Saturday, August 15, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - First Year Again


Whenever I have a student teacher or encounter a student / first year teacher, one of my words of advice is to blog throughout the year as a journal record of the ups and downs as a record of growth.  This time, those words of advice are aimed at myself as a challenge to blog about this year as I very much feel like a first year teacher again.  

We reported back to work on Thursday and what a jam-packed day it was! 
I arrived at school around 7am and was immediately overwelmed, but kind of in a good way, if that makes sense?  This was the before picture and by about 8:30, I had a semblance of order to it, even though the wall calendar still says March - LOL!  I feel like there is so much out of my control right now that it felt good to jump in to cleaning my classroom because that was something I *could* control.  There was an element of normalcy that I appreciated in this very abnormal world.  I wish I had thought to take an after picture, but maybe next week! :)

Then it was on the rest of the day...

After cleaning up my room, the next thing on my agenda was a PD / Technology meeting that morning where I was a total doofus and couldn't figure out why I couldn't hear the other people on the call until I finally realized my computer was on mute.  I was so embarassed.  I haven't used my school computer for 5 months and my home computer works differently, so I didn't even think about checking the system mute.  UGH - won't make that mistake again! 

After figuring out the PD schedule, it was time for a short break to check in on my family.  My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this summer, and her surgery was on Thursday.  All was going well so far, so time to unpack some boxes and continue cleaning my room.  All but 4 textbooks have been accounted for so far, so that's great news!  Our kids had to do a "drive-through" textbook return last Spring, so I was nervous that more would be missing and I was pleasantly surprised!

That afternoon was our All-Staff meeting and we don't have a place on campus that is large enough with social distancing rules for our staff to convene, so it was a virtual meeting via Zoom.  It actually worked out pretty well overall so I kind of hope those continue!  After the meeting, I wrapped up a few more things, then shut off the lights to head home because I had the first MIST meeting to attend! :)

After getting home and eating dinner, it was time for MIST!  MIST stands for "Mathematical Immersion for Secondary Teachers" and is a problem based curriculum / professional learning opportunity aimed at secondary math teachers.  I've been in contact with the MIST folks since February, so I was so excited to actually start!

Thursday was a Mathy Meet and Greet to introduce the people behind MIST, the research component, and to start doing math together.  Kate, our facilitator, did a fabulous job of organizing the evening.  Our math for this session was called an Estimathon, which reminded me of a math trivia night.  In our small group breakout sessions, we worked on 11 questions and had come up with a estimated range for our answer, without googling!  For example, one question was about how many episodes had been aired of the Oprah talk show over her career.  It was a blast!

After the 30 minutes was up, we had a short debrief about the activity and I think it would really be cool to gather some of these questions for the last 5 minutes of class or any time we have some downtime.  It was also a great way to practice the breakout room norms that we will be using in the other 9 sessions.  We are meeting every other Thursday night, so if you want to join in the mathy fun, please feel free to read the informational flier, ask me any questions, and sign up to join us!!  

By the end of the day, I was already missing my daily nap time because I'll admit that naptime is one of my favorite parts of summer!  

Then it was Friday... thankfully Friday was a bit calmer than Thursday!  I really didn't have much on my plate other than a department meeting and finish cleaning my room, so that next week I can really drill down into the PD and lesson planning.  I knew that this weekend would be busy, so after getting home last night, I totally vegged and hubs and I continued binge watching Schitt's Creek until I fell asleep on the couch.  

And now it's the weekend. :)  Happy Saturday to you all!  

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Last Day of Summer


Spring Break has finally come to an end and tomorrow, we report back to our classrooms for 7 days of pre-planning.  I know my room is an utter mess and in a normal year, I would have been working up there the past week, carting bag after bag of new school supplies, but not this year.  This year has been weird.  I have been to my classroom twice since March 13 and only for a few minutes each time.  I know that I will be really busy the next few days as I re-orient myself to the classroom.  

Today was a weird mix of self-care and PD.

I hope all of you are as blessed as I am to have some really great teacher friends in your life.  I am blessed with some great MTBoS friends that live in my metro area and normally we try to get together in person for lunch during our breaks, but today we met via Zoom and it just made my heart happy.  To make the day even better, I had met one of those friends for a pedicure this morning, which completed this weird spring break cycle as the last time we had gotten pedicures together was on March 14, to start Spring Break :)

I've also worked a lot today on planning some PD for my school, and I'm actually pretty pleased with our plan!  Right now, we are thinking to do the PD virtually and mostly asynch to mimic the classroom environment.  For example, we'll use EdPuzzle to do a video training on our new web filter, and as a result, kind of hit two birds with one stone.  We have a lot of the tool-based PD nailed down, but still need to work on some of the pedagogy PD - feel free to drop me a note on Twitter or in the comments with any suggestions!

