Episode #74: When Do I Nudge and When Do I Coach? A “Where Are They Now?” Math Mentoring Moment.
In another in a series of “Where Are They Now?” episodes we chat with Kirsten Dyck a part-time teacher and part-time math coach. We chatted with Kirsten way back in episode #9 about Intentionality and learning goal. In this episode we hear from Kirsten how she’s made progress on her goals since we last spoke.
Stick around and you’ll learn how she’s adapted the Thinking Classroom to further student learning; how she has focused on making the connection and consolidation stage of her lessons a priority; and how she’s applying coaching techniques to incrementally nudge her teachers down a path toward a thinking classroom.
- How she’s adapted the Thinking Classroom to further student learning;
- How she has focused on making the connection and consolidation stage of her lessons a priority; and,
- How she’s applying coaching techniques to incrementally nudge her teachers down a path toward a thinking classroom.
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Kirsten Dyck: So I guess what I’m thinking about as I develop these relationships and connections with these teachers, is knowing when to … Because I feel sometimes the assessment piece is maybe where we should be looking, and maybe that’s not where they’re at yet. And so I know if they’re not there yet [crosstalk 00:00:20]-
Jon Orr: In another one of our Where Are They Now episodes, we chat with Krysten Dick who has a position where she’s teaching part-time and math coaching part-time. We chatted with Krysten way back in episode number nine about intentionality and learning goals. In this episode we hear from Krysten, and how she’s made progress on her goals since we last spoke.
Kyle Pearce: Stick around and you’ll learn how she’s adapted the thinking classroom to further student learning, how she’s focused on making the connection and consolidation stage of her lessons a priority, and how she’s applying coaching techniques to incrementally nudge her teachers down a path towards a thinking classroom.
Kyle Pearce: Let’s go.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce from tapintoteenminds.com.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr from mrorr-isageek.com. We are two math teachers who together-
Kyle Pearce: With you the community of math moment makers worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement-
Jon Orr: Fuel learning-
Kyle Pearce: And ignite teacher action. Jon we are at episode 74. Almost, almost three fourths of the way to 100 episodes with a Where Are They Now episode and a math mentoring moment with our friend Krysten Dick. Are you ready to dive in?
Jon Orr: Of course Kyle. And as always, we are super excited to bring you another episode. This one is a great one. It’s another one in our Where Are They Now episode, so it’s great to chat with Krysten one more time. But Kyle before we get there do what is fantastic?
Kyle Pearce: I have no idea what’s fantastic Jon. Tell me.
Jon Orr: Is when I cue up my phone and I go to a podcast app and I see another five star rating from the Math Moment Maker community. They are the best, the Math Moment Maker community people are just awesome.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome, awesome Jon. Actually, now that you’ve pointed me in this direction, I see a five star rating in review from Escobob that says thank you. Thank you so much. I’ve been teaching over 30 years. Wow, hat tip to that one right there. Escobob’s been teaching for over 30 years and still struggling with some of the concerns discussed by you and your guests.
Kyle Pearce: Jon, you know, what? That just reminds me that we’re always on a learning journey and clearly this individual is as well. It feels good to know that I’m not alone. My memorable math moments from middle school were mostly negative, so I am very focused on creating positive experiences for my students.
Kyle Pearce: “In a recent episode you talked about three act math tasks. I love that Taco Cart by Dan Meyer in which thanks to you guys I will use as an intro to the Pythagoras theorem, instead of my midway task.” Wow Jon, it sounds an awful lot how we used to do things right? Midway or at the end of a unit. Now he’s starting at the beginning. That’s awesome. He finishes up saying, “Thanks again and keep the episodes coming. Hashtag better together. I agree that reflection may keep me up at night but it also keeps me fresh and young. Your podcast provides much food for thought and I appreciate it.” That’s from Escobob. Thanks a ton.
Jon Orr: Wow. Thanks so much Escobob and thanks to the math moment maker community, who are taking the time to write reviews and give those five star ratings that are helping us reach more ears around the globe. So thanks so much.
Kyle Pearce: So go ahead what are you waiting for? It only takes a minute to fire us an honest rating and review.
Jon Orr: Also, we have lots of goodies to share with you and it all revolves around the make moments academy.
Kyle Pearce: Right now for a limited time, we have a 30 day free teacher license available to any Math Moment Maker from around the world to access our academy professional development courses. Including our courses on spiraling, assessment, math tech tools and even our latest course on the Fundamentals of Mathematics. These self paced courses are jam packed with videos and action items to get you reflecting and growing just Escobob has shared in his review today with your math content knowledge and pedagogical practice.
Jon Orr: Also, our monthly Q&A web calls have become weekly lately with the current COVID-19 situation and emergency remote learning in full effect around the world all. Academy members can join live, like the over 80 members we had in our last Q&A call. And, all of the replays for those episodes or those calls are posted inside the academy to view later.
Kyle Pearce: Or, maybe you want to dive into any of the over 20 virtual summit sessions that we hosted back in November. They were freely available on a weekend in November, but maybe you didn’t have some time to fit them all in. Well, the replays are up inside the academy also.
