Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Remote Learning - Reflections

It's been over 2 months since I last stepped into my classroom, since I physically saw my students, since the world as we knew it changed.

If I could go back to March 13 knowing what I know now, I would change so many things.  I would not have spent time reviewing for a test, I would have just enjoyed sharing the same space with my students without fear and anxiety of one of us contracting an illness from proximity.

But that world is gone for now.  I don't know what the future holds, but I think it's safe to say that in August, my classroom will look different than it ever has before.  I am hopeful that we will be able to return like a typical August, but I also think that will be a short-lived experience.  so many logistal issues... how to handle the hallways?  lunchtime?  Do I sanitize my classroom between every hour?  How do I fit 30+ students in my room?  How will my pedagogy change if I can't have students working in groups?  How will we screen thousands of kids every day? 

It's overwhelming.  

But I also know I can't stick my head in the sand and pretend it's not happening.  We have to prepare for several contingency plans and every day, when we leave our classrooms, the thought will be, "Did I grab everything I need in case we are teaching from home tomorrow?"

So with that thought, yesterday I posted a tweet and holy moly, the responses are STILL pouring in.

Read the entire thread here

From the thread, I'm really eager to learn about some of the technologies that people shared, but I wanted to answer the question as well.  I personally had two pieces of edTech that I found useful:

Most Valuable Program - Desmos
To be honest, Desmos totally saved the day for me with Remote Learning.  Because I could embed images and videos, ask formative assessment questions, do card sorts, ask for and give feedback, Desmos truly became the Remote Learning Platform of choice.

Student response re: Desmos Learning

As the weeks progressed, I explored more self-checking aspects and how to use computational layer (CL), the Desmos programming code.  Desmos allowed me to keep a lot of the same feel as I have in the face-to-face classroom but move it online.  I loved the Desmos Starter Screens and developed some of mine own to mix it up a bit.

In the face-to-face classroom, I can see Desmos being used a lot for formative assessment and my traditional card sorts

Honorable Mention - Google Quizzes
I used Google Quizzes mainly with my AP students as a way to submit their Free Response practice and give them feedback

Each week, I would send out a link to the Google Quiz and students would submit a photo of their work.  I would split my monitor into two browser windows - one to display the photos and one for me to type in the feedback.  In later weeks, there was also a small notepad document on the right where I could copy/paste common feedback comments.  I was able to give detailed feedback and scoring much quicker than if I were grading by hand, but it still took several hours in general.  

In the face to face classroom, I see myself using this a lot with a QR code on the screen for students to use their phones to quickly submit photos of their work for feedback while still being able to retain a copy for themselves instead of waiting for me to return a paper.

Looking to the Future
Who knows what next year might bring.  I know it will look different, but I don't know *how* different, and I need to use this summer to think through some of those possibilities.  What I do know is that the past 6 weeks were not how I hoped to end the year, but I learned a ton about various tech tools and how to utilize them in a variety of structures.  I've had time to explore tools because it fit a need versus "hey, here's a cool idea!"  I think this pandemic will shift our educational system but it will also shift edTech by requiring programs to really dig into the pedagogy and practicality rather than to be flashy tools that look cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Remote Learning - Organization is Key!

Week 2 of Remote Learning has started and my new co-workers are some of the laziest colleagues I've ever had!  Either they are laying down on the job, napping, or trying to steal my office supplies.  Actually, it's the office supplies that are most annoying - those are MY pens! :)

This has been a HUGE adjustment for me.  Not being able to see my students to see if they get it, to watch them work on whiteboards, to check in with them about their lives, to give High Fives... this is hard.

I don't mean that it's hard in the sense of being at home - that part doesn't bother me.  I'm a huge introvert by nature and can do just fine with just a good book, a blanket, and my patio. My office is a comfortable place to work and I have a very walk-able neighborhood to get out for fresh air.

