A Snowflake Post

A short, small post to wrap up the year. With 2020 ending, I wanted to compose a HMW to guide my learning in the new year: How might we become culturally responsive and JEDI-driven math educators? 

As someone starting to learn how to be a more culturally responsive and JEDI-driven mathematics teacher, I have found “Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction” a very helpful reflection tool. It “…provides teachers an opportunity to examine their actions, beliefs, and values around teaching mathematics.” And also to “identify next steps in their antiracist journey as a math educator.”

Math teachers who have chosen the JEDI stream: if in the new year, you find renewed energy to dive into this and, like me, are beginning this journey, I welcome you to join me in this self-reflection. I would love to share insights and learnings, and support one another in this space.

Said I would keep it short. But, I’d like to finish by taking a moment to practice some gratefulness. I’m so thankful to each member of Cohort 21 for helping us stay connected during a time that has felt so isolating at times, creating safe and brave space for us to honestly share struggles and fears, celebrating our victories both big and small, all this in addition to the many other day to day responsibilities. You are, each one of you, such gems. Wishing you all a wonderful last week and winter break.

The Implicit Bias Test

Recently, I took Harvard’s implicit bias test and found that I have “a slight automatic association for American with European American and Foreign with Asian American.”

I was born and raised in Ottawa, where I was one of two Asian Canadian students in my entire grade all throughout elementary school (what up, Ricky Yamamoto?!). English is my first language and growing up, my parents actively encouraged us to “assimilate” into Canadian culture. Only speak English outside of the home. Make Canadian friends. Don’t hang out with Asian friends outside of school. Ok cool, I got into that. On weekends though, I was allowed to be exclusively Asian and participate in my Korean heritage and culture. Not confusing at all for a young girl! Saturdays, my mother would coerce me into attending Korean language school. Unfortunately, I was an incessant whiner (apparently, kids are really good at this?) and after enough complaining she finally gave in and let me quit (one of my biggest regrets by the way). At home though, she would often speak to me in Korean and I would respond with limited skill (“I’m hungry” “I’m full” “I’m tired” “I want to eat candy” “Why not?!”). Every Christmas, we had Korean Santa dole out gifts to all the children at our church. Wait a second, Santa was never Korean in the Coca-Cola ads! And at that young age, I prided myself on knowing early on that Santa was a fraud (I felt very mature also in that I never told any of the other kids at school that I knew the truth!). And. I also have more than a few memories of students asking “what are you?” as if I were an extraterrestrial, of young boys on bikes calling me “chink” and telling me to “go back to China!”

All that to say, I guess I’m not terribly surprised that I associate “foreign” with “Asian American.” Given my upbringing and experiences, I considered myself more than a little foreign, even if that’s not the word my young brain would have conjured. It has made me wonder how and when I have unwittingly made students in my class feel foreign, unwelcome, or less than. And though the introspection hasn’t been easy, and has revealed just how much hard work I need to do, it’s also sparked the light at the end of the tunnel. Because the difficulty with identifying our unconscious bias is just that…it’s unconscious. Having even just a bit more awareness means I can take steps to fight that implicit bias. But, a reminder to be kind to myself. Mistakes will and have been made. I will forgive myself and continue moving forward. One step at a time.

Frances Frei’s Three Pillars of Leadership

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I’ll start by saying I’m now a fangirl of Frances Frei (it only took a couple podcasts/interviews). She is a Harvard Business School professor with an incredible amount of grit and ambition. She is unapologetically authentic (though she admits to sometimes struggling with this) and serves as a wonderful example of strong female leadership today.

 

In her TED interview, Frei outlines three pillars necessary for a healthy work culture–trust, love and belonging.

