Monday, May 21, 2018

Reflecting on my 2017-18 Goals

Back in early August, I posted a few goals for the 2017-18 school year and with only 2 weeks left in the year, it's time to reflect on my successes and setbacks.

Things I wanted to start:

  • Using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces - I still have work to do on this one, but overall I am pleased with my usage of VNPS.  Last summer, I moved around some things in my room to open up all of my whiteboards for student use as well as having my father-in-law cut some large boards out of shower board for me.  I did not use them as well as I could have in AP Stat, but I LOVED using whiteboards in Geometry.  I ended up not using the big boards as much as I thought I would and instead focused on using individual whiteboards.  Having these whiteboards available at ALL times really was a game changer for my classroom.
  • Asking Better Questions - Umm, yeah, I'll take the big L on this one as it is still on my "I need to try that" list.  I need to focus more on this in my summer reading, so shoot me any suggestions you have!  
  • Being More Involved in the MTBoS - I haven't been quite as involved in Twitter as I would like, but I am pleased to report that I have blogged over 40 times this school year, which is a HUGE accomplishment for me!  

Things I wanted to stop:
  • Rescuing my students - I would like to say this was a success, but it wasn't.  With the use of whiteboarding, it was easier to monitor my students and watch their productive struggle, but I need to work on this - A LOT!  I don't even know where to begin to be honest... so many of my students would rather sit and stare at a blank page than even attempt a problem, even if it is the exact same problem as an example.  How do I move past this so we can tackle the rich problems that I really want to tackle?
  • Eating lunch in my room - Yeah, another L for me.  My lunch period is with my plan period, so I often forego lunch to work in my room.  I have made it down to the lounge more this year than last year, even if it was just to get coffee :)

Things I wanted to continue:
  • Formative Assessment - I think FA is one of those goals that can never be fully met, but I was able to add several new strategies to my toolkit and I tried to focus on "What did I teach? What did they learn?" as a daily mantra.  This summer, I will continue to work on fine-tuning these strategies as I am supposed to present about FA to our new district staff in August.
  • Personal Health - I've had a few setbacks due to poor eating habits, BUT, I met my 2017 exercise goal with #fitbos17 and I have met EVERY monthly goal so far in 2018!  Even during the yucky cold winter months, I still pushed myself to get out and exercise - mainly because of my "boyfriend" :)  (This is a joke from hubby - I have an 81 year old neighbor man that I met last summer while he was walking his dog, his wife had just been placed in a nursing facility at the time and he was lonely for conversation.  Now, it's one of the highlights of my day!)
  • High Five Fridays - This continues to be one of my favorite ways to connect with my students.  I even have students in the hallway that aren't in my classes giving me high fives or telling me "Happy Friday!"  On my end-of-year survey, a few of the students mentioned how much they looked forward to Fridays just for the High Five.  

Overall, I'm pleased with the progress I made this year.  For 20 years, I have struggled with balancing my personal and professional life and I think I found a good balance this year.  I'm still a "work in progress" and I have things to work on for next year, but to be honest, when the time comes that I no longer thing I have room to grow, then it's time for me to retire / leave the profession.

Many thanks to my students this year that helped me grow, pushed me to try new things, and put up with my craziness when things didn't go as planned.  I couldn't ask for a better group of kiddos to work with every day :)  

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Winding down

I contemplated skipping this week's #MyFavFriday but there are definitely a few things I want to remember, so I am just posting a few days later than normal :)

This was a busy week.  The AP Exam has come and gone.  The questions were released yesterday and while they aren't my favorite set ever, they are very fair and doable.  In fact, there's a couple of questions that I am beating myself up about that I never thought of asking the question that way!  In 3 weeks, I'll be heading to KC to help grade thousands of papers and I'm curious what things will be required for each one.

My Favorite Classroom Addition:
Over Winter Break, inspired by a few bloggers in the MTBoS, I decided to add a Puzzle Corner to my classroom.  This has been one of the best things I've ever done and I highly encourage you to try it yourself!

Thanks to resources from @mathequalslove and various goodies I've found along the way, I have enough puzzles to put out a new one each week.  This week was a wooden star puzzle from Dollar Tree and I think it was the most popular one yet!  I can't count the number of students who took the puzzle back to their seats to give it a try. :)

This is a change that I'm so glad I tried and I can't wait to continue it next year!  I know my summer will be full of puzzle hunting! :)

My Favorite Quick Review Strategy:
Our last class day before the AP Exam was a block day.  I know I could have lectured at them for 110 minutes about all they needed to remember, but instead, I decided to do several short activities.  After some housekeeping details of where to go, when to be there, and what to take (and NOT to take), it was time to do some review.

