Whenever I consider why I chose to pursue teaching as my career, I remember all of the fun I saw in the profession from my own teachers, but also my passion for finding ways to act upon my hopes for the future to be a better place. This latter driving force has brought me to focus on teaching mathematics for social justice. However, after completing the Reimagining Education (RE) Summer Institute at Teachers College, I approach my first full year of teaching with a more critical and full definition of what this means for my classroom. The institute took me through a journey of unpacking the educational system I’ve been through, and how that has influenced my practices in ways I have never imagined, to creating an action plan for how I can authentically make success accessible to all students, and how I can have conversations centering around race and education with the teacher networks I exist in.
During RE and the class I took alongside it, I was able to identify structures and language we use when discussing inequities in schooling that are merely used as code-words for systemic racism, such as "class issues" and "gentrification". By walking around the actual problem at hand, we perpetuate White supremacist ideals. By planning ways to be better anti-racist educators, the presenters at RE also discussed the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy and how the curriculum we expose our students to needs to be hacked. As I begin teaching two courses I am lucky enough to design, I am considering ways to make my tasks more authentic and relevant to students. I will be teaching a Statistics and Racial Justice course this upcoming year; in order to center students’ experiences and allow them the agency to define what their experiences mean, I will use my own motivations and interests for this topic as a case study to then give students a model for how they might wish to explore the racial injustice they are interested in researching. I also hope to plan more curricula and classes that center around marginalized communities’ desires and accomplishments rather than around their deficits. Often times, courses focused on social justice center hardships, instead of also highlighting moments of strength and success in communities of color. I hope to bring this critical lens to the classes I have planned and will be planning for the future.
This institute at Teachers College was hosted mainly by the professors of the Curriculum and Teaching (C&T) department, which, as a new graduate student, I was not as familiar with. Being able to learn from and with professors in the C&T department gave me the opportunity to think about how I can broaden my studies while getting my Masters. I really enjoyed Barnard’s Education Department for its commitment to supporting teaching as a political act, and I think I can continue living that philosophy in my learning through exploring practices from different departments at Teachers College now.
Since completing the Barnard education program in the Fall of 2016, I have been a long-term substitute, covering for a teacher on maternity leave and am now preparing to begin my first full-year as a teacher. I am very grateful for the opportunity to student-teach as a post-bac student, since it gave me an extra semester to work on my practices with students before taking on the role to lead a class for a full year. Barnard education program has been such a powerful component of my learning in and outside of the classroom. When teaching in a high-needs classroom, it is extremely important to consider what goals/purposes of education one believes in and it is especially important to consider what that looks like in high-needs classrooms. I have always believed teaching is a moral and political act that can address and change systems of inequality. Through the Noyce program at Barnard, I have also had access to wonderful opportunities to learn from other educators while practicing my craft, such as through the Noyce Summit, and being able to participate in professional development opportunities, such as the Teachers College Reimagining Education Summer Institute this summer. My strong preparation in-program has also supported me in becoming a fellow in the Knowles Teacher Initiative fellowship, which supports my growth as an educator through opportunities for funding for professional development and creating STEM teacher networks across the country.
This past year of being both a student teacher and a full-time teacher has been incredibly draining, yet exciting. For pre-service teachers, it is imperative to find something grounding that can help them find stability when everything else is moving at 800 miles per hour. I found this in having routines and a core group of peers to reflect and vent with. Without these supports, I don’t think I would have been able to leave the semester having learned so much. If I had started this semester with these supports, I may have been able to hold onto more, but I am very grateful for my experiences. In addition to finding supports for the semester, another key factor that helped me take away a lot from student-teaching was really immersing myself in my school. I fully saw myself as an active member of the school community, which was great for my students, but also gave me important insight into what I needed from a school as a teacher, such as a small, collaborative staff with very strong beliefs in teaching for social justice. Lastly, student-teaching feels very overwhelming and difficult during all of it, but it is over really quickly. Connecting to your school can help student teachers really find some calm in the storm of the semester.
This summer, I learned so much about what math education research looks like, along with ways that I can contribute to current research on mathematics pedagogy. With Dr. Walker, I was really able to experience what it takes to start a new project that is research based, such as writing a new book or organizing a conference. Working remotely also challenged my time management skills by urging me to dedicate enough time to tasks, so that things were not left to be completed at the last minute, especially since I was not as familiar with some of the databases I was using. Navigating the Augusta Chronicle Archives to find information about Ware High School - the first public high school for African Americans - challenged me to go deeper than superficial, quick Google searches; I think it helped me grasp thorough information about the history of Augusta and the context of Ware.
