In my classroom, I have a white board that is directly behind my desk.  A very inconvenient placing makes this board useless for instructional purposes.  Thankfully there is also a whiteboard at the front of my classroom, and it gets the job done!  I have turned the board behind my desk into a shrine of sorts dedicated to people, resources and ideas that inspire me.  I include stickers, books, photos, notes, anything and everything that reminds me that I have a village out there supporting me and my practices.  I believe these connections are paramount for educators.  We must feel we are connected to the math revolution that is so much more than ourselves.  We must surround ourselves with people and ideas that fuel our passions and push us to become the best versions of ourselves possible.  Thus I have my Board of Inspiration in my classroom as a constant reminder.

Away from the classroom, I keep connected and inspired through weekly Twitter Chats with my wonderful PLN on #ElemMathChat, and I follow some amazing blogs whose authors remind me of best practices, and inspire me to take chances in my teaching.  There are times when I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of amazing right at my fingertips!  I have to remind myself that Rome was not won in a day, and that the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time!  In other words, take the resources as you can, and don’t beat yourself up mentally if you choose to take a night off to watch some television or veg with a good book!

Last week I went to see the amazing movie, Hidden Figures, and came away affected by the multiple messages the movie conveys.  I have been wondering how I can incorporate the movie into my lessons, and how I might tie the math we do in our class to the math that Katherine Johnson and the other mathematicians were doing in the movie. My thoughts have never been far from trying to find a way to explore the connections of  the racist and sexist experiences that Katherine and her fellow computers experienced in the movie to the trials and trauma that my students face because of their learning differences and disabilities.  I have been searching for a way to use the movie to inspire my students to continue in their development of growth mindsets.  Thankfully I did not have to wonder for very long as the bombdiggity Max Ray just happens to be one of my very favorite inspirations!  As I sat down to contemplate a possible lesson I discovered Max’s most recent publication,  A Hidden Figures Lesson Plan  a wonderful blog that brought to the surface all of the ideas that have been swimming in my mind ever since I saw the movie!

I cannot begin to comprehend the frustrations and failures that my students face because they were born with disabilities, nor can I begin to understand what it was like to be an educated black woman in the 1960s. I can look at both groups and admire them for their grit.  I can be inspired by their tenacity, and for being the example for us all to follow.  I am hoping that my students take the opportunity to reflect upon these ideas so that they realize the struggles they face are preparing them to be warriors in future setbacks they may encounter.  That if they are willing to take risks, make mistakes, struggle through the hard times, that they will become problem solvers and as Max says, “Find strength in the ways that adversity has shaped them, and  know those strengths serves each of us in our mathematical lives.”

We started the year off in grand style, exploring and the Weeks of Inspirational Math found there.  My students latched onto the ideals and beliefs they learned like their lives depended on it.  We have been desperate to find more stories, more examples of struggle that lead to success.  This movie and lesson are just what we have been craving!    I can’t wait to share Hidden Treasure:  Using Math to Shatter Barriers , Max’s lesson that I have transferred to Google Slides with them this week.  I am sure my students will be inspired by the mathematicians, and I am sure I will be inspired by my students!

Update 1/20/17

What a fantastic week with the @MNMathNerds!  I came away from this week as affected by our investigation into Max’s Hidden Figures lesson as I did from watching the movie.  We had a plethora of amazing discussions about history, science, math and social justice!  I am still processing all of the awesome that took place!  There were so many remarkable questions like, “Mrs. Naegele, why did they call the movie Hidden Figures?”  and,  “Why did people treat each other like that?” that inspired genuine and reflective discussions.  We spent time looking into the history that led to the setting of the movie.  We relished discussing the grit and integrity of the ladies spot lighted in Hidden Figures and wondered how we could use the barriers that each of us face to change our worlds.  Students shared personal and heart wrenching stories of times that life was not fair to them.  Through these personal interactions relationships and trust were fostered and strengthened.  It was a beautiful thing to be a part of!  The thoughts and realizations that came with the activity Mission Control were reflective as well as mathematical, and students begged to do the activity again!

Weekly engage in a routine I call Think it Through Thursdays.  I normally give students an answer and they are asked to create a question that could be asked to answer the question.  Last week I posed this question instead, “How do you use your frustrations and challenges with your learning differences to help you succeed in a moment of crisis?”  Here are a few of the responses I received:

“When I make mistakes I learn from them and then I grow.”

“I ask for help from someone I trust.”

“I remind myself that I am in charge of my happy.”

“I make up my mind to do it!”

“I decide that I am going to be bigger than my problem.”

“I keep an open heart.”

“I keep trying and never give up.”

“I believe in myself and don’t snap when things get hard.”

“I stand up to my problem and tackle it.”

“I help other people when they need help so I can be an example.”

“I use the pain my problems cause to make me stronger.  That is what life is about.                 You can’t just quit.”

These kids amaze me with their determination and veracity.  As I knew they would, they inspire me!


2 thoughts on “Inspiration

  1. Pingback: Discussing Hidden Figures with Students | arbitrarilyclose

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