We’re all making adjustments during the COVID-19 crisis, especially schools. No matter how long a teacher has taught in a classroom, distance learning on this scale is a first in our lifetime. In this episode, you’ll listen in on a discussion with a technology-driven teacher, Mrs. Cox, and hear how she’s adjusting to this new normal. Mrs. Cox shares with us how she’s adapting her lessons, making herself available to students, and ways she’s continuing to build relationships through remote learning.
In this episode we discuss how Mrs. Cox is:
We're also discussing ways teachers can start implementing a more structured digital environment. You also hear how Mrs. Cox is still using our math education software during this period of distance learning. If you'd like to know more or see what it's all about, we'd like to give you a free trial! Go to Getmoremath.com to learn more!
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We hope you enjoy this interview! Drop us a comment or email us at email@example.com and let us know what you think of this episode.
Derek Maxson: 0:01
Welcome to the get more math podcast, where we support teachers in their quest for long term student gains. This is a podcast for teachers to share their passion for math education, learn best practices from experts in the field and swap ideas for student success. This his community. This is Get More Math.
Derek Maxson: 0:25
Welcome to the get more math podcast. I'm Derrick Maxson and the president of Get More Math, and I'm here with Josh Britton, the founder of Get More Math, and we're excited to welcome you to the podcast today. How are you, Josh?
Josh Britton: 0:36
Doing good. Thanks, Derek.
Derek Maxson: 0:38
Josh, tell us a little bit about today's episode. What do we have to look forward to?
Josh Britton: 0:42
Well, today we have an interview with Becky Cox. She's a middle school teacher with two decades of experience. She's really good at connecting with kids. She cares deeply about relationships with kids. And so I'll be asking her. How is she maintaining her relationships and her connections with kids at a distance?
Derek Maxson: 1:00
Well, that does sound great, Josh and and I'm sure our listeners are all excited to hear from Becky and from you. So let's go straight to the interview .
Josh Britton: 1:14
Today we're honored to have Becky Cox with us as our chief guest. She is a middle school teacher and Columbia, California. That's somewhere in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park. She's gonna tell us a little bit about her experience doing distance learning. Becky, welcome to the show.
Becky Cox: 1:34
Hi. Well, thank you for having me.
Josh Britton: 1:37
Let's just start with a quick introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about your school and your responsibilities?
Becky Cox: 1:42
Okay. Well, my name is Becky Cox, and I am 7th and 8th grade math teacher in a small school, Columbia Elementary. We have a kindergarten through 8th grade campus. We have about 575 students on campus, and it's my responsibility to be teaching the 7th and 8th grade math portion.
Josh Britton: 2:01
Very good. Thank you. How long have you been teaching?
Becky Cox: 2:04
I've been teaching 20 years.
Josh Britton: 2:07
Great. Great. That's about how many years I put in. Well, let's actually kind of roll the clock back and think about 2-3 months ago. Can you tell us loosely how a typical math class would roll for you?
Becky Cox: 2:22
Okay, so in my classroom, it would typically start with me teaching the lesson to the students, and then we would switch over to are Get More Math assignment. We've done a really cool thing in our classroom. All of my desks have a coating on them so that my students can use dry erase markers and do the math right on their desks. And so it's kind of fun to walk around and watch them do their math, working all the steps. They're more willing to do that than actually write on paper. And as soon as the high students finish the assignment, they would get up and they would start helping all of the students around. By the time class was over, all the students were working on priorities and getting ready to get their homework done.
Josh Britton: 3:03
That sounds great. Of course unfortunately, you can't do that right now, right? How many weeks have you been out of the classroom?
Becky Cox: 3:10
This is our third week right now.
Josh Britton: 3:13
So as we've transitioned, what kinds of expectations does your school district hav for you going forward?
Becky Cox: 3:20
So right now, we just had our big staff meeting because they just extended that will be out of school until May 1st. And so now we're actually looking at more not just enrichment, which I think we were doing for the first two weeks. But now actually, looking at you know it, providing lessons and things for the students and trying to keep them active and entertained in math in school.
Josh Britton: 3:43
Let's talk about what you did those first two weeks. Did you come up with some forms of enrichment?