Speaking of PD - tomorrow night is the first MIST session and I'm super excited about it!  We are going to do a mathy meet-and-greet to get to know each other.  If you would like to know more about the MIST program, please check out the flier - I'd love to have you join me for some math fun this fall!

And of course, with school starting, I really needed to get my planner finished, so here's what I ended up with for the distance learning portion of our year :)  I added a Sat/Sun area and changed the meetings to better fit our bell schedule since our synch learning will be based on the bells.  Download the file by clicking here

Here's to a fabulous day 1! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Summer of Collaboration


Summer is quickly winding down.  I've been home since March, which feels like both a long time and no time at all.  Funny how time is like that...

As I look back over my summer, I honestly don't have a lot to show for it from a physical realm.  All the cleaning I normally do didn't happen.  The home projects I hoped for never happened.  The trips and fun get-aways I try to do were off the table.

But mentally... whew, let me tell you that mentally, I did a lot! :)

This was the summer of collaboration.  Which is kind of fitting since I went to an international conference on teacher collaboration back in February.  Gosh, that seems so long ago.  Eating in restaurants... Chatting with friends.... No masks...

Anyway, back to this summer's collaborations...

EdTech Collaboration:
This spring caught us off guard, but we made it through.  At the beginning of the summer, our numbers were holding fairly steady and we figured we would start in person with a pivot to distance for part of the cold/flu season.  We didn't want to be totally caught off guard again, so some friends and I decided to start looking at EdTech tools... which led to an EdTech FB group for our schoool... which led to Google Meets twice a week to explore and discuss said tools.  So starting the first week of July, we've held Google Meet meetings with teachers from our school to talk about various tech tools that we used, such as EdPuzzle, Flipgrid, G-Forms, various quizzing tools, various screencasting tools, etc.  It was extremely valuable to learn from teachers who have used these tools in the classroom and it was really neat to hear how these tools are used in various subjects and how I could adapt them for math.

MTBoS Collaboration:
I don't think I can even count the number of MTBoS Collaborations that happened this summer!  So far this week, I've had the chance to be involved in two amazing ones - the Saturday sessions (see the notes document here) and today, I was able to participate in a fabulous Zoom session about whiteboards, collaboration, and how to virtually do a VNPS.  I love watching this community band together because "Together, we are better" :)  As an extension of the MTBoS, I'm pretty blessed to have some great AP Stat people in my life and most of this summer, each Tuesday night has been reserved for a wonderful PLC time with some other AP Stat teachers.  This has quickly become my favorite night of the week as we talk about the challenges and work together to figure out how to teach AP Stat remotely.  

MIST Collaboration:
My next / newest collaborative venture is part of the MIST (Mathematical Immersion for Secondary Teachers) program, where teachers get together to do math and learn together.  I've never done something like this, so I'm really excited about it!  In February, I had the chance to meet the researchers behind this program and when I asked them about their research, the first question they asked me was, "So, have you ever heard of PCMI?"  Umm, yeah!  PCMI (Park City Math Institute) is an immersive math experience in Park City, Utah, but it also requires you to go live in Park City for a month of your summer, so it's never been high on my list because I don't really want to give up that much of my summer and I really like sleeping in my own bed.  So when Dan and Matt told me about MIST, I was sold!  I love the idea of doing math and still being able to sleep in my own bed at night! :)  The MIST Cohort will be starting this week and running every other Thursday night until Dec 17 and I'm so pumped about it!  If you'd like to learn more about MIST, click here:
If you'd like to learn more about this fall's cohort, click HERE
If you'd like to join us, you can register at 

So while summer is over, the learning continues.  I'm so glad to have had the experiences this summer and so excited to see what happens next!  But most of all, I'm so glad that I have the opportunities to learn from and with this amazing community!!

Monday, August 10, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Feeling Behind


Y'all - I've already failed at Blaugust and that's okay! :)

My goal, every year, is to blog daily.  But some days that doesn't happen and I have to give myself grace.  Every day that I blog is a victory and one more way for me to reflect about what is going on in this world and in my classroom.  So that failure is a success because I'm working on it!  I'm still blogging!  I'm not letting it get me down.

