Elham Kazemi

Sitting among students: How open doors and collaboration invigorate our teaching

I will paint a picture of joyful possibilities. What happens when teachers find creative ways to teach together, listen intently to children’s thinking about mathematics, and experiment with new ideas?

Call to Action

My call to action is for you to make collective learning opportunities happen by doing the following:

  • Find two teacher friends or more (over time, your principal would be a strategic bonus). Take something you want to try from this conference, from a book, from the math twitter blogosphere. But don’t try it out alone. Explain the idea of owning the lesson together and set some norms for collaboration and risk taking.
  • Plan together and identify some questions you have about your students. Then teach together, while you sit among your students. Call teacher time outs during the lesson that let you pursue ideas, shift direction, or experiment with a next good question.
  • Share back with us what you tried and what you learned from this new way of making practice public and learning together.

About the Speaker

Elham Kazemi is a professor of mathematics education and associate dean for professional learning at the University of Washington. She loves to learn about children’s mathematical thinking, working side-by-side with teachers to develop thriving learning communities for teachers and students alike. Her collaborative projects have been informed by equity-oriented research on organizational learning, children’s mathematical thinking, and classroom practice. Her recent book co-authored with Allison Hintz, Intentional Talk, focuses on leading productive discussions in mathematics.

Updated 2015 Apr 21: Livetweeting

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8 thoughts on “Elham Kazemi”

    1. Pierre,
      My colleagues and I were so excited to hear about your experience. I love that you were able to capture the exact moments when you turned to each other for ideas, right in front of the kids. The kids kind of like it, yes? I think that’s one question we often get is how do you prep the children? I love how it all unfolded.

    2. Hi Robert,
      I love seeing teacher time outs in the context of a reading lesson. It’s exciting to see the kinds of situations that spurred you to look to each other as teachers. And I just LOVE that a student took a time out. What was it tha the student wanted to talk about? What do you think the time outs added to the experience? Did any concerns come up?

  1. I love this way of collaborating, Elham!

    Just as we want the students to be so absorbed in the mathematics that they forget the personal side of correct and incorrect, it’s a great thing (maybe harder) if we can be so into the teaching and how it can go better that we’re not being evaluative of each other.

    We’re planning to do some peer observation this year. I can’t promise I’ll manage to persuade my colleagues to do time out, but I definitely want to work alongside teacher friends in this spirit!

  2. This sums it up for me:

    “not to watch and evaluate each other, but to problem-solve and inquire into teaching, and, most important, student thinking, together”

  3. I’m eager to follow your journey Simon. It’s nervewracking and invigorating to be with peers inside a teaching and learning space. One of the ways I got this kind of collaboration started is by pausing intentionally and just asking my teacher friends what question they were dying to ask the students. I was trying to recognize that each of us as teachers are thinking about what is happening and what might be a fruitful idea to pursue, so the time out was really granting us that space to do so. I think those moments are rich with possibility and are not about correcting each other. Maybe you’ll find a moment for that kind of pause in one of your class visits and then you can run with it! Elham

  4. So we finally got it together and did a high school math 3 lesson with 4 teachers in the room. We planned together, taught and thought together, and debriefed about things that we learned and what changes to make the next time.
    For high school teachers that watched this video and wondered about how kids that age would respond, the kids were great. I explained that It was a rare treat for us to have other teachers in the room. That usually when they said something that we hadn’t anticipated, we had no one to ask about that.
    So when I asked what they understood now about circles (as a wrap up after yesterday’s definition of a circle = set of all points equidistant to a given point), and one student said ” they are round.” I called a teacher time out and said ” I didn’t expect that, but I see the relationship to the definition. What can I do or say now to make that connection?”
    At one point another teacher noticed that I was neglecting “attending to precision” in our discussion, and asked in a teacher time out if she could take over discussion for a minute to sharpen that up. Awesome!
    Teachers pointed out interesting group work that was happening and common errors in understanding they overheard. We addressed them RIGHT THEN, not the next day after they had muddled through the homework with those misunderstandings getting embedded.
    There was a spot where the energy in the room seemed to be on decline, and I recognized the problem but DID NOT THINK of asking for a teacher time out to discuss what move I might make to deal with that. DARN! Afterwards we talked about that, but how awesome would it have been to do that right in the moment. We’ll get even better the next time.

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