Becky Cox: 3:48
Oh, yeah, I did. One of the things that I was really thankful for was that I had already been doing Get More Math in my classroom. So I didn't have to teach my students distance how to do something different than what they've already been doing in my classroom every single day. The only thing that the new element was that I had to create videos of the lessons now to share with the students, and now their interaction with me is completely through email and phone calls to my house. So that's been, you know, the big change. But they've always been allowed to call me at home anyway, so that hasn't even been a big change either.
Josh Britton: 4:26
Well, how many students do you have?
Becky Cox: 4:29
So I have 115 students.
Josh Britton: 4:31
Do many of them take advantage of your willingness to take phone calls?
Becky Cox: 4:34
I have quite a few I actually have about. I have about 15 regular students that that call me consistently, you know, a couple of times a week. I think today was the real first time that the kids started getting a serious sense of that we're gonna be out of school for a while because they got that phone call last night from the superintendent. Today, between 9 and 11 my phone was ringing almost nonstop.
Josh Britton: 5:00
So do you give them office hours?
Becky Cox: 5:05
Yes. So I had told him that my office hours would be 9 to 11. Dedicated to working with them with math. After today, though, I realized I'm going to change it. And I'm going to create zoom meetings for an hour for each grade level where they can pop in and out of that zoom meeting to get help. And I think that's gonna be smoother. It's gonna be able to help more students. Some of the students will probably get the answers to their same problem as I'm helping another student because they will all be able to see that.
Josh Britton: 5:34
Great. You talked about creating videos with instructional content, which you've never had to do before. I'm actually curious more about suppose you've made five video lessons. How do you deliver those to the student?
Becky Cox: 0:00
There's a couple of different ways. All of our students have school email accounts, so I'm sending them the link to the to the video in their school email account. But I've also created a web page, and on that web page they can go to their grade level, where the first pages is a calendar with all of the lessons they can see what lessons are coming up. And then when they click on the actual lessons, there's all the videos are right there, so they actually have access to all the videos as I upload them a week at a time up on to the website, and then I also have like a written transcript of the lesson for students who don't have Internet. And then we're just making sure that parents come by and pick those up.
Josh Britton: 6:41
Could a kid, if a kid wanted to sort of just binge and watch all five videos or something? How many videos are there in a week? I should say?
Becky Cox: 6:41
There will be five videos a week.
Josh Britton: 6:42
Well, that's phenomenal. It sounds like you've really gone the extra mile already. Did you have a website prior to this whole COVID-19 response?
Becky Cox: 6:50
I did have a website prior to that and just help students with parents with updates. I also had links to, like Khan Academy videos for students who, if they were struggling with the math, I'm gonna now be replacing those Khan Academy links with my own videos so that at home, just like next year, students will have videos of me re-teaching that lesson.
Josh Britton: 7:13
Now. You mentioned that there's a benefit that you already were using a digital tool and using Get More Math, which is kind of fun for me, you know? So obviously I am intimately familiar with Get More Math having made it, and one of the challenges I would project into this transition is it used to be, if the kid's got stuck on review problems, let's say they're in a big mixed review. There's 60 different types of old skills that they could be held accountable to. But there's one they really stuck on now. They're not going to see you for at least a month. Right? Is the one of the big purposes of the zoom to address those kinds of issues?
Becky Cox: 7:52
Right. Not only will they be able to ask questions about the actual assignment that I'm assigning that day, but then right now, just to keep it kind of easy, their assignment is only like three or four points and then they're going into mixed review really quick. I've actually been like I have a student who has special needs. And so I noticed that trying to talk to him just through email or even just try and talk to him on the phone hasn't really been helping. So I've actually been just making little, mini videos whenever he sends me a question and that way he can actually watch me do the math. And that's why I want to do the zoom lessons. I know that they need to see me actually doing the math is I'm talking about it.
Josh Britton: 8:35
I just heard twice today, actually, that zoom offers a whiteboard. Have you used that?
Becky Cox: 8:41
I haven't used the white board yet. Right now I have a smart board, so I have the program for a smart board on my computer. And and so I'm using that technology. And one of them is it just puts an overlay right on top of my word document or even right on top of the Get More Math teacher screen where I can pull up the student's problem, and I can actually write on it and it looks like I'm actually writing right on the program.