Right now, we have to honor those successes.  We're in the middle of a pandemic here - hug your pet, celebrate the successes, realize that you are doing the best you can and give yourself grace.

This idea of grace came up this weekend at our first Math Teacher Virtual Collaboration Day (which was freaking amazing... that needs to be a post soon).  Some comments were made about being behind.  And I'll admit I'm behind!

But... what if by being behind, I'm actually ahead???


This past spring, we had a "do no harm" policy with grading and we didn't teach new content, which means that my students won't have had traditional schooling for 5 months.  We are starting our year in a remote learning situation, so by the time I meet my students in-person, it could be 6 or more months since they've been in a traditional brick and mortar school.  People keep lamenting about how far behind our kids will be.

But behind who?

The *entire world* is facing this same situation.  Traditional schooling has been interrupted everywhere.  Heck, we often gripe about how fast paced our curriculum is, how we push our kids to master something before they are ready for it, and we have this perfect opportunity to SLOW DOWN and people are still upset.

Instead of being behind, what if our kids are ahead?  This spring, I had students that mentioned they enjoyed the slower pace, the ability to explore other interests such as art or reading, the time to learn how to cook or sew or just spend time with their family without the constant pressure of being overbooked.  What if they're actually ahead?  Ahead in empathy, ahead in finding their true passions, ahead in finding ways to combat the pace of life?

I get the "feeling behind", as I feel it too.  I report back to school this week and I have done minimal school work.  I've filled many days with webinars and PLCs and exploring tech tools, and soaking up knowledge, but I don't have anything concrete to show for it.  And normally, I would be super stressed right now.

But I'm not stressed at all.  I'm not stressing about my classroom looking perfect.  I'm not stressed about cleaning out the cabinets and organizing the mess I left in March.  I'm okay to look forward and figuring out how to do this thing.

What if, by being behind, I'm actually ahead?  

In the spring, I had opportunties, based on necessity, to explore tech tools that I had always put on the back-burner, in my "someday" pile.  I figured out new ways to give my students feedback.  I worked on non-in-person connections.  I learned so much and walked away from this spring with so many new ideas.  We've been 1-to-1 for years, but you wouldn't have known it if you looked at my pre-March classroom.

Instead of lamenting about being behind, what if I embrace this new opportunity to rethink my classroom?  What if I figure out new and better ways to connect with students?  What if I learn methods to utilize the technology in more efficient and effective ways?  

I don't know what my post-COVID classroom will look like, but I do know that I will take the lessons I've learned and those still to be learned and I will come out a better teacher on the other side.  There will be times of stress and frustration and anguish as we learn to navigate these waters, but together, we WILL get through it.  We'll rely on each other, we'll collaborate to produce even better lessons for our students, we'll give ourselves grace.

And we won't be behind in the long run.  

Saturday, August 8, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - WSQ and Google Forms


Whew - what a day!  We had our first Math Teacher Collaboration today and it was just amazing!  I learned so much and my mind is struggling to settle down with ideas tonight.  I know there will be some blog posts coming in the next few days, but one of the topics that I've been working on this summer is the idea of the Flipped Classroom.  We did an #EduRead  book chat on Twitter starting in late June over the book Flipping with Kirch, which is about Crystal Kirch's journey to a Flipped Classroom.  If you are interested in learning more about the Flipped Classroom, I highly recommend reading this book as it is a very quick read with a ton of practical tips and hints for implementing this model.  

To be honest, I've thought about the flipped classroom many times over the years, but other issues got in the way - equity of tech access, thoughts and feelings on homework, all of the housekeeping details with accountability, and the list goes on and on.  But in the COVID world that we find ourselves, the Flipped Model seemed to be the best model for balancing at home vs in-person instruction, especially as classrooms and groups of students might be asked to quarantine.

One of the ideas that Crystal shares in the book is the idea of the WSQ (pronounced Whisk), which stands for Watch - Summary - Question.  I love this idea on multiple levels - it allows for accountability, it allows for the teacher to peek into the student thinking, it allows for an element of "notes".  However, in this distance learning world, I've been playing with the idea of having kids keep a paper notebook vs a digital record and how to balance the two.  I know I want them to have a resource that they can use in future classes, a resource to take with them.  But I do want a way to monitor their thinking as well, see the questions they have, read their summaries, etc.  So how do I keep both of these in balance?  I've looked at EdPuzzle for the Watch, which allows for formative questions throughout and I like that idea.  The EdPuzzle analytics allows me to see who has watched the video, how many times, see the answers to their questions, etc.  I've thought about my beloved Desmos.  In the book, Crystal mentions using Google Forms, so I played with that a bit yesterday...

