We already do more with less.

The above article is awesome and worth the read. Before reading it, just with seeing the title, I felt the need to write my thoughts, so here we go…

We already to more with less.

We have to scrounge garage sales for furniture, used books, games, art supplies, spending our own money to get what we need for our classrooms.

Or we buy piece meal the tables we want, while offices in Washington are decked out with ergonomic office furniture, up-to-date computers and presentation equipment and no personal money spent. If we’re lucky, we get the cast-offs from local colleges when they upgrade their computers or lounge spaces.

We also are required to get Professional Development Points, which require hours of our own time to stay up-to-date in current research and education. Who in Washington is expected to attend graduate level classes for their entire career?

I don’t mind, because this is all important. I do it because I’m passionate about it, not because I’m told I have to.

But don’t treat me like I don’t matter and that my emotional well-being shouldn’t be protected. We need more resources today because more children are coming to our schools needing emotional and behavioral support, not just educational. We work every day to make 6 hours in the lives of our students be the best they can be, but if you give us too many students they won’t get the education they deserve because it’s too much to manage.

Do you have any idea how many hours we spend evaluating student work? This is a conservative example, thinking about a writing assessment where the student had to produce a piece of writing: 20 students x 10 minutes per student= 200 minutes= about 3 /12 hours. In elementary school, we are lucky if we have a 40 minute prep period every day. You do the math. Do we have enough time in the school day to do what’s required?

For elementary teachers, think about each subject we teach: reading, writing, math, spelling, social studies, science. In our district, we have a curriculum coordinator who makes sure that we are all doing these kinds of assessments. We are developing a Standards Based report card, which will add to our work load.

Then think about caregiver communication. We spend a lot of time communicating with caregivers and having caregivers reach out to us. This is crucial to our work to develop a team for each student, so many of us do it on our own time because we barely have time to breathe during the day.

We also communicate with many consultants, some of whom tell us we need to do more assessments. When? Teachers are already being asked to do more and more and more and more.

We spend hours of our personal time thinking about our students and how we can improve our teaching to make their learning better. We talk to each other, brainstorming ways to help a particular child “do school” or access the math or improve a lesson.

I’m sick and tired of the image of teachers out there being people who don’t care or the pedophile types. Appreciate the positive intentions of every single teacher out there, except the exceptions who make the news.

Teachers like me are the majority. We are dedicated, caring, intelligent, collaborative, remarkable people. Treat us that way. We deserve it.

How do you think about 8+8?

I was at my friend’s house the other day describing this cool thing I saw a student do with 8+8, but before I went into my description, I asked her soon-to-be-third-grade son “how do you think about 8+8?”

He looked up toward to the ceiling and said, “8 and 8 is…8..12..16!”

I said, “How did you get that?”

He said, “I just knew it.”

I said, “I heard you whispering ‘8..12..16’…what were you doing there?”

“Oh! I thought about how 8 is two fours, so if I have 8 and add a four I get 12 and then add another 4, it’s 16!”

I turned to my friend and said, “See, right there, he used his understanding of the structure of numbers to figure out 8 and 8 without counting on by ones. That’s what we want our students to do once they understand that they can count on as a strategy.”

Her son wasn’t thinking about this image below when he was solving, rather, he was using groups of four and probably adding through ten. He didn’t verbalize adding through ten which would be “8 and 2 more is 10, I have 6 more from the 8 and 6+10=16” so I don’t know if he did it.

A Number Rack or Rekenrek https://apps.mathlearningcenter.org/number-rack/

Once kids realize that they don’t have to count from one anymore when adding two collections, we want them to start to use their knowledge of the structure of numbers so they can do math mentally without counting by ones like “I saw 8 and 8 more is: 8–9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16” while tracking the 8 on their fingers. They know when to stop because they see a 5 and a 3 on their hands and they know that 5 and 3 are 8, so they are using some structuring to track their count.

If we flash just the left side of the rekenrek to second graders and have them talk about what they saw, we might hear, “I saw 5 reds on the top and 5 reds on the bottom, that’s 10. I saw 3 whites and 3 whites, that’s 6. So 10 +6=16.” I’d want them to also make sure to say that they saw 8 on the top and 8 on the bottom, so 8 and 8 is 16. And that’s the cool thing that I saw a student do with 8+8!

{Learning to Think Mathematically with the Rekenrek is an excellent resource to guide you if you’ve never used a rekenrek, which is a math tool that should be used with the guidelines. Using a the Rekenrek as a Visual Model for Strategic Reasoning in Mathematics is one of my favorite resources also. This Blog has links to even more guides and has video examples.}

We don’t want to start using the Rekenrek too early! We should be working on making sure that our students know all finger patterns on their fingers, can recognize regular dot patterns, and know all dot dice combinations. More to come in more blog posts. 🙂

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