No - the hardest part is just the paperwork.  I've actually really enjoyed having the time to learn more about Desmos, provide individual feedback on our activities, and exploring some tech tools that I can use moving forward.  But the hardest part has been just the daily organization of teaching this way... keeping track of the daily communication with students and parents, monitoring who has done the assignments, contacting students and parents you haven't heard from.  It's a full time job just to keep up with the emails!

Keeping my Sanity through Organization

Organization Tip #1 - Color Code Everything!
I am always up for colored pens, but earlier this year, I got a set of erasable pens from Amazon and I love them.  I have had the Frixion pens before as well, but I kind of prefer the off brand ones :)  I keep track of when I've contacted a student, parent, counselor, when a student has contacted me, who has done what assignment, etc.  The best part of the eraseable set is when I'm doing my lesson plans, I can erase and fix errors! :)  Yay!

Organization Tip #2 - Tracking Student Work
I keep a paper attendance book that shows a whole 9 week period in my classroom normally, so I just printed those out and checkmark each day.  I also keep track by colored dots when I have contacted students / parents, sent out whole class emails, etc.  Mainly, I need to be able to see at a glance when I haven't heard from a student in several days so a "welfare check" can be done, either via email or phone call. 

I also struggled with keeping track of what I actually assigned each day, comments of changes that I wanted to make for future use, and how many students had done each assignment, so I made a mini-calendar at the left to help me keep track.  Right now, each day tends to just melt into the next one, so having a way to keep track of day-to-day lessons, which ones I had given feedback on, and a place to make myself notes was a must.

Organization Tip #3 - Tracking Parent Communication
While I'm trying my best to have engaging lesson plans, I know that I will not have 100% engagement.  However, I was quickly getting overwhelmed by the emails I was sending and tracking who had contacted me.  We are supposed to contact parents (or send names to the counselor) when we have not heard from a student in several days.  Plus, there are some students who are starting to trickle in with "Yeah, I'm good with my grade.. stop nagging me already." and in those cases, I really need to make sure I have the documentation from their parents that the parent is okay with the student's decision.  In general, I'm just drowning in emails and I needed a way to keep track of it all :)

Organization Tip #4 - Lesson Plan Binder
In my AP class, we are still working toward our AP Exam, now scheduled for late May, plus I still have one more chapter to teach.  Because I want my students to continue with their AP Stat notebook, I created a Digital Learning Notebook for them that has the daily lesson plan, notes sheets, problem sets, and AP Free Response problems.  I also try to give them feedback daily so they know how they are doing and what they can do to improve.  I was quickly gathering a stack of answer keys, AP Rubrics, etc, so I grabbed a spare binder to make my own Digital Learning notebook / Lesson Plan Binder.  Each week, I have a general guide of what we are doing, then the weekly file that I share with the students with my answer keys to keep them all in the same place.  This has proven invaluable to me as we are asyncronous, so the responses may trickle in over the course of a few days.

Organization Tip #5 - Rocketbook still Rocks!
I've shared before about my love of Rocketbook in my classroom, but with the shift to Digital Learning, the structure of my lessons have changed a bit.  In my regular classroom, I use a composition book and half-sheets of paper, so it fits perfectly into an 8.5x11 Rocketbook Frame. Then I just snap a photo and it goes straight to Google Drive for students to check their work.

But with my Digital Learning, my notes / problem sets are on normal sized paper, so my Rocketbook Frame was too small!  EEKK!  I talked hubby into helping as I was busy working on other stuff and he was able to enlarge it to an 11x17 page.  Then I just laminated the frame and now it works perfectly with 8.5x11 notes.  Yay! :)

Organization Tip #6 - The Bookmarks Bar is your Friend!
One of the best organization tips that I have, that I use MULTIPLE times a day is a folder on my Bookmarks Bar.  This allows me quick access to the tools that I use every day.  For example, you'll notice links to resources that I've found useful, including links to the amazing webinars that have been going on right now to support teachers.  But the bottom set of bookmarks are the true workhorses of this tip.  I have easy access to my Google Meet, my Desmos lesson collections, and my Google Folders that organize other lesson plans and the district files.  I don't even want to think about how many times a day I click this link on my screen :)

My Biggest Take-Away:
There is no "right" way to do this Distance Learning thing.  Even as an organized person, I'm still struggling with keeping track of everything, but the tips above have definitely helped me keep my sanity and helped to tame the paper monster a bit.

