Coaching for Equity – with family

Image result for teaching is a work of heart

I believe that:

~To be a successful leader & educator, every choice you make needs to be aligned with your values

~To be a successful coach, you need to listen with your full heart.

~Love & Grace sometimes require hard, honest conversations.

My father in law recently posted an article about the ban on suspensions for Willful Defiance. Now, information about that bill and all the research around discriminatory school practices, trauma-informed response to students exhibiting these behaviors, and healing-centered instruction, not to mention adequate staffing of school psychologists and social workers could easily occupy a lengthy blog post. But today, I want to talk about something much more important.

Why is Coaching for Equity so much harder with family than it is at work?

Disclaimer: I love, deeply respect, and care for my family whom are referenced. I can’t say that enough. And simultaneously, I feel inauthentic to work towards racial, gender, and economic, etc. equity during the work day and then just let that go over dinner. My place of privilege allows me to let go. Which makes it more important to keep it at the center at all times.
I hope this post does not hurt anyone but rather opens communication.

This article from ASCD popped up in my feed today. They delieate 5 steps towards Leading for Equity. Having participated in National Equity Project’s Leading for Equity Institute 3 times (including serving as faculty once, which I’m quite proud of), I was very curious about their 5 steps. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with them. But this caught my interest:

Leading for equity requires us to focus on daily impact and long-term outcomes. As leaders, we have to examine our setting, whether it’s our classrooms, office environments, community events, or other location, and create an environment where we are not simply “accommodating” (for example, hiring a woman of color, but expecting her to maintain the status quo); rather, we are transforming how we operate and acknowledging everyone’s voices. We call this being an “equicentric” leader—a leader with equity at the core of their work. Equicentric leaders continually cultivate a deep understanding of their own biases and construct counternarratives so that they can create sustainable, equity-based practices that measurably and culturally transform their communities.

Being an equicentric leader is to be what UCLA professor of education Pedro Noguera calls a “guardian of equity“: asking tough questions, challenging models that aren’t working, and calling out inequities, even when it’s uncomfortable. If we can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, even when that discomfort is the awareness of our own biases, we can begin to challenge and change long-standing systemic inequities.

My work days are filled with coaching moves: active listening, relationship building, goal setting, knowing when to lean in and when it’s not the right time. 5 years in, I feel pretty competent at coaching. When to ask just the right question. How to push a teacher’s thinking. All of this is made exponentially harder when the client is not a teacher but a loved one.


In this moment, I believe this is truly the key distinction between coaching at work versus talking with a family member. At work, we have a goal, and we’re all in agreement that we are working towards that goal. But when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table talking about “that new math,” or an article gets shared on Facebook, these are emotion-laden experiences which have formed opinions. We do not have a shared goal. No one is seeking a discussion on how to support students. Ego gets involved. Their ego over their schema, their experience, and my ego about being a professional in this field and not feeling respected. This is no one’s fault. It just, IS.

There is much more nuance.

I have failed more times than I have succeeded in coaching for equity with my family. But I WILL NOT STOP. Because to be in this work, to believe in ALL children, to work in service of those who have been systemically oppressed for DECADES… I must use my place of privilege and maintain that equicentric stance in all of my worlds. My students don’t just disappear over family dinner. My work is who I am. That’s not true for everyone, but to be a courageous leader it must be true.

Some things I am trying on to increase my success:

  • Being brave enough to share my successes and failures. This journey is scary, people will judge, people will get annoyed. But my heart is in the right place. So I will share.
  • Gaining Enrollment. I don’t know what this will look like, yet. Perhaps it starts with this post. Perhaps it means a disclaimer when “that new math” is brought up. “I hear your frustration. I have some expertise. Are you interested in hearing?” Offering a conversation, rather than possibly being seen as trying to “impart some wisdom.”
  • Shared Goals: Perhaps when I see that Facebook article, I begin by posing the question, “What do we want our school system to produce? Compliance? Or education?”
  • Removing my Ego. My family may never truly understand what I do. And that’s totally ok! I don’t really understand what they do, although I’m trying to learn. Why am I desperate for acceptance, approval, and respect? I need to let that go. This is not about me. True confidence is born of knowing that they will hear when they’re ready. I just need to keep the messages coming.

Let’s call this, Part 1. Today, this was my #BoldBraveMathMove.

“Will they pass to 4th grade?”

One of the reasons I struggle with blogging is because I have so many small thoughts. I guess it’s a little ADHD. Have a conversation with me and I rarely stay on a single topic without jumping all over the place. Even now, I see the little Twitter symbol and I’m tempted to pause and see what’s in the Twitter-sphere…

Yep… I got sidetracked…

Twitter is amazing for Math Ed. If you’re not on Twitter, DO IT. Just for math ed. That’s all you need. Go to my list, follow the people I follow. You won’t get bored, the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get INSPIRED.


