nancy davis welch memorial professional developmentRecently, we held the second annual memorial professional development event for my dear friend and colleague, Nancy Welch.

 

As we race towards our final day of the school year, I would like to share my opening comments and hope that you feel inspired!


I am not sure how many of you knew Nancy, but we are here to continue her legacy and her love of mathematics. I was fortunate to have known Nancy for over 20 years, and she truly was an amazing person. She died almost two years ago from a very aggressive form of cancer. Her loss will be deeply felt by all who knew and loved Nancy.

 

Nancy was my co-pilot. 
She was that person that buckled up, put on that headgear and flew right next to me. She understood her role as one of support and she was always up for the trip. When we look to innovate and change our teaching practice, we all could use a co-pilot.

 

21st century teaching and leading
So, I ask you to reflect for a minute.

Who is your co-pilot?
Who is that person who is always ready to go with a resounding “Sounds great!” And, as Nancy would say, “How can I help?” Sometimes before we succeed, we fail. Or we face obstacles such as time, lack of materials, or perhaps lack of confidence to try out something that we know will benefit our students. We may be looking and thinking outside the box, and if we just had that co-pilot along we could change the world.

 

And, who are you a co-pilot for? 
Who do you support and convey the message “you’ve got this!” It might be your students. Perhaps you hand over the controls and fly right next to them, letting them take the lead in their learning. Perhaps it’s a teaching partner or a teacher that you have the honor of coaching. I like to think of myself in my role as a consultant as a co-pilot. Because while I can come in and fly the plane for the short time I am there, I will be leaving. And, I will need to hand over the controls.
So, I’d like you to identify those two things – who is your co-pilot? And make sure that you honor that person. And how can you be someone else’s co-pilot?

 

This brings me to my second story of cancer. 
Meet my college roommate Jeanne.
sue-nancy-teachers
Unlike Nancy, Jeanne has survived cancer. She actually more than survived, she says that she has found the blessings in cancer. So, like Nancy, Jeanne has an amazingly positive outlook on life. And she was a ray of sunshine for the 4 years that I was lucky enough to live with her in college. Just recently, we were talking about some disappointing news and she said,
 
“The silver lining is there, you just have to be patient enough to see what it is.”

 

What a perspective! Because isn’t it always there? It may take years for us to know what that silver lining is, but it is always there. I believe that each of you here is a piece of that silver lining.
silver lining

 

2017 is a challenging time to be an educator. 

 

We are criticized by the media. Politicians keep saying education is failing – not sure I agree with that. And, we are certainly undervalued in society in general. But we still choose this role because we know how amazing it is to impact the lives of students. So amidst those difficult days, when we are stressed, or when we think we aren’t making a difference, I’d like you to think about being patient and waiting for that silver lining. There are times when we don’t even know the impact we are having on another life. Educators are perfectly positioned to have life-changing impacts on our students.
I’d like to share with all of you some of the amazing things happening in your classrooms and schools as shared through the scholarship applications:

 

Tina – I recently received a letter from a high school student who thanked me for my impact on his life.  He has had, and continues to have, a difficult childhood and has also struggled with mathematics his whole life. In his letter, he said, “your class was difficult, but you helped me by believing in me and letting me make mistakes.” He went on to say that he was depressed for many years, but coming to my class each day gave him comfort.  He knew I cared deeply about him and believed he could accomplish anything he set his mind to.

 

Kim – I firmly believe that you need to know a child and make a bond with them for them to have the respect and the desire to learn.  I feel I made a difference when I bonded with a child that had behavioral issues in the previous class and when he first entered first grade.  I made sure I knew him, his likes and dislikes, and worked on the behavior.  He was once the child in kindergarten that ran out of the building and would not come into the child who is now participating in math, showing his work and really trying in his reading lessons.  I feel that the bond made and the respect he was given was able to show him I care and I wanted him to be the best he could be.  By helping him change his behavior I was able to make a major change in his life and hopefully his life in general.

 

Monique – cheerleader for strugglers –  I had a student that started the year saying he hated math, he was dumb, he was terrible at it last year.  With support, encouragement, and growth mindset language this student is shining, and although far from an “A” student, he is so much more self-confident, volunteers enthusiastically in class and tries harder than he ever has.  I love how when he starts to say he “doesn’t get it” he now ends that sentence with a pause, and then “YET!”.  I know this because I had him last year as an inclusion grade 6 teacher and I looped up with this class in math.  LOVE IT !

 

Marisa – I absolutely LOVE numbers and that love shines when I am teaching Mathematics.  I love the complexity and flexibility of numbers.  I love that Mathematics, especially in elementary school, can be explored using a combination of concrete manipulatives, pictures, and numbers.  I feel that the way my teaching has evolved in teaching mathematics is strengthening students understanding of the WHY of mathematics, rather than just the how.

 

Karen – We had a student who not only struggled with math but struggled behaviorally as well.  He would often shut down and become frustrated during class time.  Karen really got to know this student and worked to build his confidence up.  When he first started he would shut down during team time but after multiple weeks he started trusting that Karen would provide him support. The student was not in Karen’s grade level but she made sure to get updates from the child’s teacher on what he did well with in Math and what was a struggle.  She constantly would provide the child with feedback and tricks when he was stuck.  Eventually, the student began to shut down less and less during his academic time and he never shut down in the Math team time.  Karen went so far as to go to his classroom on her prep periods just to see how he was doing and if she could help in any way. The child ended up making great gains in math and now saying that he enjoyed it. This year the child is in Karen’s class and is doing spectacularly!

 

All of these examples, and all of you are examples of co-pilots who are creating silver linings. 

 

You are all change agents. 

 

George Cuoros shows us the five characteristics of change agents, and I think we can all agree these stories exemplify each and every one of those qualities.
change agent

And so, our theme for the event is the Joy of Mathematics.

Because that’s the hook.That’s how we draw people in. Both of these beautiful ladies, Nancy and Jeanne, embodied that spirit of joy. Co-pilots …silver linings … and joy –  with these all wrapped up in a healthy problem-solving solving and mathematics we can change the future!

 

Thank you!

 

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Summer is a perfect time to do a little learning at your own pace. If you are interested in a self-paced workshop that you can complete in the comfort of home, check out our first online workshop on the Standards for Mathematical Practices.

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Consider being part of the thousands of participants across the world (with a goal of reaching 1 million!) who will all be engaging with the same mathematics the week of October 10-17, 2017.

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Instead of a traditional "ice breaker" activity for attendees to get to know each other and interact with some joyful math right from the start, we put out a different "mathy" activity for teachers to enjoy on each table.

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