better support and deeper insights into the needs and successes of teachers.
  • How to apply the “Magic Wand” approach for practical goal setting. This method emphasizes identifying small, actionable changes that can lead to significant improvements in the classroom.
  • A variety of prompts and questions to keep the coaching alive and not rush to answer giving. 

This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher like you who is working through some problems of practice and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them.

Attention District Math Leaders:

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Episode Summary:

Casual Conversation Before Podcast Episode

Connor’s Math Journey and Perception

Connor shared his experiences and transition from a math teacher to a math coach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He expressed his appreciation for the teachers who inspired and encouraged him throughout his journey. Connor shared his memories of his math education, highlighting how a statistics teacher and a book on numeracy helped him see the practical applications of math in the real world. He also shared his hope to return to the classroom one day. The conversation also touched on the common perception of math as a subject that primarily involves memorization and the importance of teachers in changing this perception.


Mathematics Education Journeys and Challenges

Kyle, Connor, and Jon discussed their personal experiences and journeys in mathematics education. Connor shared how his early experiences in mathematics, combined with exposure to Ted Talks by Dan Meyer and the work of Peter Little, led him to develop a more student-centered and interactive approach to teaching. He emphasized the importance of bringing excitement and engaging experiences to students. Connor also mentioned how his experiences as a teacher influenced his coaching practice. The group also discussed the challenges and complexities of teaching and coaching, including the need for supportive administrators and the diverse backgrounds and experiences of teachers and students.


Pebble in Your Shoe” Technique Discussion

Connor shared his experiences with implementing the “pebble in your shoe” technique in his coaching practice, based on inspiration from a webinar by Kyle and Jon. He found that asking teachers about their best lessons and their “pebble” (a small but significant obstacle) helped him better understand their challenges and successes. Connor also sought advice from Kyle and Jon on refining this approach, leading to some adjustments in the phrasing and emphasis of the questions. Kyle shared his long-standing relationship with Jim Strachan, who had also inspired this approach and had been a mentor to Kyle.


Connor’s Approach to Effective Coaching

Kyle, Connor, and Jon discussed Connor’s successful method of experimenting with changes and eliciting valuable responses through thought-provoking questions. Connor shared an instance where this approach helped clarify a teacher’s goal for state testing. They also discussed strategies for effective coaching with teachers, with Connor sharing her approach of open-ended questioning to encourage teachers’ insights and shifting the focus towards their perspectives. Jon supported and encouraged Connor’s approach, finding it insightful and valuable for his own practice.


Improving Listening Skills and Coaching Habits

Connor, Kyle, and Jon discussed the importance of becoming better listeners and the pressures of transitioning into new roles. Jon introduced the concept of the ‘coaching habit’, a set of questions designed to encourage open and honest communication, and emphasized the significance of deep listening before offering guidance. The trio also offered advice on how to balance inquiries and interactions, with an emphasis on active listening and self-reflection. The conversation highlighted the benefits of reflection not only for personal learning but also for meeting leaders to gauge effectiveness and make improvements for future sessions.


Magic Wand Approach for Goal Setting

Kyle introduced a “magic wand” approach to setting goals, which focuses on identifying small, attainable improvements that could have a positive impact in the classroom. Jon agreed with this strategy and emphasized the importance of identifying specific successes that could be accomplished by the end of the week. The team also discussed strategies for identifying and addressing obstacles, with Jon introducing the concept of the “pebble version” of asking people about their challenges. Kyle highlighted the value of mentorship in coaching, stressing the importance of asking questions to help individuals discover their own solutions. The team agreed on the value of this approach, but also noted the need for further discussion on managing situations when a comprehensive question leads to an unintended exploration of an issue’s origin.


Strategies for Overcoming Classroom Challenges

Connor and Jon discussed the challenges teachers encounter in managing their classrooms, particularly in areas like attendance and student engagement. Jon suggested a strategy for teachers to focus on their teaching goals to overcome these obstacles. By identifying what they wanted their students to remember and experience from their class, teachers could steer their efforts towards providing valuable learning experiences. Connor appreciated this strategy and planned to use it in future conversations, while Kyle and Connor agreed on its effectiveness. The group also discussed the application of this strategy in a classroom setting.


Strategic Approach for Finding Quick Wins

Kyle suggested a strategy of using smaller tasks to tackle larger issues and find quick wins. Connor agreed to this approach and planned to incorporate reflection questions to better understand the root of problems. Connor also shared her transition to a new role and the challenges she faced, with Kyle offering guidance and encouragement. The group decided to reconvene the following year to review Connor’s progress and discuss any further challenges she might encounter.

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00:00:00:05 – 00:00:22:01
Connor Wagner
I wanted to bring experiences to my students where they could actually feel some of that even excitement, you know, with mathematics. My journey really followed kind of high school, a serendipitous. I came across a TED Talk by Dan Meyer probably a couple of years into into my journey that led me down a rabbit hole about three tasks. I tried it out and I was like, This is fun.

00:00:22:04 – 00:00:41:00
Jon Orr
As a math coach, how do you get teachers to open up so you can best serve them? What purpose or questions can we put in our back pockets to keep the coaching alive instead of just turning the session into a show? Intel? Listen in to this episode as we chat with first year math coach Connor Wagner from Pittsburgh.

00:00:41:02 – 00:01:08:11
Jon Orr
Connor had great success as a classroom teacher and coach, but sometimes struggles with how to keep the teacher reflecting and holding back himself from too much advice. Giving Stick around and you’re going to learn how to utilize and tweak techniques like the pebble in your shoe question to identify subtle yet significant challenges in teaching practices, you’re going to learn insights into the critical role of listening and asking open ended questions and coaching.

00:01:08:13 – 00:01:29:21
Jon Orr
Improving these skills can lead to better support and deeper insights into the needs and successes of the teachers you’re serving. We’re going to apply the magic wand approach for practical goal setting. This method emphasizes identifying small, actionable changes that can lead to significant improvements in classrooms, and you’re going to hear a variety of prompts and questions to keep coaching alive and not rush to answer giving.

00:01:29:24 – 00:01:52:09
Jon Orr
This is another math mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher just like you who is working through some problems of practice, and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them.

00:01:52:11 – 00:01:56:19
Kyle Pearce
Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:01:56:19 – 00:01:58:23
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr we are from makemathmoments.com.

00:01:58:23 – 00:02:10:09
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.

00:02:10:11 – 00:02:23:08
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program like strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you master the six parts of an effective math program, the impact that you are going to be doing will grow and reach far and wide.

00:02:23:10 – 00:02:38:21
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’re going to 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 the educators.

00:02:38:21 – 00:02:39:09
Jon Orr
That you.

00:02:39:09 – 00:03:01:15
Kyle Pearce
Serve. Well, well, well. Hey there, Connor. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are so happy to be hanging out with you here tonight with you and your father in law’s computer, as you were telling us. How’s things going in your world? And tell the audience a little bit about where you come in to us from, What’s your role in math, education?

00:03:01:17 – 00:03:03:00
Kyle Pearce
And then we’ll dig a little deeper.

00:03:03:05 – 00:03:12:03
Connor Wagner
Sure. I’m coming from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I first want to give a shout out to all the teachers I’ve been working with. I actually just took a job as a coach. It’s my first year coaching man.