What things have helped you keep organized during your shift to Distance Learning?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Shift to Remote Learning

Whew - what a week - what a MONTH!

The last time I saw my students in person was on March 13 as we left for Spring Break.  If I had know then what I know now, I would have done so many things differently.  None of us knew at that point that it would be our last day of traditional school.  We thought that maybe we might have an extended Spring Break, but we would be back together soon.

Yeah... that didn't happen. 

On social media, one of the hashtags has been #bookspinepoem and here's mine - an Ode to Remote Learning.  For many years, I have focused on Best Practices, on successful group work, on formative assessment, then during break, we had to "Switch" and "Flip the Classroom", learning to "Teach Outside the Box" as we "Rethink" everything!

Last week, we received our Remote Learning guidelines and it took me some time to think through how I wanted to shift my clasroom.  Each of my preps is designed slightly differently and to be honest, as of Saturday night, I still hadn't figured out my AP Stat classes, but thankfully it came together on Sunday!  Whew! 

Lessons Learned from Week Day 1

Lesson #1 - Organization is a must
I'm a paper planner person but my normal lesson plan book is designed for the traditional system and that just wasn't working for me.

I needed a way to keep track of meetings, of Office Hours, of to-do lists, to jot down notes, document student activity, so I had to do something new.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but so far it's functional and it's helpful to see my day at a glance as well as tracking my to-do list.

Lesson #2 - Learn to Improvise
When we left for Spring Break, I didn't take much other than my grading and my flash drive.  Of course, I also didn't know that would be the last time I would be in my classroom for months!  So as I sat down yesterday to start my first day back to school, I quickly realized that one thing that missed from my classroom is my phone holder, so Legos to the rescue!  :)

Later on in the day, I was in the middle of my Office Hours via Google Meet when I needed to step away from my desk.  I ended up creating an "away" screen in Google Slides that I could run on a separate browser window in the background and then present screen via Google Meet.  I currently have 5 "away" screens - the one pictured, one that says I went for a walk, one that says it's lunchtime, one that says "I'm here but working - please say Hi to get my attention", and one that is a virtual high five for Friday :)

Lesson #3 - Find a way to see / hear / talk to your students
As an introvert, I can spend all summer and never really leave the house, so having an extended Spring Break was kind of like that.  However, when the message came down that we would not be going back to our physical classrooms, I'll admit that I cried.  While life in general can be way too people-y for me, I really do love my students and my classroom.  My students bring me so much joy on a daily basis and emotionally I struggled with the idea of teaching mostly seniors, which means I may never see some of them again. 

Thankfully we live in an era of technology, so yesterday I hosted a Google Meet and Greet to see my kids and hear their voices.  I had about 65% participation in my AP classes and it really did my heart good to interact with them.  Hubby later on commented that from his office, he could hear the smile in my voice. :) 

Lesson #4 - Build in ways to give / receive feedback on your lessons
More than likely, if you are reading this blog, I am preaching to the choir when I talk about my love of Desmos.  In many of our math classes, we are using Desmos activities every day with a quiz on Friday. 

One of the biggest benefits I see to Desmos is the ability to give and receive feedback from my students.  For example, I can read student responses to questions and give them individual feedback (brand new feature!), give a formative assessment question like the one on the right and overlay responses as a temperature gauge of the entire class, do self / auto checking questions, allow for the sketch tool, etc.  It truly is an amazing piece of software and I'm so very grateful for all that Eli and his team do for the math ed community!

