Awards & Recognition
- CSNWP Teacher Consultant
Initially, I felt a little like the odd man out, being a math teacher in the Writing Project. There are not many people who think of writing when they think of teaching math. However, the need for literacy in mathematics is greater than ever with our implementation of the Common Core. I have researched, read, taught, and experimented with incorporating writing in my classroom and, in my current leadership role in my district, have been able to share what I have learned with other math teachers. So much of what is required with the new standards involves communication and literacy skills. I feel fortunate to have become a Teacher Consultant at the time that I did because it has helped me be prepared for the changes needed in mathematics instruction to support college and career readiness for all students.
I was one of those people who used to write a lot when I was younger. Somewhere after college, when “real life” started to take hold, my writing waned. Then I attended the Invitational Leadership Institute in the Teaching of Writing. I suddenly felt my urge to write rekindled, and much of that had to do with simply recognizing it’s important to set aside time to write. It was also the first time I had experienced sharing my writing for feedback from others that weren’t my teacher. It has been a great experience, and one that I have carried on since. We continue to set times to write together and share our work with each other.
One of the struggles for many teachers is the feeling of self-doubt or of being too critical of our teaching practices. I can make a much longer list of what I don’t do well in the classroom than what I do effectively. The Writing Project has given me a renewed sense of confidence in my practice, including the feeling that it’s okay to try new things and know it won’t always work the first time (or at all!). I now have a network of professionals with whom I feel a special bond and to whom I know I can turn when I want to consult on my teaching practice. I am part of a group that shares a common value and goal, and the feeling of isolation so often experienced by teachers, new and veteran, has disappeared. I know I have something to contribute when we meet, and I know I always have more to learn from them as well.
I believe it is in us all to be writers. Writers have a fundamental desire to share a piece of ourselves with the world. This is particularly evident today when younger generations are given so many ways through which to share their lives, from the insignificant moments to the monumental. In a world in which communication is all around us and varied in format and medium, writing takes on a special focus. It is important to understand and be able to move between these various modes of communication, many of which are still written (whether typed or penned, transmitted electronically or in hard copy). It is important to help students understand, differentiate, and navigate this intricate and ever-expanding world of expression.
The two books that have been pivotal for me as a teacher of writing in mathematics are: Literacy Strategies for Improving Mathematics Instruction by Joan M. Kenney and Writing to Learn Mathematics: Strategies that Work by Joan Countryman. There are so many nuances to the language of mathematics that I had never consciously considered when planning my instruction. I had so many “Ah ha!” and “Yes! Exactly!” moments reading these books. I had only ever considered writing as tool for demonstrating learning when it is also a method through which learning takes place. These books were powerful for me, and I continue to reference them and recommend them often!