Urban Teachers: Collaboratively Developing Strategies to Support Elementary Math Teachers

July 14, 2016

At 100Kin10, we realize how daunting the challenges are when it comes to creating and implementing effective STEM teacher training strategies. A school district or other educational related entity or initiative often needs added resources, knowledge and/or experience to address the immensity of their challenge.

100Kin10 brings together academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government organizations in an environment of true collaboration to foster long-term success.

And one experiment we’ve used to ignite teamwork is the execution of small group calls. 100Kin10 connects those who are concurrently dealing with or struggling with a similar issue, as well as folks who maintain experience and success regarding that topic of teacher training.

It’s about provoking inspiring dialogue that leads to innovative solutions. These small group calls merge great minds; it’s a forum where folks can share best practices and get quick feedback from other partners facing the same challenges.

When a call comes together, it’s an exhilarating feeling knowing that partners walk away from it newly energized. In the fall of 2015, we facilitated an especially productive call.

Dionn Brown is the Director of S.T.E.M. Initiatives at Urban Teachers, a teacher prep program currently focused on Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD and Dallas Fort-Worth, TX. They create 15-month residencies for teachers who then commit a minimum of 3 years in their school districts.

Dionn was facing a common and critical issue for elementary educators. Rarely do the teachers of our youngest learners receive specific STEM training, either during pre-service training or in-service development, which often leads to high levels of anxiety associated with STEM subjects. In many cases, this anxiety bleeds into daily classroom instruction and effects both students’ comprehension of and confidence about STEM.

Dionn Brown

Dionn was seeking strategies that would help her organization support aspiring teachers who have this anxiety – in math, specifically. Her objective was to identify and eventually implement initiatives that would empower educators with commanding conviction in the classroom.

Enter, the small group call. Dionn was connected with partners around the country facing the similar challenges and who had invaluable strategies to share. These were professionals with direct experience regarding alleviating math anxiety for teachers, and including the following individuals:

  • Wendy Adams, University of Northern Colorado
  • Kim Rimbey, Rodell Foundation of Arizona
  • Rachel M. Aming-Attai, University of Indianapolis
  • Khushali Gala Narechania, Relay Graduate School of Education

Dionn became privy to a range of perspectives, took comfort realizing that she was “not alone” in this arena, and was exposed to practices that enhanced some of her current training approaches.

Dionn noted, “By having this call, now we have additional, specific strategies and tools that we can use. Without the benefit of the partnerships that we have through 100Kin10, this conversation – one whose attendees were from different parts of the country – would never have been possible.”

The strategies discussed on this small group call spanned supporting teachers with a clear understanding of the standards; ensuring they have the opportunities to do math and witness alternative approaches of other teachers; reinforcing the notion of having teachers rehearse content before bringing it into the classroom; creating a safe environment where they can voice their concerns; as well as other targeted, innovative strategies.

See this Google doc for a full list of the ideas that came out of this call.

Clearly, a small group call can be beneficial when hosted in the right context. In order to position such a call for maximum results, here’s a simple guideline:

  • Timing: Execute a call during a time frame when you are forming your strategy—you should have room to shift your approach based on the results of the call
  • Participant Briefing: Be prepared with a clear summary of the challenge, or challenges, you are facing, and share all the unique aspects of your situation, so the discussion can more likely impact your strategic approach
  • Openness: Be open to brainstorming, without the expectation that you will attain the exact solutions to your issue
  • Next Steps: Know that next steps, after the call, are essential – so ensure that you walk away with/suggest/ask for recommendations regarding a plan of action that will continue to place you on a path towards a solution.

Our partners, whatever walk of life they come from, yearn to play a role in helping educate the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. We can start with a small call, and end up with huge results.

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