00:03:12:03 – 00:03:13:20
Kyle Pearce

00:03:13:22 – 00:03:27:03
Connor Wagner
Yeah. So I just left the classroom and I want to make sure I show them out. Every teacher has given up a prep that’s come in early, cut a lunch short, all that stuff. I want to make sure that I give them props because it’s not real easy to be a teacher all the time, and I think we can forget that.

00:03:27:03 – 00:03:44:16
Connor Wagner
So right now, yes, I was a math teacher for ten years here in Pittsburgh Public Schools, and just last year I made the joke to come be a math coach. So I had a couple of colleagues that kind of encouraged me, said, I think you’d be good at this. Give it a try. And it really took a lot to get me out of the classroom.

00:03:44:16 – 00:03:53:13
Connor Wagner
I will say that. So I don’t know. I have hopes and dreams to going back to the classroom some day, right? So yeah, yeah, that’s kind of where I am now.

00:03:53:17 – 00:04:13:20
Jon Orr
Awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. If you’ve listened to a few episodes before, we always ask this question and it kind of gets at some of the past experiences you’ve had in mathematics in primarily as a student, and I explained it to someone just recently this way it’s like when I hear the term math class, something immediately flashes in my mind.

00:04:13:20 – 00:04:27:11
Jon Orr
It just brings me back to that moment when I hear math class. There’s something that transports me there, and I’m curious, and we’re all curious is when we say that, where do you go when you hear that term math class? What’s your math moment?

00:04:27:12 – 00:04:37:17
Connor Wagner
Yeah, I think I had a pretty similar experience to some of your other guests where it came easy to me. So I often associated with memorizing. That was a really good memories.

00:04:37:17 – 00:04:42:02
Kyle Pearce
Ah, welcome to the club John. And they are definitely those types.

00:04:42:03 – 00:05:05:24
Connor Wagner
Yeah. So when I look back on my math experience, nothing overall, it was like that. But I do have these bright spots. You have these teachers that really capture you in some way, and I can think of a couple, one in particular that really changed when I had AP statistics my senior year of high school, and I feel like it was the first time I felt math had a place in the real world because up to that point I was it was fun to do it.

00:05:05:24 – 00:05:36:05
Connor Wagner
Do it? Yeah. Do a derivative. Why? I never had a teacher explain why I have a memory of a teacher teaching the chain rule. I could not tell you what the chain rule is today. It’s something that’s derivatives. But you did the, like, chain, chain, chain. Like you brought everything in, and we’d memorize that. And great teacher. I loved her, but that was the first time I really felt math had uses for me was once we got to AP stats and I’ll give you this one particular story towards the end of the year, my math teacher, Mr. Lester, I’ll show him out as well.

00:05:36:05 – 00:05:51:23
Connor Wagner
I think he still a teacher in North Allegheny, but he gave us an opportunity to read a book for extra credit and do a book report, which is weird in math class, right? Yeah, that’s weird. And I was like, What is going on here? It was excellent, though. So, you know, and I remember a couple books on his list.

00:05:51:23 – 00:05:52:20
Connor Wagner
He had like, Moneyball.

00:05:52:23 – 00:05:54:04
Kyle Pearce
Oh, super cool.

00:05:54:06 – 00:06:20:04
Connor Wagner
Yeah. And he had this book Innumeracy, and so I ended up reading a numeracy was the one that he highly recommended, I think. And that was I read that book and I was like, Whoa, this is math. Why has no one ever told me this? I’m here 12th grade reading about all this stuff and the introduction to that book, the whole title Innumeracy comes from this idea of in our society, if you were illiterate, you would hide that it would be the thing you hide and you will anyone to know you couldn’t read.

00:06:20:10 – 00:06:30:03
Connor Wagner
But we live in a society where if you’re bad at math, you know, I’m not a math person. I was just never good at it. And so that book stuck with me. And that’s kind of my journey, at least through high school.

00:06:30:05 – 00:06:53:12
Kyle Pearce
Well, it’s interesting as you share that story, earlier today, we recorded an episode which will have been released before this one goes out. So about, oh, I think it would be episode 286. So this is going to be episode 290 and earlier today was Conrad Wolfram that we interviewed and he was describing all of these problems with the way we teach mathematics.

00:06:53:12 – 00:07:13:06
Kyle Pearce
And you’ve kind of highlighted some of them, right? It’s like this idea of why are we doing what we’re doing? Well, I mean, poor teachers, whether it was your teachers or a lot of the teachers that are out there today, we’ve kind of all just followed this path and some of us kind of landed feeling okay because we could memorize or we could this or we could get through it.

00:07:13:08 – 00:07:30:18
Kyle Pearce
And yet at the end of the day, there’s so much more to it. So it’s interesting, you know, you highlighted that book in particular. I hadn’t read it myself, but there’s so many instances like that out there when you encounter something and you go, Oh, why don’t we do it like this? Why aren’t we exploring mathematics in this way?

00:07:30:18 – 00:07:58:05
Kyle Pearce
So I’m wondering along this journey, we all, I think, reflect back on our own experience and especially when we’re in the classroom. You’ve had ten years in the classroom where you probably had changed as a teacher throughout, right? You live in, you learn and you get better and you get better. How would you say that your experience in math class as sort of impacted who you were as a teacher, but then more importantly, sort of who you are now as a coach?

00:07:58:07 – 00:08:22:22
Connor Wagner
Oh, that’s an interesting question. I’d say that it made me want to do a little better. I wanted to bring experiences to my students where they could actually feel some of that even excitement. You know, with mathematics, my journey really followed kind of like school. A serendipitous. I came across a TED Talk by Dan Meyer probably a couple of years into into my journey that led me down a rabbit hole about three tasks.

00:08:22:22 – 00:08:42:21
Connor Wagner
I tried it out and I was like, This is fun, you know? You feel the excitement in the room. Couple of years later, down the road, Peter Lilienthal comes out with his working paper on building things, classrooms, vertical surfaces. I remember the first time I had to do it at stood the desks. I didn’t even have whiteboards. I was just putting the desks up and the kids came in like, What is going on here?

00:08:43:02 – 00:08:59:03
Connor Wagner
You feel that energy. And that’s pushed me forward as a teacher, just wanting to feel that energy with my students. So how does that then impact my coaching is I think this is why I had some colleagues kind of want to encourage me into it as I want to bring that to other classrooms as well. And coaching is hard.

00:08:59:08 – 00:09:13:16
Connor Wagner
You think, okay, man, I’ve done this like this. It’s so fun. People are just going to want to like, latch onto this stuff, but you forget all the other things going on in the background of every teacher’s life and experience. And and so it’s not just like, hey, we’re doing task. No, all of a sudden they want to do this every week.

00:09:13:21 – 00:09:32:04
Jon Orr
Totally. Yeah. It opens like a window into how different we all are in our different experiences that have led us to these moments that we’ve taken for granted. In a way, I think I feel the same way. Connor It’s like, Well, why wouldn’t we be doing this? I’ve been doing this for this this long and it and it works great.

00:09:32:04 – 00:09:52:21
Jon Orr
Haven’t you gone down the same pathway that I have? You had the exact same experiences that I’ve had. Like we’ve been in the same PD. Really? We’ve gone to the same conferences, but everyone has these different backgrounds and these different family lives and these different expectations, but also the responsibilities that say some of us don’t have. It’s just draws a light to how different everyone is.

