In our latest podcast interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Tonya Clarke, an esteemed educator and changemaker, whose innovative approach to mathematics education has brought positive change from the classroom to the wider community. Her dedication to sharing her learnings, strategies, and tactics has been truly inspiring, and in this blog post, we will discuss some of the takeaways from our conversation.
Moving Beyond Traditional Teaching:
Dr. Clarke emphasized the importance of leaving behind the traditional lecture-based, "sit and get" approach to education. Instead, she advocates for creating engaging and effective classroom environments by making learning relevant and accessible to all students, including those who may be struggling. By personalizing the learning experience, educators can foster a sense of curiosity and excitement, making students active participants in their education. A powerful and simple way to make learning engaging and exciting is by asking the students themselves. Dr. Clarke emphasizes that there should be no barrier between educators and students. Teachers, administrators, and even superintendents should actively seek opportunities for open communication and collaboration with students. By understanding their interests, passions, and hobbies outside the classroom, educators can tailor lessons to align with students' real-world experiences and aspirations.
Bridging the Gap Between Training and Classroom Implementation:
While introducing new concepts and strategies in teacher workshops can be inspiring, the true transformation happens when continuous and ongoing support is provided. Dr. Clarke highlights the need for job-embedded supports like planning, coaching, and modeling. These supports ensure that teachers have the necessary training and guidance to implement new instructional practices effectively in their classrooms. Creating a culture of experimentation and encouragement allows teachers to embrace change, even if it means starting with imperfect implementations.
Connecting Education with the Community:
Education should not be confined within the four walls of a classroom. Dr. Clarke emphasizes the importance of reaching out to the community and creating connections between home and school. From her own experience, initiatives like math trails in public parks have engaged families from her community in the learning process. When students can teach caregivers about what they have learned, and caregivers can make relevant connections to their students' personal worlds, a supportive and involved community of educators and learners is built.
Dr. Tonya Clarke's insights provide a roadmap for creating engaging schools and districts that prioritize student-centered learning, continuous professional development, and community involvement. Tune in to the full episode to learn about these takeaways and more.