Paul D. Gray, Jr., Ed.D.
Chief Curriculum Officer, Cosenza & Associates, LLC, Dallas, Texas
I met NCSM in Washington, DC, in 2009. I had signed up to attend the NCTM Research Presession, which was being held in the convention center alongside NCSM’s Annual Meeting. As I was walking through the halls of the convention center, I stopped to read the session titles for some of the NCSM rooms. I immediately realized that I was at the wrong conference. NCSM was for me!
In my work as a secondary mathematics specialist and then the director of mathematics for a mid-size school district, I found that I was increasingly relying on NCSM to support me in my work. The annual meeting and its slate of rock star speakers was particularly helpful to me since it gave me a chance to meet and talk with the people whose work I was reading and using to help my teachers improve their craft.
My teaching roots go back to a rural school in Oklahoma and an urban school in Houston, Texas. In both settings, we had students pretty much like yours – a collection of hard-working, good kids. Both schools were quite diverse, which taught me many things. Among them, all kids really can learn deep and meaningful mathematics when you afford them the opportunity. We really do have systemic inequities out there that even the most well-intentioned educators may not recognize.
My work with NCSM, as well as other professional organizations, has shown me the power of collaboration and how, if we work together, we can create significant change that benefits all of our teachers and student. We can leverage 21st century technologies to create face-to-face and digital learning communities. We can learn from each other and support each other as we break down barriers that keep too many of our students from being successful.
Some leaders lead from the front and create examples for others to follow. Other leaders lead from behind, pushing people to keep moving forward. Dr. Cheryl Craig of Texas A&M University describes “leadership from the midst,” in which leaders lead from within the group, engaged in the collective work alongside their colleagues. NCSM provides an opportunity for all of us to lead from the midst as we work together to achieve our common vision: high-quality mathematics teaching and learning for each and every student.
As a beginning teacher, my colleagues in Oklahoma taught me how important it is to join and belong to our professional organizations. As a classroom teacher in graduate school, I learned about the importance of joining NCTM. When I became a mathematics specialist at the regional level, a trusted colleague encouraged me to join NCSM, and I am glad that I took her advice. NCSM provides resources for mathematics supervisors that are not provided by any other organization. Workshops provide the opportunity to network with colleagues and generate solutions to common problems. Print and digital resources provide exemplar activities that we can use with our teachers. Publications such as the NCSM Journal or the It’s TIME framework provide structures through which we can develop and sustain instructional programs in our own district or organization.
Being a member of NCSM makes me feel like I belong to an important organization that is making a difference in the lives of mathematics education leaders, teachers, and students. Together, we can not only learn from each other, but also speak with a unified voice about what we know to be true about successful mathematics education programs. Our nation’s founding fathers coined the phrase e pluribus unum to represent the different colonies coming together to form one nation. NCSM provides the opportunity for mathematics education leaders from across the country, who are developing, implementing, and leading so many individual mathematics instructional programs, to come together and become one group of professionals who support one another and work together to make sure all of our teachers and students have equitable access to meaningful, high-quality mathematics.