00:09:52:21 – 00:10:06:17
Jon Orr
And I used to just not count for that. And it was something that we all had to learn about. We all are going to learn along our different trajectories, just like our students do, right? Just like our students do. It’s like our teachers that we work with are just human beings like everyone else.

00:10:06:19 – 00:10:26:09
Connor Wagner
Yeah, and there’s so many different variables. You have the administrators, you have different students, you have different schedules. I really lucked out. I had administrators that let me experiment in my classroom weren’t really everyone’s different in the messaging they’re hearing. My district’s really big, right? So now that I’m a coach, I’m kind of seeing different buildings and different things, and I can feel lucky that I got to grow up in my practice a lot.

00:10:26:09 – 00:10:48:03
Kyle Pearce
So well, just kind of highlighting what you’re saying and also what John was saying about the different experiences. But then you also have different as we are you, John, you had mentioned as humans, we are all different. Some of us are a little bit more extroverted, some of us are a little more introverted. Some of us walked into our careers with maybe a little more confidence, for whatever reason, rightfully so, or wrongfully so, I would argue.

00:10:48:03 – 00:11:10:09
Kyle Pearce
I came in with confidence probably for the wrong reasons, thinking I thought I was good at math, and that was just something I thought I didn’t flaunt it, but it gave me confidence. But it also you had mentioned about having a supportive administrator, and we have this conversation with our district leaders all the time in our district improvement program about educators have to know on your team.

00:11:10:09 – 00:11:33:00
Kyle Pearce
They have to know that you’ve got their back, especially when we’re trying to push them. So you have Connor coming in to the school, let’s say, to as a coach, if that teacher is like, Wow, I do like your idea, Connor, but I’m not sure if my administrator has my back, then that makes your job incredibly difficult. And it also makes the teacher’s job really difficult because they’re not willing to take that chance.

00:11:33:00 – 00:11:57:24
Kyle Pearce
So there’s so many factors there and just kind of rubber stamping your statement about coaching is hard. I think we think teaching kids is really hard, right? That’s a hard job. But then and you’re like, Well, if I’m working with adults, I mean, heck, we’re all adults here and we all want the best for kids. But beliefs and experiences and all those things certainly cause things to get a lot more complex and a lot faster when you hop into that role.

00:11:57:24 – 00:12:17:12
Kyle Pearce
So it’s great to get an opportunity to kind of shine a light into your experiences as a teacher and now as a coach. So now we’re wondering, let’s shift this conversation towards what sort of pebble or pebbles or pebbles of pebbles are you grappling with and trying to kick out of that coach shoe of yours?

00:12:17:14 – 00:12:28:24
Connor Wagner
Yes. I’ll start with kind of a little bit of what started this. All I want to warn you guys, webinars that you’re doing for district leaders and you had mentioned Jim Strayhorn restriction and I don’t know how much is stratigraphic.

00:12:29:00 – 00:12:34:23
Kyle Pearce
Yes, I love Jim. Yeah, he actually just emailed us the other day there, John But that’s ironic. Yeah, I love it.

00:12:35:04 – 00:12:51:21
Connor Wagner
Yeah. So after that webinar actually went listen to that episode and everything and to I don’t even remember now the questions that I got were from that episode or your webinar, but one was tell me about your best lesson from the past five weeks and then the other one, which everyone probably knows now from listening to you guys is what’s the pebble in your shoe?

00:12:51:23 – 00:13:19:03
Connor Wagner
So as someone who’s learning how to coach and trying to pick things up, it’s like, Right, I’m going to try these out in my next initial intake meetings. I do this kind of like five day cycles with teachers that start with an initial intake meeting. And so when I started asking, Well, tell me about your best lesson, it was just like this golden opportunity to hear teachers, because instead of me saying, Hey, I think these are good ideas that we should try, they’d start talking about these lessons that every time when might ask them, Hey, why was that lesson so good?

00:13:19:05 – 00:13:33:19
Connor Wagner
They said, Oh, the students were talking to each other, they were engaged, they did this, this and this. And so it was allowing me to hold this mirror up where I didn’t have to tell them, Here’s what we want, need to go through. Let’s just take a look at what you’re already doing well, and use that as a springboard.

00:13:33:21 – 00:13:45:17
Connor Wagner
And so that question was just great. But then I go to like, okay, all right, I’m here for five days. What’s a pebble in your shoe is literally like I think the first time ask at someone’s time, can you give me more time?

00:13:45:23 – 00:13:48:23
Kyle Pearce
And you’re like, I’ll be right back. Give me a second. Yeah.

00:13:49:00 – 00:13:54:15
Jon Orr
You get the standard three. You know the standard three. It’s like, go ahead. I’m sure you’ll say them. Yeah.

00:13:54:17 – 00:14:13:14
Connor Wagner
Yeah. All right. You keep me from having to cover a class that. Can you take those class coverages away from me or just like these different answers that I wasn’t seeing leading anywhere in my coaching. And so I will give you an update since I wrote you guys that I switched the question a little bit and it went a little better this last time.

00:14:13:14 – 00:14:26:17
Connor Wagner
And so one way I tweaked it instead of saying, What’s a pebble in your shoe, I said, Tell me about a pebble in your shoes. So I got rid of that. What? And then the other thing I did is I said that we can shake out because I heard you guys say that once, that we can shake out.

00:14:26:19 – 00:14:45:09
Connor Wagner
And so that made it like, okay, I obviously can’t give you more time. I obviously do X, Y and Z. So by adding that it’s helped a lot. But I reached out to you guys. I wanted to glean your wisdom and insight because you clearly believe in this question. You ask it to every person. So I wanted to get some advice on where do you guys even learn this question from?

00:14:45:09 – 00:14:47:02
Connor Wagner
I guess this is something I’m wondering.

00:14:47:07 – 00:15:07:10
Kyle Pearce
Is I was just to say, I’m like, it’s Jim. It was totally Jim and it’s all 100% credit goes to Jim Strack and and as we described on that episode. But I think it’s worth reiterating is that I have had and John’s had the experience as well, to kind of learn more about Jim and meet Jim a few times along the way.

00:15:07:10 – 00:15:29:08
Kyle Pearce
But I had the honor of working on some projects and some of them, one in which was in Norway that I worked with Jim on, and I did some in the ministry here in Ontario. And I’m telling you, it was probably a decade long sort of mentorship that I never actually signed up for. Right. And never knew I was on or a part of.

00:15:29:10 – 00:15:58:11
Kyle Pearce
And that experience, to be on that journey and also truly know not think, but know that he actually was not just a colleague, but I could call him a friend. Not that we call each other all the time, not that we’re always in touch, but any time I would be with him, it was like so easygoing. And now, mind you, a little different role to where it’s not like on the clock.

00:15:58:12 – 00:16:18:09
Kyle Pearce
You’re going into a school and there’s things to do that would be a little different, I’m sure. But it just always felt like just a really amazing person. But all along he had in my mind, I feel like he had an agenda for me to be the best version of myself, and he wanted to help me get there.

00:16:18:09 – 00:16:43:19
Kyle Pearce
Not that he had plans for me, but that he just wanted to see me do the best I could type thing. And that’s just the type of person he is. And that pebble in your shoe question he would ask wherever we went when we were in Norway. And I’m telling you, there’s so many moves that are just so small, but as you’ve noticed, just by tweaking it slightly, you’re getting different results.

