Holiday Circles

Hi…I know I got some of you to read because 1. I haven’t blogged in forever and 2. The title may have sounded like something you could use in your math class.  I promise there is math involved, but it isn’t as apparent to the non-math folk when they hear about these things.

In the last 24 hours, I have seen people in my facebook feed posting about joining a holiday circle/loom for $100 and at the end you get paid out $800. They say it’s a great way to get some holiday money this season. PLEASE don’t be sucked into those holiday gift circle/money loom things and in fact, educate your students about them because at some point these will rear their heads during their adult lifetime. They are absolutely a scam, sure you MIGHT get your money but someone definitely won’t because it’s impossible. They are unsustainable because of exponential growth. (See…there’s the math)

Holiday Circles seem like such a great thing. They tell you everyone freely gifts $100 into person A’s paypal account and in a bit it you get to decide what to do with your $800. (They also float around in other start up amounts too.)

Wow, you say as the wheels turn in your head. Two fb posts later after seeing a friend post pictures of her paypal account growing by the hour, you freely send the $100 via paypal thinking of all the things you can do with $800. (Which is really $700, since you paid out $100, but they just assume you will understand that.)

loom

You may even sign a special ‘contract’ that looks all legal and everything that says you voluntarily gift this money without any expectation of ever getting it back. Of course, as soon as you pay in your money you become one of the blue spaces above. Once there are eight new blue spaces, the purple person in the middle gets their $800 – an 800% payoff. The chart then splits in half and everyone moves up a level. The two pink spaces are now their own charts and they are purples, the green moves up to pink, and the blue are now one step closer to their own big payoff. Maybe.

Now, nobody is required to bring in new special friends to gift money but how else are you going to help make sure you have fun holiday money to spend?  That, plus as soon as all your “blue spots” get eight new people to kick in you get one level closer to your own $800 jackpot. You start dreaming about what kind of things you can do with $800 and many people even join multiple looms once they start seeing and dreaming about the payout.

Posts by people involved that sound like this make it seem all okay, “It’s like pulling off of the church Christmas tree at Christmas time and shopping for a kid in need. Do we actually know if they get their gifts? No, but we only hope. We’ve all spent useless money for no reason at all. While you may be a skeptic, at least you know you helped a family at Christmas time this year. If we spread the holiday cheer we can make a lot of families happy. It’s time to put our own struggles aside and help ones in need. We’re all in here bc we could use the extra cash for Christmas. But blessed money comes from those who help.” And “its not a scam.. call it a “pay it forward tree” because that’s what we are basically doing”

I asked someone in my fb feed who is participating and posting to get others involved how does it end because mathematically I know these things can’t really keep going. After all, the numbers don’t really work. She said “oh, it never does, it just keeps going”. And then she asked me if I wanted in…um, not at all. She shared this with me…

loom3

So where’s the scam, you ask? It’s a reasonable question. Most of the time the people involved don’t see the crime, either. After all, the $100 is a gift that they give freely and without any expectation of any return so they’re not victims. Just like a $100 birthday present to your niece, right?

 

Wrong. Gifting Clubs are illegal pyramid schemes but they will try and tell you they aren’t because one person isn’t making money off the others. They’re done with really slick emotional appeal and promises of huge payoffs but sooner of later these clubs are going to run out of people to scam. It’s simple exponential math.

Lets assume you get in as one of the first blue spots. For all eight of you blue to move up to be green after the first split you need to recruit a total of sixteen new people. Then for all eight of you green to move up to pink you need to bring in 32 new people. It keeps going. All of your initial eight might get paid after 128 new blue spaces join, but to keep going and let everyone in the system receive their own $800 the scheme needs to bring in more people than exist on the planet.

If you do the math, there is logical, rational, left-brained evidence to support the conclusion that these circles are absolutely unsustainable in the end.

There is a mathematical certainty that up to 87% of the people who gift their money into a circle will lose their money.

To see the math in action, see this spreadsheet.  You can play with it  and change the variable on the number of times people re-up after cashing out so you can see what happens when people reinvest in the circles after receiving their gifts.

Bottom line: If 100% of people who complete the circle and receive their $800 in gifts rejoin another circle 3 more times, 80% of people who join will still lose their money.  The best possible scenario would be that every person who completes the circle rejoins 6 times and you still end up with 50% of people losing their money.

Where has my voice gone?

Before I blog about the awesomeness that is #TMC16, I want to share about something that came to light about my personal growth because I attended TMC16 this year.

I miss this community of amazing teachers.

I miss connecting with this community about math and math teaching.

I miss sharing ideas, getting useful feedback and growing as a teacher.

I miss blogging and tweeting.