Josh Britton: 9:30
Excellent. Do you have, like, a a stylus or something? Is that what you're using to write?
Becky Cox: 10:10
Right now I'm just I'm just using text, so I'm just typing it. And I'm just using the text component because I'm not that coordinated. I do need to get a stylus because right now, just using a math, it looks like a four year olds writing.
Josh Britton: 10:10
Well, it's hard, isn't it? I was just at a Get More Math webinar, where a teacher was going through the different techniques for kind of putting math specific visuals down. It's, of course, very complicated. You try to type stuff with your typewriter and you need to put in 1/2 you know, our square root of two, and now you're kind of in a bad spot. You can write square to it, just it's not as good. So she was showing a tablet. It was relatively inexpensive somewhere, I think, in the 30 to $40 range and did a really nice job of just kind of plug-in and use, basically, especially with the Microsoft products she was using.
Becky Cox: 10:10
I am definitely interested in doing something like that because, uh, it's like you said, It's kind of unwieldy. It takes a little while to create those lessons to create all those math symbols that I need.
Josh Britton: 10:22
So I realized we're very much in early stages, so there's a lot of guesswork we're doing. What's gonna work? How are things going to go? But it's interesting to me to hear that you're gonna aim for five lessons a week. Are you actually trying to maintain the same overall scope in sequence for the next couple of months, as you would have had they been in person?
Becky Cox: 10:44
That is my goal. Because, you know, I teach seventh and eighth graders and I think that those kids want their regular routine. They were so excited. We had our first zoom meeting the other day just to see us and to talk to us about math. And, you know, like I said today, once they realized that it's serious, it's not just in extra week off of school. You know, the desire to do their math has really increased, and I think they're starting to realize that if they don't keep up, they're gonna feel very behind next year when they were trying to do eighth grade math or my eighth graders wanting to go to high school
Josh Britton: 11:21
That's fantastic. So there's a lot of ,you say, that there's a building intrinsic motivator for them to get involved even remotely.
Becky Cox: 11:30
And then I had a group of students had my high eighth graders in a special math class in a an enrichment class twice a week, and my focus with them was to give them the tools they would need to take a class this summer at the high school to skip their first year of math. And so there's a huge desire for those students to stay active in math because they still want to be able to do that.
Josh Britton: 11:54
Have you had trouble connecting with any of your kids yet?
Becky Cox: 11:58
Um, yeah, I've had a few. I do have a few students who don't have don't have computers right now. And that's one thing the school is doing right now is we're taking some of our our first generation Chromebooks, and we're going to start checking this out to students. And so they were checking to make sure Get More Math worked on it, which it does. They'll be just giving those to students who need computers.
Josh Britton: 12:20
That's awesome. I'm gonna say it sounds to me like, in a way, you were fairly well positioned for this. I'm not saying this is a good thing, what's happening to all of us. But it sounds like you were already pretty conversant with digital, you know, digital practices, and you'd already actually kind of accustomed your kids to being able to connect with you outside of school hours. And you already had a website, You know, So for you that the new piece primarily is the video instruction, which I'm sure is an art in itself. It will take you a while.
Becky Cox: 12:51
Oh my gosh. Yes!
Josh Britton: 12:54
Well, can you comment on that? You're early stages journey. Like what have you already discovered?
Becky Cox: 13:00
Yeah, i'll tell you. Okay, so first, I do not like being videotaped. I had a really hard time with that. And so sometimes I actually turned the camera off and I even tell the students I can't keep looking at myself. It's distracting me. So I've noticed that, um because I'm nervous about being videotaped, I'm talking faster. Well, some of those lessons. And so I even sent an email that said "Positive You need To." I'm just learning. And I realized how fast I was talking. And then, you know, the ridiculous stuff that you say over and over again that you don't realize until you record yourself and then you edit it and you realize that you have these dumb phrases that you say over over again. So it's all that stuff, but I'm slowing down a little bit. I'm trying not to say "so" as much, leaving the cam up a little bit longer. At the beginning, I'll start now with the cam larger just so they can see me larger and I'll just talk to him and then I'll go to a smaller version while I do the lesson.