Jon Orr: Finally, and maybe most importantly, given our current remote situation our Make Math Moments problem based tasks and full units of study with teacher guides are available for you to access. Plus you can now post a link to the task in your learning management platform, so students can still be sparked despite the very asynchronous learning situation we find ourselves in.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Get on and before it goes away so many people have around the world, makemathmoments.com forward/trial.
Jon Orr: That’s makemathmoments.com/trial.
Kyle Pearce: Hey there Krysten. Welcome back to the show. You my friend are out in Saskatchewan, and you are our first guest to welcome back for a check in on our math mentoring moments episode. How are things going on your side of the country?
Kirsten Dyck: Hey guys. Things are going very well. Very exciting things happening in math here.
Jon Orr: Awesome, awesome. Who would have thought you were on episode number nine and now we’re 71 episodes later.
Kirsten Dyck: I know.
Jon Orr: Or [crosstalk 00:06:38]. Who would have thought 70 weeks later which is just mind boggling. Sounds a math problem right Kyle?
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Exactly. Last time we spoke I think you were just getting kind of back into the groove in the middle school math classroom because you had spent some time in language arts and then a few other areas. And when we were chatting in that last episode, you were in the process of taking what we perceived to be a deep dive in all kinds of amazing things that took Jon and I years before we even came across them, and it seemed you just didn’t waste any time. You were diving into these innovative resources like three act math tasks, estimation 180. You mentioned which one doesn’t belong and all kinds of other great wonderful things for the classroom.
Kyle Pearce: How’s things going now? Based on where you were then and where you are now how are you feeling?
Kirsten Dyck: I still love it. I have so much fun. I have the best job and it’s great. I’m very excited, after having chatted with you, made a few more tweaks and some of the things I was doing in my classroom, and I feel we’re rolling along and have some kids having fun but, they’re engaged not just engaged and activity but engaged in the math and in a sense making so I’m really pleased with how things are going.
Jon Orr: Awesome, awesome. Back then at the time you felt that there was a lot and all those resources were there and you were sort of trying to hone in on what to use and when and when how to use that and how to ensure those kids were making sense of the maths. That’s good to hear that you’ve progressed there or modified a little bit there.
Jon Orr: And your biggest takeaway back then was gaining that confidence. That you were trying to shift away from that completely traditional model, where it was teacher centered to a more kind of student centered approach. So how is it going. Fill us in on some details of thinking about that big takeaway and then fill us in on the story this year. Give us a few examples of some of those successes.
Kirsten Dyck: At the time that we’re recording this now, it’s been almost exactly a year since that episode aired. And a year ago, our school division was very fortunate to have Peter Liljedahl come out and do his thing, his workshops with our staff. For me, I half jokingly say that I’ve been using big whiteboards to have kids working in groups already, but I move from horizontal whiteboards to vertical whiteboards, the vertical non-permanent surfaces, that was one of my big shifts. And I had been using random grouping very frequently, but I have now switched to random grouping every single day. So every time the kids come into my room we switch the group.
Kirsten Dyck: So those are two of my big takeaways from Peter Liljedahl. Because the math feels so different compared to traditional classroom pastor when you experience the thinking clustering framework that I feel that’s kind of what I was trying to pull together. I’d had some experience with having read through the five practices book, but I had all these other things that I was doing and that I liked and I felt the students were engaged with, and I was trying to figure out how to mesh all of that together. I feel now a year later we’re kind of on a roll with that.
Kirsten Dyck: For sure, part of that story was having the conversation with you gentlemen a year ago, and, one of the big takeaways was that intentionality piece especially with the consolidation and the connections at the end. I think that was a big shift in my thinking that maybe the students would not even perceive as a shift, but just for me knowing not only the anticipating piece. Because I felt I was doing as best as I could at the time was my understanding of the five practices, but being able now to really make sure that that consolidation piece is really solid, and does it connect to those big mathematical ideas?
Kirsten Dyck: Now that I feel I am not only just covering the required aspects of the curriculum and the outcomes that I’m expected to teach, but those big ideas of math. So I feel that’s kind of where I am now, and I feel much more comfortable than I did a year ago. Why am I choosing the task that I’m choosing? Not just because they’re fun but because students will come away with some math at the end of it.
Jon Orr: That’s fantastic. I heard a lot of big ideas there so I’m going to roll this back here just so that we can dive just a bit deeper to kind of paint that picture. I remember actually, I recently read listen to episode number nine because, we’ve been in touch quite a bit on Twitter and I know that we had the opportunity to bump into you OAME. It was great to see. But then when I went back and listened to the episode, it’s crazy how time, the changes that are happening. You don’t realize they’re happening until you go back and you kind of look at that snapshot from way back then.
Kirsten Dyck: Yes.
Jon Orr: I remember you talking about Peter’s work in that episode. And now, it seems you’ve sort of gone full steam ahead. For someone who’s listening, maybe they listened to episode 21 when we brought Peter on to the show, and they heard about random grouping and vertical non-permanent surfaces. Now you’re saying, you’re doing this every single day. One of the biggest things that we hear teachers say is when they try something new, initially kids don’t always like them. They’re and usually not feeling so comfortable with the. They kind of like the routine. It’s, I don’t feel comfortable now that we’re changing things.