I miss connecting with teachers in real life about math. In my role, I don’t teach a regular math class, so I don’t talk math teaching with anyone the same way I as used to.  I miss that immensely.

I miss teaching.

Why does my brain not allow me to see the value in the job that I am currently doing? I have been successful in my role over the last two years, students have improved, growth has been seen, gains have been made. But I don’t feel the same way about it as I felt about the first 14 years of my teaching career.  Going from a regular math teacher with a team to a math specialist that works with other teacher’s students is a huge change.

In my role, I have allowed my voice to die down in my school and online because so much I know about what it meant to me to be a teacher is different.  I am not any less of a teacher, but it looks and feels different to me and I haven’t figured out what it means to me. And I haven’t found how I fit in to my school environment or online environment. Two years and I still don’t know how I can bring value to my position and value to others through my position.

And this really came to light while being at TMC16 and being around all these amazing, inspirational teachers who are here because they are pushing themselves to better, to get outside of their comfort zone and to connect with others.  I personally NEED this community because it was inspirational to changing my teaching over the years and I NEED to be more reflective so I can get feedback.

You can only get feedback if you put yourself out there. You can only get better by asking questions and challenging yourself.  I took the easy road the last two years because I didn’t know my role, but I plan to become more involved again because I think that will help me find my role in my job and as a teacher so I can feel better about my contributions to this amazing community.  I need to do what I need so I can improve.

Thanks to @druinok , @Borschtwithanna@misscalcul8 and @anyaostapczuk for helping me think through this on twitter this morning. Thank you for helping me recognize more about myself and pushing me as a teacher.

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.

Never Ending To Do List

The first day for students is Thursday; we just had two days of teacher institute covering your normal back to school things and a handful of brand new things.  Tomorrow is teacher work day, the best day in our calendar, it allows teachers to do final prep, digest the previous two days, plan with other teachers and basically have a day to do what we need to do before we meet our new batch of students on Thursday.  It’s like the perfect built in mental health day so we can start the year fresh and ready to go.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed, which is normal for the first week of school.  I have all these different ideas on how I want to start the year, that I tend to put off the actual planning because it’s so hard to choose.  I have things written down, but not finalized.  I am going to try and do a bit of it tonight.

My classroom is bare. It was repainted this summer with shiny paint, so nothing holds up the posters.  Last year I tried command strips, hot glue, packing tape and finally gave into duct tape.  We have been told duct tape CAN NOT be used at all, in any manner.  I don’t know how to get things to stick on my walls. Someone already tried the Marvelous Tape and it fell down within two hours (she ended up using duct tape, but SHHHH don’t tell). The posters aren’t even official heavyweight paper posters, they are printed on printer paper and laminated because I tend to make my own or find them for free on the internet.

I am feeling like I have a LONG list of things to do and don’t know where to start.  Bonus is that I won’t see my 6th grade students for the first time until Monday, but Geometry starts right away on Thursday.  I will spend the morning tomorrow planning with other teachers that I co-teach with (7th grade and 8th grade), so not all of my teacher work day is for me. 🙂

This too shall pass, I know it will and I will be excited once I get to meet my kids!

Decorating the Classroom…

…isn’t always about what is on the walls, it’s also about what decorates our hearts and what fosters the connections we make with students.

Because I am SO excited to share, this post just jumped over about 5 others that I am trying to finish. 🙂

I blogged about Technology Rocks Seriously a LONG time ago and my feelings haven’t changed.  I’m SUPER excited because she recently started posting new quote posters!

You can find her first ones here: http://www.technologyrocksseriously.com/p/school-signs.html#.Vc-Dg_lVhBd
And new new ones here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_FwK3u-_PH1fkJ2OG4xN0QweXh6aVNtaHNuRUc5a3Z1Q2xHWWxuMlVuemlFQ3lZSWZsQjA&usp=sharing

Seeing all the new posters reminded me, a few years ago I did an assignment in my 8th grade math classes throughout the entire year, we focused on a different poster each week (I had 35 hanging in the room) and discussed the meaning together in class for a warm-up (as groups & whole class). We also looked at the poster through the eyes of a mathematician and made connections to our class and our lives.  It was always a discussion that I looked forward to; I grew a lot from those discussions, something I can’t even put into words.

At the end of the year I decided that I wanted to do one more final thing with the quote posters, so I created an end of year reflection.

Here were the questions that I posed to the students:

1. Take some time to reflect on the posters and quotes in my room. Choose ONE to write about and make a connection to. (It was a drop down menu to choose from.)

2. Tell me your thoughts on the quote you are reflecting on, how it makes you feel, how it applies to your life and to school, how it applies to what we did this year, how you can use it next year, etc.

