Thursday, August 27, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Reflecting on Week 1

Y'all, I'm tired...

We started back to school on Monday in a Distance Learning format, so here's our schedule:

Monday - Odd hours are synchronous / Even hours are asynchronous
Tuesday - Even hours are synchronous / Odd hours are asynchronous
Wednesday - All classes are asych ; teachers have "office hours"
Thursday - same as Monday
Friday - same as Tuesday

However, you are only required to be synchronous once a week, but since I teach AP, I'm requiring both days, although it may be for a short check-in instead of a lesson.

Speaking of lessons... here are some of the lessons I've learned so far:

Lesson #1:  Distance Learning lessons take 5 times as long to create and much less time for the students to complete than a traditional lesson
Y'all, I know that I often personally identify with "perfection is the enemy of good" because I am a perfectionist and I'm really particular about how things look and how my lessons flow.  As a result, I struggle to #pushsend and commit to the actual lesson.  On the up-side, I've had some great feedback from students about how much they appreciate the organization and structure.  One other side-effect I've noticed is that without the classroom discussion, my lessons take way less time for students to complete...

Lesson #2:  Invest in a larger monitor
Our main computer is a Surface Pro and y'all, I'm just way too old for a 12" monitor!  LoL!  Thankfully, we had a spare 24" monitor at home, which makes a HUGE difference for these old eyes.  I'm now able to split my screen while presenting in a Google Meet and able to see my students AND my presentation!  Woot!  I know a lot of people do dual monitors, but I've never been able to adjust to them :(

Lesson #3:  "Wait Time" is way different in Distance Learning
I'll admit that I've never been great at wait time, but it is a whole new ball game with Distance Learning.  I've actually had the best success by asking students for thumbs up / down, but when I ask a question, I want to be respectful for anyone that might be typing an answer into the chat (which takes longer), OR that kids are really nervous about unmuting to talk and accidently talking over someone else.

Lesson #4:  The kids are great and I'm super glad to be on this journey with them
Granted, I've not had a ton of interaction with them yet, but the kids have been so very respectful of each other and of online classroom norms.  They almost always keep themselves muted yet still willing to engage using thumbs up / down or the chat feature.  Their responses on their lessons have been fabulous and I can't keep up with them to be honest! :)  I've heard so many times about this group of kids being behind, but I really think there will be very positive side-effects with regard to giving grace and extending patience and understanding to those around them.  They recognize the extreme effort that their teachers are making to create engaging content and seem very appreciative.

Lesson #5:  Desmos is a lifesaver
OMG, can I sing the praises of Desmos from the rooftops?  I simply cannot imagine life with Desmos.  Desmos allows me to create an async (or even sync) lesson that flows similar to what I would do in class, so I think it will provide a wonderful transition back to the classroom.  

My big take-away from Distance Learning so far...

There is a part of me that really appreciates being back in my classroom and the structure / routine of my workplace being different from my home.  I am so very appreciative of how much I've learned already and how this is pushing me to be a better teacher.  But I will admit that I really miss the energy of having 30 teenagers in my classroom, chatting with me about the things they love and asking questions as we learn new content.  I miss the hustle and bustle of the hallways, of game days, of rushing to get to class on-time due to the size of our campus.  It's really awkward to talk to a screen of postage stamp size photos and they are all silent because they are muted out of respect for their classrooms.  I'm really hopeful our numbers go down soon so we can get back to that "new normal".  I already love this group of kiddos and I can't wait to get to know them in person!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Lesson Planning in a Pandemic

School starts tomorrow, y'all!!

But it's going to be so weird.  I don't have a pretty new outfit, I won't be helping lost kiddos find their classroom, I won't have tired feet at the end of the day.

But I'm really excited to finally get the first day over!

That sounds weird, I know...  But this whole year has been weird.

For weeks (months?), I've fretted about the first day.  I've changed my lesson plans so many times.  For the first time in probably 10 years, I'm not doing my standard killer nurse lesson for day 1.  My lesson plans have been written on scrap pieces of paper and sticky notes.  I've copied and pasted more Desmos screens than I can keep up with.  I've fought and wrestled with "analysis paralysis" more than I care to admit.

But it's done.

Tomorrow, ready or not, those kiddos will show up in my Google Meet and we'll tackle this thing together!

Our schedule is a mix of synchronous (live) sessions via G-Meet and asynchronous (on your own) lessons.  It really took me quite a while to wrap my head around what this would look like and I'm still not sure I have it completely figured out, but either way, we're going live tomorrow and praying the wi-fi holds up 😁

In the midst of all of today's chaos with figuring out my lessons, I decided I didn't like how the previous lesson planner was working out, so I created a new one.  I already like it much better than the first version!

