Episode #77: Ask Questions, Make Connections, Create Systems with Connie Hamilton

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Connie Hamilton Ed.S. is a curriculum director in Saranac, MI and educational consultant working with school districts across the United States. She is a certified trainer in effective classroom questioning, teacher evaluation tools, visible learning and supports teacher learning in the area of literacy.

Connie is the co-author of Hacking Homework and is the author of her new book Hacking Questions: 11 Questions to Create a Culture of Inquiry in the Classroom. Hope you enjoy our conversation!
 
Your background 
I grew up in Michigan as an only child for 10 years with my mom. So I grew up with that only child mentality to keep busy and find something to do so I played school. With my stuffed animals all in a row. I would take stacks of old worksheets home and give Big A+s at the top to some and also have struggling learners giving them red Xs. Then I would encourage those who were struggling to do it over. I ended up doing them over also as the teacher and part of the class. I had a lot of time in my room by myself with my stuffed animals playing school. I always knew I wanted to go into education. When I was 9, my mom remarried. When I was 10, my first sister was born and at 14, my second sister was born. My youngest sister was in kindergarten when I left for college.
The Dr. Will Show – Standards-Based Learning with Connie Hamilton, Ed.S.
What it was like when you were a student
I was a pretty good math student and my mom wanted me to capitalize on some of my math skills I had. So I entered Michigan State University as an Aeronautical Engineering major. My heart was always with kids and education, but she really encouraged me to check out that field. I took 2 or 3 calculus classes and thought this was not for me. So I changed my major to education and I didn’t tell my mother for almost a year. So I became a teacher even though my mom discouraged me from education. Sadly, there’s not enough recognition that teachers deserve. Even back then, my mom recognized that teachers work very hard and don’t get enough accolades or perks. She just wanted me to get the benefits for all the hard work I was doing. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished. I never thought I would wake up every day and love what I do.
Your journey as an educator
School was really good for me. Some classes were easier than others. My first year as an educator, it was hard for me to relate to struggling students because I never experienced that as a learner myself. I embraced the challenge. When the Rubik’s Cube came out, I was going to fix that thing and would not quit until I had it solved. That idea of  “I don’t get this” when it seemed so clear to me made me reconsider what it meant to be a learner especially those struggling who were in most need of a teacher who knows how to deliver the curriculum. 
When I first graduated from Michigan State, I couldn’t find a teaching job in Michigan. I took my first position in Houston, Texas. I taught there a couple of years. As a first year teacher, I didn’t think I was prepared and was afraid to teach kids to read because it’s such a big responsibility. They hired me as a third-grade teacher and I thought they would know how to read by then. My class was really small so I  got to know them well. After a few weeks, the principal told me that the 1st-grade class numbers are really high and 3rd grade classes are really low, so I’m going to give you a couple of days off to get ready for a new group of 1st graders. I was terrified with teaching 1st graders how to read. Remember I was from Michigan and teaching in Texas so vowels sounded different. Teaching students to decode words when phonemes are a little different the way that I pronounce them versus how they pronounce them was just another added challenge. It ended up working out in the end.