Monday, January 20, 2020

#MTBoS2020 - Change can be scary!

Earlier this month, I posted that one of my goals was to blog at least twice a month in 2020.  Thankfully, I ran across this tweet by Jennifer Fairbanks yesterday to help support my goal:

If you want to join the #MTBoS2020 blogging challenge, you can sign up here.

As for the rest of my goals, they are just rocking right along.  I've been able to keep up with my exercise goal and have mostly lost the weight I gained over the holidays.  And I've continued to email parents (although I need to do this weekend's emails still!).  So all in all, I'm considering this a win! :)

I had my students share some of their 2020 goals as well based on a tweet I saw over Winter Break.  It has really warmed my heart to read their responses, plus it just makes my room look awesome! :)

So on to some other changes in 2020...

When I left my classroom in December, I had a Promethean board with an overhanging projector and an aging Lenovo laptop.

When I returned in January, I had a 70" TV connected wirelessly to a Surface Pro.

I knew the TV was coming as my room is a pilot room for updated technology.  But it still caused a bit of anxiety as I figured out how to use it. :)  Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised at how well it works, although my students do miss the larger Promethean board, even though the picture wasn't as clear and the bulb was dimmer by the day.  The TV has a clear and crisp image, but due to the layout of my room, there's often a glare from the windows and the perspective angle is a bit challeging for some of the tables, but it's now been 2 weeks without any major snafu, so that's a win, right? :)

But school isn't the only place where change is happening...

At the homefront, our family is growing by one!

In early November, our eldest cat, Allie, passed away after living a very good and very long life.  Also during that time, our other cat, Kenzie, had been diagnosed with diabetes, so we were learning how to manage her illness and giving her 2 shots a day.

A few weeks ago, hubs decided he was ready to maybe look for another kitty to add to our home and had been casually looking at the various adoption sites.  Saturday morning, he sends me a picture of a kitty that had been taken in this week at Animal Welfare and he wanted to meet her while we were out running errands.  Thankfully, when we arrived, she was still available and this little darling will be coming home after her spay surgery later this week.  Isn't that face just adorable?? :)  She doesn't have a name yet, so suggestions welcomed!

But the biggest change / scary moment in my life is coming up in a few weeks when I will be travelling internationally for the first time in my life, plus I'll be travelling all alone.

In my "One Word" post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that my word this year was Courage because I need some courage to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. 

When I shared with my students about going out of the country for the first time, several students started sharing their best travel tips.  One of my students is a bit concerned about my safety while travelling alone and started a list of tips and hints on my whiteboard.  My personal favorite is to not get involved with the mob, mafia, or drug lords....:)  If you have tips to add, please drop them in the comments :)

Friday, January 17, 2020

#MyFavFriday - Sharing some Love

How are we already two weeks into the new semester? 

Third quarter traditionally is the slowest for me, but I suspect that won't be the case this year as every couple of weeks I have something on my calendar... a day off, professional development, enrollment, parent conferences, then spring break!  It's going to be important to slow down and just be present in the moment, cherishing those times with my students and colleagues, as before we know it, this year will be gone and my kiddos will be moving on to the next chapter in their lives.

As part of being present and really appreciating those around me, I wanted to do a #MyFavFriday shoutout to a few special people and their thoughtfulness over the past month..

Upper left - One of my Geometry students is extremely artistic and has been an absolute delight to have in class.  During the last week of school in December, while trying to study for finals, he decided to create custom shrinky dink lapel pins for all of his teachers.  Mine is a ladybug, of course! :)  I don't recall what he made for each teacher, but every one was individualized based on that teacher's likes and/or subject matter. 

Upper right - One of my colleagues was also super crafty in December, making these custom keyring lanyards.  I have had one of those stretch coil keyrings for years, but this lanyard is quickly becoming one of my favorite things!  I love that it's easy to loop around my arm and easy to find when I set down my keys in my classroom :)

Lower left - One of my Forensic Science kids was absent for a week as she had gone to visit family in India. Upon her return, she came in after school to make up a lab and we started visiting about her trip, including the food.  The next day, she brings me this baggie of homemade traditional Indian snack foods - how precious is that??

Lower right - Another colleague and I have a shared love for pens - I mean, seriously, can you be a teacher without loving a good set of colored pens?? :)  But this was my very first stand up pen caddy and I have to say that I love it!!  It's the perfect size to hold about 15 pens and so convenient on my desk without being obtrusive.  Definitely one of my favorite new additions to my desk this semester!

