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S3 Ep6: How to Lead Change in Math Education - It’s a Team Effort with Nubeja Allen

Nubeja is currently the Secondary Math Supervisor in Franklin Township Public Schools in Somerset, New Jersey. Throughout her 26 years in education, Nubeja has a diverse K -12 educational background having been a high school math teacher, a high school math supervisor, a high school vice-principal, an elementary vice-principal, an interim principal, and a K-12 district math supervisor.

Her focus is on empowering teachers and enhancing their professional practice through professional learning, collaboration, and reflection. She is dedicated to supporting school leaders and teachers in creating school and classroom environments that are inviting to and nurture young adults. Nubeja is currently a doctoral student researching how school leaders can use social justice to advance equity in math education.

Nubeja shares with us several of the initiatives she and her mathematics team have been working on over the past several years, with the goal of making mathematics education standards focused and focused on student engagement and using math as a vehicle to help them make sense of, and understand, the world around them.

She begins the conversation by sharing the most recent journey of teacher learning and practice, centered on equitable practices, which focuses on teaching math through a social justice lens, which directly connects to the building and district work around culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy (CLR). She delves further into CLR, describing it as, “teaching your content in a way that connects to students’ interest, experience, and background.”

She discusses how the focus on race as a social construct influences how young people learn and interact with the people at the center of their learning experiences, so it’s important that teachers are conscious of making connections between student experiences and what they are learning. She shares some resources that help make these connections and experiences easier for math teachers, such as Citizen Math and Learning for Justice, which help teachers build the bridge before they go to a place of creation. She provides some examples of what this might look like in a math classroom.

Providing professional development should be more than a one-hit-wonder, and you really need to give teachers the ability to learn and try BEFORE expecting them to change everything. As part of this process of creating change in mindsets and instruction:

  • You need to value things like collaborative time for teachers, coaching, and a culture of learning from teachers to students to leaders.

  • You need to provide relevant and usable resources that let teachers implement effectively.

  • You need to have a plan, allow for time and support, and work as a collaborative team.

  • Incorporate planning time into the professional learning experience where they can put the ideas into action right then, and then execute them, and then provide time for feedback and reflection.

  • Additionally, classroom visits are a key to a successful implementation of initiatives, with informal visits and data and trend analysis to see where things are going well, and where follow-up is needed.

This episode is a must-listen for education leaders who work in and with teams. You'll hear how Nubeja and her team have worked around different initiatives and dealt with the struggles of time and implementation, and get valuable insight into your own work.

Questions and topics explored in this episode:

  1. What is Culturally and Linguistically Responsive teaching?

  2. Why should we care about student interest, experiences, and backgrounds in learning mathematics?

  3. How does race influence learning?

  4. What might CLR look like in a math classroom?

  5. How can you use real-world context, such as the Coronavirus, to help students use mathematics to help kids have conversations, engage in debates, and/or create action plans or even find out more information?

  6. What does continuous support look like?

  7. How does data collection and trend analysis inform how well initiatives are working?

  8. How do you address teacher resistance and/or burnout around initiatives and changes?

  9. Leadership team - who does that involve? Why is it important?

  10. What are things you want to see in the first 5-minutes of walking into a classroom?

  11. What are some key strategies that make educational changes work?

  12. The importance of building off of the previous year's work - consistency and connections.

  13. Does the pressure of standardized testing scores impact what you stress in professional learning?

  14. How can focus on grade-level standards with the rigor expected to address inequitable performance on the standardized tests?

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:


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