I like to dream about the day when our district will decide to hire a math coach for 5th - 8th grade. We currently have a literacy coach and a math coach is definitely needed. Typically I think about this when I am overwhelmed trying to do it all and I think about how great it would be to have someone to support me. Sometimes I wish that I could spend my time doing all the reading, researching, creating intervention plans and extra stuff teachers are asked to do because the more of that I do the more I find I love it. Then I could be the one to support the teachers. So there are always these thoughts floating around. What would I want in a math coach or what would I do if I were a math coach? I thought it would be good to write down some of these thoughts.
If I were a math coach...
I would want to stay connected to the classroom and the kids. To do this I would want to team teach with the math teachers. It would give me a feel for who they are as teachers. Some teachers have an open door policy. Anyone is welcome anytime. Other teachers do not like to feel on the spot or perhaps are not their true teacher selves if they feel nervous or judged. There are different approaches that can be taken when working with teachers in the classroom:
1. Team teaching - we have teachers in our district that have gone through team teaching training. I, unfortunately, am not one of them. I would want to talk to these teachers - math or otherwise - and find out what types of strategies they have learned/used/like. In a math coach role I would want to explore some of these options and be a second teacher in the classroom.
2. Number talks - I have been working a lot on understanding numeracy. At this point I have AVMR training, which opened up a pandora's box for me. I spend countless hours on MTBoS and Twitter chats trying to gain a deeper understanding of number sense and how to best promote numeracy with students. I am currently reading Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle Grades by Pamela Weber Harris and will be attending the Math Recovery Council Conference with the Fraction AVMR training in October. With everything I have learned so far I could start my work with teachers by leading number talks in their classroom. I could help them see how to integrate it into their lessons so that it fits with the high level content and feels seamless.
3. What lesson do you not look forward to? There are lessons or units for every math teacher where they struggle to find their passion for it. Sometimes it is because it is a part of math they have struggled with conceptually. Other times it is because the way the lesson is set up in the book does not flow or is lacking in some way. As a math coach, I would ask teachers which lesson it is for them. I could either help them plan and team teach the lesson with them, or if they prefer I would offer to lead the lesson. They could observe my teaching and circulate helping students. It is important to start at the level the teacher is comfortable with. The more I work with teachers, they will begin to understand my process and hopefully trust and respect me as a colleague.
Another area of focus for a math coach would be the parent and home connection.
One thing I have always wanted to do and have not had time as a classroom teacher is to create video explanations of what we are learning in the classroom. There are many videos online, but I find that they often show algorithms or show the entire progression of learning when we have only made it through the first part in class and won't get to the 2 or 3 steps in understanding until later in the year. Parents try to help their children by teaching them the rules that they remember and learned in school. While parents have good intentions and are helping their child in the only way they know how, they are depriving their child of learning the number sense and seeing the relationships in numbers that teachers are trying to get students to understand. Middle school students latch onto shortcuts and rules blindly without any deeper understanding and when they get farther in higher level math struggle with abstract concepts. For students who are absent, who struggle, or who just want to review what they learned one more time, I would LOVE to create a series of videos explaining the models, visuals, relationships we are learning in class. How awesome would it be for teachers to have that linked to a website to offer to parents who ask for extra help for their child. I would also want to find or create appropriate practice for students that is at the exact level they need for where they are with the skill. As a teacher, I sometimes spend more time searching online for practice problems that match what we are learning, without going to complex. As a math coach I would create this for teachers. If student is struggling or a parent wants something they can do with their child at home, all the teacher would need to do is send a link to the things I have created.
For right now, these are my top 2 things I would want in a math coach. I have labeled this blog post part 1 because there are many more ideas and thoughts I have. I expect, after some time swirling around in my brain, those things will be wanting to be written down as well. Look for future posts on this topic.