Inspiration comes from unexpected places

Have I mentioned that for the last 15 years, I have been a math teacher?  I have lived and breathed mathematics education and it has led me to the beautiful world of leadership, where I am blessed to lead others.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend our district’s Literacy Conference.  You heard me right. LITERACY. It was AMAZING professional learning and inspiration.  I am not a reading or writing expert, yet as I sat in this conference, I soaked up so many ideas and strategies that will transfer perfectly to my work with teachers across curriculums.  This is proof, maybe even encouragement, that inspiration comes from the most unexpected places and that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to learning within our own comfort zone.  

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Here are 4 reasons why we don’t need to look for subject specific PD all the time (Secondary teachers, take note and elementary teachers, come to math PD!)


  • Humanity comes first.  At the literacy conference, it was all about kids.  Students introduced the speakers, students shared their insight about reading and writing, students shared their technology knowledge with us, and students shared their writing and melodies.  In the words of Linda Sue Park, “You are arming our youth to save the world.  Readers, writers, and teachers coming together to help our youth.”  Educating our children is about saving the world.  Wowser. That was powerful.  And then @gcouros shared, “We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.”  These powerful messages have so much to do with humanity and the impact we, as teachers, can have.
  • Learning is learning.  Yes, different content has different learning progressions and themes, but kids are kids.  This means that the way we learn is the same no matter what we are learning. Brain research supports this.  Motivation and engagement research supports this.  When we are thinking about the “best” ways to teach, we just need to focus on the desired outcome: learning & growth.  
  • Rigor crosses all curriculum. When we are working to stretch our students, we know that rigor is important.  When I read the definitions of rigor in Roberts’ DIY Literacy, it reminds me of the definitions that I see about mathematical rigor.  We achieve this through individualizing for students, through reflection, choice, and goal-setting among other things.
  • Learning is a result of engagement.  We know that learners grow the most when they are pushed to do most of the thinking.  Instructional models like workshop, PBL, and inquiry cross over to all content areas, because students are doing the thinking.  This was loud and clear at Dublin’s Literacy Conference.  We can engage students through ownership of learning.  We can conference with them to help guide learners.  We don’t need to tell them what they need to know.  We need to guide them to be curious so that they WANT to know.  How do you engage your students in an authentic way?


So, as I take my new (literacy) learning with me this week, I am calling it inspiration.  How can we push outside of our “worlds” to learn from the community, our students, our parents and experts from other areas to improve and move forward collectively?  How can we collaboratively improve teaching and learning?  We can do it.  It’s for our children.

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