There are parts of Google Forms I like - I love the spreadsheet feature that lets me look at their questions.  If I do a formative question, I can use conditional formating or make it a quiz, but then I vaguely remembering seeing an option to email a copy to yourself.  In the Google Form settings, you can change it to include "Response Receipts", which allows you to email the responses to the person.

I'm thinking this might be a way to bridge the personal copy and the teacher copy... Students can watch the video, answer any formative questions, write their summary, ask the questions, then when they submit, the teacher will see the responses AND the student will have a copy in their email.  Set up a label and now they are all nicely sorted into a GMail folder.

So help me poke holes in this idea... What works?  What doesn't?  Pam suggested having an option to do a photo upload for doing their summary / question on paper and I like that too.  Maybe a branching form?  

Sorry for the lack of organization of this post - it's still a work in progress, my brain is mush after all day on Zoom, and the new Blogger is not playing nicely with the images and formatting, but I'm too tired to fight that battle tonight.. :)

Friday, August 7, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Junior Lesson Planner


August has already been a month and we're only a week into it!  But like so many of us, I need to really work on giving myself grace and being okay with whatever happens, happens. Yesterday was one of those days.  I had all plans of blogging, but as the day went on, it just didn't happen.  

But that's okay!  Maybe I'll hit some inspiration that gives me two blog posts today, but maybe not :)

However, I did finally come up with a potential Lesson Planner format that I think I like.

To be honest, I really liked my planner last year and it was GREAT for in-person classes.  But we aren't starting in person, so I need a slightly different format.  I need a way to track my lesson plans, but also the random Google Meet times, office hours, etc.  I've never really had an "hourly" tracker in the past, so this is a new need for my planner.

Typically, I do my lesson planner in a regular paper sized format of 8.5x11, because I keep track of my lesson plans and gradebook all in one Arc notebook.  However, I'm still trying to figure out the grades, etc, so I decided to try a Junior Lesson Planner format.  This is my first draft and I've never kept my first draft, but I wanted to share for feedback...
It's again printed landscape on 8.5x11 paper so that it can be cut apart for the Junior notebook.  I haven't really tested it out yet, but thought I'd share for anyone that might be looking for a simple lesson planner :)

Click here to get the file:  Junior Lesson Planner
Click here to get the font:  KG Do You Love Me

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Junior Calendar

It's time to get serious about this planning thing, y'all!

Our district decided on Monday night to start back in distance learning until the numbers decline in our county.  I know it was a really tough decision and honestly, it was a no-win situation as there wasn't a decision would make everyone happy.  However, that means I really need to get myself into gear because teachers report back next week and I've gotten nothing physically done for school! Eeeekkkk!

So today, I decided to start with some planning and organization :)

This summer, I decided to try a Junior Arc Notebook for my summer notebook.  I had purchaed some Junior Arc covers a few years ago at Staples on clearance for 50 cents and had never used them, so there's no time like the present, right? :)  

A few definitions might be needed here:

The Arc System is the discbound notebook system that can be found at Staples.  There are other discbound systems as well, such as the Happy Planner, but they all pretty much work the same.  I LOVE discbound notebooks as they are so simple for inserting and taking out pages.  It works like a 3-ring binder, but with the ease of a spiral notebook.  Best of both worlds! :)

The Junior notebook is for half size pages, so if you take a regular 8.5x11 page in landscape format and cut it in half, you now have a Junior notebook.  

A Summer notebook is an idea I borrowed from my dear friend Rachel and you can read more about it on her blog, but the idea is to have a place to jot down ideas that you run across during the summer.  I've used this idea for the past few summers, but once school started, I often forgot to reference those ideas I had recorded!  So, that moves us on to....

Merging my summer notebook and my teacher planner!

This is still very much a work in progress, but I got my monthly calendars done today!  I'm waiting to do the weekly lesson planning pages until I have a bit more information about what this year will look like, but I wanted to share the monthly pages with you! :)  During the summer, my weekly calendar was more of a way to keep track of appointments, so I'll share that too :)

The dividers are printed on cardstock and there are 6 dividers - Calendar, To Do List, AP Stat, Forensics, Technology, and Other Notes

Behind the other dividers are just half-page note sheets.  For my courses, each page has a title with chapter so that I can file ideas on the appropriate chapter page.

Here are the files if you want them:
Monthly Calendar - will need KG Payphone font