First day of class.

First days of class can be the worst. I remember always being frustrated with first days of class. I always felt that we never “did anything” or accomplished anything.

That was me, as an elementary student, eager for engagement, learning, and difficult texts. Now as a professor, educator, academic, parent, I approach “firsts” from a different light.

This semester I’d like to practice the art of linking research and practice. I’m drawing on research in mathematics education to inform not only what I teach but how I teach.

I’m using Jennifer Wolfe’s (2021) article on Teaching as Becoming. I asked all students to read this article in advance of the first day of class, and I’m going to use her framework to guide “ground rules” for participation. I’m also going to do an “identity” activity as the first homework assignment to guide students’ engagement with the text, each other, and telling our stories and unique positionalities.

Guiding Principles for our Interactions

(from Guiding Principles for Our Interactions (Burkhalter, Blackburn, and Brown, 2020, as cited in Wolfe, 2021, p. 260):

(1) choosing authenticity over comfort,

(2) respecting confidentiality,

(3) embracing messiness and kindness,

(4) practicing personal and group accountability,

(5) being aware of equity of voice, and

(6) listening with the same passion with which you want to be heard. 

Wolfe (2021) recommends:

I then ask each of us to share which principle we are each going to personally center in our collective work for the day. We then revisit these principles at the end of each class and reflect on our own progress as well as give constructive and educative feedback on our strengths in honoring our chosen principle. 

Jennifer Wolfe (2021) Teaching is a Journey: A Journey in Becoming. Mathematics Teacher Learning and Teaching. doi: 10.5951/MTLT.2020.0378

Introducing my Identity

In this space, I intend to show up authentically. That will necessarily feel uncomfortable, for I am always learning new things as I engage in teaching actions. In this space, I want you to know that I am an artist, a writer, an academic, an educator. I am also a mother, a gardener, a neighbor, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and granddaughter. I am also a healer. I engage in practices of yoga, writing, meditation, and sketching as a form of expressive healing.

My identity as a scholar is shaped by my identities as a parent, community member, healer, and educator. There is little that I do in my work as a researcher that does not intersect and interact with my work as a practitioner, and vice versa. These worlds of research and practice are perpetually linked, blended, and intertwined.

I have learned recently, and embarrassingly not long ago, how important my racialized identity is to the kinds of opportunities that I am afforded in my life, profession, and perhaps most importantly education. The murder of George Floyd, in my home state of Minnesota in May 2020, shocked me to my core in a way that I am still learning to understand. I am learning to detach from whiteness ideology and practice through regular reflection, reading, discussion, and practice. I am learning to heal from the oppression and damage of whiteness ideologies for myself and for my family. I am learning to engage in the work of antiracism as an ongoing journey of interrogating and changing practice and policy in ways that are more responsive, more humane, and more aligned with love and care.

The images I share on this screen are a reflection of what I find inspiring, to keep me grounded, and to keep me feeling alive. The work of research and practice in education that is dedicated to equity, to unlearning racism, and to enacting antiracism, is draining. I believe in the importance and power of self-care practices as a staple in my diet of “to dos.” I also believe in the importance of collaboration. It is impossible for the great problems, issues, and quandries of our time to be solved by a single person alone, Instead, our issues must by solved collaboratively. As such, I focus my work as a community-engaged scholarship through building partnerships and improving communication.

When I ponder who I am today and how my past experiences have shaped me, I wonder… Perhaps its the fact that I’m a middle child (communication is important, we must collaborate to get this done!), or perhaps its the fact that my parents are divorced (again, a key here is the need for effective communication), or perhaps its the fact that I spent only 2 years in a high school classroom prior to formal study of mathematics education research (here, I have a longing and sense a deep need to link research and practice in my work, why else would anyone conduct research if not for the betterment of practice? I suppose the creative aspect of theory building is rewarding as well, and will eventually inform practice…).

With all that to say, I am in transition. Like the bodies of water that ebb and flow, and freeze over in the winter, and harbor life. My work as an academic yogi mama is to root into the needs of my community, to improve mathematics education for my own children and for the children that are yet to be born. It is my responsibility to engage in practices that support both the idea and the practice of antiracism in education, our children’s lives depend on it.

Plan overview

  • Play music while students enter the room to set the tone, have the course syllabus projected on the board and the schedule written on the white board
  • Introductions – get students to sketch an “identity” wheel, share their identity wheel with a partner, then sketch a few of those aspects on an introduction card. students will introduce themselves, practicing comfort in oral presentations
  • Norms – principles for our time together – reflect on these at the beginning, and end (expect students to take notes)
  • Share syllabus, texts, and connect to themes
  • Why this course?

Inspired by Amy Ellis, I’m trying out an “ungrading” process this semester in the course syllabus. We will use past syllabi, some guiding frameworks, and learning goals of the course to establish three rubrics:

  • Oral presentations / participation via speech
  • Written work
  • Overall grade

Let’s take it one at a time. What are key components that should be included in this rubric? What is it that you’ll be learning? What will be indicators of mastery? Progress?

Looking ahead. I’d like to close with thoughts on:

  • Readings and Discussion Leaders (who will lead next time?)
  • Homework #1: Identity (Nicole to demo)
  • Guiding principles for our interactions

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