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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Virtual Collaboration

I really love the math teachers of the MTBoS and I'm so glad that I have each of you on my side as we venture into this great unknown of the 2020-2021 school year.

Last night, my district decided to start our year with distance learning and to push back our student start date a bit to allow for teacher collaboration and professional development.

Speaking of professional development, @algebrainiac and I have something to share with you...

*drumroll please*

We are so happy to announce a Math Teacher Virtual Collaboration Day coming up this Saturday on Aug 8!

First off, isn't that just the best graphic?  I do love @algebrainiac's creativity and amazing poster skills! 

We've both noticed people on social media feeling stressed about this year and just needing some good old-fashioned "let's talk it out" time with our math peers, so we are jumping in with both feet and hoping it goes well! :)

This is our first foray into this, so I'm sure there will be some bumps and hurdles as we try to figure out how to manage a large Zoom call and breakout rooms, but our hope is just for some great discussion, more in an EdCamp style than a presentation style PD.  The day will be pretty informal, but just a chance to talk to our colleagues from around the globe and use the collective wisdom to try to get a handle on what this year looks like.

The topics for this day all revolve around the start of school and what this weird remote / hybrid / quick change year might look like, but we are hopeful that we can develop an ongoing virtual PLC that can have discussions about equity, social justice, student engagement, assessment, technology collaborations, best practices, and any other topic that the group might be interested in exploring.

We'd love for you to join us if you are free on Saturday!

Register by clicking here: 

Monday, August 3, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Decision Making in a COVID World

Our school board is scheduled to meet this evening and one of the items on the agenda is a discussion of our district's Return to Learn plan.  For the past month, approximately 99.99% of my conversations have revolved around this topic in some form or fashion, as my colleagues and I have watched our state and county numbers grow.

But last night, as I visited with a colleague, I made this comment:

And I realized that's exactly where we are.

In Statistics, one of our topics is about Decision Making and Errors.  Let's look at an example:

When I'm teaching this topic, I talk about getting ready in the mornings and listening to the weather forecast.  Thankfully, this lesson is in the spring, so we are pretty certain that at least one day in the 7-day planner will have a chance of rain! :)

Our Null Hypothesis is the idea that nothing is going to happen - the status quo, if you will.  Our Alternative Hypothesis is that something is going to happen.  Then you see a decision matrix.  At the time we make a decision of whether or not to grab our umbrella, we don't know which "truth" is going to happen.  I have to make a decision based on the data at hand and hopefully I make a good decision.

In an ideal world, we would always make a good decision.  And there are things we can do to help us make good decisions, such as gathering more (good quality) data.  Some things are out of our control, though.  For example, it is easier to make a good decision to take my umbrella if I look outside and see the thunderclouds rolling in because larger differences are easier to detect.

Bad decisions happen too and that's okay.  In our umbrella situation, those bad decisions don't really amount to much.  Maybe I'm carrying around an umbrella I didn't need or maybe I get caught in the rain without an umbrella.  In general, both of those are bummers, but not life altering.

So how does this apply to our school situation right now?  Well, let's look at that same decision matrix...

In this situation, our Null Hypothesis again is that nothing is going to happen, in this case that we'll be okay and there will be no major issues with COVID.  Our Alternative hypothesis is that something is going to happen with regard to COVID.

Our decision here is a bit more difficult, and again, we won't know if we've made a good decision until much, much later.  Just like before, we have to make a decision based on the data we have.

BUT... when making a decision, it's also wise to look at the "What if's..."

What if we are wrong?  Which decision has consequences we can live with if that's the part of the decision matrix we end up with?

Let's look at a Type I Error.  This happens when we Reject the Null Hypothesis and we were wrong.  In this case, it means that a district decides to do some sort of alternate schedule (like remote learning), but they were wrong and it wasn't necessary because the COVID issue wouldn't have really been that big of an issue.  

On the flip side is a Type II Error.  This happens when we Fail to Reject the Null Hypothesis and we were wrong.  In this case, a district would decide to proceed with life as normal and open schools to in-person learning, but they were wrong and the COVID issue creates spread (and potential severe illness).

Both of these errors have consequences, some minor, some major.  But when making this kind of decision, you have to decide which error is the one that has the consequences that you can live with?

We see this same decision making when schools decide to have a snow day.  Do we have school and risk the chance of a student or staff member having an accident?  Do we call off school and risk the chance of the snow having minimal impact or melting off quickly?  

One thing to note is that the decision about how to start school this Fall has a lot more complexity than just about the spread of COVID.  There are issues with food insecurity, issues with child neglect and abuse, issues with social-emotional learning, issues with equity, issues with childcare, and so many more.  This is not a an easy decision to make.  I truly feel for our leadership teams as they try to navigate these waters.  There are so many facets to this decision and honestly, unlike the umbrella example, there's not a single good decision that will fix it all.  We just have to make the best decision we can with the data available and try our best to address the other issues that arise.

I don't envy the people making the decisions at all.  I'm quite glad that I'm not responsible for making a decision like the one facing our superintendents right now.  But I pray daily for wisdom in making that decision and peace for whatever decision is made.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Thinking About Notebooks

If you've known me for any length of time, you probably know that I love organization and one of my favorite parts of my class are the student notebooks.  Every year, I have kids that that overwhelmingly tell me that they find the notebook so helpful as they prepare for the AP Exam and even have kids email me a few years later to tell me about asking their parents to mail the notebooks to college for their college stat classes. 🥰

I first learned about Interactive Notebooks (INBs) at TMC12, when Megan presented about them and we all quickly fell in love.  I jumped in with both feet in the Fall of 2012 and have never looked back...

