Last post, I wrote about smartnesses and how making students aware of their math strengths can improve their status and their ability to engage with peers collaboratively. While I am an educator wholeheartedly devoted to these issues of equity and status, I am occasionally jolted by the following question: with the understanding that student collaborative culture will never outpace teacher collaborative culture, why do we so often spend more time thinking and reflecting about our students’ group work rather than our own?
A recent blog by Ilana Horn titled “How do we build math- and kid-positive department cultures?” dug into the experiences and successes of a school math department tackling the difficult question of why so many 9th grade students were failing math. I’d like to bolster this conversation with a few experiences and tools that may help to carve out this important time together as adults and to use that time effectively to collaborate, problem solve, and share best practices and successes. In other words, how can we as teachers collaborate better to both learn about our students and our instruction, but also to model a better culture for our students? While there are many, I’d like to highlight two tools/experiences that I think fit the bill here: reciprocal observations and video analysis.