One of my favorite short activities to get them up and moving is "Find Someone Who".  Here, they had 19 items where they had to find a classmate that could tell them the answer to the question.  For example, "Find someone who can tell you the conditions necessary for a 1 sample T Test" or "Find someone who can interpret the value of r2 in context".  I love these short vocabulary based activities, plus, I get to play along too! :)

My Favorite After Exam Treat:
For the past few years, our exam has been on Thursday afternoon, so on Friday, we celebrate a job well done by playing games and having some treats.

In addition to celebrating our accomplishment, this is also a time to celebrate their upcoming graduation, so I buy each class a cookie cake and have it decorated with some statistical words of wisdom.  In case you don't read statistical work, this year's cookie said "Don't be normal, be an outlier"

It's been a good year and I'll be sad to see this year's group of seniors go, but I know that each of them will move on to bigger and better things.  I'm so humbled that I had a chance to be a small part of their high school journey.

My Favorite Relaxation Spot:
Once the AP Exam is over, it won't be long until summer is here for good.  That means it was finally time to go buy our "flower babies" and set up the backyard for summer time!

In the summer, I become a total hermit.  I get up and go for a walk before coming home and settling in on my patio with my coffee and a good book.  Even though we were just a few houses away from a very busy street, my backyard is this beautiful and peaceful oasis where I relax and unwind from the year and mentally / emotionally prepare for the next one.

I highly recommend that everyone have a peaceful place to go to unwind! :)

Friday, May 11, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Zooming by!

This week was weird....  It seems like Monday was f-o-r-e-v-e-r ago, but it also feels like I blinked and we're now to Friday again!

May has to be the toughest month of the year.  Warmer weather hits, senioritis kicks in, student absences skyrocket, and motivation is at an all-time low.  We still have 3 weeks left to go, but as long as I can make it through this weekend, I'm good!  We have a "Super STAT-urday" planned for tomorrow with review sessions and our last Mock exam, then comes the whirlwind of Mother's Day!  Somewhere along that path, I need to find the time to plan lessons, grade AP Review packets, write a quiz, pack goodie bags, and hopefully get some sleep :)

But before that can happen, let's recap the good things that happened this week! :)

My Favorite Teacher Appreciation Gift:
This week was Teacher Appreciation Week and I have to say, I felt VERY appreciated!  Every day, we were honored with a treat from our Student Council (candy bar, pop, cake, new pen, etc) plus on Wednesday, our admin assistant bought pizza for our building.  Then, during Advisory, each student wrote a note of appreciation which were delivered today and brought tears to my eyes.

But my absolute favorite gift came today from one of my Geometry students.  I was standing at the door giving High Fives when she comes up to give me a piece of candy.  I thanked her, but she was still digging in her bag.  When she looked up again, she handed me this beautiful ladybug necklace charm.  Sadly I didn't have on a necklace today, but it quickly found a home on my lanyard!  The best part is that she has a matching charm and I had commented on it last week, not knowing that she had one for me too! :)

My Favorite Review Techniques:
I have taught AP Stat for 18 years and I am pretty sure that I have tried 18 different review methods!

However, this year, I might have stumbled on something I really like....

Each day, they start class with a "Skills Check", which is a quarter sized sheet of paper with quick must-knows.  From there, we briefly talk about our AP Tip of the Day, then one of the groups presents their "One Sheet", which is a big poster sized "cheat sheet" of one of the AP Topics.  For the last 40 minutes or so of class, the students work on a Free Response packet of 4 questions from that day's topic.  Their goal is to do as much as possible, trying to maximize their time / score.  Each day these papers are turned in, I read and respond to every single one, and then type up a commentary of common errors, tips, hints and condensed solutions.  The bad part is the intense amount of grading, but I figure I can do anything for one week, right?  I am really hopeful that this strategy will pay off next week!!!

My Favorite Go-To Activity:
When all else fails, my go-to activity has to be a Question Stack.

In Geometry, we worked this week on angles and segments in circles.  In the past, students have struggled a lot on this because the diagrams look a lot alike.  Our notes for these sections were more "graphic organizer" style than I usually do, but it really seemed to help the students make connections. 

