January 2021, Volume 28

This Is Your Year

Be a lifelong learner. Be adaptable. Be flexible. Have a growth mindset. When you know better, do better. Try something new. Challenge your own thinking/understanding/practice. Take risks.

Do you remember the poster with Norman Vincent Peale's famous words, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars"? I bet we all know someone who has that displayed in their classroom right now. I personally like Bruce Arians' (head coach in the NFL) version, "no risk it, no biscuit". Whichever version you prefer, the words are simple, yet profound. What stops you from taking instructional risks?

In our first issue of 2021, we will outline 10 encouraging ways to help you shape or shift your perspective on what it means to be a caring teacher, engaged colleague, and the best version of your professional self to support all students.

Activity of The Month - Fostering Student Identity For Productive Struggle

If we want to take instructional risks we have to believe our students will support us, catch us if we fall, think flexibly and creatively, persevere. In John Sangiovanni's 2020 book, Productive Math Struggle, six actions are outlined to support student perseverance. Action two is all about fostering students' mathematical identities. The big ideas are:

  • We all have math identities
  • We need to spend time thinking about our math identities
  • Student math identities are unique and dynamic
  • Teachers must know their students' math identities
  • Teachers need to take time throughout the year to learn about student math identities

Knowing these big ideas can help you build a strong, supportive community.

Elementary Activity - My Math Superpower

This activity allows students to brag on themselves by determining their strengths. This allows you and them to be reminded of specific traits to draw on in times of need and struggle. Here's how:

  1. Give each student an enlarged photo of themselves
  2. Students add an eye mask and cape (typical superhero attire)
  3. Students respond to the prompt, "My math superpower is..."
  4. Display posters within the classroom to build community and provide a constant reminder of all the strengths students have

Secondary Activity - My Math Timeline

In this activity, students have an opportunity to share critical moments in their math journey. This is a great way to show students that some of those moments taught them more than just math lessons. In this simple, yet powerful activity:

  1. Students record substantial moments in their math journey (something from each grade or simply any moment they recall, regardless of grade)
  2. Students provide brief descriptions of some of their more impactful moments

Be sure to read every single timeline and respond. If comfortable, students can share their timelines with the class to further build trust and community.

10 Encouraging Ways to Shape or Shift Perspective


Pre- and post- tests help you measure students understanding of a concept before and after the lesson but, have you ever thought about using assessment in this way to learn how your students understanding changes based on collaboration with peers? Find out if your use of collaboration benefits students understanding. Were they able to learn from others to solve a problem? Were they able to offer knowledge and skills to help others? The insight you gain can help determine future groupings and what tasks benefit from collaboration and which do not.

The Power of Perspective

If you think about it, perspective drives everything we do and how we approach situations. Our perspective bundles our beliefs with our mindset and influences how we see others. How we feel and how we view and respond to life events impacts our perspective - narrowing it for negative experiences and widening it for positive experiences. Our brains have the ability to change structurally and functionally with every new experience and our perspective is the key to unlocking this potential. So how do we channel this into our classrooms?

  • Recognize triggers and challenges - Identify people or experience that feel challenging. Now identify positive outcomes that made these people or experiences not feel so challenging. It may be hard because your negative experience has narrowed your perspective but finding the positive can help widen it once again.
  • Show your students a different view - while in the classroom or on a Zoom meeting with your students discuss how each person has a different view and we all approach life this way. Discuss how this relates to feelings of frustration or failure and ways to overcome. Togetherness can transform the group and help to begin to see each other in a different way.
  • Think fresh - always think of ways to bring fresh ideas to your classroom. Whether it be changing the order of the day, encouraging the use of nicknames, using props connected to content, offering silly greetings or gestures to welcome students, the possibilities are endless.

Try Something New

While teaching is inherently a risk-taking endeavor, and with stakes seemingly at an all time high, how often do you default to what you know to reduce the risk of failure, ease planning and implementation, or appease leadership? Productive struggle and the motivation to persevere are traits we long for our students to achieve so modeling taking risks yourself with help students and encourage such behavior. Don't know where to start? Here is an idea. Offer open-ended assignments and the ability to retake , retry, or redo. Allowing for multiple options can help motivate students to complete tasks and offering redo's will help students complete tasks with more confidence knowing they can fix mistakes if need be.

Give Yourself Permission

If you're not familiar with Brené Brown, she is a research professor in Houston and the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers. She wholeheartedly believes in the power of embracing vulnerability to nurture courage. She believes that sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to be brave and authentic which no doubt comes with fear attached. Her Permission Slips task helps intentional embrace the fear to shape how we want to behave. Check it out here. Also read this blog post to get inspired with ways to give yourself permission.

Revise the Instructional Calendar

Adapt is the word I use to describe teaching in 2020. Teachers were tasked to adapt and overcome. How did instructional calendars fare? An important consideration when adapting anything in the world of education is to provide structure while reducing instability. Ensure your schedule is as consistent as possible. Provide online morning meetings or advisory times to focus on building relationships and making connections with students. Offer an end of the day check in. Allow students to share out, reflect, and have some informal social time to end on a positive note.

Intentional Self-Care

Self-care has quickly turned into one of the "buzz words" and I often hear from educators that they don't have time or they have more important things to deal with. Self-care for EVERYONE is important and it's not just about you feeling good about yourself. You know the saying on the flight, put on your mask before assisting others? You can't give to others what you don't have yourself. Taking care of yourself not only reminds you what you need but also sends that message to others. Some schools have turned to Tina Boogren's book, 180 Days of Self-Care For Busy Educators to support teacher wellness through the school year. Check out the book here.

