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The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher [Grades K-12]

The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher [Grades K-12]
A Journey to Reclaim Our Professional Growth

Foreword by Steve Leinwand, The system won’t do it for us. But we have each other.

February 2022 | 232 pages | Corwin

The system won’t do it for us. But we have each other.

In The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher: A Journey to Reclaim Our Professional Growth, master storyteller Chase Orton offers a vulnerable and courageous grassroots guide that leads K-12 math teachers through a journey to cultivate a more equitable, inclusive, and cohesive culture of professionalism for themselves…what he calls professional flourishment. The book builds from two bold premises. First, that as educators, we are all naturally imperfect and unfinished, and growth should be our constant goal. Second, that the last 40 years of top-down PD efforts in mathematics have rarely supplied teachers with what they need to equitably grow their practice and foster classrooms that are likewise empowered, inclusive, and cohesive.

With gentle humanity, this book inspires teachers to break down silos, observe each others’ classrooms, interrogate their own biases, and put students at the center of everything they do in the math classroom. This book:

  • Weaves raw and authentic stories—both personal and those from other educators—into a relatable and validating narrative
  • Offers interactive opportunities to self-reflect, build relationships, seek new vantage on our teaching by observing others’ classrooms and students, and share and listen to other’s stories and experiences
  • Asks teachers to give and accept grace as they work collaboratively to better themselves and the system from within, so that they can truly serve each of their students authentically and equitably

Implementing the beliefs and actions in this book will position teachers to become more active partners in each other’s professional growth so that they can navigate the obstacles in their professional landscape with renewed focus and a greater sense of individual and collective efficacy. It equips teachers—and by extension, their students—to chart their own course and author their own equitable and joyful mathematical and professional stories.

Introduction: Grace and the Art of Not Knowing
Chapter 1: The Need for a New Culture of Professionalism
Interlude 1: More Details about the Journey Ahead
Chapter 2: Professional Flourishment
Interlude 2: The Structured Activities on Our Journey
Chapter 3: Expanding Our Potential with Deliberate Practice
Interlude 3: Your Vision of Equity
Chapter 4: Creating Vantage to Test Beliefs
Interlude 4: What Is Your Teaching Story?
Chapter 5: Teaching Is a Cultural Activity
Interlude 5: What Is Your Math Story?
Chapter 6: Craving Nourishment
Interlude 6: How Do Your Students See You?
Chapter 7: The Steep Price of a Divided Life
Interlude 7: Why Is Math Class Not Working for Some of Your Students?
Chapter 8: A Window into a Story-Focused Math Class
Interlude 8: Actions to Position Learners as Capable
Chapter 9: Four Equity Actions for the Story-Focused Teacher
Interlude 9: Actions to Share Authority
Chapter 10: Establishing Learning Objectives in a Story-Focused Classroom
Interlude 10: Actions to Keep Math Stories Unfinished
Chapter 11: More Equity Actions for the Story-Focused Classroom
Interlude 11: The Journey Ahead
Epilogue: Further Still

I’d love to see every math teacher take the kind of thoughtful and professional approach to their journey of learning that Chase Orton invites us to. Chase invites us to disrupt the status quo of professional development. He asks teachers to see past the top-down barriers and systemic constraints—politics, high-stakes tests, yo-yo administrative decisions, and all kinds of compliance and evaluation measures—to take charge of our own professional learning. Chase calls on us to see our practice through the eyes of our students, and at the same time to reflect on our practice and to collaborate with colleagues in genuine ways for mutual growth. Grounded in real stories of students’ experiences and teachers’ journeys, he offers concrete, interactive strategies teachers can use to continually move closer to being the teachers we want to be—those who are always focused on our goal of more and more effectively helping every one of our students become curious mathematical thinkers who embrace the power of mathematics and see themselves as ‘math people.’

Cathy Seeley
Mathematics Educator, Speaker, and Writer, Past President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
McDade, TX

As one of the most reflective, insightful, and thoughtful educators I've ever worked with in my 30 years of math education, Chase Orton delivers an emotive call to action for teachers to reclaim control over their professional growth. The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher takes the most impactful components of lesson study and packages them in a way that accommodates the chaotic realities of day-to-day life as classroom teachers. Join Chase on a journey to empower yourself and each other by learning how to be active partners in each other's professional growth.

Mark Goldstein
Vice President, Curriculum and Instruction, Center for Mathematics and Teaching
Redondo Beach, CA

The vast majority of teacher professional development doesn’t make a lasting difference, and it's time for us to disrupt the status quo. The Imperfect and Unfinished Math Teacher empowers all math educators to take control of their professional learning by laying out what needs to change, why it’s so important, and how to get started. If you and your colleagues are seeking a more fulfilling and rewarding approach to improving your teaching craft, this is the book for you.

Robert Kaplinsky
President of Grassroots Workshops
Long Beach, CA

The Unfinished and Imperfect Math Teacher is a clarion call to disarming, dismantling, and disrupting the math classroom that is loud enough to compete with a stack of Marshall amplifiers at any rock concert. The title takes the historical narrative of mathematics — slow failure — and shines a warm and illuminating light on it, inviting a collective of a new generation of teachers to be messy humans dabbling in equally messy mathematics. Written with unflinching vulnerability, compassion, and love, this book allows all readers to find and share their courage of satisfying incompleteness with an infectious purpose and energy. Chase Orton’s humble manifesto for a soulful examination of our inner voice and outer intentions is the inflection point math education has been yearning for decades.

Sunil Singh
Author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and Math Recess: Playful Learning in an Age of Disruption

What is your math story? Likewise, what are your students’ math stories? Chase Orton, still an imperfect and unfinished teacher, will not answer these questions for you. Instead, he challenges you to take on a culture of professional development that helps you — and your colleagues — to “flourish” and to do so from your students’ vantage point. For too long, PD is done to us and not for us, thus we come away feeling we will never get that precious time back. It’s long overdue that we take back PD through deliberate practice and honest conversations. Chase guides us in this journey, promising us nothing unless we put in the work and give ourselves grace. He asks of us what he asks of himself — to be unafraid, to be vulnerable, and to refuse to play the blame game in shaping the kind of PD that nourishes our teaching soul and sharpens our teaching craft. And for what? For our students to write their own math stories-- those that are imperfect and unfinished--so they may continue to be curious and thoughtful as learners of mathematics beyond our classroom walls.

Fawn Nguyen
Math TOSA, Rio School District
Oxnard, CA

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