Lesson #5 - Make Connections - both with people and content
I've already mentioned above about seeing your students via video-conferencing, but it's also good to do some text-based connections.  Over the weekend, I had sent out a Google Form just to connect with my students and ask them about their Spring Break.  I wanted them to know how much I miss them and how much I hate that this is how our year is going to end.  I have been going through and sending individualized emails to my students to respond to their questions and concerns and mainly just to touch base.

This connection is also a great feature with the Desmos activities.  I used the new Desmos Starter Screens collection to copy and paste some checking in screens for students to tell me a story or draw me a picture.  One student on her Google Form asked if we could continue to have "fun exit tickets" so I need to gather some 'Would you Rather' etc just to break up the math and make those personal connections.

One lesson I learned today (on Day 2) is that I need to do a better job of making connections with the content.  I need to figure out a way to better link yesterday's lesson to today's lesson to tomorrow's lesson in an asyncronous world. So next week on the Desmos lessons, there will be some starter screens that ask them to look at the previous day's Desmos feedback and respond to it as well as screens for retrival practice (aka Powerful Teaching - Thanks to @pamjwilson for the idea!)

Lesson #6 - Planning a week at a time is HARD!
Each Monday morning, we have to have our lessons online and ready for the entire week.  Now, don't get me wrong, I've always been a planner and knew what my lessons looked like for the week, but not to this level of detail.  In my "normal" world, I have written topics in my lesson plan book for the whole week (or even month, etc), sent off for copies, etc, but I didn't have the nitty-gritty details planned because I need to see student faces and get a gauge on student understanding to know where we are as a class.  For example, I might know that Wednesday is going to be about the Pythagorean Theorem, but until Tuesday evening, I might not know the detail of whether that would be using whiteboards or a question stack or a Desmos activity.  In this scenerio, I have to think through the pacing and the details of the entire week without having those visual cues from my students.  Not really having the option to revise my lessons throughout the week is already driving me nuts, but one student has commented that he really likes being able to move at his own pace and the flexibility to do all of the lessons at once if he wants, so I guess that part is a positive?

Lesson #7 - Get up and MOVE!!I am NOT used to sitting down this much! In my classroom, I am on my feet all the time and rarely at my desk.  Now, I'm at my desk all the time, so I have to leave my office and go for a walk around the block a few times a day.  Grab your phone to call a friend, listen to some music or a podcast, but find a way to not be stuck behind a computer all day! 

My Big Takeaway
I'm sure more lessons will be learned in the coming days, but my biggest take-away is how vital those people-to-people connections are, even to an introvert like myself.  I have long used chatrooms and Twitter and other social media to make those connections, but I'm quickly learning how to harness the power of technology for instructional purposes.  I'm really excited to see how this pandemic shifts the educational technology sector to be adaptive to the human side of learning.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Moving Toward Better Collaboration

How often do you have discussions - real, deep, serious discussions - on how to best teach a topic?  In my 22 years of experience, these discussions do not happen often enough and that's truly a sad thing for the future of math education, if not education in general. 

In the month that I've been home from ICMI25, I have had so many ponderings and discussions on the future of teacher collaboration on a personal and district level and I keep having that weird squirmy feeling that I often get when I feel that I'm moving from my comfort zone to my learning zone.  I know most of us would not describe a squirmy feeling as a positive thing, but for me, it's always that point at which I feel I'm at the cusp of a breakthrough in my personal / professional journey, that feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Which brings me back to my original statement.  Last week, I was in a meeting with several other Geometry teachers and during a lull in the conversation, I asked them how they teach the Pythgorean Inequalities and how to help students remember which inequality is for the acute triangles and which or the obtuse triangles.  I personally teach the inequalities using a hands-on method and some "Notice / Wonder" questions, but I also struggle with keeping the inequality sign straight in my head.  A couple of teachers answered me, some reiterating the pattern of the c^2, which I already know, but only one of the responses really answered my deeper question on how to help students remember and I took it back to share with my students. 

