About Me

2014  Epiphanies of a Learner/Math Coach


As my second year of Mathematics coaching draws to a close, it occurs to me I should follow my own advice and record some reflections.

These two years have been absolutely amazing in terms of professional growth. I have developed a new awareness of the realities of middle school classrooms, the challenges that teachers face, and possibilities for instruction.  I am more familiar with different supports needed at different grade levels. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn along side the excellent educators in my division. Every time I work with a teacher I learn so much!

I have had a few epiphanies this year.

Relationships:  Teaching is predicated on a relationship built between teacher and student.  I’ve had the opportunity to observe in classrooms and watch students, and note their reaction to the teacher.  I’ve also modeled lessons, and as a guest in the class I don’t have the background with students or trust that the classroom teacher has established.  There is something very unique and intense in the interaction that occurs when students open up to learning from a teacher.  Until they allow the door to open, the most effective, well trained teacher can not produce learning.  Underneath everything is an unspoken permission from the student to allow us to help them learn.  Teachers continually extend themselves emotionally, and it is a vulnerable undertaking and can be draining. No wonder our job is emotionally exhausting and we often need to withdraw on weekends and breaks to “recharge”.

We can study data and research effective practices, we can teach “teaching” but we cannot teach the relationship building that is the magic that allows teaching to happen.

No wonder our job is so personal, which is why we need to be very respectful of teachers practice while we encourage professional growth. When you challenge my teaching practice you are challenging who I am, because you cannot separate the task from the person.  Teaching and forming relationships is intensely personal. If I am invested in my work, then you cannot challenge my practice without me taking it personally; there is no other way to take it.20131101_115120



Inspiring Administrators  I have been very fortunate for two years to work with an amazing superintendent, Susan Maserek, who has created the strong program that is the essence of our math supports in GSSD. A summary of those programs is in a recent blog post, here: http://blogs.gssd.ca/csmith/2014/06/18/math-initiatives-at-gssd/

Susan has a gift for finding and building capacity in others.  Many of us have experienced personal growth because Susan has motivated us to develop at higher levels.  I have been very blessed to experience such a strong example of female leadership.20140611_182359

How I recharge and find balance:

Well, like everyone else I’m still dreaming of balance.  Here are some of the things that restore me.

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I am a passionate educator who, after 11 years teaching senior math, is still in love with mathematics.  I received my B. Ed at U or R and M. Ed through U of S, and  taught Senior Mathematics for 11 years. During that time I was given opportunities to learn and implement technology, and became a technology mentor. I participated in a project that explored the use of mathematics in careers within our community, and helped create a PR tool that advertises the usefulness of mathematics.  I collaborated in a Stirling McDowell research project that examined the process of implementing an inquiry-based approach to senior math instruction. In 2008 I was honoured with a Master Teacher Award by STMS.

Collaborating and constructing meaning

Throughout my career I have had a keen interest in learning; what makes effective math instruction? How do we help kids who “don’t get it”? How do we challenge kids who do? I have taken every opportunity to research these things, and have faced the challenge of implementing change in my practice.  It is daunting.  I have also examined the philosophy that is the heart of the renewed Saskatchewan Mathematics curriculum, which is constructivist, collaborative, inquiry-based learning. I have struggled with time constraints and balancing the demands of teaching, the challenge of student differences, the culture of students and school, and implementing quality instruction.  Working in isolation, the challenge is overwhelming. Enter the math coach: Even before I imagined the possibility of working in this capacity, I was excited to know our division was creating such a position. I envisioned a team member to help research, provide suggestions, help plan lessons and reflect on their implementation. I imagined a colleague who would engage in professional dialogue, face even the hard questions with me, and support me in an effort to improve practice. The coaching model takes professional development from “one time hits” at conferences to an ongoing process that can create lasting change, and foster professional habits of mind.

I am so looking forward to collaborating with you!

Cindy Smith

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