Brandon Buffin, Math Teacher & Instructional Specialist July 30, 2020 By wpengine I like the vision at Friendship and the high expectations for our scholars – to get to and through college, and to be an actively contributing citizen. We actually make sure scholars get to and through college. What was your journey to your current role? My journey started after I graduated from Virginia State University in May 2007. I taught second grade in Richmond’s Southside for two years. Then, I made my way up to D.C., teaching at DCPS for four years – first and third grade. I taught in PG County Public Schools for a number of years. This is my 12th year in education. I recently received my Masters in School Administration last May from Trinity University. In addition to teaching and cultivating our scholars, I am grateful for the opportunities to build teacher capacity at Friendship Southeast. Currently, I am in a hybrid position teaching 3rd grade math as well as the math instructional specialist. I like the vision at Friendship and the high expectations for our scholars – to get to and through college, and to be an actively contributing citizen. We actually make sure scholars get to and through college. This is different from other school systems. We put forth more of a conscious effort to ensure our scholars are goal-oriented and on the path to being productive and contributing citizens. This vision is what keeps me at Friendship. When I first arrived at Friendship Southeast, one thing that blew me away was that the librarian, Ms. Gray, and her team took our third grade scholars on a college trip. They went down to Atlanta and visited different colleges and universities. I thought this was so impactful – to implant this idea that “you’re going to college” from an early grade. I thought, “Wow, I don’t see any other school systems starting to do this in elementary school.” This is just one example of why I want to be here. What do you like about working with the elementary school age group? I love teaching elementary scholars because they’re like sponges. They soak up so much knowledge, and they’re very inquisitive. They’re willing to hear what you have to say, and they’re also going to ask questions because they want to get deeper into the content. That excites me. When the light bulbs go off, it always reminds me of why I love teaching. What strategies do you find most effective? I’ll talk about multiplication since I teach third grade math, and that is one of the most crucial skills scholars need to master to be successful. The “rolling numbers” strategy has been one of the most effective methods I’ve used to help scholars multiply. The ease of skip counting allows scholars to find the product once they have the second factor on hand. If it’s done with fidelity, this helps scholars to eventually become fluent in multiplication. Also, of course, I use tools from Eureka Math. The curriculum has been very beneficial during the past three years that we’ve implemented the program. It ensures that scholars not only understand the procedural aspect of math, but also the conceptual. When I was growing up, we focused more on procedural. Now scholars really need to understand why we multiply and to be able to apply that skill to everyday life. Last year, when we started dividing, I wanted to show scholars what it meant to divide, or share. I brought in a big bowl of candy and had five friends share with scholars. That’s when they started to make a connection. We took a word problem and turned it into real life. They made a connection immediately. Another example is when we’re learning fractions – of course, this is the perfect opportunity for pizza! If I divide this pizza pie into 8 slices and take one away, how many pieces are left? What is the fraction? Now, we’re doing math and eating pizza! Are there any fun facts you’d like to share? I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I LOVE horseback riding excursions. When I go home in the summer, I ride for about six hours. We go up to Oklahoma and ride along rivers, have dinner, then just ride out into the sunset. I am also a musician. I play the flute, piccolo, cello, string bass, clarinet and trombone.It definitely affects how I teach. I try to incorporate a lot of kinesthetic things into the classroom. Scholars, especially boys, need to get up and move. They really connect with music. If I teach a new concept with music, I’ve instantly got them engaged and hooked.