This is a guest post written by Christina Lincoln-Moore Assistant Principal, Los Angeles Unified School District. Her twitter handle is @virtuouscm and she can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Lincoln-Moore: Chairperson of the California Mathematics Council – South (CMC-S) Equity, Access and Empowerment Committee, West Regional Director of the Benjamin Banneker Association (BBA); affiliate of NCTM. Co-chartered the National Society of Black Engineers NSBE Jr. Chapter. Students build and compete in STEM projects/competitions. NSBE Jr SoCal provides STEM enrichment to 50 4th-8th graders twice a month. I present nationally, statewide, and locally focusing on equity and access of African-Americans to algebra.
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Talk Number to Me: Mathematics and Mindfulness
“Mathematics is about Social Justice-Period!” One of my opening lines as an Ignite speaker at the 2017 California Mathematics Council-Southern Section Conference in Palm Springs. I call myself a Lieutenant in our Mathematics Revolution. I am compelled to fight against mediocrity and complacency for our children. I passionately believe mathematics and social emotional intelligence are the key components to engendering formidable joyful life-long learning. A focus on social emotional learning develops authentic positive mathematical identities as sense-makers, problem solvers, and creators of ideas.
The future of California’s students is contingent on their mathematical skills and social emotional intelligence. Did you know that only 19% of African-American and 25% of Latinx students in the great State of California were (3rd-11th grade) proficient in mathematics on the 2017 Standards Based Assessment (SBA). There were almost 2 million Latinx students who took this assessment and 75% were not proficient! In any realm, an 81% (African-Americans) failure rate is a dire concern! This should give us all a sense of urgency and ignite a fire in our souls! Cathy Twomey Fosnot shared Greg Duncan’s research with me a few years ago. As an economist and University of California Irvine education professor, he is a national expert on the importance of strong early mathematics skills. His 2007 study showed that early knowledge of mathematics (Preschool-3rd grade) not only predicts later success in mathematics, but also predicts later reading achievement even better than early literacy efforts. Civil Rights & Mathematics Activist Robert Moses, Founder of The Algebra Project articulated, “It can be argued that teaching mathematics, more than any other subject, has the potential to influence life chances.” Mathematics is the lynchpin…
Where is the sense of urgency? I do not see it in my state. Do you see it in yours? Let’s carry this logic further… Of the almost 40 million people in California are 45% are currently African-American and Latinx. According to the State Department of Finance, by 2040 Southern California’s five-county area will be 53 percent Latinx, 6 percent African-American and whites are expected to drop to 25 percent. If this depressing mathematical trend continues, what are the implications such a massive number students who are struggling to do mathematics? It’s devastating in my eyes! Larry Martinek stated, “Children don’t hate math. What they hate is being confused, intimidated, and embarrassed by math. With understanding comes passion, and with passion comes growth – a treasure is unlocked.”
A student’s understanding of what mathematics is and their self-perception as a learner of mathematics powerfully influences their engagement and participation. In numeracy, as in literacy, some students decide early on that the rewards do not justify the effort… When a student’s experience of mathematics has been negative, they can become fatalistic about their chances of ever enjoying it. If their mathematical identity goes unchallenged, it may become set in concrete, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is our job, as educators, to challenge that deficit notion and build their social emotional intelligence to take charge of their learning and construct new knowledge.
EQ? Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and CEO of Emotional Intelligence Services, wrote in his 1998 book “Working with Emotional Intelligence” that emotional intelligence (EQ) is a better predictor of success than Intelligence Quotient (IQ). EQ is now 6th of the top 10 in-demand skills of 2020. In order to meet our students’ needs, we must place this at a greater priority. I am so excited about California’s new Social Emotional Learning Guiding Principles (2/23/2018). The need for greater social emotional intelligence is clearly evident; just look at the nightly newscasts. This information drives me into action (https://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/socialemotionallearning.asp).
The California Department of Education (CDE) is committed to helping educators learn more about social emotional intelligence and how to make this a part of every child’s school experience… There is a growing body of research proving that social and emotional learning is fundamental to academic success.
When I was a teacher at South Shores Magnet for the Visual and Performing Arts, my discipline system was Bucket-filling by Carol McCloud (http://www.bucketfillers101.com/team-cmccloud.php) . It is the belief that every soul carries an invisible bucket which contains how they feel about themselves. Throughout our day, we are either bucket-fillers or bucket-dippers. This set the culture of kindness for my classroom. My focus on social emotional learning made my class safe for risk-taking, they knew they would be valued, and their voices heard. I have continued this in my various other roles. I have a way of disarming some of the toughest critics by filling their buckets. I am now trained in Dynamic Mindfulness by the Niroga Institute (http://www.niroga.org/education/curriculum/) which has taken my emotional intelligence tools to the next level. Teaching Transformative Life Skills to Students: A Comprehensive Dynamic Mindfulness Curriculum by Bidyut Bose helps teachers and students in four major areas 1) Stress Management, 2) Self-Awareness, 3) Emotion Regulation, and 4) Healthy Relationships. I incorporate dynamic mindfulness into most my trainings and student discipline. Making transformative life skills an essential focus will reform our classrooms.
What does transformative life skills have to do with mathematics? Through the lens of the TRU Framework, students are supposed to conjecture, explain, make arguments and build on one another’s ideas, in ways that contribute to their development of agency (the capacity and willingness to engage academically) and authority (having command of the content), resulting in positive identities as sense-makers, problem solvers and creators of ideas all rests upon their EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and their level of social emotional learning. I truly believe we can change our plight and improve the data with mathematics and mindfulness.
Finally, I believe our mathematics organizations should function as a quasi-moral compass; to bring issues of inequity and social injustice to the forefront. I believe it is imperative that we make a concerted effort to push the envelope and put these issues on the hearts of minds of our membership and advocate for change in our state and beyond! We can begin by sending a poignant message to our membership in how we structure our conferences that we will not accept the status quo and will be an arbor for change. Our speakers should reflect the diverse communities our stakeholders serve. This is not an issue of the “Equity Committee.” We really shouldn’t need one-it should be the central focus of our organizations-period; meeting the variabilities of all its children.
I am compelled by my mission to change California’s mathematics data; one child-one teacher at a time. As an administrator, I have an ethical obligation to confront biases and low expectations, The California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL) 5C-2 states, “Use a variety of strategies to lead others in safely examining personal assumptions and respectfully challenge beliefs that negatively affect improving teaching and learning for all students.” So, rise up my friends! Let’s use mathematics and mindfulness to change our world!
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. ~ Audre Lorde