As I had mentioned in previous reports, my work with Dr. Walker, this summer, helped me understand the importance of looking critically at the history of math education and the fashion that math and other STEM-related subjects are currently taught. During my internship with Dr. Walker, I also had the opportunity to participate in the Teaching Experience for Undergraduates at Brown University, which included the opportunity to present part of my work from senior year at the Annual Noyce Summit. Through these incredible opportunities, it continuously reminded me of how important the work I was doing with Dr. Walker was. Working with her to find articles and information on Ware was so extremely important to me, since it was a topic that I had never discussed in a classroom, which became furthermore apparent for me. I spent a lot of time in Providence wondering why the power dynamics of coming into an “urban” classroom, where most of the teachers do not look like the students was not addressed, especially during a time in the summer that our country was losing Black bodies to police. Fortunately, my teaching trio opened the floor for students to discuss current events in the classroom. Students were able to share their feelings through art and performance in a talent show; however, I think we really could have focused more on what we, as teachers, should be doing to support students and create a space for them to talk about those feelings in class. Most of my time in Barnard education classes was spent discussing these important issues facing the field of education, which is where my interest and passion for teaching math for social justice really stems from. Even at the Noyce Summit, where I presented a social justice math lesson plan, it was shocking for me to see our workshop: Melting the Neutrality of Math become one of the only workshops (out of 32) that explicitly focused on teaching for social justice.
This summer taught me a lot of skills that I will definitely need as I move toward post-graduate plans, such as going to graduate school and preparing to become a teacher. This summer also reminded me of my passion to continue thinking about social justice and STEM topics in the classrooms, in order to erase the idea that there is only one way to learn math or science, which includes ways to promote visibility of marginalized groups in curricula. I’m really grateful for these experiences, and I hope to keep them with me as I move forward.
While working remotely at Brown University, I have been able to continue working on research that Dr. Walker has requested these past few weeks. I have continued to do research about historians, who have a background in the history of math education for African Americans, as well as looking at different innovators, who bring together STEM topics and play. I have learned that there is a new wave of research coming up about the advantages of using play to teach not only elementary students, but also, high school level students as a way to make STEM topics more accessible and break the mold of how STEM topics are traditionally thought of. The latter task really required me to do more in depth research, instead of just typing a key phrase into a search engine. Being able to explore the different components of STEM and those who have contributed to play research was difficult at first, but, understanding what made a resource strong or trustworthy came from repeated searches.
Aside from the incredible opportunity to work with Dr. Walker and do research with her, I also had the opportunity to attend the Noyce Summit in Washington D.C. for three days, this past week. I was presenting part of an independent study I had worked on my last semester at Barnard that tackles the ways to melt the neutrality of how we teach mathematics in classrooms. I presented two of my lesson plans that took real world social justice issues and applied them to a high school math classroom to teach Common Core content. Professor Edstrom and I facilitated a workshop that delved into teaching math for and about social justice, through a background of the course: Math and the City, and different approaches to applying social justice to math content in classrooms. We had interactive activities such as participants looking through their bags to “find math” and planning math field trips around current exhibits in D.C. museums. We also had the opportunity to present some of our findings by looking at students responses from this past semester in the STEM Colloquium. Being able to present a poster on a research that I was a part of was really rewarding, and again gave me a glimpse of possibly doing educational research in my future. It was also a great opportunity to talk to many other Noyce scholars, especially those who have completed their teaching requirements. I was able to attend a workshop: “Staying the Course”, which allowed me to really evaluate non-negotiables that I currently face, when it comes to schools that I am considering working in. As I am wrapping up my time, here at Brown University, I am really excited to bring back everything I have learned about math pedagogy, specifically back to my student teaching classroom and to Barnard. I am also looking forward to getting my next list of task from Dr. Walker, when I return. Being able to work on so many different projects, this summer, has been a privilege; I’m excited to see what I do with these experiences moving forward.
This summer, I received the wonderful opportunity again to work with Dr. Erica Walker at Teachers College. Last year I helped her prepare for conferences and with her research for an upcoming project that tells the stories of black mathematicians through different mediums such as videos. This past year, Dr. Walker went on sabbatical, so we also needed to organize her office for a visiting professor. Thus far this year, Dr. Walker has already acclimated herself up to speed at Teachers College. In early June, we had Dr. Linda Furuto from University of Hawaii come and speak about her journey on Hokule'a, a voyaging canoe that has been used by Polynesians to continue traditions of storytelling and teaching through navigation. Fortunately, the canoe’s journey around the world lined up with Dr. Walker’s return to TC; allowing for Dr. Furuto’s presentation to have a full audience, even though, we didn’t have much time to plan.