Today, it was time to mix them up!  I was worried that I wouldn't have time to create a Question Stack, but then it was KUTA to the rescue!  With the help of the "Snipping Tool" (which is definitely a "My Favorite"), I quickly put together a 12 question loop for today's practice.  I love that students who won't do a worksheet of 12 problems will immediately be engaged when presented the same problems as an activity such as this... :)

What were your favorite moments of the week?  

Until next time... Happy Friday!!! :)

Friday, May 4, 2018

#MyFavFriday - It's MAY!!! EKKK

Happy Star Wars Day!!! :)

I swear, May is both the fastest and slowest month of the year!  The time literally flies from May 1 until the AP exam, then slows to a crawl until the last day.

Due to the walkout, we had to add days to our year, so we have exactly one month left of school.  As each day goes by, I fluctuate between "I'm so ready for summer" and "I'm going to miss these kiddos so much!"  But until that last day comes, I am determined to enjoy every moment with my kiddos, so with that said, let's move on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Forensics Lab:
This has been a GREAT week in Forensics.  We are smack dab in the middle of our Handwriting / Document Analysis unit, which I think the students have really enjoyed.  This unit has some of my favorite labs and activities and several of them happened to land this week!  First, on Monday, we had the 2nd day of a guest speaker on art forgery, where our students did some research on artists and then tried to determine the real vs the fake painting.  We followed that up with a Chromatography lab (see photo) where we explored the ink breakdown of various markers.  You know it's a "win" when you overhear several students exclaiming "This is my favorite thing we've done all year!".  To finish out the week, we looked at the document analysis part as it applies to counterfeiting.  I love the "ooohs and aaaahs" that happen when the students find the hidden micro-printing treasures on our paper money.  All it all, we had a GREAT week in Forensics!

My Favorite "A-ha" Moment:
As I was planning my Geometry lessons this week, I ran across the idea to have the students discover the inscribed arc / intercepted arc relationship, so I decided to try it.  I remembered that I had a set of "Safe-T Compasses" at home, but of course, I forgot them at home on the first day I needed them!  During my first class, I used old-school metal compasses and I quickly remembered the struggle with fine motor skills... :)  As soon as I got home that night, I put my Safe-T Compasses in my bag and it went SO much better on day 2!  We measured the central angle / arc, then drew in an inscribed angle to see the relationship.  We also looked at 2 angles with the same arc as well as the inscribed angle for a semi-circle.  Hopefully the hands-on aspect will pay off on the assessment :)

My Favorite New Review Strategy:
After 18 years of teaching AP Statistics, one might think that I have it all figured out - that person would be very wrong. :)  Every year, I struggle to figure out the best way to prepare my students for the exam and every year I wish I had tried something else.  I tried a few new things last year with success (Skills Checks and Flipcards) and with this year's walkout, I knew I would need to maximize the impact of the reduced review time.  On Wednesday, I ran across an idea that sparked a memory of reading about One Sheets at Julie R's blog and I knew I wanted to try it this year.  Yesterday I assigned each group to an AP topic and they created their One Sheet.  Today, we started Topic #1 with a group presentation over the One Sheet, then spent the rest of the hour working on Free Response problems.  I loved how the One Sheets turned out - the kids were required to go back and review content from the class, plus with the group presentations, they aren't listening to me talk AT them.... that's a WIN! :)

My Favorite Surprise of the Week:
This morning I received a message from a former student asking me if they could pop by during my lunch.  I've not seen this young lady since she graduated in 2012 and it was so good to sit and visit with her!  She shared a bit about her life since high school and we spoke at length about the time management skills needed when balancing a career and grad school.  It wasn't until after she left that I realized that even as busy as she is, she still took the time to reach out to me (and her other former teachers) prior to the walkout to see if she could do anything to support us, including coming up to clean our rooms or grade papers.  It really made me pause yet again to recognize how blessed I am by my students, current and former!

I hope all y'all have a great weekend - it's another marathon grading weekend for me as I work through Mock AP Exams... :)

Friday, April 20, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Back in School!

Woohooo!!!  We are back in school :)

From my last post, much has changed.  After Spring Break, we were back for one week before the statewide school shutdown started.  My district was closed for 10 days before we decided to go back to the classroom and start sending delegate teams to advocate for educational funding.  Saddest part is that we could have continued the walkout indefinitely but that would have hurt our most vulnerable students and staff more than anything.  I learned so much in my time at the Capitol, including the importance of staying engaged with the political process.  I walked away from the experience more invested, more informed, and more determined than ever to fight for my kids!  My kids and my classroom are my happy place and I am so glad to be back with them!

