My Year in Reflection

My Year in Reflection by: Andre Shoucri
Posted on 07/06/2020

My professional growth plan this year focused on topics that are near to my heart, and therefore they were always top of mind. I have been puzzling for a long time why some students and people struggle to learn math and science concepts or believe that they cannot. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it has been normalized that only some people can do math and science, and therefore it has been normalized that many people cannot. As with any socially constructed and accepted norm, this can control behavior in profound ways. If it is normalized that you cannot do math then you will not. The question is not whether these norms exist, but what can be done to challenge and change the norms.

So my focus this year was to use any opportunity possible to challenge the norms around STEM learning and knowing. I did this in the following ways:

  • I had a generative dialogue with the PGP administrator, Mr. Lamb, to develop clear understanding of the norms that exist; establishing that these norms have negative consequences on student learning; and establishing that these norms ought to be challenged and changed. Although my original focus was to challenge these norms with students and staff, Mr. Lamb suggested it should be included in parent conversations and learning conference meetings.
  • For the first day of second semester, I prepared an interactive presentation for all my classes. I intentionally made the case that socially constructed and accepted norms exist and control our behavior. Some norms are innocuous, but some have far reaching negative consequences that ought to be challenged and changed. I made the case that there is a norm that says some people cannot learn STEM topics, they are not worth learning, they are nonsensical - all of which serve to limit and impede people from learning them. In many ways, I was challenging student to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I challenged students to intentionally challenge those norms and we established rules of what students are not allowed to say:
    • STEM is incomprehensible
    • STEM is an insignificant waste of time
    • STEM is difficult
    • It is ok to live a life without understanding STEM
  • My intention was to give a similar presentation to the whole staff during a staff meeting, but that opportunity never presented itself

Click HERE to see the presentation.

My goal next year will continue to build off of this, but I want to try to cast a wider net. I also want to focus on affirmative statements about what STEM learning could and should be, as opposed to focusing on negative statements about STEM learning.

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