3. Find ONE quote that you think I should put up in my classroom next year. Quotes can be humorous, serious, or mixed. They can be math related or something to inspire students. The quote must have an author (not anonymous) and be correctly punctuated with quotation marks.

4. Why should I put this quote up in my classroom next year?  Tell me why I should use it, what connections it has to life, learning, my classroom, etc.

Here are some of their responses:

What quote poster are you choosing to reflect on? Write your reflection about the quote poster in the space below. What is the quote you would like to see in my classroom next year? Why should I put this quote up in my classroom next year?
Practice makes progress, not perfect. This quote is definitely a true fact about oneself. When you practice something, you will definitely improve but you’ll never be perfect. This implies to sports because when I practice sports, I certainly improve but I don’t become amazing. I just personally think its better to work hard and try rather than not trying at all. This also applies to school because I practice understanding lessons with homework; this allows me to understand the concept better but not be perfect at the lesson. This quote applies to what we did this year because we constantly practiced lessons; we had homework, in class assignments, and skill quizzes. In the skill quizzes we would practice each skill to get better at it and earn a 4. Even if we did practice we wouldn’t always get a 4 because we may have made an error or forgot a formula thus making us not perfect. This will apply for high school because I will continue to practice lessons, sports, and music. All in all, I will and did make progress this school year but not perfection. “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (John Dewey) This quote should be put up in your classroom because not only is it a powerful quote, it can be inspiring as well. Education is its own life because it just leads the way for life and things to come. Its not preparing somebody because even when you get or have a job, you’re still being educated because we learn new things everyday. This is good for your classroom because it relates to math, education, and life as well. It will also let the new 8th graders understand that education and life aren’t separate, they’re built into one thing.
Practice makes progress, not perfect. I like this quote for several reasons. It helps me in all aspects of my life. It tells me the move i practice, the better I get at something. This applies to my life by practicing at swimming an practicing my math skills because the more I do it, the better I get. It applies to this year because the skill quiz reassessments made us do extra practice , which made us better students. I can use it next year by progressing in geometry by doing all of my homework and additional practice problems. “If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realized how complicated life is.” ~John Louis von Neumann You should use it because it helps students remember that math isn’t the hardest thing in the world. They will be faced with bigger challenges as the grow up and once they understand math, it becomes easier and “simple”.
Fail: First Attempt in Learning I think this poster connects to me because of the word. People use fail to put people down when they mess up. But this poster shows that it is not a bad thing and will happen to anyone. Also its true because as people progress after the first fail they will begin to learn and understand. It also applied to me when i got a low score on a skill quiz I always knew that it was one step closer to improving and learning the skill because of that poster. I can use this for the rest of my life because It tells me never to give up and no one is perfect all in one poster. That is why this poster is my favorite! “You miss 100% of the shots you dont take” You should put it because when people want to ask questions and they dont they risk loosing and answer to a problem. I think it would make student ask more questions!
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Include me and I will learn. I used to have a hard time in middle school, especially in the beginning. In the first few quarters, I struggled with my grades. One day, after struggling to understand a particularly frustrating concept, I wondered to myself how a straight A student could so easily fall into a low B average. That night, after writing a short paragraph for school, I realized the problem I was having. In my old classes in elementary, we did lots of hands-on activities to help further learning and understanding. As soon as middle school started, so did the boring lectures. I was a strictly visual and hands-on learner. Using this new found knowledge, I tried to incorporate that into my studying and review. immediately I found myself understanding complex topics easier. This carried on past 6th grade, after my grades had skyrocketed up from low B’s to mid A’s. In 7th and 8th grade, the teachers used much more visuals. They involved the entire class, allowing me to make many more connections and understand what they were explaining easier. If I was not a good student before, I was then. From the tell not show 6th grade to the visual 7th and 8th grades, my learning had changed. When they told me or taught me, I tried my best to remember but did not understand most of the time. When they involved me, incorporated me, used me in their lessons, something changed. I learned. And I understood. “You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright
you always told us that we need to prove to you that we understood and acted upon your learning. That is why you made us do extra work before taking a retake. You told us to try our best, to achieve beyond what you expected us to do. I believe this quote explains that. Your entire learning is based on what that quote means. Independence. Spirit. Understanding. That we should always do our best, whether you are there to tell us that. This quote does more than just say that, it stands for that. And that is why it is so powerful.
I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I;m telling you it’s going to be worth it. I think its a life lesson to live by. You can use everyday in any class including math. It keeps anybody wanting to give up motivated. Also the quote is very true. There are always goals to come by working hard. Like in math when we find the slope and somebody says that this is useless. But someday they might want to an architect or an engineer and then they will find it very useful. Its a quote that would be helpful to know. ” A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”
Albert Einstein
Because it will inspire people to try math even if they don’t know what there doing.
