What are your thoughts as you look ahead to taking on new leadership roles in facilitating these workshops?

“Having co-facilitated the Ratio & Proportion Reasoning workshop last summer I am excited to continue on with Rational Numbers this summer. That experience felt like my classroom, and helped me realize it wasn’t really different to work with these teachers than it was to work with my students (well, ok, other than fewer behavior problems).

There is still trepidation surrounding the facilitation because I think that it is such important work and I know that I cannot do the same job or provide the same experiences as Ruth and Patty can. I keep coming back to the idea that the materials are terrific and the ideas are so powerful that even though I will muddle through it, participants will still gain a lot through the experience and it will result in changes in their classrooms. My concerns for the future are mostly in the area of ongoing support for teachers who take the workshops, believe in the changes that need to take place in their classrooms and then go back to the reality of their situations. I want them to have the support that we had through studio days, webinars and continued interactions with other colleagues in the situations, facing the same obstacles.

I hope that funding can be found to support new workshops around other big ideas and concepts such as functions & geometry.”

Regional Math Support Team Teacher, Middle School

“I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to “sell” the value of offering these workshops within our district. Hopefully these offerings will be all inclusive of grades 3 or 4 through 8th grade math teachers grouped by elementary/middle school feeder patterns. I feel ready to take on a leadership role in facilitating these workshops in my district and greatly appreciate the electronic access to the resources.”

Math Curriculum Developer, Bellevue School District
Self supporting participant

“I think it’s really exiting work and it’s reassuring to see such energy around continuing the work. What I personally would be most nervous about would be adjusting pacing as needed since the content of the workshops still feels new as well as some of the mathematics still feeling slippery. But, I think that remembering that the leadership role is facilitator versus expert is key to realizing that it’s okay to feel that way.”

University of Washington Math Educator
Invited guest to the Expressions and Equations workshop and leadership follow-up

By Kyla Hornhorst, 8th Grade Regional Math Support Team Teacher

When I was first asked to lead a MEC MSP workshop at our local ESD I was both honored and terrified. Ideally, we weren’t supposed to facilitate a workshop until the third year of the project was complete.  However, our Regional Math Coordinator (RMC) had moved to another position.  There was a demand for the workshops and no one to facilitate them.  So I partnered with a community college professor who was also involved in the project and stepped up to share this incredible work in my region.

At first we were a bit tentative in our work together.  We shared a common passion for MEC’s work but really didn’t know each other well.  And while I imagine many facilitators in all types of work get thrown together to present, part of me struggled with how to do the work justice if we didn’t know each other well enough to truly trust each other.  Part of the workshop culture is a synergy that comes from Ruth and Patty’s relationship.  They play off of each other’s commentary and work together to guide participants to grow in new and challenging ways. They make in the moment decisions based on the direction the course has taken.  Decisions based on common understanding, experience and deep knowledge of the work and each other.  Their relationship is such that they can interrupt each other, kindly point out errors the other has made, disagree or redirect each other without fear of harming the other.  Knowing that I was going to make mistakes, that I couldn’t possibly take on this new role as eloquently as my mentors, I had concern about how this was going to work.  Would my co-facilitator and I, who were really just acquaintances, be able to pull this off and recreate this amazing experience for others?

But the work was too important to let my insecurities get in the way.  My partner and I moved forward.  We met, we planned, we organized.  We read through the facilitator’s guide and assigned ourselves roles.  In the process we started to get to know each other, sharing our feelings and ideas about the work.  While it would be ridiculous to think we could create a deep, trusting friendship in such a short period of time, we did create enough trust that we could take this leap together.  For better or for worse, sharing the work was more important than any trepidation we may have felt.

We continued to communicate and plan.  We got the details worked out and individually prepared.  On the first day of our workshop I was incredibly nervous!  We had everything set out as it should be.  Tables, menu, supplies, notes, everything had been carefully placed in hopes that we were truly ready to go.  As the participants came in, we greeted them.  I tried to smile through my nerves, welcomed them and hoped they didn’t see my anxiety.  In my head I kept questioning myself.  This was crazy!  There is no way that I could do what Ruth and Patty do!  There is no way that I was good enough to do this work justice!  Who was I to present material, important work, to teachers who I recognized as leaders within our region?  To say that I was doubting myself is an understatement.

I had already asked my colleague to do the introductions and open the workshop.  I knew my lack of confidence would show and I didn’t want participants to see it.  Using the notes as a guide, she easily welcomed the group, explained the purpose of the project and was well on her way through the introduction.  She had to have been nervous, but it didn’t show.  As my time in front of the group approached, I kept referring to the facilitator’s guide and kept remembering my own experiences with the task.  I was nervous, but I was as ready as I was going to be.

As I introduced my first group of four task, in my very first workshop as a facilitator, my nervousness quickly disappeared.  As I started to discuss the task, my anxiousness turned to anticipation.  I couldn’t wait to see their reaction to the task.  I wanted to hear their ways of thinking about it.  I had used this task several times in my classroom and was very comfortable with it, which certainly helped my nerves.  Yet those experiences also made me curious about what these educators would come up with as they processed the task.  Would they see it the way I did?  Would they see what some of my students saw?  Would one or more of them see it in a way I hadn’t seen before?  Suddenly I realized that my role as facilitator was really minute in light of the work.  This wasn’t about me.  It was about the work.  Not to say that I shouldn’t be prepared or fumble around when I was presenting.  But it quickly became apparent to me that the teachers in this room were going to share in my interest and excitement for these tasks.  They were going to love the workshop as much as I did.  Their minds weren’t going to be hanging on my every word or picking out my mistakes.  They were going to be thinking about math.  They were going to be trying to figure out how to implement these problems, how to change their classrooms.  They were about to become as consumed with MEC’s work as I had become.  With that realization, I truly relaxed and let my passion for the work show.

The rest of the four-day workshop and the next one we were able to present together went well.  In reality, the amount of time that the facilitators are leading discussion in comparison to the amount of time that the participants are sharing, is minimal.  We really are guiding the learning, not providing it.  And while I don’t want to minimize the importance of preparation, I know now that a large portion of my anxiety was unnecessary.  By design, the delayed leadership model had given me everything I needed to be successful.

Our evaluations were strong and the participants left feeling much like we did after our experiences with MEC.  The facilitator’s guide is a blessing and a necessity for our success.  The details, phrasing, and commentary not only guide us through the details of the workshop, but help us to channel our experiences.  The voices of Patty and Ruth are in there, helping us along the way.  They provided us with the necessary tools to share the workshops with others.  All of the details, references, quotes, teacher moves, questions and adaptations are there.  They poured as much of themselves as they could into that guide and I can confidently say it was enough.  It was enough for me share their work with integrity and fidelity.  By turning me into a learner, modeling how to teach in this way, supporting me while I made shifts in my teaching practice, and providing me the tools necessary to lead, they have allowed me to be not just a recipient of this knowledge, but a participant in this work.  It is a role that I take on with sincere gratitude.