00:16:43:21 – 00:17:08:17
Kyle Pearce
And I feel like he’s obviously, over his career, sort of honed in on some of what works best in what scenarios, and I’m super excited to kind of continue down this path. I want to comment on how you made the change, though, around this idea about tell me about a Pebble. So I like that because you’re now saying that, hey, listen, I recognize there’s many it’s not a single one.

00:17:08:19 – 00:17:31:23
Kyle Pearce
And the one that we can shake out, which is great, it keeps it productive, right? So, I mean, that’s a massive, awesome, awesome shift there. That I’m going to definitely keep in mind. But now tell me a little bit more about how is that going? What are you hearing now that you’ve shifted it? Have you had any sort of maybe productive responses and where are you at now in that journey?

00:17:32:04 – 00:17:49:14
Connor Wagner
Yeah. So the last time I asked it, I did get a good response that led us towards like what our goal is going to be for those five days. And I think another reason I bring this up is what I’m trying to do as a coach is get some other questions as well. Like, I feel like when I was a teacher, I had like these questions in my pocket.

00:17:49:16 – 00:18:09:18
Connor Wagner
So if I saw a student struggling or they wanted help, what did you notice or how did you know that? Can you prove it to me? Like over the course of years that you build up these questions, that you can use that like kind of spur thinking forward? And so what I’m trying to do now as a coach is like, what are the question lines that I take teachers down to kind of self-reflect?

00:18:09:18 – 00:18:27:06
Connor Wagner
Because a part of this, too, is I know you guys want to start your webinar as well. Fred, Chip and Dan, he spoke switch. And so that’s something I’ve been trying to think through to this idea of like is it the motivation, the path or the knowledge, some knowledge that’s needed? And so when I asked it, I got a good response.

00:18:27:06 – 00:18:42:03
Connor Wagner
I got to something that we then worked on for that week. We worked on the stronger clear. We did this stronger clear routine with an open ended question. We have our state testing coming up. And so that’s another thing right now, being a coach, when teachers see the tests coming up, they’re like, you know, what are we going to use this, you.

00:18:42:03 – 00:18:48:15
Kyle Pearce
Know, experimentation program, right? It’s like, go back to the old in the thing that I knew best, right?

00:18:48:17 – 00:19:04:06
Connor Wagner
Yeah. And so it kind of led to that whole thing is like, how can I help my kids get ready for this test? Coming up, this teacher was reflecting on her practice and just said, I feel like I’ve done this. Isn’t this really Well, I don’t know, though. They’ve been used to this. I don’t know if I’ve done it enough with them.

00:19:04:08 – 00:19:08:11
Connor Wagner
And that was the response all from that question. And so it led us on our work for that week.

00:19:08:11 – 00:19:35:17
Jon Orr
So yeah, that’s great. A great snapshot there too. I think when I reflect on the tweaking or the questions or you asked specifically about what are the next, what are those questions that I have in my pocket that kind of push things along? We definitely have a collection of those questions. Have you come up with any of those kind of questions so far to kind of like keep those moving questions that you’ve said, like we use with students, but what about with teachers?

00:19:35:17 – 00:19:37:08
Jon Orr
Have you got one in your pocket right now?

00:19:37:14 – 00:19:55:03
Connor Wagner
One thing I’m trying to do is keep the questions open ended. Tell me more. I’m trying to be a better listener. As a coach. I think that’s something because once again, if you think back to my story as like I came in with all these ideas, all these things, I was using my classroom. And I think part of me is that I want to get these out and spread them.

00:19:55:05 – 00:20:10:21
Connor Wagner
But as I’m learning, if you just hear, we’re going to a model lesson today and I don’t know, I listen to another episode of yours where a consultant is saying that she feels like she’s sprinkling fairy dust and not knowing if there is an impact being made. And so I came into this position where I was feeling that a little bit, right?

00:20:10:21 – 00:20:32:00
Connor Wagner
And so now I’m trying to, by being more attentive to just tell me more, let the teachers on coaching kind of lead that. Tell me about your best lesson. Why do you think it went so well? How could we take an aspect of that? So I’m trying to make my questions a little more open ended. I’m trying to come in with a little less, okay, here’s what we’re going to do become a better listener.

00:20:32:00 – 00:20:57:07
Kyle Pearce
It’s a journey and I think there’s like a lot of pressure, especially we had a district leader group call with our district improvement program members, and on that call we were just talking about how it’s really challenging to come in and we can think about this when we came into our classrooms as a teacher that you sort of come into that role thinking or at least putting this pressure on yourself like you’re supposed to know it all.

00:20:57:09 – 00:21:13:02
Kyle Pearce
You come in and I remember sort of having this fake it till I make it sort of attitude, right? I don’t want the kids to figure it out that I just tried to figure out the lesson last night. Like, I haven’t taught this and, you know, or have never taught it in my life before it. And then the same is true when we move into another role, right?

00:21:13:02 – 00:21:42:15
Kyle Pearce
So we move into this coaching role. And now you’re in this position where it’s almost like you want to ensure people know that you’re legitimate. I didn’t just get this role because no one else applied for it, or I didn’t just get this role because somebody liked me or something like that. Whatever stories we tell ourselves and I think that means in our minds, we almost feel like we have to prepare how the 90 minutes is going to go, the 75 minutes is going to go, the whatever amount of time.

00:21:42:15 – 00:22:04:12
Kyle Pearce
It’s like you feel this pressure that you’ve got to be fully prepared when it’s not really a prepared type role. It’s almost the opposite. It’s like we need to keep it open, but yet we feel this pressure on ourselves to sort of like have some sort of vision as to where we’re going to go, but that almost sabotages the whole experience.

00:22:04:12 – 00:22:07:20
Kyle Pearce
So it’s a battle in your mind where you say saying. John Yeah.

00:22:07:20 – 00:22:24:06
Jon Orr
I want to add, I think when you feel like you’re in the coaching role, what you’re saying, Kyle, is that you almost have this feeling that you have to give the advice. I have to give them something. And so you’re constantly thinking about like, what advice can I give them? And you sometimes if you’re like, I don’t know how to help them, right?

00:22:24:06 – 00:22:31:18
Jon Orr
It’s like now you get worried that you’re going to leave this day and you’re like, Oh my gosh, They’re going to think, What was this coach doing? They didn’t give me anything too.

00:22:31:20 – 00:22:33:04
Kyle Pearce
What a waste of my time.

00:22:33:04 – 00:22:56:22
Jon Orr
Alright, but you can run into the problem about the advice being forced in a way when you have that mentality like Kyle, you had a mentor recently and you felt that every time you got on this call with this mentor or you had a coaching session with this mentor that they were always trying to push a piece of advice and they weren’t being the great listener and like they weren’t listening very well.

00:22:56:22 – 00:23:18:21
Jon Orr
They were just like, I need to like, give this guy something even though they weren’t really listening to what Kyle was telling them. And it felt like, What the heck is this? This doesn’t feel right. And I think when we have, we give ourselves this permission. Like I think this is what you’re saying, right, Kyle? It’s like we give yourself permission that we’re going in and we’re not going to like we’re going to hold back on that advice and we’re not going to be like, I need to give this advice.

