Tales of the Pink Table
This Friday, the long and eventful career of a great educator and leader will come to an end. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Diane Muckleston for 15 years, as a colleague, as a friend and, as a member of our district’s math curriculum team under Diane’s skilled and intentional leadership. We were originally introduced by the mathematics consultant of that time, Barry Scully, who thought that we’d make a good addition to the teacher-leaders team that he had helped assemble to support the roll out of the then new Ontario Mathematics Curriculum Document.
We worked together to pilot the use of problem-based math tasks in our classrooms, led after school workshops for teachers and worked on some district writing teams. Soon Diane assumed the consultant’s role that Barry had held and invited me to continue as a member of her math team. Being a new father, I often brought our son Peter, a toddler, to our after school planning meetings and he’d amuse himself with the multitude of colourful mathematics manipulatives. Intermingled with the math talk were conversations about the ups and downs of parenting, with Diane’s boys then approaching adolescence; I benefited greatly from her wisdom and insights.
When Diane assumed the role of District Mathematics Coordinator in our board, I applied to join the team as a consultant and was successful. In the fall of 2003 Diane led a team of 3 consultants (two elementary and one secondary). Over the course of that year we planned and facilitated in-school and after school learning sessions for over 1000 elementary and high school teachers. A year later three additional consultants were added to the team.
With Diane’s leadership our team pushed the boundaries of teacher professional learning; adapting a protocol for teacher joint work through lesson study, integrating technology and blended learning into our work, supporting and facilitating cross panel co-teaching and co-learning for networks of grade 7,8 and 9 teachers in the area of mathematics. The team met around an old rose-pink table that we had rescued from our board’s surplus furniture depot and around that pink table we established a culture of fierce, honest and respectful collaboration that was based upon the belief that every idea was improvable and every perspective was valuable. Everything I learned about the power of trusting, honest practice-based conversations for teachers I learned around that pink table.
The important thing about Diane has always been her skill and focus on developing people and building capacity; from that original team of 6 consultants; 5 are now school administrators and one is head of the math department at her school. As the first cohort began to move on, Diane continued to develop a further wave of leaders who continue to push the boundaries and engage in innovative and creative work with teachers; the consultant who replaced me has just accepted a faculty of education secondment, and so it continues. All this under Diane’s patient, determined and persistent leadership.
So, a couple of weeks ago; to celebrate her retirement, Diane invited all the past and present math team members to her home for dinner. There were over 20 of us, spanning the years of her district leadership, diverse in many ways, but singular in our love of mathematics, our passion for learning and our admiration for our leader. It was a delightful evening of conversation, laughter and catching up. In classic Diane fashion, every detail was considered, the preparation was flawless and the meal; perfection~well almost perfection~ no pink table.
A part of Diane will be embarrassed that I’m posting this to my blog, I know this, but I’m not sorry. I’m grateful for the friendship, the knowledge and the wisdom Diane has shared with me. I’m grateful for the friends and colleagues I have gained as a result of my time working as part of her team. And I’m grateful for the many contributions she has made to our school district.
Too many, perhaps, to count.