My Favorite Random Act of Kindness:
This technically didn't happen this week, but I can't let this act of kindness go without notice!

Oklahoma weather is crazy in general, so during the Walkout, we had some days where we needed sunscreen, some days where we needed blankets, and many days where we needed anchors. :)  But the worst day had to be the first Friday.  We weren't originally going to the Capitol that day because our state legislature typically does not meet on Fridays, but due to the Walkout, they met on a cold, rainy Friday.  Here I am, standing on the curb, bundled up in several layers, holding my sign and waving at the cars when a car pulls up beside me and this angel of a man asks if I am a coffee drinker and would I like something warm to drink?  He proceeds to hand me a tray of Starbucks Coffee cups, wished me well, and headed on his way.  I wish I had gotten his name because his small act of kindness meant so much to me that day.

My Favorite Welcome Back Comment:
On Monday, I greeted each of my students at the door with a High Five because I had missed 2 High Five Fridays due to the Walkout.  I was so happy to see my kids again!  As I was welcoming them back in the hallway, one of my students said "I missed you, Mrs. T!  Can I have a hug instead?" :)  Of course you can, my dear! :)

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
In Forensics, we have started our Document Examination Unit, which covers handwriting, forgery, art crimes, and counterfeiting.  It is one of my favorite units all year because you never realize the details in handwriting until you are asked to analyze them for every detail.

On the first day, we practiced our signature and our natural handwriting to see about our own unique characteristics that we develop over time, then it was time to try matching handwriting samples and selecting which signature was forged!

I can't wait until we explore the art crimes and counterfeiting in the next few weeks :)

My Favorite Whiteboard Time of the Week:
Today in Geometry, we were reviewing for a quiz.  I told the students they could listen to music, move around, sit in the floor, use the whiteboards, whatever they needed to help them concentrate and be able to work.  One group immediately grabbed one of my bigger whiteboards and had it arranged so they could all draw and work on it.

I wish I understood why whiteboards pull out the best in kids - I know the non-permanence creates less anxiety about being "wrong", but there's something about whiteboards in general that just encourage conversations that wouldn't happen otherwise.  I love that errors are easily fixed and the willingness to just try something.

I don't have much this week because I was so wrapped up in just enjoying my kids that I forgot to take a lot of pictures! :)  Maybe I'll be better next week...

But it's SOOOOO good to be back! :)

Happy Friday!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

#MTBoSBlog18 - Spring Break

Spring Break is finally here..  YAY!

I have a pretty lengthy to-do list for this break.  Yesterday, I had planned to kick off spring break with some yard work, but all that I managed to get done was to buy a new bird feeder and a new rake.... and veg on the couch with a good book :)

This spring break is one that I've looked forward to for a few weeks because life has been CRAZY!

Back in mid-February, I stepped down as the building rep for our teacher association because I've finally learned to take things off my plate that don't make me happy.  I am teaching classes I adore and being the building rep meant meetings that I didn't enjoy.

Little did I know that two weeks later, issues in my state would come to a head and the world as I knew it would be upside down.  In two weeks, our legislature has a legal deadline to have a budget in place.  If they don't, our public schools have vowed to shut down.  This terrifies me because our state legislature has disregarded this April 1st deadline for years with no penalty and this year, the penalty will result in a statewide shutdown of our schools.

To be honest, I don't want to be at our state capital instead of with my students.  I don't want to lose valuable instructional time with one month before AP exams.  I don't want my students to be on an extended break with little supervision. 

But, I also don't want my students to continue to have underfunded classrooms.  My students deserve a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.  My students deserve to have smaller class sizes so they can form lasting bonds with their teachers.  My students deserve to feel safe at school.  My students deserve to have textbooks and supplies.  My students deserve all of this and so much more.

In the face of this crisis, our teachers have stepped up.  Plans are in place to feed over 4000 kids in our district on free & reduced lunches.  Plans are in place to find temporary work for our classified (hourly) staff.  So many plans are in place that I honestly hope and pray that we don't have to use.

This week, I will try to enjoy my break, to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and let go of the stressors of the past few weeks.  But the countdown clock is ticking and that scares the heck out of me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Highs and Lows

Wow!  This has been a roller-coaster of a week!  We have one more week until spring break and I am *so* ready for it!  I need the break of non-school stuff to get my back patio set back up so I can enjoy the spring weather.  I've wanted to blog all week, but to be honest, I didn't know if I could adequately express my thoughts.  The teachers in my state are planning a walk-out on April 2 to protest educational funding and that has been on all of our minds this week.  I don't want to walk-out, but my district has done all they can do to protect the classrooms and the classroom teachers have done all they can do to protect the students, so ultimately, it is up to our state legislature to figure out a way to fix the situation we are in.  Year after year, we slip further behind, we lose more and more quality teachers to other students, our class sizes continue to grow while our resources continue to shrink.  But until April 2, I will continue to teach my students, to share my love of learning with them, and rejoice in each educational victory we have.

