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“CREATING JOY COUNTS!” Reflections of a Middle School Math Teacher

“Enthusiastic, Energetic, Dedicated, Passionate, Knowledgeable, Fun, Encouraging, Inspiring, Supportive, Influential, Understanding, Attentive, Genuine”

As I begin the fourth marking period of my 25th year of teaching mathematics, I took some time to pause and reflect on my career. What does it mean to live a joyful life, and how can what you do each day impact your happiness and the happiness of others? What does a “successful” career as a secondary mathematics teacher look like? 

For me, there is nothing better in this world than being a teacher! I have the privilege of waking up each day with the opportunity to make a difference.  I get to spend every day talking about things that matter and helping my students explore things mathematically. 

I love knowing that in our math classroom, it’s not always about what’s right and what’s wrong.  Instead it’s about taking risks and figuring out what we think and what strategy would work best in solving the task at hand. It’s about learning from each other and building a community within our classroom. It’s about being joyful and making every moment count!

As a secondary mathematics teacher, I strive to provide an academic atmosphere in which each student is challenged to reach their highest level of moral, emotional, and intellectual development.  I believe all students can learn and will learn in a nurturing environment.  To build confidence, perseverance, risk-taking, and curiosity, teachers must create a classroom culture that helps students understand that they have the right to participate in their learning.  Students achieve success when teachers create a positive atmosphere in which students feel brave enough to share ideas, strategies, and answers, and when they are taught to be kind and to listen to others.

Classroom experiences that create communities to collaborate with each other respectfully are key to student achievement.  Having high expectations that all students are problem solvers and all students can think critically and communicate mathematically invites students to engage in challenging tasks and experience success.  When teachers cultivate positive relationships – adults-to-students and peer-to-peer – they help foster student agency.  Each student becomes an active and valued member of the classroom community.  Students gain the courage to take risks and their mathematics environment becomes a joyful place to learn.

Being a part of the Delaware Mathematics Coalition (DMC) for the past ten years has helped me develop and evolve as a teacher. The work I engage in with our state-wide community has helped create more joyful and meaningful experiences for both me and my students.  Whether it’s interacting with each other during an open-ended math task, going around and sharing our opinions during a “Talking Points” activity, telling each other our own math stories, or learning a new number talk routine, the work that we teachers do at our DMC sessions is invaluable. 

Growing as a professional, creating a positive culture within the mathematics classroom, and having high expectations allow both me and my students to be all we can possibly be and to reach our highest potentials. We as teachers need to give children the best education now so that we can unlock promising futures for them.  Classrooms should be a place for rejoicing.  Our teaching careers should be filled with happiness.  And it all boils down to this – “Creating Joy Counts!” 

Lorianne Kalb is a grade seven mathematics teacher at Gunning Bedford Middle School in the Colonial School District, where she also serves as a Lead Mentor in the District’s Induction Program. She is team leader at Gunning Bedford, a district level teacher leader, and an active member of the Delaware Mathematics Coalition. She is a highly respected educator and the 1996 recipient of the Science Alliance and DuPont Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the 1999 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching. She was also Gunning Bedford’s Teacher of the Year in 1997 and 2020. Lorianne is passionate about equity in mathematics and has high expectations for her students as problem solvers. She is a Math Marigold participant in the Delaware Math Coalition’s Leadership Coaching Lab project.

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