Teaching Math and Toni Morrison

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Teaching Math and Toni Morrison

Happy New Year! 

If you are like me, the break in December was one that came just at the right time and was not long enough. My nose was runny and my throat scratchy as my body was telling me it needed a break. The fall and beginning of winter are always a whirlwind with family and work. This year was no different. We dropped our second daughter off at college to join her older sister and then adjusted to life with just one son left at home. I always hope for a lot of quiet reflection time before the new year arrives, but it does not happen naturally. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I find I must proactively create time so I can be the best version of myself for my family, my friends, my colleagues and me! 

How do you carve that time out over breaks?

For me this means escaping to the beach for reading and reflection so that I can come back in January refreshed, excited and ready to go. Luckily, I live in South Florida! 

What can you do on a smaller scale each week or day
for that quiet reflection time?

During my reflection, I acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments and growth over the past year. Often my mind wants to go directly to new goals for the year, but I am learning to slow down so I can acknowledge and name how I have changed and grown over the past year. After this, I let myself consider new goals for the year, both personally and professionally. 

Toni Morrison

Last year I revisited the brilliant Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning writer, Toni Morrison. I started by re-reading The Bluest Eye, which I read thirty years ago in college. I remember being shaken to my core as a young 19-year-old, without much life experience, although I didn’t know that at the time, making sense and connecting with the novel. My thinking was greatly impacted then and again this past year as I came to the book now as the mother of two daughters. My daughters’ worlds are so different than mine was. They must make their way in the world of Instagram and Tik Tok influencers and what is considered beautiful, important and the norm in 2023.

This book was Morrison’s first and published in 1970. The Bluest Eye stands the test of time because of Morrison’s ability to describe the human experience and more specifically an African-American experience unique to the United States. Reading her work expands my experience and causes sustained thinking and reflection.  Her work is breathtaking and continues to touch my soul.  Check out Beloved, Sula and Song of Solomon too. When inspired by an author I tend to read the whole catalog. Luckily, there is still more for me to read! 

How does Toni Morrison relate to MATH? 

Teaching is a human and cultural experience. Reflecting on this book, allows me look in the mirror and inside to name and acknowledge the cultural norms I have ingested growing up here in the United States, in my family and community. As a teacher, it reminds me that each child I teach has their own story and cultural norms that may or may not be like mine.   

Does your classroom promote your cultural norms
as the right way?  

If we are not actively reflecting on your norms and beliefs this will be the default. How could this default impact your students with different norms? How will it impact students who share your norms? 

“When a kid walks in a room, your child or anybody else’s child, does your face light up? That’s what they’re looking for,” Toni Morrison. 

Math Recovery Lens 

At Math Recovery®, our focus is to sharpen our lens and identify each student’s mathematical strengths from which we can build on. To have the right tool, at the right time, for the right student falls short if we don’t see and honor all parts of our students. This is hard to do if we don’t consistently place that lens on our instructional moves and practices and reflect on whether they are meeting our desired impact. 

Here are some resources to support you either getting started reflecting or to continue with the practice.   

Click below for:
ICUCARE Equity Framework
Choosing to See

Choosing to See:  A Framework for Equity in the Math Classroom by Dr. Pamela Seda and Dr. Kyndall Brown  

Check out our blogpost on Bright Morning and other helpful organizations here.

More on Toni Morrison 

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