Reminder of Growth

In my spare time I coach swimming and have for longer than I’ve been teaching.  I was a swimmer through college and I loved every minute of it.  Coaching is a way to continue to do something I enjoy and to fill some of those many hours of spare time us teachers have laying around. 🙂

Today we had our first meet, I missed yesterday because of the math conference, but wanted to see my swimmers swim today.  After the first few swims, I saw some droopy faces…as I inquired, swimmers stated they were upset they weren’t getting all best times. Ahhh…yes, they wanted to reach that mastery level, beating their previous best time with a new one.  However, they were forgetting a few important details:

*Their previous best times came from their rested Championship meet in February/March.

*They had only been in the water 3 weeks for a total of 14 practices.  We had a pipe burst and it cancelled 3 practices.

*In the fall, our first meet happens after 5 weeks of practice simply because it’s a longer season, but it allows for more preparation and practice.

What I found interesting was the swimmers were forgetting that they weren’t adequately prepared for the meet and were holding on to the same expectations they have on themselves at the end of the season.  I kept having to remind them of the above and that this wasn’t a meet for a best time (mastery), this was a meet to practice racing, putting into a race what we have been practicing and to get feedback to improve for our first long course meet in 2 more weeks.

You see, I noticed that FEEDBACK was MY ultimate desire here.  I wanted them to know this meet was about feedback so they have a focus for practice the next two weeks, yet many of them wanted to achieve that best time right off the bat without all the practice behind them.

In the future I need to prep them better for the expectations of this meet.  We talked about it and I sent an email to parents, but I think it’s too easy to be excited about the meet and to forget what the focus is.  This is no different than my math classroom…I need to make sure at the beginning of the year, that I am clear about their formative assessments and that the feedback they get is more important, which is why it won’t have a grade on it.  Connecting back to swimming, it would be like swimming a meet but not having the clock visible to see their final time, but to focus on the aspects of racing, their technique and the feedback they receive.

I look forward to working with my swimmers to focus on a growth mindset the same way that I am working with my students on it and I want them to focus on feedback and not just the time they receive.


Take A Day to Reflect

After I attend a conference or a class or present, I like to take time to take a step back and reflect.  I wrote down book titles, links to websites and curricular materials…I needed to go through it and hone in on what is important and what I wanted to do with it all.  I also wanted some time to reflect on both of my presentations, take in the feedback given (Wisconsin Math Conference had 2-ply reflection forms so I was able to walk away with the feedback right there!) and make changes so I didn’t forget about them for the future.

Note: Insert feedback from presentations here when I am home with them in front of me!

After my morning of reflecting, I ran some errands and stopped at a few garage sales. Didn’t find anything of terrible significance, but a few fun items for upcoming birthdays and graduations.

One of the things I have learned that is important to me is to make sure I build in my personal reflection time when I need it.  Sometimes it looks different, but that doesn’t matter because it is time for ME to reflect how I need to reflect…it could be on a week’s worth of lessons or an activity and how to improve it or a presentation and how I can make it more meaningful for teachers.   Or it could be on interactions with students, parents, co-workers or admin….regardless of the reason for the reflection, it is important to me that I do it.  Sometimes I blog about it here, sometimes I reflect personally, but either way it helps me grow and continue to learn about myself and the world around me.

Do it…take time for you, reflect on something that happened this week…don’t harp on it, but reflect honestly and consider what you learned and how you can apply it to the future.


Conference presentation

Day 2 of the Wisconsin Math Conference started out with my Cooperative Groups presentation.  I had a great group of attendees and learned a few things from them (my favorite part of presenting!!) Apparently CPM, College Preparatory Math, has strong emphasis/basis in cooperative grouping…I plan to check it out more.  I do wish the conference center had good wifi, so when I was talking about Kahoot I could have shared the site with them.  I had put together a fun intro game to kick off my presentation, but was unable to use it for that reason.  I hope in the future the wifi improves so teachers can share and interact with each other.  I’m thinking #Edcamp style, where there is a google doc that all can take notes on during the presentation and have access to at any time afterwards.

I also attended a few presentations, one on Standards Based Grading and picked up a few new ideas. And another on Interventions.  I took good notes for both and will share when I actually have them in front of me. 🙂

I ended the day with the last possible time slot, 2:30-4:00 and my Interactive Notebook presentation.  I had a dozen or so people there, I was surprised, especially since there were already two presentations on them from other people on Thursday.  We had a good time, I walked away with a few new ideas as well.