Just Let it Go. “Just Let it Go” is something that I have had a time with this year. I hate to have grades lower than a B nor do my parents. I realize now that I cant do everything perfectly. Yes, I still get really down on my self for low scores and grades but I am learning to “Just Let it Go.”. This has been the hardest school year for me yet and I know things won’t get easier. I know I should be happy that I only have to take one final this year but, I feel like things are already impossible. Other than school I have to “Just Let it Go” at home as well. My sister, my mom and I argue constantly against each other over just about anything. This little things turn into huge problems frequently. Sometimes its hard but we all have to “Just Let it Go.”. Since doing this our relationships aren’t restored completely but we are managing to get better. At school this also relates to me because I have had “Friends”. It took me a while to realize that are few people in Scullen that i could call my real friend. I realized that so many of the people that I spent time with this year didn’t care about me what so ever. I “Just Let it Go” and recognized who my true friends were. From this I learned that I only had one friend. I am okay with this though because it is better to have one true friend than one million fake friends. As you can see this quote has played a large role in my life at school at home and hopefully will next year as well. “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” ~ Victor Kiam I think you should use this quote next year because it defines how I felt this entire year. When I messed up on skill quizzes (which I did VERY often), I didn’t realize that it was helping me. I thought it was just pulling me back and killing my grade but, it took some time for me to understand that the mistakes I made were learning tools for the next time I tried. The whole time I was moving forward without knowing. Just like the Earth moving constantly but we don’t notice. This is why I believe you should use this quote next year.
Two Nice Things I think this poster was a good idea to put up. It made people hesitant to insult each other(even though they should be hesitant to insult altogether). And when the rare occasion of an insult happened, everybody around the attacker would immediately yell out “two nice things!”. After that was exclaimed whoever said something hurtful would have to say two nice things. In addition to that, a lot of people would take this out of the classroom. I remember once in foods class, someone said something hurtful to another student (both were on our team) and 5 or 6 kids yelled out “two nice things!” leading to the instigator having to say two nice things. Having this poster up also makes people feel good about themselves. When you hear something nice said about you it boosts your self-esteem. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
-Albert Einstein
Because a lot of the time in math you do a problem, then figure out the answer is incorrect. Once you do that you usually assume you did the work right so you do the same work again and get the same answers and repeat that process until frustration occurs. But if whoever is going through this dilemma sees this poster it might give them the idea to use a different method or ask for help allowing them to complete the problem and move on with whatever they are doing.
The most important thing you can give someone is a chance. To me this quote is spectacular. I tells me that everyone deserves a chance no matter what. In school and at home I give others a chance to show me or try again. During the school year you gave use many chances to improve our grade as well as our knowledge. Next year I will give peers a chance to be my friend. Also I will give teachers a chance even if I don’t get a good first impression. In addition the high school routine will be different but I know I will have to get used to it. This is why I think this is a very spectacular quote. “You don’t have to know you’re dying to start living.” – Zach Sobiech This quote is not related to math what so ever; however this young man suddenly was diagnosed with cancer then he became a huge hit on youtube for music and then sadly passed away. This tells me that life is to short to waste time why don’t I want to have a fun life.
Wrong is wrong, even is everyone is doing it. Right is right, even is no one is doing it. This stood out to me because I could give you pages of examples of how this happens everyday. We are put in extraordinary situations where this quote applies. Whether it’s helping someone with books, or joining in with a group of kids picking on someone to “fit in”. It is honestly sad how awful our society, that we live in, is. This quote show me that no matter what people say, think or do that the right thing is the right thing, and nothing can change that. It gives me inspiration and helps me prepare for the day, the week, and the rest of the year. People will peer pressure you, but no matter if its ‘cool’ or ‘in style’ it will never be right because wrong will always remain wrong, and right will always remain right. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take”
-Wayne Gretzky
This quote relates to academics , sports, struggles, life, basically what I am trying to say is that it relates to anything and everything. This quote helps to remember to keep trying and never give up even when hope is a heap of away.
You Matter. I really like this quote because so many people, including me, feel bad about themselves constantly. We’re always picking at our flaws. We are out worst critics. We criticize ourselves more than we think people criticize us. Usually whenever I see a grade I wasn’t expecting/ don’t like I tend to put myself down. I think that if I keep this quote in mind, I’ll be perfectly fine in high school. I really like this quote. “Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics.” ~Simeon-Denia Poisson (1781-1840) I think this quote should be used in your classroom next year because it shows that doing math is fun and can be exciting and not a drag like some people say. This quote shows that math is not only benefiting the students, but also the teacher as well. It shows that math is important in this world. Math shouldn’t be about memorization but about learning and understanding.
Just Let it Go. I picked the quote “Just Let it Go,” because I can relate to this quote inside and outside of school. I feel like this quote means to let go of whatever is bothering you and focus and on what’s important. For instance, school in general is important, and it will stay important in my and other futures. If you are focused on something that won’t be important to you later in life, why risk your chances of not being the best student you can be? School is a time to let go of your problems and focus on what will make you successful later in life. In math class I feel stressed out that I didn’t know a skill and that I wouldn’t be able to master it. Then I get too stressed and I put up “my wall” that tells me that I won’t be able to master the skill. If I let go and think positive I could of had a chance at mastering the skill, that I once believed I couldn’t do. I can use this quote next year by not getting too stressed out about my school work and tests. If I let go I can really make a difference by letting my mind find out the easiest way I can learn and understand. “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.”
-John Dewey
I think that you should use this quote because this shows that after you have succeeded one thing, you should keep pushing for another. For example, on your skill quizes, you have mastered almost all of them which was your goal, but you should keep pushing to master all of the quizes. This quote could be used outside of school, whether it is sports, a change in life, or anything else.
Wrong is wrong, even is everyone is doing it. Right is right, even is no one is doing it. i like this qoute because it means different things to different people. This qoute means to me that dont do what everyone else is doing be different. This can be used in school by not bullying a kid that everyone else bullys. i can use this next year by making the right choices in high school. putting academics before sports or other activities. do what i think is right not what everyone else thinks. if everyone lived by this qoute the world would be a better place. bullying and other problems based on peer pressure can be avoided if everyone did what they thought was right. “Honesty is the best policy”