I've thought about this exchange several times over the past week - I'm a veteran teacher and for the first time in 20+ years of teaching, I have a solid way to help my students make connections to what they discovered via our in-class activity for this topic.  But how students have I deprived of that because I had never asked?  How many newer teachers use just the textbook (our "primary resource") and never dig deeper into "what is the best method to teach topic X?"  How many teachers (myself included) teach the way we've been taught and not using what we know to be best practices?  How do we change that paradigm?  How do we get to a point of shared lesson planning and lesson creation and not just shared pacing? 

The learning journey that I started at ICMI is picking up steam.  I'm excited to explore these questions and more with my colleagues and my district.  Where will this journey take us?  What challenges will we face and overcome?   How will this impact our students going forward?  I really don't know, but it's a journey I know is necessary for growth.

Friday, February 7, 2020

My week at ICMI25

For the past week, I have attended the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction Study Conference at the University of Lisbon.  This lovely building has been a place where I have learned so much more than I ever expected from the math education research community.

The city of Lisbon is beautiful, full of a rich history and some of the kindest people I've ever met.  I am so very grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity and do not know how to adequately express my appreciation to the organizing committee or to the participants of ICMI25 for welcoming me into this shared learning space.

Today is our closing ceremony and I can't believe that the week is almost over and it will be time to go back to my classroom.  Please don't get me wrong - I miss my students, my family, my routines - but I have learned so much during this week and I don't want that to end either. :)

Last spring, when I was approached about attending ICMI25, I was extremely nervous.  I've never travelled internationally and what could I really bring to the table?  I have had the opportunity to learn with and learn from some of the greatest minds in math education research this week and I'm sure if I had known that prior to attending, I would have been even more nervous, and probably some major fan-girling would have occurred. :)

Some of my take-aways this week -

  • The food is amazing.  Last night, I had a pepperoni pizza that was quite good, even if I've not mastered the art of eating pizza with a fork and knife :)  Also, while I've enjoyed everything I've had, some things like cold cuts at breakfast or that bacon isn't the bacon of my world, has been interesting.
  • The people are even more amazing.  Over this week, I've had some very deep / rich conversations and I've learned that if you truly want to see some passionate people, just ask a researcher about their area of interest / focus in their research.  I've been so impressed by the work that is being done here and I've made some wonderful connections this week.  I look forward to the collaborative partnerships that will result from this conference.
  • Turning on the lights of the hotel room was about a 10 minute puzzle for me until I finally realized I had to insert my room key to make the lights functional :)
  • Coffee is a bit different here than back home and take-out coffee cups don't seem to exist in the hotel.  However, I greatly appreciated the daily coffee breaks for a shot of caffeine as I am working 6 hours from my normal time zone. :)
On a more educational note...
  • In my working group this week, I had the opportunity to learn from 18 different papers / presentations and I was able to take away something from every single paper, even if my take-away wasn't quite what the researcher had in mind.
  • The problems that I see in the USA aren't limited to the USA.  For example, one of the presenters spoke about teachers in her country using the mathematical representations from their textbook without really knowing WHY they are using them.  I think that is an issue we encounter as well and it's important to ask ourselves WHY is this the tool / representation that I am using to communicate with my students and fellow teachers?  What is the benefit it gives to build understanding?  
  • One of the most important learnings for me personally has been the defintion of collaboration as it applies to teacher development.   This gives me a much greater insight into how to define our district "collaboration days" and how I can take this information back to my school to strengthen our program.  
  • I'm fascinated by the idea of "Lesson Study" and want to learn more, especially on how to incorporate it into the realities of my teaching life.  From what little I've understood, it seems very time consuming for implementation, so I don't know how to incorporate it in a way that isn't quite so overwhelming.  There were several papers written about it, so I'm sure I'll be doing more reading over the next few weeks.
  • In a sense, this week has been very affirming to me from a classroom perspective.  I've read papers and listened to presentations regarding quality classroom questioning practices, anticipating student responses, peer feedback regarding lesson plans and assessment, multiple representations (graphical, tabular, verbal, algebraic, pictorial), and other topics that have been areas of focus for me over the years.  I've been glad to learn that I am on the right track regarding my own classroom practice, even though I have a long way to go.

