I had the fortune of attending the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2014 Regional Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. On top of that, I had the greater fortune of presenting – for the first time EVER!! – TWO SESSIONS on a topic that I am very passionate about. I have been looking forward to this conference for weeks and boy, it did not disappoint!
I attended this conference in 2012, and what I had forgotten – which I quickly remembered after a session or two on Thursday – was how much I LEARNED at this conference. I can’t put into words the value of the resources and amazing educators at this conference. I took away so much from the workshops and sessions I attended. Instead of me rambling on about how amazing this experience was, let me get started on the highlights of my two days at the NCCTM Conference:
1. Learning about the TIinspire. The first workshop I attended on Thursday morning was given by Sheila Brookshire, a veteran teacher in Buncombe County Schools (NC). She taught us some cool tricks with the TIInspire – a device I had never used – and gave us some other fun hands-on resources to teach stats to grades 6, 7, and 8. The 90 minute workshop FLEW by and before I knew it, I was off to my next session!
2. It Ain’t the Kidz. I didn’t go to any keynote speaking events in 2012 and I really regretted that. So I made sure I hit up two of them at this conference. The first one was delivered by Lee Stiff, a professor of mathematics at NC State. He was
discussing his research on urban education and the achievement gap. He discovered that the achievement gap isn’t at the fault of the teachers OR the students, but the system. If we don’t start reaching kids at their own pedagogical level,and provide for them a solid foundation of identity, security, and validity, we will never reach high achievement in our urban schools. This hit close to home for me since I currently teach in an urban math classroom. Dr. Stiff is very passionate about reaching students with more active and engaging classrooms…and listening to his keynote address gave me the reassurance to know that I can make that happen. I can meet my students where they are and help them succeed.
3. The CCSS Mathematical practices should always be considered by teachers and students. The other keynote speech I attended was given by Juli Dixon. Her keynote was focused on the five essential instructional shifts that she has identified that change the way teachers view and teach the eight mathematical practices. I can’t claim to always think about the mathematical practices when I’m teaching (probably because it is like second nature to me) but it got me thinking. The mathematical practices are just as important as the content we teach. Yes, students need to know how to multiply; but they also need the meta-cognitive skills to know how they are multiplying. Teachers need to start focusing on the specific practices we are teaching just as we are focusing on the content.
4. Interactive notebooks are taking over the world! I went to THREE different sessions that highlighted the use and importance of INBs. I saw some GREAT ideas…some I’ve implemented already in my students’ INBs this year, and ideas that I will remember for next year. I love interactive notebooks. I’ll have to blog about those later this year…because they are FABulous!
5. Common Theme: Grades are still motivators and successful students take ownership for their learning. I know a rapidly increasing number of educators who are jumping off the “grades” bandwagon. However, I found it odd that so many presenters were still mentioning that the top motivator in their classrooms are grades. I’d see a unique implementation of an activity or lesson and ask, “How do you get your students on board with that?” The reply? “Well, they get graded on it, so it isn’t optional.” Well, it is optional if your kids lack interest in their grades, as several of mine do. Grades still rule the classrooms (in classrooms where good grades are important.) And the students with the best grades are the ones hat take ownership for their learning. (No surprise there.)