Josh Britton: 14:04
I like that. Do you do a, um, pretty thorough scripting ahead of time? Or is it mostly sort if you have your general goals and that it's extemporaneous?
Becky Cox: 14:13
it just depends on the lesson. So some of the lessons I feel so comfortable that I felt I could just I could just wing it. There were others that I thought I could, and then I I realize that I was starting to tape it that I was not making this is clear, as I as I needed to, And so then I had to stop and just take notes, and I just took him in the math workbook right there that I have with me. That and that's been helping a good little bit.
Josh Britton: 14:40
So it sounds like your production schedule is going to be loosely 10 videos a week. Is that right?
Becky Cox: 14:46
Yes. And then and then one extra one for my advanced math students.
Josh Britton: 14:52
Okay, that's that's pretty ambitious.
Becky Cox: 14:55
And that class is a class that's assigned to them through Khan Academy. And so I already had all of that information. I know what classes and so I'm just giving them walk throughs on the things that I know they already know is just review. But there's some things that we haven't taught yet that they still need to know, like graphing,, inequalities and systems of inequalities. And so that was much more treacherous. That video.
Josh Britton: 15:22
Could you sort of tap out and use Khan's videos for that?
Becky Cox: 15:25
You know, I can. But, um, I like the kids getting that information, hearing my voice, they're comfortable with it, and I I want to keep that connection. I don't want them to feel like they've just been passed to to Sal Khan.
Josh Britton: 15:43
That's a theme that I'm hearing early on is teachers and administrators with one thing they deeply care about is how to maintain the relational connection. Yeah, so if you just kind of give him a sheet of like click on this. Go to this. Do this and they're not hearing from you or you've been interacting with you. There's a There's a real loss. That certainly resonates with my understanding of what makes kids tick. You know, they might not like math. They might not like being a school. But if if they know a person cares about them and is connected to them and is encouraging them, I think it wildly increases, the probability of them succeeding, beccause they're motivated by people who care for them.
Becky Cox: 16:24
I absolutely agree,
Josh Britton: 16:27
It makes all that investment and videos kind of worth the pain.
Becky Cox: 16:31
Yes, and I'm growing! I mean, I'm doing something that is really far out of my comfort zone, which is funny because I teach drama. You would think that wouldn't bother me.
Josh Britton: 16:42
Well, just staying on your videos for a minute. What's sort of the length of a video that covers a new concept? Would you say, Is there a link?
Becky Cox: 16:53
Well, they've actually been fluctuating, so some of the some of them when it's, you know, kind of long, like I'm teaching right now. I'm doing construction videos teaching students how to use a compass. And so those lessons to a little bit longer. They're 30 to 45 minutes long because I'm talking to about how to actually roll a compass through their index finger and their in their thumb and where to place the pen and things like that. But other videos, they've only been like 16-17 minutes long.
Josh Britton: 17:27
Well, here's another question that intrigues me and I'd say puzzles me. To start though, explain that my teaching methodology was deeply invested in asking questions, so I almost never showed kids how to do anything. Ah, almost always it was trying to intrigue them, trying to get them thinking, trying to get to explore an idea to solve a problem. It's just sort of build how to do something for themselves so that, you know, obviously that took a long time, and it also took tons of preparation. But I actually don't think I could make a video that accomplishes that. It was all about the dialogue right, huh? So do you find yourself having to drop the...? Obviously, you have to drop the interaction because it's just you talking, but has that presented difficulty?
Becky Cox: 18:25
It has, um, I think part of it, because I'm so used to all that interaction that it is hard to just want to keep enthusiastic when there's no response. You know? Oh, you know, because that's what's hard because you don't realize how much of your teaching is involved with looking at the feedback. You're getting from the students all the time. And I am one who is constantly bringing in real life, you know, examples of our, you know, going off on a tangent here or there, just based on what a student will say. And and it was the real It was like it was like a dance. You know, the conversations in the classroom, and that's gone right now. So that's that's kind of weird.
Josh Britton: 19:16
You miss the dance.
Becky Cox: 19:18
And that's why I think I want to start the zoom lessons right away. So last night I had my daughter and my husband in another room with their laptops, and I had them pretend to be students. They were trying to mess me up so I could learn how to control a room full of people on the computer.