There is so much to learn and so much that can be learned, that it can be overwhelming at times.  I want to implement all the things, but I know that's not feasible.  Over the next few weeks, I really need to focus on what I can do to take what I've learned this week and implement it in my context.  I need to go through the papers I've read and hopefully get a chance to read some of the papers from the other themes to narrow down to the top few things that I think can create sustainable and reasonable change in my classroom and in my site.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Reflections on Teacher Collaboration

This week, I have been attending the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) Study Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.  To say this place is stunning is an understatement.  I've never traveled internationally, but Lisbon is an absolutely gorgeous city and I am so honored to be attending this conference.

The theme of the conference is teacher collaboration and I'm here to share about the power of social media as a tool for teacher collaboration.  I'm surrounded by some of the top minds in mathematical education research and I have been soaking up every bit of knowledge that I can.

Throughout this week, one thought that continues to go through my brain is how to make better connections between the research that I am reading and learning about to my actual classroom practice and that of my district.  Obviously these researchers have spent many hours working with teachers in their study on how to improve their practice, but how does that research get into classrooms around the nation / globe?  What can I do to share what I've learned here with my colleagues back home and really work to increase our professional knowledge and improve student learning as a result?

The ultimate question I keep coming back to is this... what is effective teacher collaboration?  What does it look like?  What does it sound like?

The structure of the conference is unlike any conference I've ever been to, but I honestly love how it is structured and how it could be adapted to the classroom.  In my Working Group sessions, we have a variety of papers that were submitted detailing the research.  Each presenter has 10 minutes to present, then another participant has prepared a 5 minute response to the paper.  All of the papers were made available to us to pre-read and generate questions for the authors via a shared Google document.  As a classroom teacher, I can see a scaled down version of this model being used for classroom presentations, where students submit their project / paper / presentation, then do a short summary for the class, a peer reviewer gives a response, and everyone is asked to reflect via a Google document to ask questions.

During some of the presentations, I've definitely seen strong connections to topics discussed often in the #MTBoS, such as productive discourse among teachers via social media, vertical non-permanent surfaces, and the role of the "5 practices" model with anticipating student responses.  But again, I come back to the core question - what is effective teacher collaboration?

Is it a book study?  Is it a discussion on teaching methods?  Is it those 5-minute spontaneous hallway conversations?  I think it *could* be, but is that the norm?  How often do we sit down with our colleagues and truly lesson plan?  Not just pacing out the chapter / unit, but discussing appropriate tasks, quality questions, anticipating student responses?  How often do we really dig into the quality of our assessments or assignments?  Are we actually assigning "exercises" vs "problems"  (and what separates an exercise from a problem?).  Are we gathering and sharing and analyzing data to help us improve our instruction?  Are we recording our lessons and truly listening to the quality of the questions we are asking?

Now don't get me wrong - these things take time and as a classroom teacher, time is something that is sorely lacking.  I have 160 students each day, plus another 20 in my Advisory.  I have lessons to plan, papers to grade, plus other responsibilities at school and at home.  How can we build these structures to accomodate the realities of classroom teaching?  How can we put systems and processes in place that benefit student learning without putting unneccessary burden on the teachers?

I already have a list of topics that I want to discuss with my administration when I get home about this idea.  I would really like to see my site / department develop a theme-based model of a PLC where we are able to dig in throughout the year into some messy work centering around a topic of concern for our site / department.  We currently have 6 "collaboration days" built into our schedule, but after attending ICMI, I think there is so much more that we could be doing with those 6 days.

Thank you, ICMI, for this opportunity to learn more about teacher collaboration and what it can look like in day-to-day practice.  Thank you for providing access to research that impacts the classroom from around the world.  I am so very grateful for this opportunity to learn with and from so many amazing teacher educators and researchers.

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 :)