00:23:18:21 – 00:23:40:02
Jon Orr
I want to make sure that I’m listening as deeply as possible and then if it’s right and provide some advice. But really what you want to do and I think we all know this, is you want to ask those pocket questions until they say the thing themselves. Right? That’s the key move. And I think we’ve been learning that along the way by talking to folks like you.

00:23:40:02 – 00:23:57:14
Jon Orr
How do we get you to keep talking enough to kind of ask the right questions and think about the right things? So here’s a book that we’ve talked about here on the podcast many times, which is the coaching habit from Michael Bennett. I stand here, it’s not a math book or a teaching book. It’s just a coaching book in general.

00:23:57:14 – 00:24:19:08
Jon Orr
But he has seven coaching questions. So these are like your pocket questions. And I was actually just about to ask you one, but I was like, Well, maybe we’ll let the cat out of the bag here on some of these questions. But another kind of pocket question from his his first question and his seven coaching questions because he’s all about about holding back on advice and how can you listen a little bit longer is a version of the Pebble.

00:24:19:08 – 00:24:40:03
Jon Orr
So Jim’s given us the Pebble question his question. Michael Bennett I started from the coaching habit, says, What’s on your mind? So like, what’s on your mind is the his first question to get them to kind of talk but then he says the second pocket question is the best question. And the best question is the what else? QUESTION What else?

00:24:40:05 – 00:24:46:14
Jon Orr
What else is on your mind? He says, You just keep asking what else? And that gets to the heart of the issue usually. Right?

00:24:46:15 – 00:24:50:21
Connor Wagner
Sorry for interrupting. I’m talk about being a better listener and here I go. Interrupt.

00:24:50:23 – 00:24:58:01
Kyle Pearce
Well, meanwhile, we’re talking about not giving you advice. And Jon’s like, when I’m like, well, I’m going to tell you exactly what this book tags. You you know, I.

00:24:58:01 – 00:25:15:05
Connor Wagner
Ask for those questions. But one thing I think that I get scared about or makes me nervous or guilty is taking teacher time. So like, I feel like to get took as what else and to get deep. Do they feel like I’m wasting their time if I just keep asking them questions and they’re thinking I’m projecting this?

00:25:15:05 – 00:25:18:06
Jon Orr
There’s a definite balance. If they’re getting frustrated. Right? It’s total.

00:25:18:06 – 00:25:21:07
Connor Wagner
Projection. I have not had a teacher that I’ve worked with that has done this.

00:25:21:13 – 00:25:42:15
Kyle Pearce
It’s just exactly like remembering. It’s the voices in her mind, the self-sabotaging thoughts. And the other thing too, that I think is really important is almost like and I don’t know the like, and here I can’t give you the advice on this one because I actually don’t know what it is, but it’s if you have an awareness of it, I think you can try to monitor it.

00:25:42:15 – 00:26:05:10
Kyle Pearce
And it’s like when you think about that, that is tied to that sort of imposter syndrome idea I was mentioning before the fake it till you make it. So it’s like your brain is like I’m not so conf finished yet that these teachers want you there. And why is that? Well because you’re new and you’re like, I don’t know if they want me there.

00:26:05:10 – 00:26:32:09
Kyle Pearce
I actually don’t. So it’s trying to find a way to get confident enough where you feel like you’re able to kind of move in those moments because most often when teachers are, let’s say, maybe feeling or sort of projecting as though maybe it looks like maybe they’re not really into it, sometimes that might mean that they need you more than anybody, right?

00:26:32:09 – 00:26:54:07
Kyle Pearce
Like, and they’re like trying to avoid completely. So it’s like working on these questions and trying to a lot of it is that listening, but then also listening with your eyes and kind of like reading what is happening here and how do I navigate this and is today a good time? And that might even be a pocket question you can add in there if you’re like sensing that or if you’re feeling it.

00:26:54:09 – 00:27:17:16
Kyle Pearce
Maybe even you just say it and say, listen, the last thing I want to do is be here and I know how busy and stressful and layered all the things, all the pebbles that you can’t help them shake out, but kind of articulating that and then almost like it’s almost like creating a bit of an elevator pitch for yourself to kind of throw it out there so that you can get their response in to how they receive.

00:27:17:16 – 00:27:34:10
Kyle Pearce
And what I mean by this is I just want to give you a little bit of what I’m trying to do here. And you may have already done this, so I apologize if this is repetitive, but it’s like I just want to throw it out there that my main goal for you and for every other educator I work with is this, this and this.

00:27:34:12 – 00:28:06:21
Kyle Pearce
And I want to make sure that I’m respectful of your time and I want to also be respectful of when it’s not a good time and whatever it is, almost like some ground rules where like you’re starting to maybe work towards building a little bit of that trust in that openness, because I think in our minds, what we would much rather is I wish that teacher would tell me exactly what they’re thinking so that I know what I need to be thinking, because right now I’m just making some random assumption about possibly wasting their time when maybe, maybe they’re super grateful that I’m having this conversation.

00:28:06:21 – 00:28:09:05
Kyle Pearce
I just don’t know. How do I open that door?

00:28:09:05 – 00:28:35:16
Connor Wagner
Yeah. Can I give you a little more background, just real quick of the model? So like our coaching model, our district changed a little bit this year where we get sent out and teachers know we’re coming. It’s set like principals now, so it’s not really like I have to ingratiate myself because I know that’s been modeled in the past in some places, but it’s very much so because I’m kind of being assigned and all the teachers kind of know, okay, you’re going to have the coach for this week or for this cycle.

00:28:35:18 – 00:28:52:14
Connor Wagner
I think that might be part of that imposter syndrome. Now that you say that, that it’s it’s kind of like, okay, they’re kind of they’re being told that I’m coming. Do they really want me here? You know? And so and like again, no one has made me feel that way. It’s just it’s just there.

00:28:52:17 – 00:29:13:23
Jon Orr
Yeah. The thing I was going to add there is at the end of every session, at the end of every day, even a cycle is to ask. And I said, if you’re meeting with them for an hour, it’s like at the end of that hour or whatever, wherever that conversation led to, you ask that reflection question, basically saying, What is your big takeaway here from this conversation?

00:29:14:00 – 00:29:35:13
Jon Orr
What it does is it actually kind of helps answer whether you’ve provided value today, but it actually gets them when they comment out loud on where the value is and where that big takeaway is for them. It solidifies their next steps or that there was something here and it they voice it and because they voice it, it becomes more real.

00:29:35:15 – 00:29:57:09
Jon Orr
And that these are the things that I just learned or I just realized. And it also makes them reflect on where is the value because they’ve taken on probably a lot of things in during this conversation or this day or this whole week. And now they have to go like, where was the biggest value for me? And they get to tell you about that and now you get to have that, but they also get to have that.

00:29:57:09 – 00:29:58:21
Jon Orr
And that’s a really powerful moment.

00:29:58:23 – 00:30:20:02
Kyle Pearce
Well, not it. And so not only do they get it, so you’re kind of forcing them to self-reflect a little bit, which is great. But then the other part is it satisfies your wondering, too, because you’re hearing what they did process. And when they say something and they do come back with some, you know, I really can’t I really appreciate how you mentioned blank.