By: Benjamin Franklin

you should put this up in your classroom so students can be honest about grading their own tests, turning in homework, and cheating. a classroom with honesty is easy to teach in.
Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. I chose this quote because it relates to my school life. I am a chorus singer and one day my teacher asks me to try out for honors chorus and i didnt pass the offer. this offer did come up to me once but i turned it down because i have stage fright and i have never tried out for any singing groups or parts. when i did try out it helped me over come this fear a bit. i was told i had a wonderful voice. at my audition i did have a shaky voice at first but then i got over it and sang out. this quote reminds me of the fear i had to express my singing abilities. when i read this i feel like i am that little bird whos afraid of singing out but when i do i fill the woods with my voice. i can use this next year to have the guts to try out for something else. It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
Napoleon Hill
i think you should add this quote to your wall because it motivates people to help others and not just themselves. it shows that you succeed more when helping others than just yourself. helping others is a great feeling inside and it lets the person know you care for them. this reminds me of the times when you have people who finish a project/assignment grab a green spoon and help others. the green spoons are a great idea and i think you should keep that going.
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible. I liked this one the most because it represents my life very well. This is because I love to prove people wrong. So when someone tells me it is impossible to do something i always will attempt it no matter what. Such as when i was doing a science project, I had tried to turn a fresh water fish over to a salt water fish. It didn’t work for obvious reasons but i still tried. It also applies in math. I was never good at math so i thought it was impossible. But i still tried and it was fun! “Behind every successful man, is many unsuccessful years.”
~ Bob Brown
i think you should use this quote because it describes everyones live into a few words. Not only does it just apply to students but to athletes , artists etc. throughout your years of learning you make mistakes and fall down but you get back up and that is what you learn from and become successful that way. this connects to your classroom and learning in general because as a student you make a mistake on a test or quiz but when getting feedback you make the correction and will forever know how to solve those problems. This also relates to your classroom because of skill quizzes, we may of been unsuccessful many times but we learn and retake and succeed.
Dare to be Remarkable. This is my favorite quote in the room for many reasons. I like how the quote isn’t sugar coated or detailed, it just gets to you really quickly and when I really started to think about the qoute it actually really impacted me. I take risks everyday but they aren’t risks that make me feel special. What I mean by this is that if I took a risk and talked out to someone I had never spoken to before I think that would make me feel remarkable. I know that sounds a little strange but sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference. I think you should really highlight this qoute next year because its definitely something that 8th graders should take in to consideration because no one takes risks or tries to Stand out to much in middle school because we are afraid to be remarkable. “When educating the minds of youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.”
Dalai Lama
I think you should use this qoute next year because I believe it’s something that teachers and students tend forget about. When we learn we learn about science and math and social studies, but we rarely discuss how those subjects can please our hearts or make us happy. For me when I do math problems it makes me feel in control, which makes me feel good about myself. Then when I read or write I feel at peace which is the best feeling in the world for me. I really and truly believe that all teachers should put happiness into the spotlight at school.
Do the Right Thing…Even when no one is looking. “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.” I think this quote is really true. This applies in almost every situation that comes up in life. Just because someone is not watching you does not mean you will get away with your mistake. Guilt will always look over your shoulder if you make the wrong move. I know for me, doin the right thing only makes me feel better about myself. I also never have to worry about karma biting me back. I think this is a good moral to have in the class. One of the most important. Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
-Maria Robinson, American writer
This quote should really be put up in the classroom. This quote has so many powerful meanings. The connection it has to learning is you may have a rough start in your learning and you can’t go back and change that, but any student can start today, never giving up and keep trying until they have achieved the goal they set for. It all makes up for the loss in the end. I feel as many kids can look up at that and know this isn’t where I’m going to stop this is only the beginning and if I mess up I can just keep going.
Just Let it Go. I wish I had seen this quote earlier in the year. First semester I didn’t do much talking. I was still stuck in last year, and to be honest I was a mess. I had so much to let go, but I didn’t WANT to. There was nothing to move on too. And then second semester in math class, I met people. People that are now my very good friends. They helped me let go of what was holding me back, and gave me something new; something worth holding onto. This quote makes me feel sad. I kind of feel sad right now thinking about it. It applies more to life than school, but life IN school. But this quote is important for people to see. It’s simple, but deep. Those are the best quotes because it can be interpreted personally. For example, I’m positive no one interpreted “Just Let it Go (little balloon)” the same way I did. They probably just thought it meant to get over that test they failed. Which honestly, it could. There are those bridges in life that are better crossed, and that’s what people should do. Cross it. Get over it. Especially at this time of the year, when the students get split up and grow into a group again, before splitting again. For good. I think it’s funny how for two quarters I sat right underneath that poster, second and third. And now, when I’m saying goodbye to my friends, I see it. For the first time. And I’m glad I have, because I’m going to need that advice. Who knows when, but I will, and I’m going to use it.