Here's the revised version of the Junior Planner:
  • The lesson plans are all on the right side and not split over the middle "spine"
  • Plenty of room for my current scribbles / sticky-notes on the left side.
  • Still allows me to do an appointment scheduler for an "at a glance" look at my week.
  • I currently don't have room for an Advisory area, but the Sat/Sun could be subbed in for Advisory if needed.
  • Overall cleaner feel.

My planner is already filled out for this week and based on what I've written down, it's going to be super busy!!  I still need to finish the actual lessons for Thursday/Friday, but I'm ready for at least the first 3 days (I think) 

Wish me luck! LOL

Saturday, August 22, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Useful Chrome Extensions


Wow - what a week!  We've never had 7 days of pre-planning, but then again, we've never been in the middle of a global pandemic. 🙂

Several times throughout the week, I felt like I was working my tail off but had nothing to show for it at the end of the day, then by the time evening came, I was brain dead and ready for a break, which might explain the lack of blogging 🙂

One of my biggest tasks over the past week has been trying to replicate my home set-up on my school computer, which has its own set of technology challenges....

But one thing I've learned is the usefulness of various Chrome Extensions! :)

With Distance Learning, one thing I learned early one was the usefulness of splitting my screen.  A lot of people like to have dual monitors, but I don't like hunting down my mouse, nor do I like the physical footprint of having two monitors on my desk. 

But Dualless to the rescue!

We use Google Meet for our classes, which has a really annoying issue of not being able to see what you are presenting plus being able to see your students.  So if I'm doing a live Desmos or presenting a slideshow, I have to flip back and forth on the tabs.  By using Dualless, I can pull those into two separate Chrome windows, click on the Dualless link on my browser toolbar and choose the split ratio I want to use.  

Another great extension I found this summer was the Video Speed Controller.  This allows me to speed up or slow down any video on YouTube, EdPuzzle, etc.  I've found it so useful, especially right now during our busy season and the 1.5 speed is about perfect for me!
Inserting emojis into my messages, Desmos activities, and blog posts are so much easier now that I've installed the Emoji keyboard!

This little extension pops down a menu that I can search, then when I click on an emoji, it automatically copies the emoji so I can paste it into my activity or email.  I'm really excited to use this extension in my Desmos activities as I plan to use emoji cues for note-taking, etc!
Last spring, I found myself needing to annotate a website or a Desmos activity for a screencast, so Page Marker came in handy multiple times.  This extension isn't very fancy, but it gets the job done!  I can choose the color, the pen size and write as much as I want before clearing the screen or closing the extension.  When using it over a Desmos activity or slide show, you do have to switch to the arrow to navigate to the next slide, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty user friendly.
In this season of making a lot of videos, I certainly can't leave off the Loom extension!  With a school email account, teachers are eligible for the free version of Loom Pro.  In the past, I've used Screencastify and Loom is very similar in terms of its ease of use.  I also like that Loom has some good editing features, plus a way for students to provide feedback via comments and/or emojis, and embeds easily into Canvas! :)

It's going to be a super busy weekend of lesson planning and finalizing my plan for Monday.  If you have any great ideas for the first day of distance learning, please let me know!  I'm also on the lookout for more useful extensions, so send those my way too!

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Everything Takes So Long!


Whew... another day is done!  I felt really scattered today and even though I got a few things done, I realized that everything takes 3-4 times as long!  Sigh...

Today was another full day of learning!  Some lessons were great, some not so great :)

First up is my bright idea that wasn't... LOL 

When I got to work, I thought, ya know, I probably should have a place to put my mask that is not just thrown on my desk.  I mean, right now, it's not as big of a deal as it really is just me in the room, but it still seems less than sanitary.

But wait!  I have some command hooks in the cabinet, I think!  And I did... but not the right kind :)  Oh well, I'll try it out anyway...  Yeah, that didn't work so well.  It went on there really well, but getting it OFF the hook, not so much LOL.  

I sent this photo to hubs and after he laughed at me, told me he had some in his office, so maybe tomorrow's attempt will be better! LOL

On a more positive note, I learned a bunch about Desmos today!

First thing I learned was how to aggregate data!

With distance learning and asynch lessons, I wanted a way for students to be able to still "put graphs on the board".  I knew it was possible, but I hadn't actually learned how to do it yet!  So the Twitters to the rescue!  Thankfully I got some very helpful replies right away.  

However, I forgot to take a picture of the wonderful dotplot we made and then I deleted the activity... whoops!