00:30:20:04 – 00:30:40:22
Kyle Pearce
And then you go like, all right, now it’s like you’re easing that potential. Oh, maybe this wasn’t something they didn’t want today. You’re right. And let’s be honest, I bet you before they come into that meeting, there’s probably a lot of teachers that are thinking, if I could pick having Connor today or not, I’m going to pick not because I had a rush out the door this morning.

00:30:40:22 – 00:31:05:23
Kyle Pearce
The kids were giving me a hard time and blah, blah, blah, and that might be what they’re thinking. But then after that conversation, they may have gotten something. And I’m going to guess, like John said, they’re going to get something right from that conversation, trying to keep it productive. And if you’re hearing a little bit of that feedback, you can also make a note of it and then you can look back to, well, wait a second, was that the pebble or related to the pebble we were talking about?

00:31:05:23 – 00:31:34:06
Kyle Pearce
Or is this something else? And maybe there’s more to the pebble, maybe the next conversation we want to bring that up and say, hey, like I noticed that that was something that resonated with you. I like to ask in the next follow up as well, like and this is also a gym move is you know, what’s circling around in your mind right now since we last spoke, What resonated with you since the last time we spoke or what might be circling around in your mind, something that you maybe aren’t sure of or that you’ve been wondering about?

00:31:34:08 – 00:32:02:11
Kyle Pearce
And again, it’s like keeping that dialog going can be so helpful. And along with the Pebble questions, something that we ask a lot as well is if you could wave a magic wand, right? So again, let’s try to keep it towards a pebble we could shake out. Right? So something that we could do. And so if we could wave a magic wand and it was like one thing this week that by the end of the week when you’re setting that goal, take out the magic one question.

00:32:02:11 – 00:32:21:00
Kyle Pearce
I always grab a pen. I’m like, Hey, you grab your pen too. And they’re like, What do you mean? I’m like, Grab your magic wand. They got to hold it up. And now they’re like, Hi. It’s like, it’s calm, It’s not super serious, but hey, let’s talk about like, if we could wave the magic wand, something that we can actually potentially influence, right?

00:32:21:00 – 00:32:49:06
Kyle Pearce
So we want to make sure it’s something that we actually can do, that it’s not actually going to be magic, but it maybe together we might be able to get a little bit closer to that place. And maybe that’s our goal for this week. Maybe it’s something small. And then, of course, as coaches, we’re going to be watching and seeing like, how can we make that small goal not only tangible, but then how can we see how that might be able to influence some of the other pieces in the classroom as well?

00:32:49:08 – 00:33:03:20
Jon Orr
The follow up right soon as they sit, if you wave your magic wand and they answer, this would make a success for the end of the week. If they can make if you can make one success by the end of the week, what would that one success be? Or and then really, that’s a version of the magic wand.

00:33:03:22 – 00:33:29:03
Jon Orr
And when they answer that, the follow up is like, well, what’s holding you back? What’s standing in your way? What are the barriers that are kind of preventing you from moving in that direction? And we’ve asked that question a lot and you get a lot of insight right there of like where they really need help. And I got the list of the seven questions from that book in front of me.

00:33:29:08 – 00:33:52:17
Jon Orr
That’s not one of his questions, but his question that’s similar. He calls it the focus question, which is like, what is the real challenge for you here? Because people tend to like when you’ve noticed this, when you say the Pebble version, when they start unloading, they’ll unload. This happened and this happened and this is going on this week and I got this to deal with and I got this and they’ll tell you many problems, not one pebble.

00:33:52:19 – 00:34:15:14
Jon Orr
They’ll tell you a few pebbles. And even if you ask the what else question, they’ll tell you another pebble. But then when you say like, well, what’s the real challenge, it actually makes them focus on what is it that I want to solve first? And this is the real problem for me, right, right now. So it’s like the pebble kind of opens the door and then we can kind of focus it after that.

00:34:15:16 – 00:34:19:12
Jon Orr
Those are a few just versions that kind of like we toss out. There are pockets.

00:34:19:13 – 00:34:21:13
Connor Wagner
Those are great. I really appreciate those.

00:34:21:16 – 00:34:47:20
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, I like when you ask them what’s holding you back. Oftentimes there’s a long and there’s you can see people are thinking about it. And not to say that they never thought about it before, but in some ways you kind of think they’re like, oh, like I never really thought about when I said that this is the pebble, but what’s really causing that pebble essentially right?

00:34:47:21 – 00:35:07:16
Kyle Pearce
Because sometimes it’s like, we want to fix this one thing, but in order to fix that one thing, we’ve got to fix the pebble before that one. And maybe when we look to that one, you can kind of go down this rabbit hole and the positive that can come from that. It’s like, imagine this world. Let’s say they go to challenges deep here and they say, okay, so here’s what I thought is my Pebble.

00:35:07:18 – 00:35:18:14
Kyle Pearce
And then we sort of what’s holding you back from that? And you back up and you go, Oh, well, if I’m not doing that, my classroom’s too quiet. Students never collaborate. That’s my pebble. Okay.

00:35:18:16 – 00:35:23:20
Jon Orr
Well, so if we waved a magic wand and we solved that problem with that.

00:35:23:22 – 00:35:44:18
Kyle Pearce
Then it’s like, Well, what’s holding what do you think’s holding you back from getting your students to collaborate a little more or have math discourse or whatever it might be? Well, then they’re pausing and then, you know, and then we say, okay, well, let’s talk about the structure of the lesson. Where in our lesson do you feel would be ideal for collaboration or math discourse or whatever?

00:35:44:20 – 00:36:06:21
Kyle Pearce
Okay. And what are we doing to try to encourage at that point in the you know, so you start going down this rabbit hole. And the best part is, is that and this is what we’ve always loved about the coaching habit book. And it’s also what we love about Jim Stratton’s work. Again, different questions, but really similar philosophy is that it is true mentorship.

00:36:06:24 – 00:36:33:22
Kyle Pearce
Like when they say coaching habit, it’s like I look at is more mentorship where what you’re doing is you’re asking questions in order to help the person land on the solution. And that doesn’t mean that we can never give advice. It just means that we want to let them open up. And something that’s ironic is that we’re on an episode talking about coaching and it’s a mentoring moment episode, but yet John and I are doing a lot of the talking.

00:36:33:24 – 00:36:55:04
Kyle Pearce
But the difference, I believe it’s the fact that you came with a very specific pebble, so it opens the door. It’s very different than, say, you going into a school where there wasn’t, say, a coach that directly said, Hey, Connor, come out, I’m having an issue with this, this and this. You’d still use questioning to help them, right?

00:36:55:10 – 00:37:18:01
Kyle Pearce
For us to get deep down this rabbit hole and build the trust. But when it’s we’re not sure what the pebble is. It’s like that questioning can be so helpful to not only build the relational trust that Jim always talks about, but it also helps you to help the person come to the realization of what it is that they’re actually trying to change, if they could.

00:37:18:03 – 00:37:37:06
Connor Wagner
So what happens if you ask that question, be it the magic wand one and you go down that hole and you’re trying to get back to what’s the originator, the genesis of the problem, whatever. And the teacher basically gets to a point where they feel like they’ve they’ve now think they don’t have control over it. So like off the top of my head, like.

00:37:37:08 – 00:37:39:02
Jon Orr
So like attendance, that kind of thing.