Jon Orr: Can you give us a little bit of a inside look as to, how did you get this consistency going with random grouping and vertical non-permanent surfaces. And maybe what advice would you give to somebody else who’s listening, who maybe has wanted to do this or has tried to do this but they haven’t been able to sort of get consistent with it. What would you say?
Kirsten Dyck: For me and my classroom, because I was already using random groups sometimes and we were using the big whiteboards and working in groups at those whiteboards, sometimes it was less of a shift for me than it might be for some people depending on how their classrooms are set up. And Peter, when he talks about his thinking classroom and the framework, that those first three things of having the random groups on a regular basis, having something nonpermanent for the students to work on and then having that really great task the rich task, low floor high ceiling. It’s got some big mathematical ideas behind it. Once you move past the culture building in the beginning of the year, that those are those three things that if you can shift that and implement those things, that that will put you well on the way.
Kirsten Dyck: And so I feel for me it was less of a shift than it perhaps might be for other teachers, because I was already doing some of those things, just not necessarily in the way that Peter has designed it within his framework.
Kirsten Dyck: I think for those people who are trying to implement something like this, I’ve heard Peter say, I think it was maybe at the end of your summit when he and in chat was saying if he had to give up all of the 14 things and could only keep one, he would keep those physically random groups, just because so much of the importance to that culture building in the classroom and being able to support the mathematical discourse and having the students being able to work and engage with each other. So, that’s something that I’ve really tried to ensure that I do all of the time because that’s one of those things that the students will definitely complain about at the beginning of the year. “Do we really have to switch groups again? Can I a answer with my friends today?”
Kirsten Dyck: And so, I also think for me part of the consistency piece which comes back to your conversation a year ago, was not knowing, do I start with a warm up or do I start with a task or how do I know how to structure my classroom. And there are times that we get into a task, and this comes back again to me being able to anticipate a little bit of what the students might do. If I know the task is going to take us a large chunk of the time, we might do that first and do what I used to do as a warm up at the end of the class.
Kirsten Dyck: So the time to task piece has been an important thing for me, that I want the kids doing maths as soon as they walk into the classroom. And so whether that looks something like a rich task, or whether that looks an estimate history or whether it looks an estimation 180, or whatever it is, that I’m choosing to do that I am intentional about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and where I’ve placed that was in my one hour classroom block time.
Jon Orr: Right. And like Kyle said before, is you’ve hit a lot of nails there right there too. And I think that big takeaway for you was that intentionality back then. It sounds you making a strong effort to do that and I think that’s awesome. I’m really glad that you pointed out random groupings invisible non parent services. They sound they’re big changes in your classroom but they’re so doable. They’re so doable to … If you’re going to be like, I’m going to change the way my class works because I want my kids to think which is what we want to do.
Jon Orr: How do you do that? It’s easy to tell someone and it’s easy to implement that random grouping because it changes the dynamic of your room, it changes the social things where kids sit. It all of a sudden puts everybody on a playing field, and then the non-permanent services just opens the door to so much discussion and it’s something we can all do.
Jon Orr: Just get some cards and randomize the groups. Do it from day one. If you’re not at day one, do it from wherever you are right now and then just stick to it. I think it’s so important for that and I’m glad that you pointed that out. I’m really glad that you pointed out that Peter had said, “If there’s something you can do, all these 14 things let’s just do these two or let’s just do this one.” Because if you do those one it’s putting your one foot in front of the other. The other things will come and all of a sudden, those small little structural changes of how things work are going to all of a sudden lead to different questioning techniques that you might employ, different tasks that you’re going to start. How you structure those lessons are going to change because of those small little changes. So I think … Go ahead.
Kirsten Dyck: No, I was just say, I think part of one of those changes that you see is the students’ willingness to engage with each other in those mathematical conversations. And I’m not sure that they would use that same language, but they feel safe with one another. Here is our classroom community for math that we’re trying to build this community of learners together. And all of those behind the scenes moves that they don’t see but that we see the benefit in the end.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. That’s fantastic and Jon, I really appreciate how you’ve broken that down, and it reminds me of a book that we’ve mentioned on the podcast a number of times Atomic Habits. It’s like, break it down into the smallest possible pieces that you can, and just by doing those small little pieces it puts you so much closer to those bigger ideas. I think we often go at it the other way around. We think about it like, oh my gosh are so many things I want to change. It’s, no, just pick that one, that two things that are just-
Kirsten Dyck: One and … Yes.
Kyle Pearce: As easy as we can to get going. The other piece there that you had mentioned Krysten was, this idea of the consolidation. I know for us I would say, one of the biggest struggle that I had, and I think for me it was mostly ignorance. I just didn’t know what to do in the consolidation. I think I thought I did at the time but knowing what I know now, I look back and think, “Wow I did not consolidate very well for much of my career.” And even now it’s I almost put a little bit too much pressure on myself because I’m like, okay, how am I going to consolidate this, how am I going to bring out those big ideas or the big idea for that lesson? Because to consolidate everything.