It was nice to meet a few teachers from Chicago on Friday, though there weren’t many from out of state.  All in all it was a great conference, on a beautiful site right on the lake with all locations convenient and easy to get to.  I look forward to presenting and attending in the future!



What a day!

This day did not start off on the best foot as I was pretty sick yesterday afternoon and evening and decided to drive to Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Mathematics Council Conference earlier than planned since I felt better this morning and didn’t want to risk feeling worse as the day went on.  I have two presentations tomorrow and wanted to make sure I saw them through.

Too many awesome things happened today, so list format it is!

1. My dogs were great with our early drive to WI and kept an eye out to make sure my driving was on par. (No, I was not driving when this was taken.)


2. WMC Sessions – Since I was in Wi, I decided to attend some sessions today.  Classy conference provides complementary registration for speakers and it was a seamless process and well worth it!

  • The How of Teaching! Cooking Up the Standards for Mathematical Practice – Tracy Frank – This was an informative session that provided discussion and modeling of the SMP.  She used grouping activities/strategies. The strategies could be taken into the classroom the very next day and involved a lot of student discussion and reflection. I enjoyed the discussions with other math  teachers and even ran into someone who attended my college for some of the same time I did. Small world.


  • The Joy of Being a Math Interventionist – Laura Klescewski & Mary Seils – This was a great session with a lot of useful information, however not being from WI and not knowing much about their license/certification system, a few things were over my head. It also had a lot of focus on Elementary Interventions, which was stated in the grade band of PK – 6, but I wish there was a little more about the middle school.  She shared some great book suggestions: Assisting Students with Mathematics: RTI for Elementary and Middle Students, Children’s Mathematics Cognitive Guided Instruction, Number Talks.  I liked the outline of the presentation where they provide recommendations for you with your math interventions and explained why.


  • Standards Based Grading, Math Common Core, and MORE! – Susan Grogan and Brian Witthun – This was a packed session and well worth it.  Even though I already use SBG as an individual, I wanted to attend and see how a school district is doing it on a larger scale. They started by talking about school climate needing to be in a good place before you can begin conversations about changing practice.  A quote I found important, “You are teaching to the standards and you don’t let students leave standards behind.” They took the time to change the CCSS to user friendly language in the form of I Can statements for students.  What I really liked was that they also have a scoring rubric for Citizenship grades and it is separate from Academic grading.  This is something that I have been wanting to implement in my classroom, so seeing and hearing their ideas was great! What I found daunting is that they created a scoring rubric for each standard. I agree that it needs to exist so students and teachers know what is expected, but I can only imagine how much time it took.  I am adding this to my to do list for my future with SBG.  Another focus they made sure we understood was that sometimes a skill assessment is a written test, sometimes it’s not…it could be a performance assessment, verbal discussions, hearing a student explain a topic to their group, etc. Think outside of the box! SBG allows for recognition of talents and skills that don’t conform to the norm. Many gifted students fall between the cracks of the traditional grading system.  If you use SBG, you need to do SBL so that you really are hitting the students where they are, with what they need, gifted, regular or below standards.


  • From Process to Product: Project-Based Learning Math in Middle School – Maggie McHugh – This was a GREAT presentation!!! My favorite of the day. She had examples to show us, problems for us to explore and solve and delivered her message with a great presentation.  I just wish there was more time…it should have been a workshop instead of an hour presentation.  She said she would post her documents on the WMC site…check them out, you won’t be disappointed.  And because this was my favorite and I was so engaged, I didn’t take many notes. 😦 However it crossed my mind that this is similar to a Genius Hour in that the students are exploring their own questions about a topic.  However the difference is that she will help them see where the math could be in their question and help tie it to math.  The students go through a process of brainstorming, project proposal, research and writing, design and implementation, presentation defense and assessment.  They also have a showcase project at the end of the year that they present to parents and guests. This is what I imagine the STEM school opening in the fall is going to be like and it sounds pretty amazing!