Monday, January 6, 2020

#Made4Math - One Word

It's the first week of January and this is my 2nd blog post of 2020 - yay for keeping my blogging goal so far! :)

It's also the first Monday back to school for the spring semester and that alarm clock is definitely NOT my friend!  During the summer, I do a great job of not messing up my schedule because the sun streams into my bedroom bright and early, but in the winter, it's just a little too easy to stay snuggled under the covers until the sun finally comes out.

I don't know about you, but the first week back to school for me is about reestablishing relationships, reviewing procedures, and the normal housekeeping details that come with a new semester, which includes setting up new notebooks!

This year, I decided to add a goal sheet to my notebook set-up and thought I'd share it with you too!

On the front, it asks them for their "One Word for 2020".

On the inside, it asks why they chose that word plus asks for two goals - one related to my class and one of their choice (personal or academic) plus 2-3 action items to help them achieve their goal.

My word this year is Courage.  The reasons are a bit more than I want to go into right now, but I need courage to release some control, courage to move out of my comfort zone, and courage to step up.

Click here for the PDF file!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Happy New Year!!!

I don't know how we made it here so far, but Happy 2020!  It seems like only yesterday that I was gearing up for back to school and now we're halfway through the year.

Overall, this break has been a time of minimal interaction with the outside world.  I have read a lot and worn down my tablet battery on more than one occasion.  I have rarely put on real clothes, instead living in leggings and t-shirts, and I have generally been an absolute hermit. I have succeeded in messing up my sleep schedule, but I have relished the daily naptime and the fuzzy blanket on the sofa.  I have accomplished very little on my to-do list, but I'm (mostly) okay with that.

Today was a restless day, a day of irritability as I face the truth that school starts back in a few days.  Tomorrow, I'll head to school to clean and organize, then Sunday will be all about lesson planning again before we start back into the daily routine of life.  So, it's time to take a step back and think about the big things I want to accomplish this year...

Goals for 2020


  • Exercise / Health - I made my FitBos 2019 goal of 135 hours, but just barely.  I had too many days where I was just not in the mood to exercise or the weather wasn't cooperating or my plantar facsicitis was acting up.  However, as of the afternoon of Dec 31, I had completed 135 hours and 4 minutes :)  This year's goal is 140 hours.  I also have need to lose about 20 pounds, so that's on my radar as well.
    • Specific Goal - Exercise at least 4 times a week.  Track calories via phone app
  • Reflection Time - This is an area where I've struggled a lot.  In 2020, I would like to get back to a regular routine of personal / spiritual reflection and devotional time, as well as my professional reflection time with blogging.
    • Specific Goal - Daily devotional time / journaling and blogging at least 2 times per month


  • Parent Contact - I started emailing "Student Shout Out" emails in August and while I haven't sent as many as I should, my goal is to have sent one to every student by the end of the year.  The responses I've received from the parents and students have been heart-warming and I really enjoy this time each weekend.
    • Specific Goal - At least 5 emails per week
  • Growth Zone - Overall, 2019 was good to me, but it also found me in my comfort zone a lot.  I didn't push myself as much as I could have or should have from a professional standpoint.  I'm at an awkward stage in my career where I'm definitely a veteran teacher, but with that comes a sense of disillusionment that frustrates me.  I'm not quite sure how to achieve this goal, or even how to articulate it, but I feel myself moving down the path of "ehh, no worries, that initiative will be gone within 2 years and a new one will take its place" and that's NOT okay with me.
    • Specific Goal - Download new podcasts to listen to during commute, start back with #eduread books

What are your 2020 goals?

Friday, September 20, 2019

#MyFavFriday - September is Zooming By!

Holy moly - how has another week gone by?  I was looking at my Lesson Plan book today and and it's only like 3 weeks until Fall Break! 

This was another great week overall.  It went super fast, probably because it was packed from top to bottom with meetings, Meet the Teacher night, and a to-do list a mile long! :)  This weekend is shaping up to be a weekend of grading, so if you have any favorite TV binges, please let me know! :)

Now, on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Warm-Up Activity
This week in Geometry, we've been working on Angles and angle pairs.  One thing that I've noticed over the years is that students struggle with using a protractor and often don't take the time to make sure their answer makes sense.  I found this Angle Game at NRICH last year and decided to do it as a warm-up the day after we refreshed on measuring angles.  The energy in the room was electrifying!  A student insisted I capture the picture on the left when they nailed the angle exactly.  Best part of it all?  I caught one of my students playing this later on in the week because it's just that addictive! :)

My Favorite Downtime Moment
Typically, the Puzzle Table has a puzzle of some sort.  But this week, I put out the little hexagon things that someone from the #MTBoS shared about a few years ago and wow, what a response!  Every day, there were people crowded around the Puzzle Place just to build and play and explore.  My favorite was probably the little fidget spinner / top that a student made as seen on the right side of the photo.  This week, Aldi has some building toys that might show up in the Puzzle Place sometime in the near future - assuming I make it to Aldi this weekend! :)  (Note - I have no idea what these toys are called - I purchased some at the Target Dollar Spot a few years ago)

My Favorite New Technology
This summer, I blogged about a RocketBook hack but it was still theoretical at the time.  It is no longer theoretical and it has transformed my classroom! 

