Becoming a connected Math Educator

Many times in blog posts, in facebook groups or at face to face conferences, people suggest Math teachers should jump on Twitter and check out the #MTBoS to find helpful people and info. I couldn’t love that idea more.  Creating a blog and joining Twitter have had the most impact on my teaching, my lesson planning and my reflection than anything else in my career.  That’s because of the people whose blogs I read and activities I used, who would respond to my questions and share their ideas freely. And because of the people who I followed and interacted with on Twitter by asking for help or feedback on something I needed.  You don’t have to have a blog to read others blogs and check out their activities and ideas.  You don’t have to have a Twitter account either because you can find information through the blogs as well; though I do highly recommend joining Twitter to connect with others and create your online PLC.

I started reading blogs in 2005 starting with @ELanghorst‘s US History blog (http://speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/) because I was teaching US History and wanted to find better resources.  Then I started finding and reading math blogs in 2007 (like http://www.teachforever.com and fell in love (stalker-ish style) with @misscalculate when she started blogging in 2009. As I started to read more blogs, I would find more blogs to read…recommendations and favorite blogs listed on the side on the blog I was reading lead me to so many amazing people and resources. I had a blog reader set up and would spend time reading blogs newspaper style at night. I have 145 blogs in my blog reader that I follow now and I have a bunch more to add of educators I just started connecting with. I would email myself links of blog posts that had activities I wanted to try or ideas I wanted to incorporate into my classroom. (I still do this today, but I am working on using Google Keep instead.)  I became the crazy math teacher at my school because I was always saying things like “oh on this blog they did this activity.” or “I found this online and it looks awesome.” or “Let me do a google search for a blog post I remember.” or “I just watched this presentation about this topic, let me send you the link.” I used google, blogs and online resources like crazy to transform my teaching. And then I wanted to participate more and give back, so I started a blog and joined Twitter and the rest is history. 🙂

Teaching can be a lonely career because we are in our classrooms all day and while we may connect with our teams of teachers in our buildings, it’s usually about scheduling or behavior so we don’t get a lot of time to share and connect during the day the way we need to about curriculum, lesson planning or building rich tasks and activities. Therefore teachers have to look for it in other ways, through meetings outside of the school day, reading books, math conferences and connecting online with other math teachers, etc. It’s through these connections that I have learned the most and I have made amazing friendships to boot.

I think the key to become a connected Math Educator is to look for people, resources and help outside of your school, your district, your state.  At first maybe you just read, save helpful links or activities and try them in your classroom, but over time you will find more and more resources and (I bet) you will eventually want to give back or explain how a lesson someone shared was used in your classroom.  My evaluation system uses Danielson, which focuses on teacher reflection, creating my blog helped me learn how to reflect before it was part of my evaluation. Through Twitter and blogging I came across Global Math Department, which is a weekly webinar about tons of amazing math teaching topics. It started in August of 2012 and has SO many informational presentations!  The past two years I was on the board and for many of the weekly meetings you will hear my voice as a host and I’ve even done a few presentations. 🙂 I try to make it in person so I can interact and ask questions as needed during the presentation, but if I can’t the best part is they are all archived for future reference and easy sharing with teachers via email! You can find them all archived here, https://www.bigmarker.com/communities/GlobalMathDept/conferences .

Here is a little more to explain many of the things that are out there online for Math Teachers to help you start your journey to becoming a connected educator.