I also played some with the new Collaborate feature with the wonderful Julie K - who is often my partner in crime when it comes to Desmos and AP Stat.  Her help and willingness to talk through things is just invaluable to me.

As we were working, I found a hidden nugget.. check it out!  In the image component, you can now mark for an image to go full-screen (aka zoom in!)  YAY!!

If you are an experienced AP Stat teacher, you might be thinking that the images in that Desmos screen look a bit familiar...

For years, I've used The Jelly Blubber Colony by Rex Boggs to introduce the sampling methods.  

It's certainly not done yet, nor do I know if it will ever be fully done, but Julie and I are working on getting the JB colony into a Desmos activity.  It took us a good chunk of the day to get it partially done and that's just for one lesson for one class!  UGH 

I need to remember to give myself grace and that it's OKAY to just straight up lecture and go old-school for this year :)  Y'all may need to remind me of that several times though...

I did walk away remembering how much I love and adore Desmos, so that's a huge win! :)

Monday, August 17, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Pathways to Being Better


Today was a struggle.  Not in a bad way, but just in terms of feeling like I accomplished something.

I walked into school today with high hopes and a blank agenda.  I had absolutely nothing on my calendar other than to drill down into what this semester will look like.  

7:00am - Arrive at school and juggle a few big / bulky things.  I decided to bring up a bag chair so I could sit outside for some fresh air and I also brought up a larger monitor.  We have Surface Pros for the teacher computer, which is lovely, but a tiny screen for my old eyes, so I had an external monitor.  However, after 5 months at home with a larger monitor, the school one felt "off" in terms of size / aspect ratio.  Thankfully hubs is a techy guy and we had a spare.  I fought with cables and cords, but finally got it set up and going - yay me!

7:45am - Neighbor teacher texts me to say she's headed to Sonic and did I want a drink?  Ummm, YES!

8:00am - Drink arrives and I call our EL teacher to share what I learned last night about changing languages on Google Meet Closed Captioning

8:15am - Start working on setting up my Canvas courses

9:00am - Neighbor teacher and I co-teach a class, so we sit down to start thinking through what that looks like.  We spend a couple of hours looking at various technologies and what might work.  Two hours later, we still don't have a plan, but we are a bit better about wrapping our heads around what it looks like - maybe :)

11:30am - Neighbor teacher goes to run an errand, I grab my bag chair and text a friend to see if she wants to sit outside for a bit for fresh air.  Grab my notebook from last year and a blank calendar to try to figure out some pacing calendars.

12:00pm - Come back inside, continue looking at pacing calendar, erase, write again, erase, repeat...

1:00pm - Meet with my content level team to try to figure out what remote teaching looks like.  We hash out a few things, kind of get an idea of pacing, but still pretty lost on the day to day.

3:20pm - Head back to my room to wrap up for the day.  Catch up on emails, send a few more, talk on the phone with our district PD director about how to do asynchronous PD

3:45pm - Look at my very blank agenda and desk, realize that I have nothing to show for today, decide to go home.  

4:30pm - Get home, handle a few other PD issues that came up, send it off to the people that need to proofread

5:30pm - Walk around the corner to check on my elderly neighbor to see how he is doing and to thank him for the cheesecake he made for us this weekend :)

6:00pm - Dinner time, then a real walk (Gotta meet my #fitbos goal!), rest and relax for a bit.

9:00pm - Decide finally on the topic for today's blog post and sit down to write :)  So here's my point in today's post:

We're on a pathway that is scary, it's unknown, it has switchbacks and crazy curves....This year is going to be really hard.  I also know that I will come out a better teacher on the other side.  However, getting to that other side is going to be a real challenge.  I know that when the kids "show up" next week, things will be better.  I know that we will pull it off, because we always do.  I know it will work out - it just has to, right? :)  

This year will challenge me like no other - new ways to present content, new ways to design activities, new ways to assess, new ways to connect with students, new ways to use technology.  I know that I have an opportunity to try new things, to change the paradigm of my classroom, to have a complete mindset shift of education.  I know that what we do this year will shape the future of teaching and learning for years to come.  The unknown is terrifying and I think that's one major reason why education has looked the same way for 100 years.  

Way back in January, I challenged my students to have a word of the year.  My word was COURAGE.  The main reason for that choice was that I was scared.  I had never travelled overseas and I was about to head to Portugal for a week.  That word still applies.  I'm still scared.  I've never travelled the path I'm currently on - I mean, it's a pandemic for goodness sake! - but I also know that if I can stay the course, if I can find courage, I will come out the other side and I will be a better teacher for it.

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.