When Sylvie Kovnat, second grade math instructor at Muir Elementary, attended a Network meeting focused on concept mapping, she appreciated the unexpected perspective it inspired. “With any new curriculum, it’s really hard to see the bigger picture,” she explains, “You get so bogged down just teaching the day-to-day lessons. Having that time to do the concept mapping helped my see the bigger picture of each unit—even of the whole year, and make connections across different big ideas with different strategies.”
Rather than simply encouraging instructors to focus on their individual lessons, the concept mapping session provided a much-needed reframing, that focused on standards instead of individual lessons in the curriculum. Concept mapping asks, what strategies can be connected? Where can you push to a more efficient strategy? What strategies are going to really help kids see the conceptual understanding behind the math? How can we leverage knowledge in one to support struggles within another?
When Sylvie returned to her school, she couldn’t help but discuss key takeaways from the session with her colleagues. Noticing a potential overlap with school staffs’ ongoing EnVision training, they opted to pitch the Network session to their entire school. The result was a resounding success! Sylvie explains, “Everyone found it valuable. I liked that when we were doing it there was talking and engagement in the room. People were discussing the materials, which is always a good sign.”
She adds, “We don’t always have time to sit down and think about a whole topic or see the bigger picture. I think that’s the biggest thing—a devoted time to just say right now, your job is to look ahead. Look at the pages you don’t usually look at. Talk about the things you don’t usually talk about.”
“The big thing is,” Sylvie explains, “It makes concepts in my head clearer, so that I can then make them clearer to the students. Doing this exercise helps me ask the questions that can then distribute intellectual authority to my students. The strategies are everybody’s now. We can all talk about it. We can all describe it. We can all ask questions about it to learn from it.” The much-needed time that this concept mapping session created enabled and empowered Sylvie and her colleagues to be even more present for their students.