Stand Up for Students

Rochelle Gutierrez

• ShadowCon Session

Friday, April 15, 2016 | 5:00PM – 6:30PM
Room: Marriott Yerba Buena 7

“These kids can’t learn a more rigorous curriculum.” “I’m Black, I don’t do math.” “Our department is getting rid of the curriculum we think really works for our kids.” Teaching mathematics is a highly political endeavor wherein we need to constantly negotiate our practice with colleagues, parents, administrators, and students who do not always share our values. Most of us have not been prepared to do this kind of political negotiating. Rather than blindly following district mandates or implicit school policies, we’ll look at how we can better advocate for our students and ourselves.


My Talk


My Slides

Please find my slides at this link.

My Tweets

Check out all the tweets from my session at NCTM.



If you’re here, that means you probably already are someone who cares deeply about students. How wonderful to connect with you! And, I hope you meet some new friends here as well. We need as many people as we can in this movement, so be sure to share your ideas with others and learn with/from them.

What Does It Mean to Stand Up for Students?

“Standing up for students” means holding a higher ethical standard for your work than others may hold for you. It means being able to confront a colleague, an administrator, or a school policy when they stand in the way of students learning rigorous mathematics and developing robust mathematical identities. Ultimately, standing up for students means putting the best interest of students first (ahead of what’s the easiest thing to do or the most popular thing to do). It means being able to look yourself in the mirror each day and say, “I’m doing what I said I was going to do when I went into this profession.” And, if you’re not, asking yourself: “What am I going to do about that?”

How Do I Stand Up for My Students?

When I am standing up for something, I need to focus my efforts. I know I can’t stand up for everything every day. So, you might ask yourself, “Which students have needs that are most neglected right now?”

If the best place to target your efforts lies in your classroom, go for it! You know what would best work for you. But, if you’re stuck, here are some things that other teachers I’ve worked with have found helpful in launching their work. Of course, you are a smart & resourceful person and surely have your own ideas of how best to do this work. So, PLEASE SHARE with others what has worked for you when you stand up for students.

Within My Classroom

  • Create an exit ticket that lets students tell you how class is working for them (then act on one of their suggestions)
  • Position a “problem” student as an expert on something
  • Incorporate an activity or practice that can (re)humanize mathematics (e.g., social justice mathematics)
  • Create a steering committee of students who can guide your practice
  • Develop supplementary assessments that get at more than “achievement” data and share your results with others

If you were drawn to my talk or simply the title, then you probably already are the kind of person who is standing up for your students. But, perhaps you’re mainly doing that in your own classroom, with your door shut and ignoring what is going on elsewhere. Maybe the next level is to invite other people to do this work with you! So, where I you start? I normally try to create dialogue of some kind. I try to make my issue a jointly held problem among a group of people. I look for like-minded people in my building. Often it takes only 1-2 other people to help usher in a change in your building!

Outside My Classroom

  • Engage in dialogue & “what if” brainstorming
  • Turn a rational issue into a moral one
  • Find an article/blog post that highlights your view and what research says is best for your students; share with others
  • Write a letter to your district or OpEd section
  • Raise the issue at a department or team meeting
  • Suggest a book club centered on the topic

What if I Face Resistance?

Standing up for students means speaking truth to power, which takes courage but also requires being strategic. You might want to download this Guide to Creative Insubordination that I created.

Rochelle Gutierrez

Rochelle Gutierrez

Dr. Rochelle Gutiérrez’ research focuses on equity in mathematics education, race/class/language issues in teaching and learning mathematics, effective teacher communities, and the kinds of political knowledge that mathematics teachers need to negotiate high stakes education. She has served as a member of the RAND National Mathematics Study Panel and the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Increasing Urban High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn, and is currently on the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators’ Standards Writing Team. Pace University recognized her as a Distinguished Educator in the Pedagogy of Success in Urban Schools. In 2011, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators awarded her the Excellence in Research Award for the work she has conducted and the theories on equity she has offered to the field. On a Fulbright fellowship, she studied secondary mathematics teachers in Zacatecas, México, where she was able to document the different cultural practices and algorithms used in Mexican classrooms. Her work has been published in such journals as Mathematical Thinking and Learning, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Harvard Educational Review, Democracy and Education, Urban Review, and Mathematics Teacher. Before and throughout graduate school, she taught middle and high school mathematics to adolescents in East San José, California. In her free time, she sews old clothing into new items and plays with Zome Tools.

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