00:37:39:02 – 00:37:52:04
Connor Wagner
Attendance or you’re having trouble engaging students and it’s okay. So why is that? Well, there’s this particular student when he’s in here, he just makes that like, you know, I can grab them. And so. So why is that happening? Yeah, Yeah. What do you do that.

00:37:52:06 – 00:37:53:06
Jon Orr
I think I think that.

00:37:53:08 – 00:37:55:06
Kyle Pearce

00:37:55:08 – 00:38:22:08
Jon Orr
Had the babble question and this is something that we use with our district partners a lot because it avoids those things you can’t control because it actually this question helps kind of zero in on like what teachers I think are after and what they believe they’re doing in their math class. And I think when we can get to the heart of like are we really believe we really doing what we believe is true in our math class, then we can then go, well, are we doing that?

00:38:22:08 – 00:38:45:21
Jon Orr
In that question that we’ve asked? Lots, lots of teachers and this is at the beginning of the coaching cycle, is to get them to reflect on like what is it that they’re doing in their room in that question is, let’s say one of your students, you met them at an event somewhere ten years after they graduate and you’re talking with them and then they’re telling you about their experience in your math class.

00:38:45:23 – 00:39:16:05
Jon Orr
And the question is like, what do you want that student to say about the experience? Because what we’ve asked this to a thousand teachers, at least a thousand teachers, and they all say similar things. But what they don’t say is you don’t get this, I need help. I want help with attendance. The kids that aren’t doing their homework all of these things that time, like the things that you say they come up with right away, which, you know, we’re like there are logistical issues, but they don’t say those things, which means this is what they’re after when they say this.

00:39:16:05 – 00:39:38:19
Jon Orr
So typically teachers are saying, I want to build problem solving in students. I want them to say that they built them resilience. You know, that they help them with their basic math facts. They understood that. They say the general things. We all believe that we got into being a math teacher about. And that can be a great kind of focus for, okay, what are we doing today in this week?

00:39:38:19 – 00:39:58:01
Jon Orr
And now that helps those kids in your room. Now be those students ten years from now. Are we doing that? Are we providing that experience now, even though we want it? And sometimes teachers are like, No, I don’t think so. Am I really providing resilience or providing a resilient experience for my kids? And they’re just not sure how.

00:39:58:01 – 00:40:34:11
Jon Orr
And that can be like an opener for them to kind of allow this pathway to be like, Well, now what’s the pebble at this point that helps us? What’s preventing us from getting there? And it’s kind of like because they have this thought of what we’re really after in math class in might all this other stuff kind of washes away and we don’t go down those rabbit holes where, you know, you can’t help them in this situation because the reality of these logistical things or these day to day things that happen and we don’t have control over, but we can steer our focus towards where we as teachers can value and we can provide good

00:40:34:11 – 00:40:39:04
Jon Orr
learning experiences for kids. Usually it steers that way and then we can go, Let’s focus on that.

00:40:39:06 – 00:40:45:24
Connor Wagner
Yeah, I really like that. Then I’m going to use that. The you meet a student ten years from now, if the conversation gets through.

00:40:45:24 – 00:40:46:13
Jon Orr
Yeah, you can.

00:40:46:13 – 00:40:57:24
Connor Wagner
I think that’s a good one. Like any time you can pull, I feel like a mirror. I feel like that’s, that’s kind of a mirror question in a sense, because you’re getting them to think about what the student was feeling in your class or experiences. Right?

00:40:58:01 – 00:40:58:10
Jon Orr

00:40:58:10 – 00:41:16:10
Kyle Pearce
And sometimes, too, I love that we use that question a lot, as John’s articulated. And sometimes too, it’s just like, hey, even just for a redirection question, another one to kind of add to the pocket is just what if we start with something smaller? Imagine we just started on something smaller, like let’s look, we call them quick wins.

00:41:16:12 – 00:41:32:03
Kyle Pearce
What if we could find like a quick win together? What’s something because you can we start with the pebble, right? Which is usually the thing that’s on your mind, the thing that’s really bugging you. But then could also go to the other end. Be like, what’s something that you’ve been tinkering with that you feel like it’s getting better?

00:41:32:04 – 00:41:54:06
Kyle Pearce
You want to get that quick win. It’s not going to revolutionize anything, but then it just allows you to kind of go like, okay, maybe we come back to here. If things get unproductive in the conversation, then it could sort of be like, Well, what do you say that is really difficult in it? Oh, I couldn’t imagine if I had these three students that are constantly causing trouble for each other and distracting the class.

00:41:54:06 – 00:42:06:16
Kyle Pearce
It’s like, I wonder, maybe let’s focus on something that you feel is doing like is going relatively well and let’s see, like, can we take that and build on that? And that might just allow that cool down time as well, right?

00:42:06:21 – 00:42:07:21
Connor Wagner

00:42:07:23 – 00:42:08:23
Kyle Pearce
We’ve given you some.

00:42:08:24 – 00:42:12:21
Jon Orr
Ideas like, yeah, what do you think is your immediate next step?

00:42:13:01 – 00:42:15:04
Connor Wagner
Yeah, I think what I’m going to do is you.

00:42:15:04 – 00:42:16:06
Jon Orr
Put that one in your pocket to.

00:42:16:07 – 00:42:18:19
Kyle Pearce
Write and see what John Just.

00:42:18:21 – 00:42:43:02
Connor Wagner
You guys see me scribbling little little John notes down here. I think I’m going to think about those reflection questions like, what is your take away? And also that what happens if we go back until we find kind of like the core of the issue? And then can we solve that if the core you think is unsolvable, then let’s try and get maybe some of those a quick win.

00:42:43:05 – 00:42:53:22
Connor Wagner
Yeah. My big takeaway, I really do think the thing I’m going to implement right away is what’s your takeaway? Because I think that’s something I haven’t been doing well and it will give me more insight as well.

00:42:53:24 – 00:42:54:11
Jon Orr
You’ll learn.

00:42:54:16 – 00:43:11:04
Connor Wagner
This. Yeah, exactly. And so that’s what I the only way I’m getting a better practice, right, is it was really hard to come into this position because I went from feeling like an expert to feeling like a novice at some degrees. Right? There are these expert things I bring, but I’m going to do what I do as a teacher kind of experiment.

00:43:11:04 – 00:43:15:03
Connor Wagner
Try some of these questions out, see what works if I need to tweak any.

00:43:15:06 – 00:43:36:00
Kyle Pearce
Well, and as you become more flexible with those, the beauty is that when you’re new at anything but in this role, you’re new. You’re spending so much brain energy trying to think about the thing you’re going to do, say all of those things. It’s like it’s very you know, I hate to say it, but it’s kind of like we’re only thinking about ourselves.

00:43:36:02 – 00:43:58:20
Kyle Pearce
And it’s like once those become a little more fluent and flexible, right? Like, so now that you’re sort of adding these pocket questions where they become more sort of ingrained and it’s like your brain recognizes patterns, like when does one question work better than the other As you build that, the beauty is that you actually start to look at the person and actually listen instead of up here.

00:43:58:20 – 00:44:30:03
Kyle Pearce
If I’m thinking up here and I’m all upstairs and I’m kind of thinking about the next thing, I’m actually distracted from doing the thing that we’re trying our hardest to do, which is actually listening and actually trying to understand what it is they’re saying. And it’s like as you get a little bit more clarity in your and I don’t mean clarity like understanding, but more or less like you’re able to clear your mind of the thinking for yourself and you can spend more of your time thinking for the person or thinking with the person.