I remember so many times through the years being asked by a parent if their child would “pass” the grade. It’s an interesting question. And it never failed to catch me off guard. I’m curious the background of this. Are there systems where students aren’t socially promoted these days?

Here’s my real issue with this question though:

It’s based on an assumption of proficiency-based assessment.

Which is so effing detrimental!! (Should I start cursing in my blog? Because I do in real life.) I was chatting with a 3rd grade teacher today who is amazing. Incredible. She’d make a bomb-ass math coach. (There, I did it.) She was asked this question, “Will my child pass to the 4th grade?” She was just as taken aback as I always was. She expressed this dichotomy between wanting her students to do well on CAASPP these next two weeks, and also recognizing that it will fail to report the insane growth her students have demonstrated this year.

But at the end of the day, we all want to receive credit for a job well done… a battle won… for our effort to go recognized.

We may say we don’t care, but teachers deserve to be recognized! This teacher has brought her class from an average 1st grade level, to nearly at grade level. But her CAASPP scores will show that her 3rd graders are starting below grade level. That sucks.

I have a dream…

That’s super cliche. Sorry. Not sorry? I do have a dream. That some day, all students will be assessed based on 2 things:

  • What skills do they have?
  • What skills are next for them?
  • (And a 3rd: Where have they grown since last time?)

You could word this a million ways. There are books dedicated to this idea and they all use different jargon. (See what DeVos has to say.) At the end of the day, I just want to know how far a student has grown since the last time they were assessed. There’s this nifty little video explaining Common Core and it talks about the bar used to always be moving. With CAASPP, SBAC, PARCC, any proficiency-based assessment, the bar is always moving.

Ok, I’ll step down…

What assessments do you use to assess student growth? What do you do in your classroom to offset the negative culture that abounds with proficiency-based assessment?

NCSM Day 3 ~ Reflections

Wow! NCSM never fails to fill me with feels, challenge me to expand my learning, and inspire me to fight the good fight! Just when I was feeling completely disheartened and ready to give up… The PEOPLE!! Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many insanely talented educators who are all eager and ready to work collaboratively towards this vision that we all share.

Common Vision? Check.  
Research? Check.
Man Power? Check.
The Will & Drive to do the work? Check.
Plan for how to do the work? Check.

I feel the need to personally thank and shout out to those who imparted wisdom on me these last 3 days:
Annie Fetter, Cathy Seeley, David Woods, Erica Burnison, Geoff Krall, Graham Fletcher, Jo Boaler, John SanGiovanni, Kristin Gray, Kristopher Childs, Marc Garneau, Marilyn Burns, Michael Young, Michelle Rinehart, Nanatte Johnson, Stacy Reeder & Juliana Utley, Rachel Lambert, Robert Kaplinsky, Sarah Ives, Stephanie Reddick, Steve Leinwand, Sunil Singh, Tim Hudson, Tracy Zager, Zalman Usiskin, …

And of course my team who over the last 10 months has pushed my thinking and supported even my craziest ideas (they may have had some crazy fun ideas of their own, too). Words cannot express how grateful I am that we did this together. Jennifer Graziano, Tim Hébert, and Stephen Arndt. You are the Dream Team!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also appreciate and acknowledge Mikila Fetzer, my Coordinator, for always pushing us and believing in us. And lastly but most importantly, my husband, whose honesty is a necessary evil and whose unconditional support keeps me going when my belief falters. Thank you babe.

My takeaways from today are numerous, so let’s get to it!

  1. The 5 Practices came up ALL 3 DAYS!! If you haven’t picked it up and read it in a while, go read it. And then share it with your team, and read it again!

Today I was thinking that Step 1: Anticipation can be really hard because we don’t always KNOW how students might solve. As teachers we don’t always have the content knowledge.

This is why opening up the task to allow many representations is SO important! We need to learn alongside our students! Jo Boaler quoted Cathy Humphreys saying,

“We should only ask [students] questions for which we don’t yet know the answer!”

So what kinds of questions are those?
-How did you think of that?
-What are you wondering?
-What connections are you making?

2. Give students time REGULARLY to discuss/defend/argue over a statement.

-There is no subtraction involved in multiplication.
-You always have to begin adding in the ones place.

3. How do you ensure that you are having meaningful conversations with each student in your class at least once a week? See Also: What does “meaningful” mean?

4. ASSESSMENT!! Ugh. In short: You cannot “teach” your students about Growth Mindset while simultaneously giving students tests that perpetuate a fixed mindset!!! This might be my new motto, so be prepared to hear me say this repeatedly.