Until now.

COVID-19 is causing quite a disruption in my classroom procedures, y'all!  Assuming we are back in person, student desks will be moved into rows, as separated from each other as possible, so no more groups of 4 students working together.  There will be no shared supplies, so there goes my table buckets with scissors and tape and glue sticks and my table folders to pass out papers...

So, what do I do?  I turn to the Twitters of course! :)

Before I figure out what to do, I needed to think about what my big goals were for their notebooks.  I mean, other than organization, what's the reason for them?  And honestly, the biggest thing is to have an easy reference for the key ideas for the course.  I try to organize the notebook so that the left side has the daily notes and on the right side is the daily problem set.  The notes are often in a foldable or some other guided format, mainly because stat questions are really lengthy overall.  

So with that in mind, here's what I am thinking so far...
  • If we start in person - For AP Stat, create a semester long booklet with the essential questions / reading guides to go with our textbook.  This ensures they have the big ideas for each section in an easy to find format.  If we have to pivot to remote learning for either short or long term, they already have a guide for continuing our course.
  • If we start remotely - If I don't have a chance to see them at all, then I want an easy to follow notes format that can be used consistently with a variety of lesson formats - Desmos / videos / lecture.  I also want it to be something that they can easily replicate on notebook paper or print out a blank template if they choose.  I want to make sure it has the elements of the WSQ (Watch, Summarize, Question) format from Flipping with Kirch, plus an area for referencing their textbook and the daily lesson objective or essential question.  Right now, here's the format I'm playing with:

    I settled on this generic format because in the spring, I did a digital notebook on Google slides and while I liked it overall, it really needed to be printed for full impact and I cannot reasonably ask my students to do a lot of printing if we are in an extended remote situation.  I've tried out the format above with a sample lesson and it worked okay, but it's still in beta testing. 🙂

How are you handling the notebook situation for Fall 2020?  I've been lurking on a digital NB group on FaceBook and I've already decided that I don't have the time or patience to do something too fancy, but I'm eager to hear your ideas!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Living in Limbo

Y'all.... it's August!  How is it August already????  Sometimes I hate the weirdness of time.  It seems like forever, yet it seems like no time has passed at all.  I've been at home since March 13, only venturing out for curbside grocery pickup and a few other things.  Thankfully I'm a major introvert / hermit, so this hasn't been as horrible for me as it has for my more extroverted friends.

When we left school on March 13, it was supposed to be for our normal one week spring break.  COVID-19 was barely present in my state at that point, with only 4 reported cases.  A few days into spring break, the state department of education extended our break by 2 weeks and our local city government put in a "safer at home" order.  By the end of March, our extended spring break was coming to an end and we were told that all classes were moving online for the remainder of the semster as the country came to a standstill overall.

My colleagues and I worked tirelessly trying to figure out how to teach online within the space of a few days.  Thankfully, edtech companies were doing tons of webinars, providing free access, and the online teacher communities ramped up with amazing support being offered everywhere you turned.  In our state, grades and attendance were frozen as of March 13 and the grading policy was "do no harm", meaning that student grades could not be lower than they were on March 13.  Instead of new material, we worked on application and enrichment of previoiusly taught content, with the exception of our AP classes, which still had the AP exams scheduled in May.  Overall, I was really pleased with my distance learning lessons, leaning heavily on the ever-amazing Desmos Activity Builder to help me create engaging lessons and provide daily feedback to my students.  

Fast forward a few months and here we are again, still in limbo.  Early on, our city governments, followed by our state government, issued "safer at home" policies to flatten the curve.  And it worked!  Until it didn't... When restrictions were lifted, people started going about their daily business like there was no concern in the world.  Holiday get togethers, wedding celebrations, backyard cook-outs, large gatherings, graduations.... it all happened with minimal mask wearing, minimial social distancing, and a lot of community spread. :(  

Now we are faced with a dilemma.  Schools are starting soon.  Hospitals are filling up.  People are arguing constantly about mask mandates and other mitigation measures.  To be perfectly honest, I've spent a good part of my summer debating about whether to return to the job I love.  I am fairly healthy, but the people I care the most about in this world are in at-risk categories.  I will be exposed to hundreds of teenagers a day, so I will not feel safe seeing my sister who is battling breast cancer, my elderly parents or my elderly neighbor that I check in on.  Each day, I will need to come home and do a load of laundry to try to protect my spouse, who has an immune deficiency.  

So I live in limbo.  I'm supposed to report in less than 2 weeks.  My district currently says we are returning in person with masks and enhanced cleaning protocols, but that is subject to change on any given day.  I'm grieving the classroom I've built over the years - filled with laughter and groupwork and activities because I need to spread out desks as much as I can, try to reduce viral load, and have no shared supplies.  In a typical year, I've already sent off papers to the copy shop, starting purchasing school supplies, and decorating my room.  This year, I'm struggling to find the motivation to plan because I don't even know what to plan for.  Our state education department recommendations have my county right at the edge of suggested distance learning.  Surrounding districts all have different plans - some are going full distance learning, some are doing a hybrid A/B schedule, some are adament they are going back in-person.  I watch the trends for my state and my county, and neither show signs of slowing down.

And so I continue to watch... and wait... and pray... and live in limbo.

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.