Kyle Pearce: I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about this. If you were to go back and compare and contrast where you were a year ago, versus where you are now. I’m going to just go ahead and just take a guess and say, not suggesting that you are consolidating perfectly, I don’t think we’ll ever get to that place.
Kirsten Dyck: No.
Kyle Pearce: But you’re feeling you have a little more confidence in that area. I’m wondering what’s changed and I guess what did you do to help you build your expertise in that area, or at least get a little further ahead in that area?
Kirsten Dyck: That’s a tough question. I think there’s a combination of things. I know that I am guilty of, we’re having so much fun with this task or whatever it is that we’re doing. Or maybe we’ve decided to, I want to make sure that we’ve got time to play a mathematical game the last minutes of class that I might forget to make sure that I block that time. Because I know we always say, we’ve got exit tickets or however we’re going to pull some things together, we’ll make sure we leave time for that. But I know that I have to be intentional about that, because otherwise I will get distracted by how much fun we’re having in the classroom.
Kirsten Dyck: So that would be one part of it. And then, it also comes down to sitting down when I’m thinking about the lesson. And this does get much easier and faster with time, because I think in the beginning, and that’s one thing that for all of us teachers that we’re all just trying to do our best with limited time, that we think, I’ll just figure that out when I get there. But you really think what is it that I want the students to pull out of the math today? What are these connections that I want to make sure I help bring to light, so that I know where we’re going tomorrow.
Kirsten Dyck: I think that that has really been essential for me and it doesn’t take as much time anymore because I’m trying to do it more and more frequently. But just really thinking about what are those mathematical ideas that I want to make sure we’ve got.
Kirsten Dyck: One of my mentors used the term, and, perhaps you’ve heard it or used it yourselves, ‘the mathematical legs.’ What are the things that are going to literally carry us from one day to the next? So being able to think about those parts of the lesson. What is it that I’m pulling out? Because as you said Jon, there are so many things sometimes that when we look around the room at all of this wonderful math that’s on the whiteboard, but I have to know in advance what I’m looking for. Because we can go off on a great tangent math pun intended, about things, or we can stick with, here’s what I really want to make sure we get to today, here’s what needs to maybe go in your notes or on our anchor charter whatever it is. So that’s been part of the practice for me. Is making sure I have that thought out and then putting that time in to make sure that it happens in the class.
Kirsten Dyck: It’s not that the bell goes and we go, shoot, we’ll talk about it tomorrow.
Jon Orr: That’s great that you’ve pointed that out. One of the big things that I’m always thinking about and always trying to modify, and it’s also a big question that a lot listeners have a lot of teachers who are trying to go to teach through problems and teach through tasks is, where practice fits into that. It’s, I’ve got my 1 hour class or my 75 minute class and I’m going to maybe do the warm up you suggested at the beginning or maybe at the end, but I’m going to do my chunk of task.
Jon Orr: How have you tried to build in that procedural fluency this year since before now? And, how is that going for you. I know it’s a journey for everybody. Where does it fit in? Do we have days where we just practice, are we not? I’m curious. I always want to know what other teachers are doing myself.
Kirsten Dyck: I think it’s a combination of things. There are some days that when we get into a task that we might … I teach middle year, so the attention span of some of those kids in grade 79 is a little bit longer than perhaps some younger students. We might, we have a one hour period be within the task for a good 40, 45 minutes sometimes. Sometimes there’s some consolidation, pull together our notes and our thinking, maybe a little exit slip at the end. So then the next day there might be something shorter that we do so that those check your understanding questions or the practice that we’re doing maybe looks a little bit different.
Kirsten Dyck: It doesn’t mean I’ve totally thrown out the textbook. There’s some great questions in there. It doesn’t mean that we don’t ever work through questions on a worksheet. But it might look different than it would have looked when I was teaching math 15 years ago. It will maybe look we’re working together in groups on things. Maybe we’re putting some answers up to some questions around the room on the whiteboards and we’re going to do a gallery walk with them. Maybe we’re taking some textbook questions and we’re turning them into two truths and a lie with the textbook questions or worksheets. Or, maybe we’re doing some kind of … I don’t call it speed data, I call it speed mathing in my room where we read questions for each other.
Kirsten Dyck: So I still feel that it’s important to be able to build in our practice time and our procedural fluency. But I think it maybe looks different than … It doesn’t look like kids sitting in rows working all the time.
Jon Orr: All those purposeful practice tasks, those routines that you said are great. I’m really glad that you’ve pointed that out here to our listeners and into us. Because, that practice time doesn’t have to be sit in rows like you’ve just said. It can be engaging. It can be exciting. It can be fun to do those things and I think you’ve outlined lots of different techniques there that if you are listening at home and you need to hit the rewind button on that, do it again and listen to those last minute or last 30 seconds, and then write down all the things that Krysten just said about to truths and a lie and speed dating and some of these other routines. So check those out. Those are great practice structures.
Kirsten Dyck: And I do think, it’s also valuable that we don’t forget some students need that individual think time as well. So, always looking for that balance between the group time and the math talk in the classroom, but also giving that individual time to think and the individual time to practice as well. So making sure that there’s a balance there.