Currently, I am participating in the Teaching Experience for Undergraduates Program at Brown University by taking a Math Methods course and teaching Brown Summer High School. Though I’m in Providence, Dr. Walker and I have been able to work together remotely in order to continue completing the research she needs done for the summer. As of now, I have compiled a list of popular publishing companies that have published books about math instead of academic publishers. Dr. Walker’s last two books have been published by Teacher’s College Press, and she wants the next book to reach a wider, non-academic audience. I mostly researched publishers that have worked with Robert Moses, Danica McKellar, Keith Devlin, and Jo Boaler. It has been really interesting learning more about how Dr. Walker’s previous books have been published in comparison to her next goal.
Dr. Walker is aiming to plan a symposium or conference this upcoming year that looks into the history of mathematics education in Black America. I have been looking for journals that have discussed the relationship between success in mathematics and relationships with kin. I have also been evaluating how mathematics education actually looks like in Black America by researching the Ware High School - the first public high school for African Americans - in Augusta, Georgia. I am currently finding different Black professionals in STEM, who may be available, or even interested, in attending the conference. Working on the conference has also given me an insight in all of the planning that it takes before the actual planning occurs for conferences. I have been researching grants from different organizations to find funding; it has really made me realize that there are resources available from large organizations that I would have never thought about!
I was extremely excited to find out I would be working with Dr. Walker, again, because I had such an amazing experience, last summer. Now, as the summer moves, I realize that I also needed to have the chance, in order to further learn so much more with Dr. Walker. At my current program, we are often missing key teaching/learning moments, when it comes to race and education. Therefore, I am so fortunate to still be able to investigate that intersection through my work with Dr. Walker.
Working with Professor Walker this summer has given me great insight on the ins-and-outs of working as an educator in the STEM field. I plan on putting a lot of focus into secondary math education after graduation, but seeing the experience of someone in higher education and even administrative work at Teacher’s College has been amazing. Going through Professor Walker’s office and uncovering years and years of work as a professor, researcher, and author has really shown me all of the different opportunities there are when it comes to teaching STEM topics. Prior to working with Professor Walker, research was something that was incredibly daunting to me. I never imagined being able to stay organized while collecting data and creating materials; however, through the smaller scale research I have completed for Professor Walker--researching RFP grants, general statistics regarding math education--I have realized that while collecting data doesn’t take minutes, it is feasible and can even be fun, especially when it is regarding a topic you are passionate about.
My fear of research was a huge limiting factor in my consideration of moving forward with broadening my math background. I think by taking small bites of research for Professor Walker, I have realized that I am completely capable of doing research of my own. In fact, being inspired by Professor Walker’s projects on different math learning spaces and how we associate math education with different populations has made me particularly interested in how stereotypes specifically influence math education, from the educator and students perspectives. I’ve discussed these topics before in my Contemporary Issues in Education course, as well as even in some psychology courses, but would love to do my own research about the topic in the near future.
I’ve also realized, through this internship, how excited I am to really dive deeper into teacher training and really learn about teaching strategies and collaborating with other future educators. Watching Professor Walker collaborate with the other professors in TC’s math education department really showed me that education needs collaboration in order for it to be as great as it can be. My survey interview with Professor Baldwin included discussing the wonderful community of peers in the Noyce Scholars program and Barnard’s education program. It’s really opened my eyes to seeing how supportive and helpful collaboration is, especially when comparing it to my experiences in other disciplines here on campus. Professor Walker’s book on the different experiences of black mathematicians, Beyond Banneker, really showed me how much an individual’s experience in the math community, and education community, are shaped and influenced by collaboration with peers and other individuals.
This experience this summer gave me the opportunity to really expand the different ways I can see myself as a learner and future educator in the STEM field. I think I had a really one dimensional view of what I could be possibly doing, and working with Professor Walker has really expanded that and made me see new opportunities that are definitely options. Professor Walker and I have even discussed possibly working together next summer when she returns from her sabbatical, either in a similar position as this summer or doing more work in the field with various projects that will be going on through TC’s math education department. I’m extremely grateful for everything I have experienced this summer because of this internship, and I’m very excited to see where else it will take me.
