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  • Writer's pictureFrancis Pina

Until the big 4-o Pt.1

It is either too simple or too fitting to enter this year of 2020 in a state of hindsight. Reflecting about the passing decade has become a tradition between my closest friends and myself; sitting in a circle with a drink and discussing our growth, celebrations (like how I met and married my Love in the last decade), and failures. I'm going to keep the content of those reflections private, but I am going to share my intentions for this coming decade. I am 33 years old, my Larry Bird year, and will reach my 40th rotation around our local star in this decade. I have laid out my intentions in two sections: professionally and personally. While these intentions are not exhaustive, they will serve as my Polaris.



My intention is to consistently perform on an MVP-level and serve as a mentor to aspiring teachers

I am currently in my seventh professional year of teaching. Being into numbers, it is not lost on me that 7 (years of professional teaching) + 33 (years of living) = 40 (the age I set to reach my intentions). I have participated in many impactful professional development fellowships and programs over my seven years of teaching. My experiences with Better Math Teaching Network, Teach Plus, Educators for Excellence's "Educators in Power PD", Boston Teachers Union's "Inquiry Project", DIY Coaching, and the Passion to Teach Fellowship have taught me the following lessons:

(1) Consistency, creativity, and collaboration in and out of the classroom fosters growth (esp. in mindset) in myself and my students.

(2) The most impactful educators are reflective practitioners and are potentially doing too much.

(3) There is a time to teach content, a time to teach students, a time to do neither, and a time to do both.

I could expound on each of those lessons, but I rather do that in-person or in a separate post. I think now is the time for me to integrate what I have learned and experienced to serve as a model of consistent excellence in early adolescence (ages 11 to 15) mathematics teaching.

I am being specific because one of my goals to live-out my intention is to become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in Early Adolescence Mathematics by the age of 40. I've shared this goal with only a handful of people who I trust to believe I can do it and who would hold me accountable. So, here I am speaking, no writing this into existence. While there are only a handful of Black math teachers who are NBCT, what drives me is to reach, sustain, and prove that I am an example of consistently strong mathematics teaching. I am not there yet, but I am making so many strides to get there. Teaching is so hard at times, that the very actions or inactions of this work may be considered masochistic, but I think it is all worth it to witness my 8th, 9th, and 10th graders (These ages are my jam! No shade to the other age groups) grow confident and aware of their strengths and growth areas. Sure, a teacher does not have to be NBCT to give that to their students, but I think math teachers should be motivated to create witness to the same things.

I do not want to be viewed as only a role model for my teachers, because I want to be viewed as a role model of excellent teaching. I have examples laid before me in the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson @RodRobinsonRVA,

my friend and 2017 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year Kevin Dua @kevindua,

and my friend and former colleague who is a NBCT and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee @SydneyChaffee.

There is so much I can say about each of these amazing, inspiring, strong, and genuine individuals, but I will say this... FOLLOW THESE PEOPLE, LIKE SUBSCRIBE, WATCH THEIR VIDEOS, and UNDERSTAND THEIR TEACHING CONTEXTS! So, all caps were not necessary, but I am so grateful for each of these individuals who inspire me to be and do great! Special shout-out to my boy Jianan Shi @JiananShi

I have served as a mentor to two mentees, both white women, over the last two school years through the Harvard Graduate School of Education Student-Alumni Mentoring Initiative (SAMI). I chose not to serve as one this year because I intended to to serve as a mentor to a male of color who wanted to become a secondary mathematics teacher. That has not happened (yet), and I felt so discouraged because I felt I could give more to another male of color who was considering teaching. However, I never truly considered how I could be more to a white person who was considering teacher. It is meaningful for white prospective teachers to engage meaningfully with teachers who do not look like them, esp. if those teachers are Black. I was able to speak about race, bias, and representation with my mentee's in a way that was vulnerable and create a foundation of how to listen and interact with a Black male teacher. I am not a monolith of the Black experience in America, but I was able to help my mentees explore how to create a safe-space for Black teachers in their schools. I did not really appreciate that responsibility when I first started mentoring through SAMI, but now I am aware of it. I am still in contact with one my mentees (we aim to meet-up every few months to catch-up), and will continue to serve as a mentor and sounding-board for her teaching journey. I would challenge other educators of color to serve as mentors to prospective teachers because if we want to foster safe spaces for ourselves and future educators of color, we need to make sure our (future) white colleagues are able to understand how.


This concludes part one of my intentions. I will write and share my personal intentions within the next two weeks. Until then, happy 2020, happy MLK Jr. Day, and stay cute!


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