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Episode 3: Pausing to Move Forward

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Episode 3 Sources

Download the Reflection Prompts-

E3-Kids Math Talk Podcast
. Pausing to Mo
Download PAUSING TO MO • 989KB

Print and Electronic Sources:

Moving Forward - NCSM and NCTM Joint Statement. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2020, from

Schwartz, T. et al. (2007). Manage your time, not your energy. Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Retrieved June 23, 2020, from


Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies and I make homemade deep dish pizza almost every week. The step of the recipe that always takes the longest, but is the key part, is letting the dough sit so that it can rise.

While on my run the other day I was thinking about this pizza and the idea of adults just sitting. Taking a pause without anything new being added on so that we can reflect on what has arguably been the most unpredictable and energy draining school year of our careers.

Districts have officially wrapped up the school year with well deserved celebrations, tributes, car parades, super cute yard signs, and heartfelt thank yous - but I still feel like we are pretending that the events of the past few months have not drained our emotional energy and impacted our mental health. We’re still acting as if everything is normal when it’s not. We are on resource overload with all of the well intentioned emails, tweets, and other social media posts, we are living through a pandemic, Many of us either became remote teachers overnight with some taking on the double duty of parent and teacher for the past three months.

and our country is finally beginning to have more directed and intentional dialogue about social injustice and the dismantling of systemic racism.

I don’t know about you all, but I haven’t been on my regular sleep schedule since March because of all of this. I’ve had so many emotions flying in and invading my thoughts at night. I know that these changes weren’t scheduled ahead of time - it’s just something that happened and we have had to adjust while moving through. And parents and teachers have done an amazing job with this. But now this drastic shift from emergency remote learning to all of a sudden becoming experts in socially distanced face to face teaching and learning-is moving too fast for me.

We missed the step after the congratulations- where we intentionally stop, where we sit with and process the emotions we have had for these past few months and reframe any negative thinking from this past school year that we might have so that our emotional cups so to speak, can be refilled. We need to do this for our own mental health.

But here it is, the beginning of summer and instead of resting, districts are racing ahead and are well into crafting plans for all of the possible changes that will happen for the fall, parents are making plans for August and September, and teacher groups on social media are being flooded with questions and suggestions about how to elicit new learning opportunities while also maintaining new guidelines.

Episode 3 is all about understanding what you are thinking and feeling now so that we can fill our emotional cups back up. It’s okay to pause before moving forward.

The major experience you spend the most time reflecting on will be your own personal choice, but regardless of what you choose, we can all start reframing our thinking and managing our emotional energy by viewing a situation or experience through three new lenses -the reverse lens, the long lens, and the wide lens. Each of these lenses can help people "intentionally cultivate more positive emotions.” It also helps to look through these lenses a few different times (Harvard Business Review 2007). So keep listening to this episode now to start to process and then later on, when you are in a space where you can pause to write down your thoughts, grab a journal and listen to this episode again.

Reverse Lens

The first alternative view is seeing a situation or experience with the Reverse Lens. Not in the sense of reverse order like finish to start, but instead it's about gaining insight about the situation or experience by relating to the viewpoints of the other people involved.

Some possible reflection prompts for this reverse lens are:

-What have your children or students said out loud during this time

-What have they said about math and about school in general?

-Of this, which parts do you think are actually true? Which parts do you find yourself dismissing?

This lens helps us to honor the opinions and thoughts of those around us while also helping us realize which beliefs we align with and which ones we might have been subconsciously tossing aside.

In addition to your children and students, the “others” that could be a part of this lens are your colleagues, or even your family members. When reflecting here, be truthful and don’t worry about complete sentences or repeating yourself -just let your thinking flow. You will know when you are finished.

When I did this, I tapped into the part of my identity that is a math coach and focused on what teachers said in regards to math during remote learning. There were many requests from teachers who wanted resources that could be printed off for paper and pencil practice and many teachers felt overwhelmed with all the evolving plans. Others were feeling guilty about not being able to move through as many units as they had in previous school years. Some were dealing with sadness about not being able to see their students or teach in their classrooms. I’m sure that many of you can relate to these emotions and I definitely relate as well. This was a really trying year.