Kyle Pearce: It’s so easy to go out of balance. You just go way too hard in any one direction. Some people, it’s all independent work or it’s all group work and really finding that balance I think is a struggle. I’d like to go to thinking about more recent times. I know and I’m hoping you’ll share with our listeners, your role has changed slightly since the last time people got to learn a little bit about you. I’m wondering if you can share a little bit about that, and sort of what’s going on there. And then if we can kind of move on to maybe your current problems of practice that you’re working on, or at least maybe your goals for where you are now and what you’re hoping to kind of continue moving towards as we see through the remainder of this particular school year.
Kirsten Dyck: The provincial ministry here in Saskatchewan has set some goals for education. It’s not necessarily based on standardized testing or anything but, they have goals for graduation rates and early learning and literacy as a whole and numeracy as a whole. So our division last year earmarked some money to support teachers in those areas of early learning first nation’s [inaudible 00:25:26] graduation rates, numeracy and literacy.
Kirsten Dyck: So myself and another colleague now work half time in our own classrooms, and then half time we get to support other teachers around the division in the area of numeracy. We have a very convoluted title based on our school division, but basically it’s a math coach. In the mornings I teach, and in the afternoons I get to travel around the division and get to be in other teachers classroom. So I mostly support K to eight nine ish, and my colleague supports kind of eight nine ish to 12 ish.
Kirsten Dyck: It’s so much fun and I love it so much because I get to see so many fantastic teachers. I feel really, really fortunate.
Jon Orr: Sounds a lot Kyle’s role he had a couple of years ago. Kyle, where you were a part-time teacher part-time coach.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I’m curious before we kind of dive into what you’re working on what your goals are. How are you finding just in general, you said traveling around the division, by division you mean your district or your school board?
Kirsten Dyck: Oh yes. In Saskatchewan there-
Kyle Pearce: So how far are you driving?
Kirsten Dyck: It depends on the day, but our school division is the division described as a giant donut around Saskatoon. It’s about 200 kilometers from one end to the other. So some days are more travel days than others and some days we use technology to connect. The goal of this role is to do that side by side learning with teachers. So as much as possible we’re in the classrooms with them or meeting with them in their space and hearing about how things are going with them. There’s some travel bug but I get to see lots of different classrooms around our school division district areas, so it’s great.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome, awesome. We’d love to hash out stuff with you here for the next little bit. What’s on your mind lately? What can we narrow down and have a chat about?
Kirsten Dyck: I feel I’m kind of in the groove with lots of things in my own classroom, and with this new role. Because it is new to our education, we haven’t had this kind of support in this way for a few years now, that just knowing that teachers really are trying to do their best as these pushes for literacy numeracy or wherever the areas that we’re working in, to make sure that it really feels an authentic way to connect with the teachers and support them. And not that we’re just going to roll in and model lesson and then roll out and never be seen again.
Kirsten Dyck: We really want to make sure that we are connecting with those teachers in a way that is useful for them, and meeting them where they’re at. Because I know that if I rolled in, put my white books up on the wall and handed out some markers and did some playing cards, that some teachers would never want to have me back in their classroom again. That’s not where they are in their teaching journey.
Kirsten Dyck: I’m really been thinking about what are the pedagogical pieces that are important in a math classroom. What are some of those math pieces that are important and how do we meld those things together so that I can be a really great support for those teachers, because we’re all on a journey to do the best for our students.
Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. I think what I’m hearing is you’re definitely clueing in to something that I don’t think I clued into when I started that role. As Jon mentioned, I was doing kind of a halftime teaching halftime coaching role, and I kind of came in there and was sort of oblivious to the fact that I had my experience based on me loving staying up late every night and looking at blogs and trying new things and doing all these things, and I just sort of assumed that everyone else was doing that. And it really took me a while to really realize that everyone is different. Everyone’s in such a different place. Some people are in places where who knows what’s going on in their home lives. They may be a single parent raising three children, or they might have to take care of their parents or they have all these other things. Or, they just may not be as big of a math geek as I am.
Jon Orr: They’re watching baseball.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. It’s great to know that you have that awareness, and obviously that’s going to serve you well. I’m wondering just to kind of paint us a bit of a clearer picture, in terms of how many different teachers would you say are you seeing consistently. And I know that’s kind of a hard question I’m sure, because if it’s anything my role, it can definitely change. But do you find that you have some consistent or a handful of consistent teachers that you’re able to work with in a reasonable amount of time where you get to kind of check in and build that relationship with?
Kirsten Dyck: Yes. In some senses for sure that’s how it works. I’m really appreciative of the fact that my school division itself when they set up this role, has made it very much about the teacher requesting support. It’s not a case of a supervisor or an administrator or a principal saying, “Hey Krysten, come work with so-and-so, because we know that they need help with such and such.” That is not happening at all. It is all teacher initiated from their end and they phone or they email and say, “Hey I’ve been thinking about this. Is there a way you can support me?” Or in conjunction, if there are some learning leaders in their building that we can make the connection that way.