I printed a blank Rocketbook page, laminated it, then cut out the inside.  I then set up the RocketBook app to send files to a folder on my Google Drive that I shared with my students.  Each day, I put the homework and notes inside the frame, color in the correct circle, and the App does the rest!  It pretty much instantly sends the file to Drive and my students have access to the daily notes for when they are absent and complete homework solutions to check their daily work.  This frame just lives on my whiteboard with a magnetic clip and I use my desk as a background surface before taping the work into my notebook.  My kids have responded very well to this and have thanked me for making it so easy to get their notes / homework! :)

My Favorite Lab of the Week
This week in Forensic Science, we were talking about types of evidence - direct vs circumstanstial, physical vs biological, and class vs individual evidence.  We found a lab activity online and modified it for our class. Students had to go from station to station, reading the case file informtion and examining the evidence to classify by type.  In the station at the right, paint chips were taken from a "crime scene" and a paint can was recovered from the suspect's garage.  Students had to determine if the paint chips could be matched to the paint can or not and justify it.  The conversations were so awesome to listen to!  Other stations included footprints, tire tracks, a handwritten note, a torn t-shirt, etc.  Next year, we plan to add a couple more stations like a carpet sample / fibers, tool marks, and bite mark analysis. 

My Favorite Interactions this week

  • Last night was "Meet the Teacher" at our school and one of the best comments came at the end of the night, when a parent stayed after to tell me that her son had come home and told her, "Mom!  You have to follow my math teacher on Instagram!"  The mom is an Early Childhood Teacher and we had a wonderful chat about student engagement strategies and our mutual passion for teaching and learning.  
  • One of my students wrote me a note this week to thank me for emailing their dad a positive note home.  I have started emailing 5-6 parents each weekend with a Student Shout Out and the feedback I've received has been very positive.  :)
  • During a passing period today, a former student was walking by with a friend and got a "high five".  After they passed, I heard the friend say "I got my high five earlier today!"
  • A couple of first hour students were in my room early today.  One of them decided I needed some "pump you up" music and proceeded with a dance party in my room for 30 minutes before school.  It was an interesting mix of music as he tried to find school appropriate songs on his playlist which included "Staying Alive" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"! LOL

How was your week?

Until next time - Happy Friday!! :)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

#MyFavFriday - Good Things are Happening!

How is it already mid-September and I've failed to blog since #MTBoSBlaugust ended???

Back to school this year has been rough!  I LOVE my kids and I've had the same preps for the past 3 years, but we changed our bell schedule this year, so that has taken some adjustment plus very full classes means more papers to shuffle and honestly I'm just trying to keep up on a daily basis!  Good things are happening though and that's the thing to keep in mind! 

My Favorite Homework Response
This year, I am checking HW a bit differently.  In the past, I have taken the first few minutes of class to go over HW but it often seemed like a waste of time.  This year, I am having students discuss their HW at their tables, compare answers, and check with my solutions (uploaded via Rocketbook - OMG, LOVE!!!), while I walk around eavesdropping on their conversations so I know what topics to talk about as a whole group.  I have really loved the conversations that have happened and reading their responses, but I also know that next year I will assign group roles to this to help with mangement and leadership.  Any suggestions on group roles?? :)

My Favorite Exit Ticket Prompt
Back to School brings with it new students, new names to remember, and new opportunities to make connections.  In general, my Friday exit ticket this year has two parts - a "getting to know you" prompt and a "One Good Thing" prompt (shoutout to the amazing @RebeckaMozdeh).  I love this with huge puffy heart loves!  For the Fun Fact, I learned that one of my students is on a Curling team, another student has 9 3/4 fingers, another student travelled Europe last year, etc.  It was such a fun way to get to know something about them beyond the classroom.  The OGT allows us to celebrate small and large victories, from "I survived this week" to "I learned I was a National Merit Semi-Finalist". 

My Favorite AP Stat Activity of the Week
This week in AP Stat, we wrapped up the "Collecting Data" unit with the Distracted Driver activity based on an activity years ago from NCSSM and an AP Free Response question.  The idea was to develop what statistical signficance means plus an introduction to the idea of a p-value and the 5% level of signficance.  One of the things I love about this activity is that it truly builds a deep understanding of using simulated results to know whether something is unusual.  But from a purely human side, it's really fun to watch students try to figure out how to shuffle a deck of playing cards, as game nights were something very common in my family growing up.  :) :)

My Favorite Geometry Activity of the Week
There were so many awesome moments happening this week in Geometry and honestly, we were so engaged that I forgot to take a picture more often than not!!