After reflecting with this reverse lens, I also know that I was subconsciously dismissing the ideas about providing so many paper and pencil tasks because I feared that this would give the impression that math is a series of isolated events and this doesn’t align with my beliefs about math. This lens helped me separate from my own viewpoint about what wasn’t happening and reframe my thinking to focus on what was - Students were still thinking about math in some type of way during remote learning. Teachers were collaborating, creating content, and making decisions about the most critical learning targets for their classes in order to set students up for as much success as possible. Grade level teams had deep conversations about standards and learning progressions. Teachers worked their butts off and that needs to be continued to be appreciated and celebrated. I am so proud to be part of a field with such dedicated professionals.

The Long Lens

The Long lens used to think about how we will view a situation in the long run.

Some reflection prompts for this could be:

-How will I view this situation in one month? In three months? In 6 months?

Whether it is one month or even one year from now, I know I will view this emergency remote learning as what saved children and teachers from having to endure any standardized testing in the Spring. Teachers were allowed to teach. This situation is what helped so many of us realize that we are capable of learning new technology apps, extensions, and platforms. In the long run, I will view this situation as embracing and making the most of unexpected change.

Wide Lens

The final lens is the wide lens and this is where I have been spending most of my reflection time for the past few days. I think it offers the most potential for parents and educators.

The basic prompts for reflection first stem from an emphasis on learning and include:

-What have I learned about myself?

-What have I learned about my child?

-What have I learned about my students and my colleagues?

I have realized that I have a passion for sharing what I learn about math with a larger community, beyond just the district in which I serve, which is why I started this podcast.

This wide lens also places an emphasis on growing with prompts such as:

-How can I grow from this situation?

-How can I help my child grow?

-How can I help my students grow?

Parents, you can help your child grow during this time by really listening and helping them to reflect on what they are most proud of accomplishing during these past few months. Ask them how they are feeling and go through some of these same prompts with them. If your child is between the ages of 3 and 10, the CDC offers a free downloadable activity book called Coping After a Disaster that I will link in the show notes for you.

My major resource for helping teachers and students grow from this experience comes from the recently published joint NCTM and NCSM document called Moving Forward: Mathematical Learning in the Era of COVID-19. This encourages educators to “focus on the opportunities for learning rather than learning gaps and to consider what mathematical content students know and what mathematical dispositions they have” (NCTM and NCSM, 2020). Everyone has strengths and we need to help rebuild our emotional energy by building on these strengths.

Teachers - we can also help each other grow by continuing to advocate for protected learning time within our districts that’s devoted to exploring our own beliefs about the teaching and learning of mathematics because “confronting our beliefs is the first step toward more equitable mathematics learning opportunities for children (NCTM, 2020 p. 32).

This Moving Forward Document, as well as the NCTM books, Principles to Actions (2014) and Catalyzing Change (2020), are all excellent resources to help us explore these beliefs and I plan on including them in my coaching plan of action in the fall.

I recently saw a meme on social media, and maybe you’ve seen this - where there's one person in the center of the image with their back toward you, labeled “teachers”. They are on a beach standing close to some ocean - looking out at the horizon. But instead of seeing surfers or dolphins swimming in the water, there is just a massive dark impending tidal wave, labeled as “school in the fall”. This, to me, is talking about how we feel about the upcoming school year and all of the negative emotions that the reverse, long, and wide lenses attempt to defuse - This tidal wave definitely will hit us hard and knock us down if we don’t take the time now to stop and process all that we have been through as teachers and parents.

Try these lenses and reflection questions and then remember to unwind and disconnect. You deserve as much of a stress free next few months as possible. Take time to pause so that you are ready to move forward in the fall.

I am a lover of Twitter and while I was researching for this episode I came across an awesome Sketchnotes by Hayley Lewis (@Haypsych). It’s an excellent visual reminder of the three lenses mentioned in this episode, along with the other types of energy to manage. (Shared with permission)

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