Kirsten Dyck: I’m really grateful for that, because it does mean that once I get to the school and work with the teacher, that we can sit down and really find out what it is that’s on their mind and what are some of their challenges or what are some of the things that they’re thinking about or have heard about that they want to try. I think for the most part right now, it kind of is working that I might be with a teacher three or four times, that we might have a chance to meet and talk about maybe something they’d to do or see or try. I might model a short warmup where I might co teach something with them, or they might do part of the lesson and I might do part of the consolidation. Lots of different combinations of that. They might invite some of their colleagues in so that we can be able to debrief after how that works.
Kirsten Dyck: I would say for the most part, we’re kind of three to five times that I might get to have that opportunity come in and work with them. I’m really grateful for that. It’s not a one and done for sure. And then after they are on their way with something that I can hopefully leave them for a couple of months, check back in later, and then in the meantime there are always new requests coming in of teachers who would support or just the chance to have a conversation.
Kyle Pearce: Sounds there’s a lot of great things going on over there. You’ve molded the program the way I think you think makes sense to give as many teachers help that they need. Krysten, is there any specific area that’s been on your mind lately that you’re trying to make movements or shifts in that we can narrow down or help you with here? What’s the real challenge here?
Kirsten Dyck: When I think about these teachers and the requests that they’re making, that I do know that they have been very honest and often vulnerable especially … And I don’t want to overgeneralize, but sometimes elementary school teachers are less comfortable with the content area of math than perhaps say a high school math teacher might be. So I feel I am in a very lucky and fortunate position to be able to work with some of those teachers, even to help build their confidence.
Kirsten Dyck: I guess what I’m thinking about, as I develop these relationships connections with these teachers is, knowing when to … Because I feel sometimes the assessment piece is maybe where we should be looking, and maybe that’s not where they’re at yet. And so I know they’re not there yet I can only shift their thinking or push so far, but sometimes I think it can only be about warm up routine are we going to do? That maybe being able to think more about what will the students gain if we try to implement this warm up, and will you know. So what are those formative and somewhat tough assessment pieces? But sometimes I feel that’s so overwhelming for teachers that it’s hard for me to know how to gauge where to nudge.
Jon Orr: Gotcha. So let me just restate for a moment. One thing I’m hearing is that you’re helping teachers. You come in, you give them the ideas suggestions, great activities to try in the classroom and meet them where they are, but you want to steer them on a particular path, kind of the way we do with our students. So if you think about when I’m teaching say proportions or linear relations, you know the path that the student should be taking to go from where they are to where they need to be. And when we’re doing that at the walls, we’re listening to what they say you can envision where they are in the path so that you can push them in the right way.
Jon Orr: You’re doing that with your teachers. Where they need to be. You know where they are, but it sounds you’re wondering how do I get them to move on the path so that it’s consistent, but also so I don’t offend anybody. And also get them so that when I come back they’ve tried something new. Does that sound right? I’m I hearing what you’re saying or am I off?
Kirsten Dyck: No, no. I think that’s pretty much it. Because I do want to come in as a side by side. I learned just as much from being in other teachers’ classroom as I do being on my own, and having the chance to reflect on some of those things that we are trying. So yes. Just knowing that especially those teachers that have come from that vulnerable position. Maybe they’re new to teaching there’s a new day teaching math there it’s a new grade level for them, that I guess maybe because I can kind of see that big picture, but I also know I have limited time with them. So being able to just fitness, I don’t know if stance is the right word? How much is the coaching and how much is the nudging?
Kirsten Dyck: When I think back to the analogy you’ve spoken about before from, I think it’s the Heath brothers, the person on the elephant in the clearing the path, I don’t want to just hand them a file full of stuff and say, Here you go. Here’s 10 new warm ups you can try next week. ” Because, first of all that’s going to be overwhelming, and second of all sometimes you need to kind of know how some things work to be implement it or you’ll try once and be like, “That was [inaudible 00:35:26], I’m not doing that again.”
Kirsten Dyck: But also knowing that in the long run, what is going to make the most difference for their students. Because that’s why we’re here, is to help the students learn the math.
Kirsten Dyck: So I guess that’s kind of it is knowing if I do have limited time, because I won’t likely have the chance to work with that teacher necessarily for an entire year or for two years, because there are over 40 schools in the division, and a lot of teachers and all of those buildings. I’m not going to get to every one. What does that kind of impact that I can have that will still be enough so it impacts the students in the long run.
Jon Orr: It sounds you’re trying to find this balance again. We mentioned balance earlier between went to nudge, when to coach, when to maybe sit back a little bit and let things kind of ride. Because, like you said, you don’t want to come across as overwhelming or overwhelm a teacher. You also don’t want to create any sort of, let’s call it a conflict or maybe a misalignment between beliefs. So that’s definitely a challenge.
Jon Orr: Something that I think is really easy for us to miss when we’re in the role of a coach or a knowledgeable other in the room where you’re going in and you’re working with a teacher is, not only do you have all the same jobs that you have when you’re working with your own class, but now you have another class to worry about which is the teacher. It’s a one person class, but now you’re thinking about, when I’m working these students, I’m listening to the students to try to figure out where I need to nudge those students. But at the same time, I’m trying to observe where the teacher is so I can figure out what’s my next move with the teacher.
