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From the President's Pen

Summer 2020

The Art of Teaching in Liminal Space

Denise Huddlestun
GCTM President

Teaching is an intricate art. Teachers are masters of providing a classroom environment for learning, being flexible, and carefully planning to meet the needs of students while addressing content. A good teacher knows their students, backgrounds, interests, strengths, and areas for growth. The good teacher also knows well the content they are responsible for making relevant and accessible to each of their students while fostering the skills necessary for success in the 21st century: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Also, teachers need to plan for developing executive functioning skills (see the article “Double Impact: Mathematics and Executive Function” included in the Spring 2020 issue of Reflections). After careful planning, the teacher has to respond appropriately to each situation that arises: a student’s concern; a content question; a behavioral situation; a parental inquiry; to name a few. In the last few weeks, teachers have applied their flexibility by adapting quickly to a new delivery of instruction required for remote learning. 

Though teaching is not an easy task on a “normal” basis while being physically present, the recent demands of remote learning have increased the challenges. Some have used the adjective liminal to describe these different days. Liminal is defined as “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal?src=search-dict-hed). We have been required to step to the edge of what we have known and adapt to a new condition, at least for the time being.

For the vast majority of teachers, providing remote and online instruction is a completely new delivery method. In this liminal space, there are many questions in all areas of life, including education. How does a teacher continue to use best practices of instruction and optimize learning by providing opportunities for engagement, multiple representations, and action and expression to develop conceptual understanding through remote learning? Has remote learning affected the ability of students to focus? What about the students from disadvantaged populations? How do we redefine instructional support when students are at home and not in the classroom? Inequities in education have become even more apparent. School systems, schools, and teachers must practice their art and employ critical thinking, creativity, and flexibility to find solutions and address the needs of students upon the return to school in the fall – regardless of what that return to school looks like. What can you change in your classroom environment to be more equitable to your students as you begin the year? The liminal space created by the current situation requires the full embodiment of the art of teaching.

With a focus on improving mathematics equity and access in Georgia, GCTM submitted a proposal for the Kenneth B. Cummins NCTM Partner Affiliate Grant. The goal of the project, “Taking a Deeper Dive into Access, Equity, and Social Justice in Mathematics,” is to develop a common understanding of access, equity, and social justice to support GCTM programming that honors diversity, equity, and justice. If awarded, the grant money received for the project will support members of the Executive Committee and Georgia Mathematics Conference Board in attending the Teaching Tolerance Workshops in September of 2020: Social Justice Teaching 101 and Facilitating Critical Conversations.  As a result, information will be incorporated into the Summer Academies and High School Summit of 2021. In addition, the expectation is that more sessions related to access, equity, and social justice will be offered during the annual conference.

In other news, new GCTM Executive Committee officers were approved during the May Executive Committee Meeting. Storie Atkins, mathematics instructor and department chair at Columbus High School, was approved to fill the unexpired term of Dr. William Lacefield as Secretary due to his untimely death.  Jamesa Broome, a 7th-grade math teacher at Richmond Hill Middle School, was approved to serve as the Southeast Regional Representative. Three GMC Board members were approved to remain in their positions for another term: Tammy Donalson, Registrar; Nikita Patterson, Director of Records; Benita Brock, Director of Exhibits. Tamoco Hill was approved as Intern for the Director of Promotions to take office in November 2020.

The difficult decision to cancel the Summer Academies and High School Summit has been confirmed as the need for social distancing continues at the time of writing this article. While looking forward to and planning for the 61st Annual GMC to be held at Rock Eagle October 14 – 16 of this year, members of the Georgia Mathematics Conference Board are carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation and considering alternate plans if the situation requires a different format.

There are several actions you can take if you are interested in a more active role in GCTM

  • (1)    Let us know of your interest in volunteering for the GMC, interning for various GMC Board positions and GCTM Regional Representative positions, or serving as another officer by completing the survey found at https://bit.ly/GCTMOfficers.  Look at the GMC Policies Part I for the GMC Board positions or the GCTM Constitution and Policies (https://www.gctm.org/policies) to find the list of GCTM Executive Committee offices and their responsibilities.
  • (2)    Help us recognize and reward excellence in teaching by nominating individuals for the various awards. https://www.gctm.org/awards
  • (3)    Submit a proposal to present, register, and attend the 2020 GMC at Rock Eagle. https://www.gctm.org/gmc (Scroll down to the bottom of the page and “Click here” to submit a proposal.)

This article was submitted prior to the decision to hold the conference virtually due to COVID-19. Please check the GCTM website for updates on the conference as further decisions are made.

Previous articles

2019:  Spring | Summer | Fall

2020:  Winter | Spring

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