Whew - that ended up a longer rant than I meant for it to!  Sorry! :)

And on that note, let's move on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Email of the Week:
Last week was our school's enrollment conferences for next year's enrollment.  During the course of those conferences, I was pulled over to visit with a family about AP Stat.  I didn't think much about it until Sunday night when I received an email from a former student from 17 years ago!  My former student was related to this family and while I hadn't heard from him since he graduated high school, he wanted to reach out to thank me for being a positive influence in his life.  I immediately remembered him, but I was completely humbled by his kind words as I was so young and inexperienced back then and have often wished I could go back and share what I know now with those students.  It means the world to me that he took the time to email me.  <3 p="">

My Favorite Activity of the Week:
Last week's Geometry lessons were frustrating.  I didn't feel like we were getting very far and to be honest, I'm still not sure if I used my time wisely. To follow up our Geogebra exploration, I gave my students a copy of the trig table and asked them to compared the 10 degree, 20 degree, etc line with their exploration.  We then formalized the rules with a foldable and spent several days working on just setting up and solving equations.  Yesterday, I introduced angles of elevation / depression and related application problems.  I took a worksheet that I had from 10 years ago and turned it into a question stack for today's Geometry lesson.  I have never felt so unneeded!  They were working together, rocking right along and rarely needed my assistance.  It was such a great end to the week!  One group even got into an argument today on whether one of the problems was realistic, including some really awesome discussions about gravity, physics, momentum, and possible scenarios that could have led to the problem.  :)

My Favorite Student Response of the Week:
I love the honesty of my students!  We've been working with the trig ratios in Geometry and before we moved on to applications, I asked my students to self-assess their competence with setting up and solving the equations.  I used the Marzano scale and most students rated themselves as a 2-3, which was fairly accurate based on my observations while they were whiteboarding.  But this student's response was one of my favorites:
"3.5 because I think that this is very easy and I could explain it to others if I had to but I don't want to."
How cute is that? :)

My Favorite Assignment of the Week
We are smack dab in the middle of inference in AP Stat.  On Monday, our lesson was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  This is one of my favorite topics to teach, which is super surprising given my first impression of them!  I was asked to teach AP Stat one week before school started in August 2000.  AP Stat was a fairly new AP subject (1997 was the first exam year), there were VERY minimal resources available, only one textbook had been released that aligned with the AP syllabus, and the teacher community was rather small.  Because of the timing, I wasn't able to attend a summer institute, but back then, our region hosted a few 2-day conferences throughout the year.  My first 2-day conference was in late October and one of the sessions was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  I had never heard of them, so I was hoping to learn enough to take back to my students.  However, that session was my breaking point.  I was young and inexperienced and honestly, I didn't yet know what I didn't know.  As the presenter started speaking, I felt the frustration building up because I just couldn't differentiate between the concepts.  I was so confused and overwhelmed.  Here I am, in a PD session, surrounded by other teachers, and all I could do was cry.  Literally - tears streaming down my face because I just didn't get it.  One of the handouts in that session was to have students create their own scenario and describe the errors and power and to this day, I love that assignment.  I've tweaked it over the years, but every time I teach this lesson, it brings me back to how I felt that day.   My weekend plans include grading their scenarios and it's one of the most enjoyable grading days I have all year.  The creativity of my students blows me away!

My Favorite Reminder of the Week:
At our monthly faculty meeting, during the "Teaching & Learning" segment, our site (and district) teacher of the year shared an activity she had learned in a Brain Based Learning workshop.  While the activity was kind of fun, my main take-away was the title... "Do just ONE thing to make a difference". 

Do you realize how powerful one little change can be?  One little change, such as "High Five Fridays" made a huge difference in my classroom culture and attitude.  Little changes like Multiple Choice Mondays made a huge difference in my AP test scores.  Sometimes the classroom can be overwhelming - there's so much to be done!!!  But, one little change can make a huge difference.  What if each month, we committed to making just one little change?  Over the course of the year, that's 10 changes that can add up to a HUGE difference!!

Happy Friday!!