Jon Orr: I think your head is definitely in the right place and I definitely am the type of person that I lean on the side of caution versus going too aggressive, because I’d much rather go a little softer and build a deeper relationship. Because, at the end of the day when you try to push even just a little bit too hard, it can create a major setback.
Jon Orr: So it sounds you’ve got that mindset in the right place. And I know the hardest part is that we always want things to move faster than they are. This happens in the classroom. Every teachers feeling the exact same way with their students. They’re like, I want to move this student along from skip counting to multiplying and make those known facts. But that student just isn’t there yet. So is there anything that you’ve done so far and that you’ve had maybe a little bit of success with? Because clearly you’ve got this idea in your mind and it’s resonating with me and I’m aligning, I’m connecting with it. Is there anything maybe almost a move you do or something you do to almost maybe remind yourself that, maybe I need to take a step back for a moment here and not push too hard or try to rethink what you’re about to say or how you’re going to go about something? Is there anything that you’re using that you feel is working for you?
Kirsten Dyck: I’ll come back to the book that you folks recommended, The Coaching Habit one with all those good questions that I know you model these mentoring calls after, Absolutely that is-
Jon Orr: We should and never gave that away.
Kirsten Dyck: Yes.
Jon Orr: I know they’re pulling our coaching move on us.
Kirsten Dyck: Yes. But I do think that starting with the question of what’s on your mind, but also digging in a little bit to see if I can figure out what do the teachers hold dear, or what are their beliefs about what math should be for them? If they can have the perfect classroom, or if they could imagine that they had whatever budget or what would their math classroom look like? What would be some things that they would see? What would be some things that they would be hearing? From there that really helps guide the conversation, because I already know what’s important to them.
Kirsten Dyck: So that’s something that for me has been somewhat useful. Not somewhat useful, very useful because I get to know a little bit more about those teachers and what they think. It’s really interesting how some teachers will say, “Well I’m not a math person but I would never say that in front of my students.” So I know right then and there that there are certain things that we might want to talk about before we even get into how their classroom is structured.
Kirsten Dyck: I think that’s part of it, just really building that trust. Because, like I said, some of these teachers, because it has to be their own decision to connect with us as facilitators, that they have to be willing to put themselves out there and on the line. I really want to be supportive of that. So being able to ask them where are they at and does that line up with what they would like to see in their maybe dream math class.
Jon Orr: That’s great. And that’s actually how Kyle and I have had a lot of success when we go out to workshops with districts and other groups or at conferences. Also, we’ve worked with lots of challenging teachers who are resistant to change and that’s where most success is, is when we ask the teachers exactly what you’ve just said is, “What do you want your math class to look like? What do you think is important for learning math?” But also, “What’s big stumbling blocks are there for kids? What’s a big challenge for you?” And then when they say, “Kids are bad at problem solving, or I want math class to look like this.” We’ve even used a phrase that we use here on the podcast is, what do you want your math class to look in five years? Or what do you want kids to remember in five years?
Jon Orr: When they answer those questions, they have those underlying struggles and you can hear them and everything you do as a coach can help address those. And so, when a teacher says, “Problem solving, my kids are just not very good at word problems. And then everything you do to help them is now to address that. And then they think they’re listening to what my problem is and they’re giving me suggestions on how to help it. Everything is geared towards that. All the strategies that you’ve built up and you’re ready to share them with and you’re like yes, now I have a window to give them the nudge to push them down the path that we want to move them towards. And it’s really because they said they wanted to go there. So it sounds you’re doing exactly what Kyle and I would do too.
Kyle Pearce: And something else too that kind of just popped into my mind as well is again, and I heard it in what you just said Jon, and I know I’m hearing it in what Krysten’s saying is, just this idea of coming back to not only the goals for what we want five years from now, but even in today’s lesson. Having those overarching goals is really important, but oftentimes when we run into these scenarios where we’re, I want to nudge just a little bit. And it’s we almost try to find subtle ways to nudge and then, I wonder if that’s even helpful anyway. It’s almost like if we pause and we say, “Okay, today we’re working on integers.” And maybe right now the way the teacher’s doing it is the way we were all taught, which is very procedural and very just follow these rules. And at the end of the day, if we stay more curious, just the coaching habit book would tell us, if we stay more curious and say, “Why is integers important?”
Kyle Pearce: I find that oftentimes it comes down to asking why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place. Because a lot of it just comes down to habit. What’s easy, what we believe to be the way to do things. But then at the end of the day, if we’re talking about trying to shift things from let’s say, teaching procedurally to teaching more from a conceptual standpoint. At the end of the day it’s, why are we doing integers anyway? Is it just to memorize these rules? Because if that’s the case, then what’s the point? Is that really all that helpful? But if I’m doing it from a conceptual standpoint, to me it just seems so much easier for us to land on this idea of resiliency, perseverance, problem solving, even curiosity. Because it’s, why does this work? What’s going on here? Why does every time this is happening, this result is happening and these rules are being created?
