Posted in Uncategorized

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek and Me

This year has been a good one for me as far as improving my practice and reflection but I realized that I was looking for something different, something more.  For the past two semesters I have thought about doing Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club but was scared because of the commitment (both financial and time).  As with most purchases, I applied my rule of if I see something once I won’t buy it on a whim but if I still want the item after that point then maybe I should buy it.  Additionally, a blogger that I truly respect, Sarah Carter, wrote a post about the club and that was the tipping point.

Top Five Takeaways Thus Far

When I signed up for the club, I put a calendar reminder to myself to make a “keep it” decision about three weeks in as Ms. Watson offers a money back guarantee. At that point though, I decided this program was a keeper. Here are the top five reasons why I decided to continue my membership:

  1. The List Making System As a list making person by nature I was surprised that I liked Ms. Watson’s way better than anything I had done previously.  I mean, I plan all my dinners in a Google calendar, have a grocery app on my phone that I love, and I used a post-it system at school that gave my post-it addiction purpose :).  However, this system was awesome and I loved that it was editable and in multiple formats.  As others have said, this system alone was worth the club investment. I’ve made priorities, felt less stressed, and made more time for my family.  I’ve been impressed that I have started training at 4am again and it hasn’t been detrimental to my energy level later in the day (which has not been the case in the past).  I have realized that these priorities have also allowed me more time to devote to landing a new job (I have landed TWO interviews this year….wish me luck on those positions :).
  2. The Weekly Podcast I am a big books on tape person for my commutes (I have a 45 minute commute to work each day) and having this 20 minute downloadable has been great.  I love that it previews the pdf materials available and provides great insights as well.  I have gotten some great ideas from the podcasts that I have implemented into my practice immediately. Also, I love the encouragement to just try ONE thing that week.  The program has so much to offer that it can become overwhelming, BUT with the encouragement to do just ONE thing I can definitely make that doable.
  3. The Online Community I like that the Facebook community is available.  I understand why it needs to be a Facebook community as opposed to a Twitter one (however, Twitter is still my preferred social media for teacher stuff). My posts have been approved quickly and I like going through this experience with other teachers.
  4. The Organization of the Club Ms. Watson organizes the materials into monthly topics.  Much of what she offers you could probably get from a variety of online resources for free.  Part of what you pay for is the organization of everything.  It helps give me focus and it feels like I have a coach.
  5. It’s Been Good I have had great results each time I have tried the ONE thing I decided each week.  I look forward to what the club has to offer in the remainder of this year especially over the summer as I prepare for next school year.

I highly recommend this program and have not been compensated for this review in any way.

Posted in EdTech, Education, My Favorite Lessons

SAT Prep Class FaceTime Conversations

Ever since I was presented with the possibility of teaching the SAT Prep class I was concerned about keeping students motivated to work during class.  Several aspects were working against this class from the beginning:

  • The class is held during study hall which has traditionally meant, for our students, a work free period.  Therefore, while the rest of the school can choose what they do with this period, my students would be expected to work.
  • The students did not sign up for this opportunity.  They showed up second semester and I was blessed to be the one to break it to them that this study hall would be different.
  • A handful of the students in the class are interested in pursuing the military after high school.  For them, preparation for the ASVAB would be more beneficial.

Given all of this, I have tried my best to help students to the best of my ability.  The first few days of class I had students complete vision boards which was a great experience (and worthy of a separate blog post). I have incorporated games into the class at least once a week.  I’ve tried to promote an environment where students could be more self-motivated to practice.

My most recent addition to the class has been to FaceTime with people in fields that my students are interested in.  My first experience with this was inviting the awesome Angel Spiccia into my class.  She was my roommate and sorority sister in college :).  Currently, she professionally sings jazz.  Given the fact that a number of my students are interested in entertainment, I thought that she could give them a good perspective.  She provided great insight into what current high school juniors should do to prepare them to go into the industry.  She also advocated for students to get a background in the business side of the industry to ensure that they had options.  Part of that includes doing well on the SAT to be able to get into a college and pursue a business degree.  She was truly a joy to have in class.


On a separate occasion, I invited Fred Williams III to my class to talk about his experience with the military.  I loved how honest he was with my students about his journey to where he is today.  My students were very engaged in what he had to say and it was great to see him doing awesome things with his life




This class might not always be sunshine and rainbows but I love where it is going.  I love that my FaceTime worked out 🙂 and that my students have now started making requests for other people to come talk (anyone out there a published author or photographer 🙂 let me know, I’d love to have you). I like that I am pushing myself to give my students the very best and I’m proud of where this is going.

