As hard as it is to believe, it’s already that time of year again—summer is here. Some of you have already finished the school year and are in vacation mode. Others of you, particularly our friends in the Northeast (making up for all those snow days) are likely counting down the final days!

Summer provides all types of opportunities—time to decompress, maybe take a vacation near a beach or in the mountains, or spend time with family and friends. It’s also a time for more concentrated professional development.

When I was teaching, the professional development opportunities I participated in during the summer made a huge impact on my life—professionally and personally. These classes and workshops changed the way I thought about the teaching and learning of mathematics. They changed how I viewed myself as a learner, and they certainly changed my view of what I thought good teaching was.

In the mid 1990’s I interviewed to be a district Teacher on Special Assignment for math and science, a role similar to a coach or specialist. During the interview, I was asked what the difference was between teaching adults and teaching children. After some thought, I finally replied, “The size of the chairs.” I partially wanted to get a laugh and break the tension of what felt like a pretty intense interview. (Which I did—and I also got the job, believe it or not!) But I also wanted to make the point that learning is learning. Whether it’s a first grade student or a first grade teacher, it’s important to respect the prior knowledge and experiences brought to the learning situation. It’s equally important to use that knowledge and those experiences to create a learning environment where math teaching and learning can flourish, regardless of the size of the learner.

Oh, and by the way, the size of the chairs really does matter. How many of you have been to a workshop where you were sitting in kindergarten-size chairs?!

As we move into summer, our attention here at the Investigations Center turns to professional development. We’ll be offering several workshops and institutes, as well as facilitating online courses. Because of that, our blog schedule is changing slightly from posting weekly, to posting biweekly. And, given that our summer work focuses on professional development, our summer blogs will focus on issues and questions that arise in our work with adults.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll also get some time near a beach or in the mountains!

Keith Cochran
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