Kyle Pearce: It sounds like you’ve got all the right tools in your tool belt. And I think one of the hardest ones for us to build and to kind of gain some control over is this patience idea. We can talk about this all day and all these great ideas we have, but at the end of the day, if I don’t have that patience and that ability to just pause for a moment and then ask why, I tend to put my foot in my mouth or nudge a little too hard, or just bump into these scenarios that I could have avoided had I paused, been a little more patient, and then just ask that why question.
Kyle Pearce: I’m wondering, if we start wrapping things up here and get into your mind, where’s your mind at right now based on this conversation and what you might do next?
Kirsten Dyck: I’m making lots of connections to just even my own classroom, thinking about when I, coming back to the beginning of our conversation, think about that consolidation piece that I have, that why in my mind now. And that was maybe not always there or not always clear as it is now that I know where we’re going and I know why we’re doing this. And the students might not always pick up on that why, but I know why it’s there. And so when I’m thinking about working with these teachers and you were just using the example of the integers [inaudible 00:44:52] from procedurally to conceptually that, that might be something that I can help share with them, because that might help clear some of that stuff up for them as well. Or, they might be in a place where they’re not ready to hear that yet.
Kirsten Dyck: So that’s what I’m connecting to is, when is the why that I know for the curriculum, the big ideas for math worth sharing and when is a teacher maybe not ready for that quite yet, and that we are still looking at some other things along their teaching journey and pedagogical practice before we move into some of those things. Just knowing like you said, when to nudge and when to push and when to maybe, that that’s not the focus quite yet.
Kyle Pearce: Gotcha. This is a really great chat this evening here and if you think back on it, and if I think back on it right now, as we’re thinking about your big takeaway from last time was this intentionality piece and it sounds you have made great strides on that in your classroom and also now applying into the coaching role, which is pretty amazing to see. Do you have any kind of specific next steps that you want to share with us before we sign off here and say goodbye?
Kirsten Dyck: I’m just going to keep learning on my own and connecting with other people via Twitter and reading blogs, because I am one of those people that will stay up late at night reading about math things. I will continue that too. But coming back to how you ended there saying the patience piece and knowing that this is a new job and that all of us coaches that are working in the division in different areas that we’re all just on this journey ourselves too of learning how to best do our jobs, and so having that patience with those teachers.
Kirsten Dyck: Because I just feel so very, very fortunate to be working with so many amazing teachers and seeing the wonderful things that are happening in their classrooms. So having the patients to know it’s baby steps, but in the long run that students will be impacted, which is great.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. That’s great to hear.
Jon Orr: On behalf of the Math Moment Maker community, we are so excited to have Krysten Dick come back as our first return call to see how things are going.
Kyle Pearce: It’s an honor Jon.
Jon Orr: Oh yeah. And things are clearly looking very bright in the math world for you, and we’re just so proud to be a part of that journey with you and learning alongside you. So keep up that great work. I know that this conversation is going to be very, very helpful to so many people out there, especially those who are moving into a role like coaching or consulting, where you will want to make changes overnight, but at the end of the day, we have to go at the speed of learning.
Jon Orr: I think that’s Graham Fletcher who always says that. You’ve got to teach at the speed of learning, and that is what we’re trying to do here when we’re working with our colleagues as well. So great job there, Krysten. It’s been fantastic to learn alongside you, and we can’t wait to see again I think coming up at OEME. We’ll see you [crosstalk 00:47:58]-
Kirsten Dyck: I’ will be there in the spring.
Jon Orr: No.
Kirsten Dyck: Not against [inaudible 00:48:02]. No, but I will be an OEME in the spring. So thank you so much for this opportunity. Always outstanding to talk to you guys. Thank you so much.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Thanks so much. Take care.
Kyle Pearce: Fantastic. Have a great night. We’ll talk to you soon.
Kirsten Dyck: Okay, bye-bye.
Jon Orr: Well, there you have it. That was Krysten Dick from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We’re looking forward to checking back with her to see how she’s incorporated her big takeaways in a few months or even up to a year.
Jon Orr: This was another math mentoring moment episode with many more to come where we’re going to have a conversation just we did here today with a member of the Making Math Moments That Matter community, just you who’s working through a challenge and together we’ll brainstorm ideas and next steps to help overcome it.
Kyle Pearce: If you want to join us on the podcast for an upcoming Math Mentoring Moment episode just Krysten-
Jon Orr: You can.
Kyle Pearce: … You just need to apply over at makemathmoments.com/mentor. That’s makemathmoments.com/mentor.
Jon Orr: And finally, as we mentioned in the intro for a limited time, we have that 30 day free teacher license available for any Math Moment Maker from around the world who wants to access our academy professional development courses-
Kyle Pearce: Our monthly, but now pretty much weekly web calls and replays-
Jon Orr: Are 25 different hour long session replays from the 2019 virtual summit-
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Jon Orr: Be sure to get it in before it goes away at makemathmoments.com/trial.
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Kyle Pearce: Well, Jon, until next time. I’m Kyle Pearce-
Jon Orr: I’m Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High fives for us, and, high fives for you.
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