  1. Trust, Frei states, relies on a triangle of authenticity, logic and empathy. We have to have faith that we are interacting with the authentic selves of our leadership, that they have a rigorous and sound logic, and that they deeply care about our success. sourceIn this Harvard Business Review article, Paul J. Zak summarizes his research on the effects of high trust in the workplace:
  2. Love is conveyed in the setting of high expectations simultaneously experienced with the deep devotion of our leaders to our success. As Frei put it, it’s not “tough love,” but rather “tough and love.”
  3. Belonging is achieved when we set conditions for more people and more varied people to achieve and thrive. The goal is not to take anything away from what already exists, but to broaden it. Frei also notes that the phrase “diversity and inclusion” should in fact be “inclusion and diversity.” Inclusion, she feels, begets diversity and not the other way around. At first, I thought she might be unnecessarily splitting hairs and thought this might not always be true of schools since, as a teacher, you don’t usually choose who is in your classroom (but I’m definitely not the expert here!).As we think about DEI in our classrooms, I pose this question to you: Do you agree with Frei’s viewpoint that inclusion must come first? Why or why not? Would love to hear your answers in the comments below.

I’m really looking forward to delving deeper in her book (co-written with Anne Morriss)
Unleashed,The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You 

My last thought on these learnings is this: The challenge right now is how to build up and maintain these pillars remotely. Following posts will contain some reflections on this.

 

Find out if I figured out how to blog(ish)! My Power of Three Reflection.

I just realized that this, in fact, is my SECOND post. People, this is why I gave myself a 3 out of 10 on the blogging proficiency front during yesterday twitter chat T-T Well, without further ado, I present to you, my second post!

Reflections from our first face to face:
I hadn’t the faintest idea what to expect from the first face to face meeting. It can be really healthy to go into something without any expectations though. There was no priming with the day’s full schedule e-mailed in advance and so I was made more open to the experiences of the day than I might have otherwise been. I imagine now this was done intentionally–if it wasn’t, well done and keep the new recruits on their toes next year too!

There were a few things that made a big impact on me:

  • Within the first half hour of arriving at York School, I had conversations with so many people that I can barely count them on both my hands. Everyone, both new and returning, was incredibly warm and inviting. You could tell that there was this excitement in the air for learning and collaborating. It was palpable.
  • Facilitators, coaches and mentors, you are all amazing. For every question or challenge, someone had an answer or could direct me to someone who did, zero to sixty in 2.5 seconds.
  • You guys weren’t lying about snacks, coffee and tea galore. It was a bit of a slow morning for me, but being able to caffeinate and carb-load all day really helped keep me in the game. 

A couple suggestions for improvement:

  • I would love a re-usable name tag for all the face to face sessions. That would really help out with that one or two “heyyyy youuu” scenarios.
  • A few more 5 minutes breathers between activities would be nice. I drink A LOT of water, if you get what I mean 😉
  • The large group discussion (based on how long we’ve been teaching and age) were great ideas, with a lot of incredible conversation. However, I had a lot of trouble hearing everyone and think that creating smaller sub-groups for easier conversation might be worth trying next year.

Now, for the Power of Three:
I believe the three most urgent needs for my students are the following:

  1. Learning to work collaboratively
  2. Being resilient
  3. Developing problem-solving, application, critical thinking skills

There has been a lot of conversation with my fellow math teachers. Formal interviews with students have not yet been completed. Up to this point, these are my 3 top insights:

  1. Teachers find that using the whiteboards regularly is pretty easy. Depending on how one wants to use them, incorporating white boards can be very low effort, easy to just drop into a class and flexible
  2. After visiting teachers in the classroom and conferencing with them, it seems that my original vision of a 1:1 ratio of socratic method vs. inquiry and problem-based teaching was unrealistic. For both teachers and students alike, re-thinking how we teach and learn, then also implementing that, needs to be rolled in incrementally. We also need to leave a lot of room for input, more re-thinking, and revision.
  3. Students are starting to buy-in and enjoy using the whiteboards as a way to work collaboratively. They’re starting to ask for it in class as a way to break the class up and change pace. Though, there has been some frustration voiced at not being able to copy everything from the whiteboards down in their notes. I might need to be clearer about when it is and isn’t necessary to have a hard copy of it.

I’m looking forward to finishing up formal interviews with students to get more of their input on where they’d like to see collaborative work and inquiry learning go!