My very favorite quote on your wall is “Two Nice Things”, because without it in some…weird way, I wouldn’t have made my friends. It’s a strange thought, but having to tell two nice things to each other every time we insulted on impulse kind of grew everyone closer. Especially since they had to be about personality, because there are never enough ways to tell someone how good they are at math.

🙂
Thank you, your class meant the most to me

“If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
I think you should but this quote up in your classroom because it’s so motivational. It will tell students to keep trying no matter what obstacles they face and never give up. I believe never give up is one of the most important lessons everyone learns in their life time. This can apply to school and once again, outside of school.
Two Nice Things Two nice things… This phrase has had a lot of meaning this year to me in math and all of my other core classes. Since you created the ‘two nice things’ rule, bullying and mean words haven’t really been that common. It made me feel happy that students bullied others less and less because of this rule. I feel that it has truly made a difference this year as well. I mean, it has really taught us, students to think before we speak. Because if we say something rude or hurtful, we have to say something nice about that person and it would lead us to think of why we would have said the mean words in the first place. It may seem like I am completely exasperating three tiny words, but I feel they have changed us all for the better. It has helped prepare us for high school and has shown us how to behave like young adults. And for that I thank you. “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”
– Albert Einstein
I think that you should use this quote because it’s inspiring. Learning-wise, it tells you to see what you can do, and then tells you to advance furthermore. This is important in your classroom environment especially because of the math aspect that I see; it says to keep trying even when you can stop.
It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try. “It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try.” I chose this quote out of every other poster because it truly inspires me to change my drive for highschool. For the longest time I’ve kept the mindset of “there’s no point in trying if I can’t do it,” or “why hope if it will never happen?” Throughout my years in middle school I have realized how weak of a person I really am. I have no drive, no confidence, and I give up after the first shot. I drop hobbies upon gathering materials, stop practicing a violin concerto I can’t perfect, and throw out homework I simply can’t do. I give up. I am weak. But this statement tells me it’s not okay. It’s not okay to give up without trying – without really trying. But it’s okay not to know the many concepts of physics. It’s okay if I can’t sightread a foreign key. It’s okay if I can’t write like Stephen King and Lovecraft, or create art like Tim Burton. It’s okay because I’m still allowed to try. And as long as I am, I can technically try anything, learn anything, and eventually do anything I want.So thank you for giving me a statement to live by. “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Louisa May Alcott It’s just inspiring. For everyone.
It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try. my favorite quote in your room is Its okay not to know but its not okay not to try. This quote made me realize that I need to give an effort on all things. If I may not know how to do a math problem I still have to try to do it. to show that I care to learn. Not trying or giving an effort at all, will not help me learn. Something I may not know to do if I try it makes me feel better and it feels like a gave an effort. This quote helps ,e with my homework because many times I did not know how to do a math problem, trying it made me have for encouragement and confidence in learning how to do it. That quote made me realize that effort is rally important to help you learn. Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningfull
– Joshua J. Marine
I think that it sends a message that you will have challenges in this classroom, but if you overcome them, you will eventually have a fun time learning.