  1. Check the graphic below for a great explanation of #MTBoS
    Capture
  2. Watch this video for even more info: https://youtu.be/AIZOGCuFuas
  3. Welcome to the MTBoS site was created to welcome teachers new to the #MTBoS. It gives them support, some guidance, as well as helps them find some good tweeps (Twitter peeps) to follow and get to know. http://mathtwitterblogosphere.weebly.com
  4. Find & connect with other Math teachers in your 2017-2018 subject area: https://goo.gl/6kt3VS
  5. The MTBoS Directory lists teachers who are self-identified as members of the #MTBoS. Want to join? Just submit your name. That is all it takes. It has a map of members to help you find local math teachers, as well as multiple ways to sort and select people. http://mtbos.org/directory/
  6. Exploring the MTBoS is a site created by math teachers to help organize, explain, and yes, explore the MTBoS. https://exploremtbos.wordpress.com/
  7. Have you ever wanted a lesson on XXX, but googled it and came up with a bunch of crap? This search engine searches only math teacher blogs, K-12, and will pull up lessons that are tried and tested. If the lesson sucked, the blog post will tell you that, and how to improve it. http://www.fishing4tech.com/mtbos.html
  8. Find blogs to read weekly by checking the list of bloggers from the link in #7.
  9. Check out Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem Based Lesson search engine:  http://robertkaplinsky.com/prbl-search-engine/
  10. Like the Facebook MTBoS page: Another way to connect with math educators – https://www.facebook.com/ExploreMTBoS/
  11. Use this Chat list of Educational Chats to find chats that interest you. They list themselves as “official” but of course there is no such thing. It is rather comprehensive, and although the chats change times each year, it is pretty complete and accurate. https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-official-list 
  12. Check out some of the books that have been written: https://goo.gl/BQLXkA
  13. Check out Global Math Department weekly presentations:  https://www.bigmarker.com/communities/GlobalMathDept/conferences
  14. Check out Jo Boaler‘s site, youcubed.org, which is important to helping change your mindset and the mindset of your students in regards to learning math. The three week’s of Inspirational Math have some great videos and activities to share with your students.
  15. Find and join a facebook group that applies to you, I really like doing BreakoutEDU in class, so I find the Math teacher’s breakout group helpful: https://www.facebook.com/groups/breakoutedumath/
  16. And finally check out the Desmos Bank– a directory for Desmos activities http://mtbos.org/desmosbank/

Do you have suggestions or ways to help others become connected math educators? I am sure I missed some!  Toss them in the comments below!!!

Here’s to a great 2017-2018 year of being a connected Math Educator!

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End of Year 16…

Wow…I just completed my 16th year of teaching middle school math…is it a milestone? a qualification for being crazy? 🙂 Ha ha ha…honestly, it is a great milestone for me.  It’s about halfway through my teaching career, give or take a few years. Heck I don’t even know when I will be able to retire let alone when the state says I can. But I am not thinking about that because I am in this for the long haul, this is not a job for me, it is a career, it is my calling.

Teachers relish the summer to refresh, recharge and reignite their passion for teaching. We don’t lose it, but it sure gets beat down throughout the school year and sometimes we lose sight of our love for it. We use summer time to read books (educational or not), research new methods to teach our subject, start planning for the following year, take classes, attend/present at conferences, reflect on the past school year, rewrite curriculum, relax, sleep, connect with family and friends, travel, pick up or continue a hobby, doctor/dentist/eye appointments, etc. all those things that get pushed off for planning and grading during the school year. Some of us even have a second (or third) job that we do during the summer to help pay bills, to save more for retirement or even just for our “fun” money, so we may not have summer’s off entirely from any form of work.  And even more of us tutor students throughout the school year and summer as well.

Teachers do a lot of awesome things and we get tired like everyone else, but we need to always be able to come back to our WHY…WHY we became a teacher, WHY we do what we do. If we focus on our why, we can continue to reach more students, touch more lives and push the learning curve as far as we can. Summer allows us the time to reconnect with our WHY and redefine it as we continually grow as educators.