But one thing that remained the same throughout the week was how much I just enjoyed eavesdropping.  I know that sounds weird, but there were some powerful mathematial discussions going on this week in Geometry!  From students working through an "Around the Room" multiple choice activity from Katrina Newell to arguing over the math in the Wild Wonders Amusement Park to helping each other find patterns in midpoints, the level of collaboration and engagement was one that I just wanted to bottle up and keep for the days that we aren't feeling it.  I could literally watch each child this week as they grew as mathematicians and it was just beautiful.  I know that is sappy, but true :)

My Favorite New Parent Outreach
Last weekend, I ran across this tweet from Lauren Johnson about sending home parent emails each week.  Last year, one of my goals was increased parent communication and I wanted to do more this year.  Lauren's email came and just the right time!  Last weekend, I sent out 6 "Student Shout Out" emails and this morning I sent out 7 more.  I am *LOVING* this idea to just send a quick email to the parents about their child and I have no idea why I didn't do it before!  The responses I've gotten back from parents have been so positive and I just can't say enough good about this method. :)  Thank you Lauren!!!

This was our first 5 day week of the year and I'm exhausted by excited about the fun yet to come!  I hope all of you have a blessed weekend!!

Happy Belated Friday!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

#MTBoSBlaugust - Goodbye August!

This month, I am participating in a blogging challenge called #MTBoSBlaugust.  To read posts from other participants, click on the logo above.

Tis the end of another year of #MTBoSBlaugust.  I am so grateful to all of those who participated this year, either through blogs, Instagram, or as a commenter / cheerleader for others!  I didn't post quite as often this month as I had hoped to, but this is post 14 of the month, which is almost more than I've posted in the past year, so I'm counting that as a win! :)

As is often the case, this post is serving as my #MyFavFriday post, even though it's Saturday. :)  To be honest, by the time Friday night rolls around, I'm often too exhausted to post and I am often crashed out on the couch before 7pm.  This week was no exception!  I'm so grateful that it's the holiday weekend so I can hopefully catch up on some sleep and maybe attempt to get ahead for the next week.  I'm not holding my breath on that one though... lol! :)

So here we go... my favorite moments of this week :)

My Favorite Student Comment:
I am trying really hard this year to be better about Exit Tickets and Closure activities.  Right now, I'm still in "Getting to Know You" mode, so the question on Monday was "What is a goal you have?  It could be about this class, your personal life, your future, etc."  This student chose to share their mindset goal for math!

Last week, I tried really hard to impress on the students that they ARE math people and we can ALL improve through hard work.  We watched videos from Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math and did several mathematical challenges to show that speed isn't our goal - understanding is.

My Favorite MTBoS Resource:
In all of my classes, I really try to focus on group communication and exploration before we formalize.  Points, lines, and planes are really tough for students to grasp, even though I know they have heard those terms before.  Before teaching anything about those concepts, I used this matching activity from Katrina Newell as their warmup.

This group really engaged with the activity with "all hands in".  When we started the activity, I did do a quick reminder of what they had worked on the previous week with regard to what makes good group work and how to be a good group member.  This also made a good formative assessment for me plus an illustration of how mistakes help our brains grow.  Looking back, I wish I had repeated the activity a few days later to see if they were able to do it without errors...

My Favorite PD Day:
The Friday before Labor Day has traditionally been a PD Day for our district.  For the past several years, it has also been our District Back to School Rally.

Rally Day is always a fun one because we get to celebrate the start of a new year with our band, a fun surprise entrance from our Superintendent, and usually a great keynote speaker.  This year's keynote was one of the best ones we've had and I'm super excited that two of his books are on Kindle Unlimited, so I'll be able to read them for free with my subscription. :)

My Favorite Quote:
The keynote speaker I mentioned above kept us laughing during the entire presentation, but he also dropped some major truth bombs.  

The quote at the right is from his presentation - our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.  Think about that for a minute.  Profound, isn't it?

From a teacher perspective, what if we stopped focusing on those little details that drive us crazy about our students and started seeing those as strengths?  As elements that make each child unique and wonderful?  Stop trying to get our students to conform and instead accept the weirdness?  Think about the powerful shift that could take place in our classrooms and our schools.  

This idea really captivated me during the entire talk and I even came home and made hubby watch a couple of the videos I found.  (If you would like to watch one of them, click here)

And there ya have it - my last post of MTBoS Blaugust 2019.  And Happy belated Friday to all!