3. Hanging out with tweeps – I met Damion (@DamionBeth) and we had dinner along with great mathy conversations! Jennifer Lawler (@jenniferlawler) hunted us down while we were at dinner too.  It’s nice to meet people that exist in our helpful online community and make connections! They are both so nice and we had great conversations. #1 being that WMC needs to get on the Twitter wagon and their conference location needs to have reliable wifi or at least HAVE wifi.

4. Finishing a proposal for NCTM 2015 in Boston with Heather Kohn (@heather_kohn). We worked on this for the last few days via a google doc, but had to fit it into the allotted characters and make sure it was conveying what we wanted it to.  I am pretty amazed at the work that she did to initially get it started and proud of what we collaboratively turned it into.

5. Twitter convo about time zones. @chrishunter36, @trianglemancsd, @davidwees @j_lanier know what I am talking about.  This revolved around the midnight deadline for the NCTM proposal. It closed midnight Eastern, but apparently the webmaster was sleeping because some people were still working on their proposal hoping to turn it in.

6. A random math teacher at the bar for dinner stopped me and asked to take a picture of my hair because she liked it so much.  I cut 3 inches off on Wednesday and wasn’t entirely sure I liked it.  This made me laugh and enjoy my hair cut a little more!


Curriculum Writing

Since I have been in my district, I have been involved in some type of curriculum writing committee each year…8th grade math, Algebra 1, 7th grade math and this year, Geometry.  I love it.  Sometimes I dislike the format we need to fit things into, but I love organizing units, seeing how it all fits together (or how it should fit together) and finding activities and resources to hit those topics the best.  I spend my summers going through my files, tossing, keeping and replacing to better reach my students.  I use the internet, Twitter and my Blog reader to find new methods, activities and ideas.  It excites me and I love watching it play out in the classroom.  I love the ability to improve a lesson for 8th and 9th period if it fell flat during 7th.  I love being able to change it all again for the following year to make it even better.  I think I am crazy to enjoy it.  Are there others out there like me?

With the changes to what I am doing next year, I won’t be teaching Geometry so I can’t fix what I didn’t like this year.  And because I won’t have my own classes, I won’t really have much planning to do over the summer.  It’s like a whole new world for me and it’s scary, but it will be a good learning experience, a challenge and a change. Being an Interventionist will be quite a change from the daily grind of teaching, but I want to go into it with an open mind because it’s a situation that I can gain a lot from, the students I will work with will be able to teach me a lot and I look forward to helping them learn and learning along with them. 🙂




US History tied to Math

Being in the middle school, I have taught US History for 12 years and while I initially was not thrilled to teach it, it has become a subject that I love.  I love the discussions that my students can have because they feel that sharing an opinion is “safe”. They challenge each other, add to what someone else said and bring up good questions that make all of us think. They all want to participate and discussion tend to go longer than planned.  Why can’t this be a math classroom?  Why are students so afraid to do all of this in math? I see it even more now because I have the same group of students for History that I do for Geometry.  In History while evaluating primary sources, they toss out questions, ideas and opinions, but in Geometry when we look at different ways to solve a problem, they take it as it is and rarely challenge.  I have found they do much better in small groups, at their tables, sharing with each other.  I love using cooperative grouping in my classroom, but can’t they reach a point where sharing to a large group is okay?  I want them to treat math the same way…without fear of what they say, without judgment by their peers for the answer they share, because that is the math classroom I desire and they deserve.  Now how can I improve on this for the future?



Being Honest with Students

I am currently in our unit on Coordinate Geometry and feel like I’ve had some good activities and some not so good activities.  My students struggled a bit through identifying a missing coordinate when given variables and not numbers.  But because of their formative assessment I was able to identify the errors made and who still needed assistance.  This allowed me to back up, address general concerns to the group and then clarify specific misconceptions with those who needed it.  This is one of my favorite parts of teaching…trying something new and realizing  that maybe it didn’t work, but being honest with the students and provide another opportunity to understand and master the concept. Students need to know that learning is a journey and mistakes will continue to be made because that is the CORE of learning.  I feel that by showing them that I am still trying and failing, they will see that it is okay.  I found that my gifted students this year disliked sharing an answer or even a guess if they weren’t 100% sure they will be right.  I’ve been working hard to foster a growth mindset and allow them to be comfortable struggling, yet they aren’t quite where I want them to be.  We still have over a month to go…there’s still time!