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Happy Monday!

Hello and happy new school year!
I hope you are all healthy, well-rested, rejuvenated, and loved.

Lately, I have been thinking about the relationships I have built around myself, and I am so grateful. I am intentional about who I spend my time with and I work to ensure we have positive and supportive relationships that allow us to thrive and be ourselves.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we spent these first few weeks of school building relationships and creating communities where all of us feel safe? Can we create classrooms where students can share their ideas free from the fear of humiliation and spaces where we are genuinely interested in discovering more about one another?

Let’s minimize the stress.

Last week, I spoke with some teachers who were unhappy with how their incoming and outgoing students performed on the state assessment. The teachers wanted to begin the school year by hitting the standards hard right from the beginning. One teacher had the dates for the upcoming district assessments in hand and was trying to figure out how she would “teach” her new students all of the standards for a district test. I could see the stress and anxiety on the teacher’s face and shoulders. The teacher was ready to move into a drill-and-kill approach.

While there are many students who thrive in a competitive environment, there are many more students who learn to memorize without understanding mathematics or give up on themselves altogether. What about if we take a different approach and start the year off by approaching mathematics in a way that students can collaborate, develop new ideas from peers, and get more practice with the skills they haven’t fully developed yet?

Let’s slow down and get it better this time.

I  believe all classrooms will see far more success and a smoother path to progress when they build relationships first. In fact, the classrooms where teachers consistently had regular conversations with their students, played games, and counted collections outperformed classrooms with similar demographics on the state test. In fact, the teachers who developed ongoing relationships and safe spaces for problem-solving had better scores on the 2021-2022 assessment than on their 2018-2019 (pre-pandemic) assessments.Make the time to build the classroom community of your dreams!
Make the time to make your classroom a safe space for taking chances, an open place where all ideas and ways of learning are valued, and a place where all students can thrive, be joyful, and act like mathematicians.By cracking open books, content standards, or worksheets on week one, we get down to business as usual before they speak a word in class or know what our kids need. Beliefs and hierarchies about who is good at reading, writing, and math are established before we get a chance to know one another.

Instead of using a worksheet to determine who knows what about place value, exponents, multiplication, and division, spend your math block doing counting collections.

Instead of completing x amount of workbook pages, play some math games where students can talk about math, support one another, and get to know one another.

We are the architects of our community.

Make the time to build a community of individuals who see the beauty and value in one another. Create opportunities to have conversations with each of your students. Create time for students to dive deep into mathematics and grow with one another.