Message from NCSM President, Paul Gray

Journeys and Explorations
I love the metaphor of professional learning as a journey. Our professional lives follow pathways that are a combination of things we create, things we learn, and how we respond to changes in the environment around us. It’s sort of like when Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to take a hike, so to speak,

and leave the comforts of St. Louis in May 1804 to figure out exactly what the land the US acquired through the Louisiana Purchase looked like. After all, President Jefferson
had just spent a fortune on all this territory, sight unseen, so it seemed like a legitimate question.

Lewis and Clark knew that they needed to head west, and they started out along the known path of the Missouri River but did not know exactly what they would find along the journey or where it would take them. Sort of like how we start a new school year. We know where we need to be at the end of the year but how we get

there is not always predictable. We have a guide (curriculum documents), some tools (instructional strategies and instructional materials), and some resources. While we have no way to predict all of the things that will happen along the way, we do know that we need to be able to respond to them.


Texas Governor Ann Richards once said, “We’re living in a whole new social and economic order with a whole new set of problems and challenges. Old assumptions and old programs don’t work in this new society and the more we try to stretch them to make them fit, the more we will be seen as running away from what is reality.”


She was not talking about the COVID pandemic but she sure could have been. The old assumptions and old programs that we knew worked before COVID (or as I call it, BC times) may not be as effective anymore. They worked for the social and economic order we once knew, but the new one? Not so much. As math leaders, our job is to help teachers, administrators, parents and families, and other community stakeholders find the new programs and strategies that fit our new AC (after COVID) times. The more we try and force-fit all of our old ideas about structures that support student success into this new world in which we find ourselves, the more it seems, as Governor Richards said, that we are running away from what is reality.


The good news is that we are not starting from scratch! NCSM, NCTM, and ASSM collaborated to develop the Continuing the Journey guidance for how to support good mathematics instruction that focuses on the humans in our education systems - students and teachers. If we are steadfast in our commitment to on-grade-level content, equitable and effective teaching practices, and advocacy for what teachers and students need, then we will be able to navigate our changing pathways. Like Lewis and Clark, we have enough knowledge and tools with us to make it through the unexpected things we find along the way.


Lewis and Clark eventually made it to the mouth of the Columbia River in November 1805, 18 months after their departure. We will also reach our destination at the end of the school year in May or June. And then next fall, we’ll do it again. We’ll be a little older and a little wiser, and the professional journey will continue.


Y’all be careful. We’ll touch base again in February!



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The editors are particularly interested in manuscripts that bridge research to practice in mathematics education leadership. Manuscripts should be relevant to our members’ roles as leaders in mathematics education, and implications of the manuscript for leaders in mathematics education should be significant. At least one author of the manuscript must be a current member of NCSM.


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