Students Benefit from Math/Tech Collaboration

Great ideas always seem to come at the funniest times. Just over a year ago I was walking towards the office at my school when an email arrived from OCTE on my phone. As I read the email inviting people to submit applications for this math/tech thing, I was standing with our Math Department Head. As I read it aloud to her I finished with “wouldn’t that be cool”. So, after a brief discussion with her it was decided that why not apply and see what happens. Of course, this was all done without even thinking of the implications for our principal and guidance for staffing. So, with lots of enthusiasm we started planning. The invites went out to our Math Consultant and our Expanded Opportunities Consultant to see if they would work with us in planning. A few days later the application was complete, the principal had recovered from the shock of the last-minute staffing, and away the application went. A few weeks later we heard the good news that our proposal had been approved. Then the work began, and we discovered that the Math Department Head would not be able to co teach it, due to her other role as instructional coach for our school. The good news is that we were able to convince another amazing math teacher to take part.

The three of us spent time planning in late June and then participated in the summer in-service offered by the ministry. We were able to hash out a terrific plan for first semester. Our program ran first and second period with our prep periods opposite of one another. That way we were able to switch up the schedule based on student needs. This worked well as we shared the shop together. But, like any great adventure there are always bumps in the road. We discovered early on that our plans may not always be manageable and that we both had very different teaching styles. Also, in planning we realized that we needed to better understand each other’s curriculum. So, with that knowledge we forged ahead. The students really seemed to enjoy the experience. We had comments that “finally math made sense” or “so that is where I will use this”. As time went on we realized that the planning time provided would be very beneficial. We took every second Thursday to meet for two periods. Normally our math consultant would join us to co-plan our next steps and to reflect on what has been happening. This collaboration piece was the thing I found the most beneficial. I was provided the opportunity to work with someone I didn’t know well but was very passionate about her subject area and in general a terrific person. We spent much time together in the shop with the students and this comradery was a terrific thing for the students to see. Even though we taught different subject matter in opposite ends of the building we worked together for a common goal.

The only negative part that occurred in our project was that I unexpectedly had to take a medical leave and a qualified supply teacher was brought in to help. Things progressed well, and I was still able to be part of the planning and helping whenever I could. The two staff did an exceptional job under unusual circumstances. I am very proud of how they managed it. The positive of this part of the semester, was that we were able to pass along the message that make sure the projects you plan are manageable if you are not there. We also learned that take the time to enjoy the process. It was a terrific project and the students did gain from the experience. Near the end of the semester we had a visit from a Ministry of Education group. It was great to have them in the shop to witness firsthand how successful this partnership was. While there, they interviewed some of the students. One of the more memorable moments was when they asked a student “what would you say are one of the successes you had in this program”? His response was “I have been trying to learn perimeter and area every year and now it makes sense since we learned by doing foundation layouts”.

We were given the opportunity to present to our board of trustees and brought two of the students with to provide their perspective. The best moment was when one of them informed the trustees that math finally made sense, and that she would like to be a peer tutor in a math class because of this project.

This coming year our board has been approved for four schools to take part in this initiative. Each school involved is offering this in either Gr 9 or 10 math and the technology subject areas being covered are: construction, hospitality and Gr 9 integrated. These courses are being taught by some very amazing educators. I am looking forward to seeing their successes and hearing how students have benefitted from this partnership.

Geoff Petznick

Ernestown Secondary School