Posted in Geometry, MTBoS

One Good Thing, Similar Triangles Activity

I am proud of myself for attempting to blog during the first couple of days back at school 🙂 the struggle is so real.  Today was a late start school improvement day.  These days are devoted to a variety of professional development activities.  Due to this, classes are shortened and I am only moderately used to the schedule on these days so I had to push through and persevere myself today.

My one good thing from my Geometry classes today was the emphasis on measurement skills.  The goal of the day was to have students use similar triangles in a real world scenario and solve for an unknown.  In our case, the students were measuring their heights, standing across from each other with a mirror between them, and determining how far apart they must stand in order to see each other’s eyes in the mirror.  One class had an amazing “a-ha” moment when the pair of students who miscalculated their response and could not see each other’s eyes then corrected their work and had success.  Another class had quite the blunder when due to incorrect measurements they were able successfully see each other’s eyes when they should not have been able to.  Regardless, I was happy with the fact that students got to measure quantities in real life which they need to do more of and that they were engaged in the topic.  I was not happy with our progress toward the learning objective, but as I learned long ago, there is always tomorrow to come back and try it again from another angle.

Posted in EdTech, Education, Professional Development, Sketchnote

EdCampLakeCounty 2017

I attended EdCampLakeCounty over the weekend.  EdCamp is a voluntary, free professional development opportunity, for teachers, by teachers.  I love how you have the choice to attend whatever suits your needs that day and if a conversation isn’t helpful to you that no one takes offense if you move somewhere else.  I’ve attended several of these in the past and always walk away with SOMETHING to use in my class along with a new energy for my classes.  This weekend’s experience had that same effect.   I am excited to share some of my favorite takeaways from the day.


I learned about hyperdocs through a Twitter post recently so when I saw this session get proposed I jumped all over it.  Hyperdocs are just Google docs, such as a doc or slides, that you can use to push out content to your students.  They allow you to change parts in real time if something isn’t working out and allow you to reuse lesson/unit plans from year to year.  One teacher commented that she uses them so much that students automatically know what to do when students come into her room each day however, she does not like that predictability.  I liked how it seemed like hyperdocs would allow students to self-direct their learning and that I as a teacher could be more like a guide-on-the-side.  There appears to be a nice Facebook community to support this idea along with an entire book, Twitter account, and website devoted to the resources.  Since I start next semester with trigonometry, I think I will wait to try to employ this strategy until the next unit in my classes.

My Favorite Four Letter Word: MATH

I guess this might be my EdCamp “thing” to do is propose this session.  I recommended this one and had a turn out of about 4 people.  With a group this small it is AWKWARD to leave the session, luckily I liked the conversation we had.  We talked about improving mindset and how Jo Boaler has some great talks and resources available for teachers. I’ve been super hyped about using Polygraph, so I showed the others how it worked and they seemed to like the platform.  When we got to talking about numbersense and how to build it we discussed using Clothesline math and Estimation180 to get at those skills.  Someone mentioned the idea of a student created Kahoots and I liked that idea, however, sometimes our students are over-Kahooted so I don’t know if I will utilize this idea very soon.  My biggest takeaway is that I want to use student mistakes better in class.  Similar to My Favorite No.  I think that second semester I want to incorporate a better strategy into my bellwork that includes a whole bellwork day of the week for “my favorite no”…maybe My-Favorite-No Mondays.

I’ve also got to work on getting more math people to these conferences – they are such a rich place to gain PD.

My Best Tip, Trick, or Hack

To be honest, I didn’t go to this session but I lurked during lunch and ended up with some great takeaways even though I wasn’t privy to the conversation.  I need to do some more research on Amazon’s contribution to the teacher community, Amazon Inspire.  It has the familiar Amazon search engine but is related to worksheets.  I did not get any hits from the #MTBoS community on this resource so I am skeptical that it is ALL good but some of it might be useful.  For lesson planning or rubric making it appears that might be a good option.  I liked how it was linked to the standards and already had descriptors in place.  If I ever make that jump to standards based grading/learning/reporting this might be a good resource for me.  My BIGGEST takeaway was the One Tab app for Chrome which takes all of your open tabs and collapses them into a single tab that you can name and reopen.  I think for future EdCamps that this extension could be super useful especially for my blogging after the event (like how I am using this today).

Flipped Learning

I am not new to this idea, however, this was a reminder that it is a great option for my class.  The teacher who was using the format was doing so with an AP Stats class so I am confident that this would be a great place to start if I wanted to flip an entire class since I would have the most control over that class.  I like the idea of having more one-on-one time with students and that they can control the pace a little more.  Coupled with some Hyperdocs we could do some amazing things here.  I am concerned about my students ability to connect to the internet at home but I think that I need to work on a Donors Choose Project that would fund hotspots to be checked out of my classroom for a year….hmmmm….wonder if that is even possible.