Ok. I realize that was A LOT to share, but as I was going through reading them all (yeah for google forms!), many reminded me of the struggles in middle school, the thoughts that go through students heads that we tend to forget about and the amazing connections and fun we had that year. Obviously I didn’t share them all, many of the ones I shared stood out to me for one reason or another.

More importantly it has reminded me that connecting with my students as people, as young adults, is the MOST important aspect to the success and failures we will have in my classroom. This was the PERFECT thing for me to read today, while I was procrastinating all of the planning and more planning I should be doing. It gave me the perspective I needed to have and that warm fuzzy feeling that I am an effective teacher and I can help my students in more ways than just math.

Take time before you barrel into a new school year and reflect on the way you want your students to feel when they are in your classroom. What things from previous years do you want to repeat? What things do you want to avoid?  What new things do you want to try? You can make this year anything you want for both yourself and your students, so take a deep breath and do some honest reflection. Regardless of what you choose to do and how you choose to create a culture of learning in your classroom, make sure that making honest connections with your students is at the forefront. Without those important connections, getting students to take risks, be comfortable failing and learn from their mistakes won’t happen unless they know you have their back. 🙂

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.)

photo

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!

5/30

When is failure okay?

Is failure even okay anymore?  Does it teach a lesson? Or does the non-failure teach a better lesson? Whose fault is failure…student? teacher? other outside forces? I have these questions and more swirling around in my head.  It’s Friday, it’s been a very long day and I am attempting to put together something that effectively gets my thoughts, questions and feelings across.  I won’t get into the nitty gritty behind why these questions are at the forefront of my mind, but I will just say it’s not a good reason and made me very sad this morning.  Bullies do still exist in the adult world and it’s not cool.

Background: I use SBG and have been doing it in Algebra for 4 years. I’ve used it in Pre-Algebra for 2 years, but with Common Core this year I’ve only been doing it here and there this year because I’ve been spending too much time figuring out new curriculum design.  With that being said, all of my students are comfortable with SBG and what it means.  I am the only one using it in my building, though an ELA teacher uses it for one aspect of her class.  While explaining the grading at the start of each year can be rough on parents and students, eventually they do understand the grading and why I do it this way.  I have used the Angry Birds comparison that I found online from one of you. (post link to that here).

I truly believe that SBG is the way to grade and will not go back.  I love the conversations that I can have with students about their understanding of a specific topic.  We can address that they understand the concept but are making small algebraic errors or we can discuss their lack of understanding of the concept and identify the areas of confusion to put together a way to reteach/practice the concept.  They know what they know and what they don’t.  They reflect on their learning and know the steps they need to do to more forward.  They get frustrated when they make those small errors, but push themselves to practice and reassess.  The students feel supported and know that I will do whatever it takes to support them.

What I do: Students are allowed to reassess any skills throughout the quarter as often as they want in order to show mastery.  However, they do have to sign-up to reassess and bring proof of further practice of the skill they want to reassess.  I have learned (the hard way) that this is the way to go.  I had students in the past reassess and reassess without any practice thinking that the continual retakes would help them learn and eventually they would pass.  Kind of like the book under the pillow to study. 🙂  It didn’t work (go figure), but was a huge strain on both students and myself. Having them bring the practice is great because I can look over it before they reassess to make sure they are on the right track.

In my class, students must master each skill twice (or two 4’s) in order to master the skill.  At that point the grade in the gradebook will equal a 100% for that skill.  I offer 6 assessments on each skill throughout the quarter in class; there are 10-12 skills per quarter.  Anything they want to reassess above and beyond that comes from them and will be before school, during lunch or after school.  Doing it this way I feel helps to promote student responsibility in two ways…either they will work to master it in class by practicing and studying for the skill quizzes or they will work to master it on their own time because they want to get a skill “done” or needed a little extra help.  I do not view the help or reassessments outside of the school day as being bad, I see it as a way for students to realize when they need additional help and find ways to get it.  I do, every once in a while, require students to meet with me during lunch because they fell into my Red Zone on a skill.