Circle of Control, Concern, and Influence

You may be feeling a bit out of control right now. Those feelings are valid and okay. While the stress and anxiety may at times seem crippling, we must take steps towards developing resiliency and agency to better identify what we can and can't control and how to deal with them. Stephen Covey created the Circle of Influence and Control tool to help teams look at all the things that concern them and then to realize the power they have over them. People usually feel there aren’t many things that they can actively control. They may have a lot of stress and anxiety over the things they’ve written down and will feel they don’t have any control over them. Those feelings can be overwhelming. When you explore the Circle of Influence further, if you think about them differently, you’ll find that some of the concerns can go straight into the Circle of Control. The goal is to discover solutions and suggestions in the group!

Funneling vs. Focusing

One of the primary goals of teachers is to create problems solvers who can think critically. Students today have an endless abundance of information at their disposal and our job is to help them take that information, understand it, synthesize it, and apply it. Questioning is one key to this skill. Are you asking your students deep, meaningful questions or can they ask Alexa or Siri for the answer? Funneling happens when teachers guide their students to a correct response. The cognitive load is more on the teacher than the student. We need to embrace the idea of focusing our questioning to take our students from answer-getters to problem-solvers. Focusing happens when teachers listen to students responses and guides their students based on student thinking rather than the teachers desired outcome or method. The cognitive load turns from the teacher to the student encouraging conceptual understanding and promoting problem solving.

Nix the Tricks

There is a fabulous book titled, Nix the Tricks: A guide to avoiding shortcuts that cut out math concept development. The book was written by a group of teachers who wish for teachers to seek coherence and understanding of mathematics rather than offering memorization procedures, short-cuts, and tricks. You can download the book in its entirety here FOR FREE! Unless you are a pre-kindergarten teacher, even a daycare provider in some cases, students come to you with pre-conceived ideas of math, many of which involve tricks. It's not always necessary to discount their ideas. Ryan Flessner, a Butler University professor, encourages students to actively problem solve, test out ideas, and make conjectures to develop their reasoning and explanations. Students are supported and encouraged to defend their method and justify their solutions. If they can't, their conjecture (which may have been a previously learned trick) is dissolved and learning continues as students construct new meaning and understanding as their ideas develop.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset was brought to the forefront through the groundbreaking work of Carol Dweck. She believes that everyone holds ideas about their own potential whether it be a fixed mindset or growth mindset or somewhere in between. Neuroplasticity, as mentioned earlier, has proven we can shift our perspective and change our mindset. Find a plethora of growth mindset resources on YouCubed here. For students the online students course is a great place to start! There is also a course for teachers too!

Video of the Month

It is not about being the best IN the world, it is about being the best FOR the world!
Inspirational Video- Be a Mr. Jensen- MUST WATCH!!

Opportunities for the Field

Keep Indiana Learning

Keep Indiana Learning (KInL) created by the Central Indiana Educational Service Center (CIESC) provides educators with an empowering collaborative community that will transform teaching and learning resulting in relevant, engaging, and equitable learning opportunities for all students. Supported by Educational Services of Indiana, they provide resources and professional learning where educators, families, and students can connect and learn from peers across the State of Indiana.

Interested in becoming a KInL contributor? KInL was designed to provide interactive, on-demand, professional development for leaders, educators, student service professionals, families, students, and community partners across Indiana. KInL has a desire to not only provide resources for education but also create a space for educators to connect, share, and learn. Through the GEER Grant, KInL ia ble to financially compensate contributors to their professional development library. Learn more about how you can be paid to contribute to KInL or contact Laurie Ferry at lferry@ciesc.org. Follow KInL on Twitter @KeepINLearning and use #KeepIndianaLearning

2021 Hoosier Association of Science Teachers Inc. and Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics Virtual Conference

Registration is now open for the 2021 HASTI/ICTM Virtual Conference being held on February 6-9, 2021. There will be great plenary speakers, over 80 breakout sessions/workshops, a virtual exhibit hall, and prizes and giveaways! Register here. The conference schedule has been set and you can catch a sneak peek here.

Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

The nation's highest honors for teachers of science, technology, engineering, math, and computer science is now accepting nominations and applications. This year's awards will honor those teachers working in grades 7-12. The award recognizes those teachers that have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. Nominate a Teacher! Nominations are now being taken through March 1, 2021. Applications for 7-12th grade teachers are now open and must be completed by April 1, 2021. Begin your application here.


News from Assessment

IDOE's Office of Assessment has several resources available specific to classroom teachers.
Writing and Evaluating Items for Classroom Assessments
Title Con - Understanding and Interpreting ILEARN Data
Lexile and Quantile Measures in Indiana

See what students are ready to learn next and highlights career path tool for secondary students.

Tools for Teachers by Smarter Balanced

The Smarter Balanced Assessment system included standards-aligned assessments and tools like instructional supports, interim assessments, and summative assessments to support effective teaching and maximize learning for all students. Get your account started today!

Training is available for both teachers and administrators.

News from Teaching and Learning

Empower@INspire is a new bi-monthly blast of the latest research and resources that are connected to the events and developments of teaching and learning in education. Subscribe today to feel empowered and inspired to meet the demands of education.

You can access all previous Empower2INspire blasts here.

Educator Spotlight

Mathematics Educator Spotlight Nomination

We are looking for rock star math educators who are innovative and inspiring; educators who lead, learn, and collaborate with humility and passion. If you know someone (or are that someone) click the button and nominate them (or yourself)!

Your IDOE Mathematics Team