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Episode 25: The Power of Listening to Children's Thinking - interview w/Berkeley, Christine, & Karen

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Desiree Harrison 0:00

Here on the Kids Math Talk Podcast we talk a lot about how children have so much to say. But do we really as educators and parents always take the time to listen? I know I have been guilty of interrupting a child’s thinking by giving what I viewed to be “helpful prompts” to get an answer because the time allotted for the math block that day was almost over. But when leading by rushing children through their thought processes, are we actually teaching? And what are we valuing more? I argue that it’s not a child’s identity and self-worth, but instead is the clock, pacing guide, and procedures that are involved in an isolated lesson. And what impact does placing emphasis on these objects have on a child?

Today’s guests challenge us to shift our thinking about time as a constant and invite us to embrace the power that comes with slowing down and listening to children’s thinking.

Desiree Harrison 1:41

Today, we have with us three guests. Welcome Karen Recinos, Christine Allen, and Berkeley Everett to the Kids Math Talk Podcast.

Christine Allen 1:52

Thank you so much!

Berkeley Everett 1:53

Thanks for having us.

Karen Recinos 1:54

Happy to be here!

Desiree Harrison 1:55

So, I am so excited to have you all here! It's quite a treat because I've heard of Berkeley through Twitter and then Berkeley has introduced me to the two of you , so, it's just so nice to be able to sit down and talk mathematics with new people and to learn new and different sides of the mathematics world.

So, we're here just to talk about thinking partners and visuals a little bit deeper. So, I am a math coach- I have a lot of different hats and there is no definitive definition, at least in the district where I work - of what a coach does. So, from your point of view, what does it mean to be a thinking partner with teachers and what does this look like?

So, I'll direct the question to you Karen.

Headshot of Karen Recinos
Karen Recinos

Karen Recinos 2:43

Great! Thank you Desiree. I think this is something that we are constantly reflecting on- what does it truly mean to be thought partners and be in that learning space with teachers. And I think we've figured out that the power of just listening. Listening to teachers, listening to what's on their mind, what are ideas they already have and where can we enter that space to offer something to think about. We- our focus is really uncovering and becoming so curious about kids thinking, and I think that we're inviting them to come along in that journey with us, and I think that is such a welcoming - or just a lovely invitation for them to say, "Come and- I'm just here to be your thought partner; we're going to figure this out together, we're gonna try it. It's going to be messy and we're going to reflect."

So, I think we get into that little cycle of- How did it go? Let's talk about what worked, what didn't work, and what are you excited to try next.

So, it is not a one-off, I think that is a really nice to really build that trusting relationship with a variety of teachers that we work with. I have the privilege to work with teachers who are in the early education setting, up to 6th grade. So, it's such a nice range and to know that we're here to learn together because your children are unique and I want to know everything and everything that you know about your children. And I'm here to just be a thought partner around math, around good practice. And just finding joy in mathematics, both as adults but as our students in front of us.

Headshot of Christine Allen
Christine "Quinny" Allen

Christine Allen 4:28

I think, just to add on a little bit, thinking about how it just might feel different than what people usually experience, right. Like, when teachers usually experience "coaching," it might feel a little bit like, (sigh), "I'm doing something not right..." or a little tell-y. And the emphasis is sometimes on what to do and how to do it, right. And do it this way, let's practice it. Do it this way, let's practice it.

So in our work, we've moved away from that. So, we're really focusing on teachers, like Karen said, and igniting what they already know about what is good practice and how it connects with our kids, because our work is heavily, heavily focused on student thinking. And so we sit together with our teachers in a space, like Karen said, of learning. So, it creates a different dynamic than one that maybe teachers are used to with people who come into their space. If that makes sense.

Desiree Harrison 5:26

It does. So, something that I connected when both of you were speaking is the idea of trusting teachers and how there's been a lot of conversation about reframing this deficit-based term of "learning loss" and reframing that into something of - thinking about everything that has been gained and listening to teachers, trusting teachers, and building time and viewing time as a variable instead of something that is constant and just like, "Ooop. You know. Too bad, it's too late!" So there's no time left to really unpack something. But, not having that mentality, but thinking like, "Let's think creatively about how we can carve out this time to do some of the work that you all are speaking of.

Headshot of Berkeley Everett
Berkeley Everett

Berkeley Everett 6:11

And I think teachers are experimenting with time as a variable and, for example, there's a first grade teacher in Los Angeles named Lauren Carr, who was sharing a story about how she did a choral count. And, she was counting by tens and her students got up to 180, 190, and they were not sure - the class couldn't agree-what came after 190. And Lauren is the kind of teacher who won't tell them. It's always, "Well, I don't know. I guess well, let's sleep on it."

And they literally slept on it and they came back the next day and the kids had a lot of ways of explaining why it was 200. And they had been really stuck the day before. So, I like that phrase, time is a variable, right, we can play with time in different ways other than just, "My lesson is over, my 45 minutes are done, so now I've gotta move on to the next lesson," or whatever. Let's follow kids thinking - let's see where that leads us.

Desiree Harrison 7:05

Yeah. So that makes me think too, about how can we help pre-service teachers latch onto that mentality. Because, we have the passion - you get into education because you're passionate about teaching and learning - but they have excitement on a whole new level and in a sense a little bit more malleable in thinking about how can we shift mentality, so I really think leveraging those programs is gonna be a way to help continue to push forward what you all are already doing.

So something else that came to my mind when we were talking about the thinking partner is accessing children's funds of knowledge and to really help bring identity and to help teachers bring children's identities into the mathematics and making it more, you know, real-world is a buzz word now.

I'm also thinking about other, lots of different operations, but I've been recently thinking deeply about addition and it seems like we've been conditioned to just think about, "This is the answer" or how to get the answer. And so, then there's that operational relationship so then there's also relational thinking. I'm wondering if you all could talk to what relational thinking is, and to just give parents and teachers a tip or two as they work with their children or their students, about how they can shift their own mentality and practice toward this relational thinking.

Christine Allen 8:33

So, also something that we have been talking a lot as a group about, What is relational thinking mean? Because relational meaning relationship, right? So, I'll speak for myself and the work that I've been doing. But for me, relational thinking implies that students or mathematicians of any age, are using relationships that they understand to solve things, right. So sometimes you get really hung up on facts in our culture around mathematics. And, when I think about, I want to just broaden that, right. So for me, relational thinking isn't so much about right - Does the child or the adult know the fact to then solve something - But rather, is there some relationship they are relying on to solve. And when I think about parents, I think that there's a really exciting opportunity and actually teachers have 9:18

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