I have spent the last 3 days listening to, learning from, and devouring the words of great teachers. Debbie Miller, Patrick Allan, and Penny Kittle have reminded me of the bliss that comes from teaching students how to read and write using authentic experiences with reading and writing. Authentic moments where you connect the students to their inner reader by helping them find the texts that matter to them and engage them in ways that only powerful text can. Authentic moments that connect them to their inner writer by standing on the shoulders of “beautiful words” from others like Sarah Kay, and writing about things that evoke their passions. If I could take away one word…one message…one thought from these last three days it would be Authentic!!!
For these great teachers- Debbie, Patrick, and Penny authentic is about providing students with opportunities to engage in reading and writing in ways that are meaningful, interesting, and relevant to students as individuals. In their classrooms they provide students with time to connect with great books while they take the time to confer with students. In writing they provide students with time to write as they themselves share their own writing both finished products and works in progress. This kind of teaching is not born from worksheets, packaged programs, and activities that do nothing more that fill the time. It comes from relationships, sitting side by side with students, and taking to them about their lives as readers and writers.
These 3 days have provided me with time to think about what this could look like in mathematics. Can we take these ideas and put them into our mathematics classrooms? Can we help students connect as mathematicians who learn from the “beautiful” math of others? Can we model our own mathematics work and how we engage in mathematics? Can we provide students with time to actively engage in rich authentic mathematics that provokes thinking, and passion?
This type of mathematics is about more than completing the worksheet, or the page in the textbook. It is about fostering the conditions for student to become mathematicians who don’t just do math but think mathematically. My mind is swimming with the possibilities of re-imagining what the Mathematics Workshop could look like so that it would foster mathematicians. I think it is possible.
One thing is clear though. The most important thing that we as teachers need is an unwavering belief that all kids are capable of becoming mathematicians and deserve the time to dig into authentic mathematical experiences.