When I taught middle school math, I really wanted to learn how to teach mathematical concepts at a deeper level beyond state standards. One year, my administration asked me to pilot a new curriculum, one that emphasized deeper conceptual learning. It was exactly what I had been wanting, but I had mixed feelings. Change is hard, particularly for teachers because we are responsible for youth so we inherently rely on procedures, routines, and structures. Would the new curriculum reflect my teaching style? Would it be rigorous? How would this change the way I plan? What if students preferred my way vs. this new way? As it turned out, piloting the College Preparatory Math(CPM) curriculum would be one of the best professional development experiences in my teaching career — not because of a charismatic facilitator, but because its success or failure was all on me.
My teaching style emphasized getting students out of their seats, turning math activities into puzzles and challenges to build engagement. I actively pushed students to show their work and explain their answers, but I relied on routines and structure more than I would’ve liked to admit. I was missing the skills necessary to empower students to take control — to own their own learning. I was hesitant at first to give up control. I needed a framework (and a little bit of a personal push) to help me adopt these skills for my classroom.
Piloting the new curriculum challenged the routines I’d established for myself and my students. Instead of teaching students steps and methods first, the new curriculum prompted me to present a conceptual problem first, working backwards to reveal steps to solve later. To implement this, I needed clear examples of how to approach lessons, exemplar problems for different leveled learners, and multiple ways to set up a conceptual classroom. My pilot curriculum provided a vast bank of rigorous problems and advice on how to implement discourse like Accountable Talk. The benefits I saw in my classroom yielded a completely new learning experience for me and my students. The conceptual connections became clearer, as CPM intertwined math ideas that were linked, no longer teaching skills apart, but laying the foundation to understand the “why.” In the end, I could tell my students were more invested in mathematical thinking by the way they approached problems in class.
That year was so memorable because I took control of my own professional development, without having to rely on someone providing it for me. It was my own pedagogical “aha moment.”
Embracing uncertainty in the classroom by piloting a new program opened my eyes to what the classroom can look like, instead of clinging to the classroom I’d always known and grew comfortable with.
I started seeing math concepts not siloed into “units,” but a web of skills that students could connect with and build upon. Holding students accountable for how they discussed math showed me I can support that challenge and “struggling” through the explanations was a critical part of everyone’s learning. Allowing students to find the lesson’s objective given an exploratory challenge instead of me handing it to them required me to be comfortable letting go, something that made me nervous (it still does). Later that year, I coupled the new curriculum with blended learning, to further support kids on different learning paths and working at different paces. Sharing my learning with my mentors and colleagues was meaningful as I felt like I could contribute to the learning of others as well. Piloting a new program led me to lead my own PD and helped me get more comfortable with strategies outside of my comfort zone, on my own terms.
Learning a technique and significantly improving your craft doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why we at Kiddom offer personalized professional development resources for educators. We believe in order for teachers to have the best experience using Kiddom, it’s on us to provide the necessary supports, when teachers are ready to take on new challenges. We’re not going to swoop into your school for a day, get you signed up, and leave. Those experiences lead to teachers to further be skeptical of professional development, which is counterproductive.
When you join the Kiddom community, you’re not just signing up for education technology, you’re signing up for a tool box at your disposal. Those tools will be ready for you when you’re ready to tack them onto your tool belt. And they’ll come with the supports you need to succeed.
- Professional Development Materials
The Kiddom team recognizes that experimenting with new tools and strategies requires energy and time, both of which are limited resources. We’ve designed materials to supplement your professional development so that you and your school community can facilitate your own PD. Interested in implementing a blended learning model? We’ve got you covered with blended learning PD you can facilitate among your school community. Would an introduction to standards-based grading (competency-based education) promote meaningful conversations about what grades mean in your professional learning community? Here are some guides to get you started. If you need a resource we don’t have yet, we’d be happy to make it for you: just ask! That’s how we work.
2. Personalized Support
Kiddom recognizes how critical it is to receive unwavering support during times of transition in the classroom. That’s why when schools adopt Kiddom, we’re there to brainstorm with you and your team, answer questions, and talk through implementation. In a number of schools adopting Kiddom, we’ve facilitated PD sessions both in-person and virtually, assisting grade teams and entire schools in building strong foundations of shared understanding. We love being brought into schools via Skype to support trailblazers as they support their colleagues. If you need a one-on-one PD consult, let us know. Every classroom is different.
3. Growth and Leadership
When you’re the first person in your school to pilot a tool or strategy, you learn a lot about yourself as an educator. These lessons can and should be shared with colleagues. In this Cult of Pedagogy article, a teacher shares her story about volunteering to pilot new programs, showing that it can be support learning through experience and collaboration. Administrators seek teacher-leaders in the school to share strategies and learnings from student outcomes. Once you learn how the multiple ways Kiddom can support your practice, you’ll have a list of successes and challenges to use to guide others. Leading PD for colleagues will not only be the next step for you, but could be the next step for your school.
My “pilot PD” experience was significant because I accepted the notion that there would be hurdles, but regardless of whether it would succeed or fail, I had to come to terms that I do, we do, you do everyday was getting monotonous; the very strategy that gave me structure was holding me back. I’m excited to hear feedback from educators mastering Kiddom and seeking to lead PD to introduce the platform to others. When you’re presented the opportunity to try something new, it can be intimidating and uncharted, but the rewards may surprise you and even stay with you. Click here to pilot Kiddom, experiment with new tools, and receive PD materials to support you and your professional learning community.