So for those who will say they wish they had summer’s off…consider the work we do throughout the year, the hours we put in with your children, who become our children, the sweat and tears we shed over the good and the bad we see each day. Consider the time we put into honing our craft and teaching our subject(s) and the time we put into teaching students to be good people, to take chances, to be different, to not be afraid to fail, but to learn from it and grow.  We not only push to get all of our curriculum in the allotted days, we also stress so many important things behind the scenes. Like the day your student couldn’t focus because they were upset about a misunderstanding with a friend, and I noticed and pulled them aside to listen and really hear them. Or the day that your student came in so excited to show me what they created in their free time and I take an honest interest because I care. Or the day a student thanks another in front of the class for taking the time to help them with a problem, and the student they thanked was someone who typically struggles. Or the day we debated over one problem in class for a whole period and I sent them home frustrated and angry we didn’t come to an answer, only to have over half the class return the next day telling me they spent an hour working to figure it out.

There is so much more to teaching than just a degree or some classes we took…and for many of us, we can’t put it into words, we can’t quantify it because it just is. It is our life, it is our passion, it is our love, it is our drive…it is teaching.

#MTBoS30 – Day 1 – My “Secret” Passion

I enjoy blogging but usually need a little push to sit down and write a blog post…so when @sophgermain (Anne Schwartz) blogged about blogging for 30 days, I figured I could do that.  I WANTED to do a 180 blog, but that’s crazy…I couldn’t keep up, so I figure this has to be doable…right?

I have a secret passion that has grown immensely in the last 4 years when I bought a house and needed furniture and things for it.  My parents are antique dealers and I grew up going to estate sales, auctions, garage sales, toy shows, etc.  I enjoyed it then, but as a child couldn’t do much about it.  I like clean line well made furniture, stained glass, unique architectural items and unique art pieces.  I have a collection of Bill Olendorf prints of Chicago and some unique perspective state map prints of Wisconsin that are quite funny.  Recently I have enjoyed picking up poor sad pieces of furniture from the thrift store and painting them and/or turning them into something else.  I currently have 3 small projects in my garage and just this weekend picked up another one.  I can’t wait for the weather to get nicer so I can work on them in the garage!

My newest project is an old oak vanity missing the back piece and the mirror, which was fine with me.  I am going to cut the middle part out to separate the ends and create two bedside tables. They are the perfect height, the drawers all work and I love the clean lines! There are only three original handles, so I’m either going to use 3 different pairs of handles (each drawer pair will have a different handle) or I am going to use all glass knobs (which I love the look of).  My bedroom doesn’t have this dark wood…so it’s possible that I will be painting the oak white (Gasp!) or this will give me a reason to start changing up my bedroom colors.  I found this at a barn sale, bargained down the price to $45 and as you can see, was pretty determined to get it home.  Years of moving furniture with my dad, I know how to protect a car and tie down a trunk with my eyes closed. I didn’t have to go far and only on back country roads, so I was okay with this method of transportation. Side note: I may need to think about getting a bigger car to help fuel this passion of mine.

 

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My newest project

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A few previous projects:

This is a bookcase that now sits in my master bath and hold towels and baskets.

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This is my FAVORITE recent project. My dad helped immensely with this one, but I’m a quick learner and had a lot of fun. I found it at a local estate sale in the barn being used as a tool bench and a mouse haven. The top even had laminate glued down with a metal edge…ick!

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My second favorite project. I found the door at a barn sale for $4, asked the lady to keep it for a week until I could get my parent’s van to pick it up (no way my car could get that home). I knew I wanted it for a headboard and it was perfect because it had symmetrical panels (that’s the math teacher in me). It was also an old swinging door, so it didn’t have a door handle hole that needed to be filled or that would be visible.  The sides are from an old newel post that my parents had just laying around…we cut it in half to make the sides and added some oak around the bottom to bring it to the floor.  We left the wood as we found it, no sanding or painting of this.  Dad anchored it to the wall, should there be a tornado and the house gets leveled…I swear this would still be standing. (Notice the stained glass in the window…)

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So that’s a little bit about me and my passion outside of school, my classroom and my students.  Again, my goal is to blog everyday…something about the day, something new about me, whatever comes to mind.

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