Cows grazing in the courtyard of the Collège Bilingue Saint Paul on Thursday
August 19 11:14 pm
Today was a big day for me because today’s the day my 17-year-old daughter Beatrice left for college on the other side of the country. I wasn’t at home to see her off, and I have been thinking about her all day. There’s now an eight-hour time difference between us.
Today during our last day of training, I gave an open-ended journal prompt to start our time together: rather than asking everyone to write about something specific, I asked them to write about something they found interesting, whether it was from the training this week or from their own life. I wrote about Beatrice’s departure and what she is going to be doing this coming week for orientation.
After the ten minutes of journaling, we shared in small groups of two or three, and then after another ten minutes, we gathered as a group. Once we were in the full group I asked each person to report on what they had heard from someone else. Most of the participants had written about something they had really found enriching about the training. People were particularly struck by the wisdom of working in the literature circles, which we did yesterday, and what a difference it makes when each student has a specific role to play in a group, so that each students is able to contribute. One person also mentioned how different, and exciting, it is to have the students be in a situation where they are clearly not just empty vessels waiting to be filled with the teacher’s knowledge—that, instead, they are running the discussion and finding out that they have things to contribute.
One person had, like me, written about something in his life that had nothing to do with the training. His partner told us that he’d always loved soccer but had never been able to play it with anyone because he didn’t have a ball, and the other kids wouldn’t let him play with them. Finally, when he was about 13, he got a job and earned some money, and with that money he purchased a ball. Then he was able to play every day, and friends appeared to play with him (because when you have a ball, you have friends). Since that time, he has continued to play soccer, and if he hasn’t played soccer on Sunday morning his week isn’t complete. I loved getting to have this little window into his life as a child and into one of his passions as an adult.
When we got to my partner, Olivier, he reported that I had written about how my daughter was leaving for college today—and then he surprised me by reading between the lines of what I had written. He said that he sensed that I was really sad not to be present for this very important moment in my child’s life. And he talked about how it was important for everyone to recognize how much I am sacrificing to be here with them—not that I don’t want to be here, but rather, that I want so much to be here with them that I’m giving up something very important in my personal life. He said that this really represents how much the project means to me. I was deeply touched because I myself hadn’t even realized that I was feeling that sadness—I was “merely” writing about Beatrice because I knew that she was getting on a plane this morning, and I was thinking about her. But tears came to my eyes as he spoke, and I realized that he was absolutely right. It is a sacrifice. And it’s also something I’m at ease about doing, because being able to be here, doing this work, is such an honor and a privilege.
I am deeply fortunate to have the deep and enthusiastic support of my family, even though it means that I’m not with them right now. Beatrice surprised me with a beautiful gift the other day. She said she is reading every word that I write here in the blog, and that I’m doing “such incredible work and I am so happy you are doing it.”
What greater blessing could I be given?
For those who’d like to know how we spent our last training day, here are a few more details:
After this discussion, we did about 15 minutes of InterPlay – a full warm-up and a walk-stop-run, this time with music. These folks just love InterPlay, and we have such fun with each other. I’m eager to experience our two hours with the students on Monday when we will be doing InterPlay together—and these six people will form a core group that is already familiar with several of the basic forms.
After our InterPlay interlude (InterLude?), we sat down to read about math circles. Yesterday after our training session I’d asked Durand, the math teacher, to take a look at the directions for math circles to see what they looked like, and to also bring a few math problems with him that we could use as a practical exercise. I realized that I was not the right person to really be in charge of math circles, especially as I noticed that I felt nervous and slightly confused as I thought about them… clear evidence of my affective filter going up! (Affective filter=emotional filter that makes it easier or harder to learn… high affective filter means your anxiety is in the way and can’t think as well… low affective filter means you’re fully comfortable and able to bring your full brain to the learning.) I was pleased and relieved when I checked in with him today and he said that the math circles really made sense to him, as a math teacher.
After everyone read the description of the math circles, which I’d gotten from Kate McCormick’s website (http://www.mathcircles.net/what-are-math-circles.html) and then translated, we talked about what had been striking to us as we read—and then we enumerated the different roles, which represent different steps in the mathematical solving process: Detective, Illustrator, Calculator, Editor, and finally Summarizer. I then passed the leadership on to Durand for the most part, and he gave us a problem to solve, and then we walked through the different steps using the roles. What was fascinating was how we completely threw ourselves into the task, and how passionate people became about how to do the math correctly! At one point, Jacqueline was very strongly telling Thierry that he wasn’t going about the problem correctly (Thierry was playing the role of Calculator), because he hadn’t first written the full operation before starting to solve it. When we realized that Jacqueline’s wanting to do things in a very particular order comes from her strength in temporal sequential ordering (in the All Kinds of Minds framework), we had to laugh, and Durand and I both guided the group to allow Thierry to follow through with his process.
It was highly enriching to, as a group, attempt to solve an actual math problem using the methodology. We were really surprised and pleased by how much we felt like actual students, and also by how much we learned about what the teacher needs to have in mind as s/he first trains students in these roles— for example, that each person needs to have the freedom to play out the role without being interrupted by someone else.
We actually stayed an extra half hour because the group wanted to have the full experience of solving the math problem before engaging in our final announcements and reflection. In our closing circle, I asked everyone to share a word or short phrase to say what was alive in them. Words shared included: “Enriching” – “More and more interesting” – and “Joyful.”
On Monday we start our work with students. We are all thrilled to do so. And, as I told the group, I couldn’t be more optimistic about our success knowing who the teachers are. What a team we have become. What a spectacular group of people.