These past weeks with Professor Erica Walker at Teachers College have been even more rewarding than I could have imagined. Professor Walker and I have still been working on preparing for her to go on sabbatical this upcoming semester, which has included organizing her office and all of its contents. It has been amazing to see all of Professor Walker’s work as a professor and researcher throughout the years. One of the things that probably was the most interesting to me was finding the original data collected from fifth-grade students about what they think learning is. These data were used for handouts for an education course Professor Walker taught, and I thought it was almost like taking a look at behind the scenes to what really makes a class: the syllabus, handouts, assignments. It also made me see the intersection of Professor Walker’s roles and skills as a researcher and educator. We had great discussions about how much doing physical research can make you a stronger educator. I haven’t really considered this in the world of educating in non-higher education institutions; however, it can really help students see the applied side of the STEM fields. Being able to show students that we don’t just learn about hypotheticals and theories, but that those theories are applied to obtain more tangible results.
Professor Walker and I have also been working on preparing for her appearances at several conferences. Since Professor Walker has written two books, she has them featured at all of her appearances. I have been working on new advertisements for her to display and give out at each of them. I haven’t had much experience working with PhotoShop or publishing companies for ensuring advertisements layouts are approved, but that has been exactly what I have been doing for these projects. I have learned so much about working with design on the computer, which I can imagine would only help me create really great resources and materials for my future students. I’ve also been able to have a great deal of fun designing the postcards since I have always found marketing to be very interesting. In addition to preparing her book materials for her appearances, Professor Walker and I have been working on creating supplemental material to her lectures and presentations. We have been creating PowerPoints as visual references during her speeches for audiences. Once again, getting the opportunity to see the behind the scenes directions to big lectures and speeches has been great at giving me a sense of how much work there is that gets done, but also at the fact that it is possible to do!
This past week, Professor Walker’s Mathematics in Popular Culture course began, and I’m very excited to start sitting in on her class. Her syllabus really is amazing, and it was great to see how many students were there on the first day, ready for Professor Walker’s activity-packed class. Since it is a summer course, Professor Walker has tried to keep the class fun with different hands-on activities and plenty of opportunities for students to brush up on popular culture, mainly through movies and media snippets. I’m really looking forward to working with Professor Walker in these next couple of weeks.
This summer I am interning with Professor Erica Walker, a professor of Math Education at Columbia’s Teachers College. Professor Walker was recently chosen by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) as the lecturer for the Etta Z. Falconer Lecture at the MAA MathFest. In regards to this lecture and the others she will be giving this summer, I am assisting Professor Walker prepare material for the lectures, as well as coordinating orders of her books for the events. Working with Professor Walker on the lectures has really shown me how there actually is a request to have conversations about the way we are teaching math and how we can always be working to improve that, especially in groups of individuals our society tends to forecast as “just not good at math.” Professor Walker’s Falconer Lecture is named “‘A Multiplicity All At Once’: Mathematics for Everyone, Everywhere,” which she came up with from an art piece with a similar title; the connections she makes to everyday things to math and math education have really enhanced the importance of the field that I wish to be in and has only made me more excited.
Along with her lectures this summer, Professor Walker is also teaching a course entitled, Math in Popular Culture. Similar to the title of her lecture, the course really delves into the fact that math is literally around us at all times. This recurring theme has really made me think about the “math-phobic” culture that sometimes creeps its way into the people around me, from my friends to my own SAT prep students. I hope I am able to learn, through this opportunity to work with Professor Walker, how to really show those people that they shouldn’t be math-phobic and try to find ways to make math more accessible because it really is everywhere. If we as a country could decrease claims of math phobia we could lead to so much more discovery and, in my opinion, more fun! I have always been a fan of finding “Easter eggs” in popular culture that reference other popular culture, and I think Professor Walker’s course will do just that but with math, which is incredibly fun! Also, helping Professor Walker prepare for teaching the course is giving me really good experience about what it takes to create a syllabus and really create content to teach to students. Obviously, Professor Walker is on a higher level that I won’t be on for a while in my teaching career, but it is my first time getting to see an actual professor create their syllabus, and it is making me truly excited about creating my own lessons plans and such for when I teach.
Lastly, I will be helping Professor Walker prepare to take sabbatical in this upcoming fall. Aside from making sure she has everything ready to take the time off, we are going to be working on preparing and decluttering her office space. Her office is currently brimming with different math education resources and texts, and I cannot wait to paw through them and really see how pedagogies and curricula have changed over time and even over locations, as she used to be a high school teacher in Atlanta. Just from my first couple of weeks working with Professor Walker, I know this experience will be incredible!