Reflecting and Growing

The end of the school year in June and the end of the calendar year in December both bring an obvious opportunity for educators to reflect on personal growth and positive impact. Educators tend to ask themselves, “Did I grow as an educator this year? Did I make a positive difference and maximize the children’s learning?” If June signifies the end of the school year, then August represents a beginning with a new set of children, and January 1 motivates teachers to promote mid-year achievements to foster significant growth at the end of the school year.

On December 1, 2017, the Early Math team hosted a joint professional learning session with our two partnering Head Start schools. We opened up the brightly painted green and blue AIMS lab and had the two dozen teachers rotate through 5 stations where math and problem-solving activities, rich conversations, and joyful learning occurred between and among early learning staff. Those stations included a bakery, where teachers measured and counted holiday cookies; a lego station, where teachers created Lego structures based on events in their lives; symmetry, where teachers explored symmetry and reflection; geometric shape building, where the teachers created life-sized shapes with flagging tape; and pattern blocks, where teachers completed puzzles using a variety of geometric pattern blocks and alternative methods.

At the end of the three-hour session, the early learning educators were asked to reflect on our work together since August, particularly related to them as a learner, teacher, and observer of children’s mathematics. The AIMS research associates were not surprised we made a positive impact, but felt validated that the teachers agreed, based on their responses. Especially since we were ultimately helping nearly 100 young at-risk children in Fresno County. Reading the teacher’s responses gave us joy.

Below are some of the responses to our questions.

Since the beginning of this school year what are some things you’ve noticed about yourself as a:

A learner of mathematics:

“I see Mathematics in a different way. It is fun, engaging.”

“I notice I am more aware of math. I notice math in my everyday life.”

“There is a wide range of ways to learn math.”

“I feel more successful and confident about math in my classroom.”

“I learned that math is found in everything we do with children.”

“It’s fun learning ways to incorporate math in the activities that we are always doing.”

A teacher of mathematics:

“Let children learn by what they see and understand. Do not correct them or tell them they are wrong. Let them enjoy with what they do. Activities are more math intentional.”

“As a teacher, I love to learn new activities that children will benefit from. AIMS is helping me view math activities from other aspects. Now I have fun and children are learning, playing and showing interest in every single one.”

An observer of children’s mathematics:

“Children seem to be more interested in math since I have brought new math opportunities to class. I noticed how children use different materials to solve problems. I enjoy the a-ha moments. Children are excited and interested in the math they are learning and their activities without teacher support.”

Wherever you are as a learner, teacher, or observer of mathematics, include a New Year’s resolution to intentionally have a positive change on the trajectory of young children’s academic success by “doing the math.” At the end of the school year or the calendar year, you will reflect and know that you had increased your learning in teaching mathematics and made a positive impact on the future.

Happy 2018 to our early educators, parents of young children, and child advocates!

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