Homework is not a grade.  I always struggled with what to do with homework as a beginning teacher and now that it is not graded I love it.  And guess what? The students still do their homework! I do check it daily (or have a student check it daily)to keep track of who is doing it, but that is for my information to help stay on top of a student who is on the verge of struggling.  If a student misses 3 homework assignments in a week or in a short time span, I will talk to them about it and make a note in the gradebook notes section that students and parents can see.  If they continue to miss their homework, they have to meet with me during lunch to work on it.  I do this in advance of the skill quizzes in order to help them before they may struggle.  Keeping track of homework completion is also helpful when talking with students about their skills mastery and when talking to parents about their student.

My Frustrations: I wish my gradebook system didn’t require my skills to be graded numerically.  That is the most confusing part to students and parents because we don’t have a normal grading scale (it’s higher than most), so when students haven’t mastered a skill, their “grade” in the gradebook looks pretty bad until they improve.  If I could grade without numbers and with proficiency levels, it would be fantastic.  Every year I work to teach my students that grades don’t matter, it’s their understanding of the skills that do.  Typically the students understand and it takes the parents a little longer…see my blog post earlier about a parent email related to this.

What do I do with the student who doesn’t care? Who doesn’t do the homework, doesn’t prepare for skill quizzes, doesn’t take advantage of reassessments, doesn’t take me up on my offer for help during lunch? I feel that it is HARD to fail my class with all of things I have in place, so what do I do when a student does fail? Obviously there is parental communication, but what else can I do?  When does the responsibility fall back to the student? When is it the student’s choice that is causing their failure?

The conversation that I had with my Admin today was one of having too many D’s or F’s.  Mind you I don’t have any F’s and had 5 D’s total from my 4 math classes (2 Algebra and 2 Pre-Algebra).  The conversation was one of what can you do differently to reach these students because clearly what you are doing isn’t working.  FIVE D’s???? I think my head almost popped off my body.  Here was my admin telling me I wasn’t doing enough to reach all students.  Really? Besides what I listed above, in my short 42 minute class, I do a lot of small remediation groups, 1-1 work with students, video chats on the weekends and review of topics with those that need it.  I was made to feel that my offering before school, after school and during lunch help and reassessments was implying that I wasn’t doing something in the classroom correctly. That it was bad for me to offer these things.  I was asked what I was going to do to change those grades from D’s to something higher.  WHAT? What about asking the students what they are going to do?  What about asking the students if they took advantage of any of the hundreds of options they have available to them?  Why was I made to feel that a D was an unacceptable grade and I shouldn’t allow it?  I was told that I should really be reflecting on myself and my teaching to make improvements because I must be doing something wrong.  I have thought long and hard about it…I think I am going to talk to my admin on Monday and ask what else they would like me to do (after listing everything I am doing) because I am at a loss as to what else I can be doing. I teach topics in multiple ways with different examples, the students have ISN’s filled with notes, examples and reflections to fall back on.  My students and I have a great rapport, we have fun, we talk about the ups and downs of life, we challenge ourselves with the math we do and we like it. And guess what? They learn in my class, they ask questions in my class, they want to know more about what we are doing and they help each other.  It’s been a great year and has allowed me to reflect and learn about what it truly means to be a teacher in this day and age.

The Irony: On Wednesday of this week I found out that instead of teaching 8th grade Algebra (Accelerated class) and Pre-Algebra (Regular class) next year (like I have for the past 11 years), I will be moving up to 8th grade Geometry, which is the best of the best…the gifted team.  It’s supposed to be a compliment to be teaching those students because they require so much and so much different than what I am use to.  However after leaving my meeting this morning with my admin, I was questioning why they would place me there if I had “SO” many students struggling in my classes; if I clearly didn’t know what to do to reach my students, why was I being moved? I felt as though I wasn’t good enough to be moved to teach those students. I don’t think that a teacher should ever leave a meeting feeling as though they aren’t good enough.

So what is the answer?  What does failure mean today? I am getting the feeling that it means that the teacher didn’t work hard enough and let the student slip through the cracks…at least that’s the impression my admin gave.  I don’t agree with that answer, but I am now not sure what the answer is.  I agree with SBG and students showing mastery, but I also believe there needs to be a deadline at some point, in order to hold them accountable, to work on responsibility, to allow them to move on.

Does your school allow students to fail? What things do you have in place to help them if they are struggling? Is there a lesson to be learned from failing and struggling?  I posed the question on Twitter on Friday because I needed to vent and see what other teachers and schools do.  The responses were great and now I just need to figure out how to move forward. How to move past how my admin made me feel, reflect on it and make sure I never make anyone student, parent or teacher ever feel that way. And to think about what else I can do in the classroom to reach all students.