Regarding both 3 & 4: Formative Assessment Practices are embedded in everything that students are doing. Tracy Zager says, “There are 4 channels for getting information about what students are thinking: Products, Observations, Conversations, & Student Self Evaluation.” Between these 4 strategies, you should have ample evidence of learning. AND they promote Growth Mindset. Right? And when you consider how you are going to record the evidence of student learning, it doubles as your opportunity to track the meaningful conversations you’ve had with students! 2fer! Voila!

5. Annie Fetter said it, Tracy Zager said something similar, it’s just a good teaching practice… take the question off the word problem! Let students Notice & Wonder, argue, defend, discuss, and then compare their models & representations. Such an easy way to open up your instruction and create more equitable outcomes.

6. If you haven’t enrolled yourself in Jo Boaler’s online courses yet, you have no excuse. Go! Do it!

7. I’m elated that so many teachers used Jo’s Week of Inspirational Math this year. She shared with us so much wonderful data around students who take her online course for students. Do that, too! Oh, and did I mention that Jo not only has a new book out called Limitless, but she’s also going to work with the California Department of Ed to rewrite the Math Framework!? SCORE!

I’ll continue posting resources in the coming days…

I’m sad I have to wait another year for NCSM. CMC is calling my name. I have a few ideas I’m throwing around for presentations for next year. If you have any interest in working with me on an idea you have, let me know! Teamwork makes the Dreamwork!!

 Viva la Revolution!!

NCSM Day 2 ~ Reflections

Have I mentioned how much I love NCSM? The organization, their mission, their values, the people, and most of all the conference. I typically say “NCSM” and mean the conference, but they are so much more. And all who work tirelessly to put this conference together deserve due credit.

  1. I’m always inspired hearing Marc Garneau speak. Today he shared a few different ways to think about assessing using a Learning Progression. If you don’t already know, I believe STRONGLY that the greatest barrier in public education to equitable outcomes is our grading system. And I also believe that a Growth Based Assessment system is the key to liberation & inclusion. This image was thought provoking. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

2. Achieve the Core has extended their absolutely amazing Coherence Maps to include High School standards! If you haven’t already played with them, go play!

“The greatest gift you can give yourself is to stop and listen to your students.”

~Marilyn Burns

3. I never walk away from the great Marilyn Burns without some amazing ah-ha. I will never forget her words, “The greatest gift you can give yourself is to stop and listen to your students.” That will be with me forever. Today I walked away thinking about advocacy for our students. My own 6yo is struggling in Kinder. It’s amazing that situations that were so easy and clear for me as a teacher now feel so muddy as a parent. It gives me empathy. She challenged me to think about removing even more scaffolding, showing only Figure 1 of a growing pattern and allowing students to come up with Figure 2. Then let other students continue the pattern! So awesome!

NCSM is so inspiring, and disheartening at the same time. Our students deserve change. But change is soooooooo slow. How do we make change happen faster?

NCSM Day 1 ~ Reflections

I had the honor of both attending and presenting at my national conference today, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics. I have so many takeaways that I’d like to share. Honestly though, I’m so overwhelmed by being surrounded by incredible educators. I’ve had this naive belief that I’m at the forefront of some frontier. But I’m not. And it took NCSM 2018 to show me how little I know. You know the old adage, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”? Seeing presidents from decades past present about the history of math education is both inspirational and disheartening all at once. My son is in kinder. My son deserves better. This is personal and urgent and feels insurmountable. There is so much work to be done and you have the power to change outcomes for our students.

So we’ll take this one step at a time…

My takeaways from Day 1:

  1. NUMBER LINES!!!! I’m going to argue that we need to be using Number Lines in damn near every lesson! Stop avoiding them! They are not the exception, they are the rule!
  2. Stacy Reeder & Juliana Utley presented about some amazing ways to support student’s basic fact fluency. Stay posted for a new section on my blog dedicated to Fact Fluency which will include the games they shared! #nomoretimedtests
  3. Tim Hudson (@DocHudsonMath) never fails to inspire me with his messages of growth-based assessment and conceptual learning. Today he shared a video from Daniel Schwartz from Stanford. Take ONE minute to watch:

4. DocHuddy also shared some online resources that have somehow escaped me! Maybe I knew and forgot, or maybe I’ve had my head buried in sand. Regardless…


No Seriously. Just go spend an hour downloading all of these resources and planning how you’ll incorporate them into your lessons for the next 3 weeks!!!

6. Wondering how to encourage Growth Mindset with your students? Let them play MasterMind. Simple. Easy. Done! My suggestion? DonorsChoose 15 of them so you can let students play when they first get to school in the morning. They play 1 game, then join you at the carpet for morning meeting.

7. Post your takeaways below!! Keep it going! #NCSM19