Josh Britton: 19:37
That's a great idea. I love it. It's it's interesting. We're talking a little bit earlier about how students are at core, motivated many times by relationship, rather than simply by tasks or what have you. What you just said reminded me that teachers are also add core, often motivated by relationships. So your energy, often as a teacher, comes at you the way you feed on the energy in the room. It's this mutually beneficial circle.
Becky Cox: 20:03
On test days it was never that beneficial because you could feel this! You have that 115 kids worth of stress piled on your shoulders. But yeah, it is, it's and it's It's hard to keep yourself that excited and pumped up when you don't have that.
Josh Britton: 20:23
So you're making videos and you're building content, but then you don't get your special time like where the kids were laughing or asking good questions or are really intrigued by something you ask them. Yeah, that's that's That's interesting. I hadn't actually until this this moment, hadn't thought about the fuel that you're missing, like, you know, when I was in the classroom and I had hundreds of kids, interacting with hundreds of kids every day. It just carried me along, right?
Becky Cox: 20:55
Oh, yeah. And it's, um And what a great feeling when you knew you had everybody, you had them. And it was, you know...
Josh Britton: 21:03
Oh, yeah, you get a wind. I completely understand that. Well, this has been a really great conversation. I wonder if there are any other things you're thinking about that, um, you anticipate challenges that kind of haven't realized yet. But maybe next week or a month from now, as you conjecture, what do you think is in store?
Becky Cox: 21:26
Well, um, one of the things that I think it's going to end up happening for teachers is I think we're gonna end up with stronger relationships with parents because we're going to now have to transition from being in charge of students learning and the students being accountable, to us, and it's gonna have to turn to where the parents are gonna have to take up that piece and have the students accountable to them, and I can help them. I can show them exactly what they're doing, but that's gonna be a you know, that's gonna be the next challenge.
Josh Britton: 22:04
That's fascinating. I hadn't really thought about that either. So these conversations are sort of fun for me, but also sobering this thought is just hitting my mind for the first time. But my first thought is some scenarios. Some parents may not do very well with that, and all of a sudden we have students who, you know, the school system has really stepped in and protected and fed and nourished. And I'm even gonna say, cherised because we do. We cherish every kid, or that's what we strive to do. Wow, that's Ah. Deep concern would be if more responsibility lies on the parents. Generally speaking, of course, that's hard for parents, But parents will shoulder that and possibly even flourish in that. But in some cases, that might might not go very well.
Becky Cox: 22:54
Yeah, and then, you know I have I have some parents that don't want... They don't want to have to deal with arguing with their children to do math. So I have some students who are doing nothing, and that's and that's heartbreaking because I know they were they were at least being accountable to me. And now that I don't have that, that's sad.
Josh Britton: 23:16
That is sad. And there's a limit to what you can accomplish. You could accomplish more if they were in the room and you were like, "Hey, what are you doing?" You know, you could motivate them. You could talk to them. You could joke around with them.
Becky Cox: 23:30
And just look him in the eye sometime, they're junior high students so and just sometimes just look him in the eyes and go, "Look, you're you're playing a game and I'm not playing." And when they realize that, they usually step up. They do exactly what they should be doing.
Josh Britton: 23:47
That looking in the eyes part you really can't do! And there's probably, a 100 other things that you, as a veteran teacher, kind of do without even thinking: body language, word choice, eye contact, proximity that are all out the window. You know, they're techniques that just have no usefulness right now. Let's let's, uh, hit one other topic I've been thinking about. I'm just curious to know where, um, formal assessment is gonna land for you?
Becky Cox: 24:16
We are not holding the kids responsible for any of the work that's being assigned right now at all, because we have a population that we're not certain that they can access the information. So right now, there's not gonna be any testing, and I'm not sure because I I've been doing testing through Get More Math and I've had students even asked me, "Are we gonna are we gonna have to do a test this week?" And, um so I think I'm just gonna talk with the students and see what they want. And if the consensus is that they'd like to see tests, I'll turn the test on every Friday and create a test for them and let them see because they're those students who want that. They really need it, even though they know that I can't actually transfer those scores into my grade book and hold them really accountable with a report card.