00:44:30:05 – 00:44:57:18
Kyle Pearce
Those things are going to just feel so natural and those patterns that you pick up on so. I mean, kudos to you for being this early in the journey. It took me many years in a role as a coach to again recognize is what the process should even remotely look like. And I’m sure at that time Jim was around and Jim was probably thinking to himself, How am I going to get this guy to recognize that?

00:44:57:20 – 00:45:20:12
Kyle Pearce
So I’m sure he was grappling with many of the same things that you grapple with when you’re trying to work with your teachers, right? So coaching and mentoring is challenging. Luckily, there’s no report card for you that we have to get this standard done by this date. But there is a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves, right, to try to essentially nudge people towards the next step in their journey.

00:45:20:18 – 00:45:48:03
Kyle Pearce
And we wear a lot of that. So hopefully I can tell that you’re the type of person you’re very reflective, but just don’t lose sight of the fact that you have to give yourself grace because you can’t actually be the one to change someone. But with what you’re doing here and all this work you’re doing is going to help you get people closer to that change if they’re willing.

00:45:48:03 – 00:45:57:07
Kyle Pearce
And again, there’s a big F there, but it’s like you’re going to help them get there faster. But ultimately you can’t actually cause the change yourself.

00:45:57:07 – 00:46:15:10
Connor Wagner
Yeah, that’s what I’m starting to come to terms with, come to grips with. Right? You said that thing about not having a report card and you said that’s a good thing. But there’s also this part of it where I don’t really know how I’m doing. And so that’s part of what you guys gave me here, those reflective questions that will really help me.

00:46:15:12 – 00:46:28:11
Connor Wagner
Yeah, because on a given class day, I’d have exit tickets, I’d have warm ups that I could look at. I could tell my students for getting it. And in this role, like, am I helping you? Are you are you taking anything from this? And I think that’s what I’m really going to take away.

00:46:28:15 – 00:46:48:19
Jon Orr
And every day you’re going to learn one thing, that one take away from that, and then you’ll be surprised at sometimes what those takeaways are and you’ll think the takeaway was one thing and they’ll say something different and you’ll be like, Okay, wow, that’s great. I’m loving that. This came full circle. You came in saying, My pebble is about a pebble.

00:46:48:21 – 00:46:53:16
Jon Orr
I was asking the pebble to shoot the question. And now you’re saying your big takeaway.

00:46:53:18 – 00:46:59:03
Kyle Pearce
Is about the big takeaway. I love.

00:46:59:04 – 00:47:00:00
Connor Wagner
That’s good.

00:47:00:02 – 00:47:16:24
Jon Orr
And we want to thank you for joining us here today to talk about the pebbles and the takeaways. So we are super curious and I think I know the answer to this. We want to check in with you. Let’s check in next year, see where things are going and see how the questioning is going, seeing how you’re feeling in the next year, we’ll reach out soon.

00:47:16:24 – 00:47:20:17
Jon Orr
What did you be game for coming back on? Share with us and give us an update.

00:47:20:19 – 00:47:22:22
Connor Wagner
Yeah, absolutely. I love that.

00:47:22:24 – 00:47:23:11
Kyle Pearce
Some of you.

00:47:23:12 – 00:47:25:03
Connor Wagner
Were helpful guys. It really was.

00:47:25:05 – 00:47:44:00
Kyle Pearce
A it’s been a pleasure. You are well on your way. Sounds like you’re already doing some pretty amazing things. And as I mentioned, you’re reflecting you’re working towards finding more effective ways to do this work. So good on you. And next time you come on, I’m going to make sure to say, Hey, what resonated from our conversation, last timer?

00:47:44:00 – 00:47:50:01
Kyle Pearce
What circling around in your mind now and see if we can go back and forth on a few of these pocket questions.

00:47:50:03 – 00:47:53:02
Connor Wagner
Okay, That’s awesome. Thank you, guys.

00:47:53:04 – 00:47:54:11
Jon Orr
Up. Take care.

00:47:54:13 – 00:47:55:17
Kyle Pearce
Check. Thanks, guys. Take care.

00:47:55:17 – 00:47:57:11
Connor Wagner
I’ll see.

00:47:57:13 – 00:48:13:05
Jon Orr
There you have it. Connor joined us here. When he first reached out to us, he wanted to kind of go down the rabbit hole of thinking about, like, the pebble in our shoe. Question wasn’t giving him the results, he thought. And just like, when we’re working with teachers, we have to have these other questions in our back pocket.

00:48:13:05 – 00:48:40:05
Jon Orr
I like how he phrased that. What questions we keep in our back pocket to keep kind of conversations alive, keep reflecting going, because we know that through true inflection, that’s where we have significant change in ourselves. So how can we encourage that in others? How do we keep getting them? The teachers are working with reflecting on their practice so that they realize or come to realize that you’re like, Wait, I do need to change that, or I should change that because it’s going to help me be better in the classroom.

00:48:40:05 – 00:49:00:24
Jon Orr
I can help my students be better. Those seven questions from the coaching have it we keep in our back pocket and there are versions of them that we’re using with teachers. I hope that was your big takeaway here, is thinking about those seven questions. Those seven questions for me relate to the branches of our tree, of our math coaching tree.

00:49:00:24 – 00:49:23:24
Jon Orr
This is our moves here. The teacher moves that we utilize in classrooms in the classroom. Teacher These are like my pedagogical moves, my instructional strategies. I’m using my students as a coach. Same idea. What are the moves I’m using to engage my teachers in their own learning and their own reflection? We got to strengthen our branches of our tree, just like we do with our students, just like we do when we’re coaching other teachers.

00:49:23:24 – 00:49:49:09
Jon Orr
And those seven questions from the coaching habit are really great moves to kind of keep that reflecting alive. So hopefully you’ve either written those down or you’re going right now and you’re you’re looking that book up The Coaching Habit by Michael Barnett. Stay here and you’re having a look. But also don’t forget to think about how we modified those questions along the way to be practical for classroom teachers in that coaching.

00:49:49:11 – 00:50:08:14
Jon Orr
If this is the first episode you’ve listened to from the Making Mouth Moment That Matter podcast, we encourage you hit the subscribe button. We put out new episodes every Monday morning. If you’ve listened before, please hit that rating and review button. Leave us a rating, a review. It will help the show find New Years and eventually help new students in new classrooms.

00:50:08:16 – 00:50:20:17
Jon Orr
All links to resources from this show are found over at McMath Moments Dot com for episode 287 That’s make math mom sitcom for slash episode 287.

00:50:20:19 – 00:50:24:15
Kyle Pearce
Well until next time math moment makers I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:50:24:15 – 00:50:26:04
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr.

00:50:26:09 – 00:50:26:18
Kyle Pearce

00:50:26:18 – 00:50:29:07
Kyle Pearce
Fives for us.

00:50:29:09 – 00:50:35:13
Jon Orr
And high five for you.

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The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast with Kyle Pearce & Jon Orr
Weekly interviews, strategy, and advice for building a math classroom that you wish you were in.


Download the 2-page printable 3 Act Math Tip Sheet to ensure that you have the best start to your journey using 3 Act math Tasks to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in your math classroom!

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.


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.