Josh Britton: 25:04
Sure, but they might like to know where they stand. That's what I think. That'd be pretty neat if it was an opt in test and the learners who are motivated to, you know, knock it out of the park or find out what I could find out. I think that's better than nothing.
Becky Cox: 25:20
I think that's where it's gonna have to be right now, as far as and then you know, we'll see as it goes along. But my impression, I mean at the staff meeting was nice to hear that second grade teachers were wanting to do that same thing. They weren't wanting to just end enrichment stuff to their students. They want to keep teaching them.
Josh Britton: 25:39
That's great. Well, that's the questions that I have, and I certainly enjoy hearing what you're doing. Becky, I admire your dedication and your investment into your kids. I personally, I am expecting. I'm expecting less, you know? I'm expecting us all to achieve less than we used to, But I love it that you are doing your utmost to help your kids hit their utmost, given the constraints in which we all find ourselves so and also, I'm glad we can be a part at Get More Math and give you a tool that's, supporting your practices. That's fun for me, too. Well, thanks, Becky. Appreciate your time and all the best in your endeavors the next month or two or however long this takes.
Becky Cox: 26:27
Thank you so much. It was a lot of fun you guys!
Derek Maxson: 0:00
Thank you, Becky, I appreciate you so much you being a guest today on Get More Math. And Josh, that was a great interview. What's one or two takeaways that you would give to each one of us to summarize your time with Becky today?
Josh Britton: 0:00
One thing that stands out for me is the importance of relationship. That came out when she was talking about making content for her students. How she's opted to make videos every day for each class because she wants her students to hear her voice. They know her, they trust her. And she wants to do anything she can to maintain the connection. The personal connection. That really, that really resonates with me, but even perhaps more fascinating to me, that she said earlier Is she, um is also noticing how important the students relating to her is. So she's accustomed to getting every day this sweet energy that comes from kids laughing at her jokes, responding to her ideas. That happens, you know, five days out of seven, she's got all of these kids who are sort of in this this excellent cycle of she gives to them, but they give back to her. And it got me thinking a lot just in this short period of time about how are teachers right now If they're feeling like like with lethargy or really absence of energy, a big part of that could just be sort of a missing nutrient that they're accustomed to, something that they normally feed on without even really thinking about just riding the energy of the people in their lives. So they have the same responsibilities. They still have to reach out to this to all those kids. But they have so much less relational energy to sort of ride on. And I was just putting myself in the shoes. Wow, that would be sort of an extra challenge in doing work, that's already really challenging. As I listened to Becky, I hear an expert in digital content. Obviously, she, prior to this catastrophic event, she was already pretty versed and using online practice tools and in communication with with parents and students outside the classroom. So if you're listening to to the step she's taking now, and you're thinking, "I haven't done any of those things!" I do want encourage you to try to start small, find one thing you could do that's digitally oriented, remote learning oriented, and step into that and experiment with it. Bring it up to speed, but probably don't try to do everything at once. So for Becky, the new thing is to make video instructional content. That's a pretty big reach and a lot of work. If you haven't even, you know, perhaps mastered Zoom or if you're not accustomed to using some online practice platform, maybe start with one of those and work your way up. So that's something that I think that we should all be aware of is the importance of managing our expectations as we try to transition from what we're used to and what we need to do now.
Derek Maxson: 0:00
Well, thanks, Josh. That's a lot to think about, but it's also an encouraging message that you have for us and that Becky has for us. Thank you for bringing that today. And hey, our first episode is in the book! And so check back with us next week and we will have the next episode of the Get More Math Podcast.
Derek Maxson: 0:00
Thank you for listening to the Get More Math Podcast. We would like to invite all our listeners to visit our website at GetMoreMath.com, where you'll find helpful information about how Get More Math can help you transform the math education experience through targeted mastery and cyclical review. We would welcome you to take advantage of our free trial, which is good not only for the remainder of this school year, but also for the 2021 school year. If you think this podcast would be helpful to others, please share it, post on social media, or leave us a rating in review wherever you listen to podcasts. If you have any comments or suggestions for future episodes, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time on the Get More Math Podcast!