EdCamp for PD at Your School

I love the EdCamp experience so much and would LOVE to bring this concept to an institute day at my school.  The person who spoke about the concept said that the following happened after their institute EdCamp:

  • several committees were formed that day
  • several committees were able to act on the steps discussed such as student surveys and discipline
  • most teachers were invested in the process
  • 100% of the teachers participated at the beginning of the day

Now I just have to figure out the people at my school that I can talk to to make this a possibility.  I love the choice, the opportunity for everyone in the room to feel empowered, and the opportunity to grow.  Maybe if I apply it to a lesson in my own class I could ask an administrator to come in to see and hopefully they could see the potential as a school initiative.


Huge props to the organizers of the event.  Loved the breakfast and lunch offerings.  I loved the conversations I had with others during the event.  The facilities at Carmel High School were fabulous and the internet connection was flawless.  The student helpers were great!  (Side story: as we walked to our first session students pointed out the way and one student said “Go down this hallway and then…take…a right…aaaattt….Jesus?”…with all of those pauses – so cute and authentic – I loved it).  I highly recommend this EdCamp to others who want to give it a try.

Posted in EdTech, Education, Math, MTBoS, Professional Development, Sketchnote

NCTM Regional Conference in Chicago

Who loves being around math people?  Well I do and I had the great opportunity to be with a whole bunch of them (3,000+) at the Regional NCTM Conference.  I should mention that I was able to attend the opening presentation virtually.  Huge thank you to the people who posted live video and tweets that night so that I could put my kids to bed AND learn from the session.  The session really spoke to me so Thursday morning I attended a presentation on equity that was hosted by one of the speakers from the previous evening.

8am Hidden Figures by Dina Williams

I was unaware that when I chose this session based on the idea of equity in our classrooms that it would be led by one of the speakers from the previous evening but was pleasantly surprised when she began singing a song similar to one she did the previous evening.  During the piece she sang on Wednesday evening the quote that stuck out to me was “no need to wonder why, just write it down”.  I think that quote can come out of anyone’s mouth in utter desperation to “get through” things or “cover” topics (speaking of “cover” have you ever noticed that that word “cover” can mean to hide or conceal something, I realize that teachers don’t MEAN that when they say it but it is another meaning, but I digress).  I really liked Dina’s songs and it made me think of how powerful a force music can be.  I’ve been using “bumper music” in between classes lately and it has been a great addition.  Parts of her talk that really spoke to me included:

  • the use of pictures from our students’ world to teach the content of my class (she showed the image below, overlayed a grid and talked about having students estimate which was more and by how much)

I loved her use of math talks to get at some very important fraction skills.  First, she talked about using money.  IMG_7153

I remarked to someone near me that idea was all fine and good but what about thirds and Dina happened to be standing right there and she was excited about how that was the next portion of her talk.  It was awesome.  I do question on whether my students would know that 1/6 of an hour is 10 minutes but I believe it would be worth teaching if necessary


I really liked this session and I hope to incorporate these number strings soon.  My biggest issue with these ideas is thoughtfully incorporating them.  I find that I get these great ideas and if I don’t use them the next week I lose them, however, this doesn’t always work well with whatever I am teaching in my curriculum.


Sendhil got me to volunteer for this event.  I didn’t know what to expect but it was a worthwhile experience.  First, I was privy to the wi-fi access from before the event even started.  Second, when I checked in for my assignment I was introduced to the layout of the hotel which was good because the only way you could get to one side of the hotel to the other was on the second floor.  Also, I became VERY familiar with the rooms on that side of the building which made my own experience of finding rooms much easier. During the lulls in the crowd I was also able to make lunch plans for my crew which was amazing because about five minutes after we were seated we saw a line forming outside that was down the street a bit. I LOVED getting to help people where they wanted to be and I even got to see some people that I haven’t seen IN AGES in the process.  It’s crazy when you see people you know from outside of the context of the conference you are attending….for instance, the picture below is of one of my former students who is now an administrator!  I barely recognized him but was so glad to see him.


Coteaching with Tech by Allen and Eutsler

It was so amazing to see this team of teachers work together.  You could tell that they truly shared their responsibilities in the classroom and had the utmost respect for each other.  That kind of relationship is amazing to watch in action and gave me so much to think about my own co-teaching relationship.  They even named their classroom as a combo of their two last names.  Maybe we could be Janicone or Staniki.

TI Rover/Programming 

I walked in late to this session but am soooo glad I made that move.  I loved doing a little programming with TI’s new product, the TI Innovator Rover.  We got a quick lesson on how to do the basic code commands in TI’s menu system and then were set loose to get the rover to move through a short course.  I have a little programming experience (three courses in college, writing SHORT TI programs on my calculator, and dabbling during the hour of code every year in my classroom).  I was able to capture a short video of my second to last trial run with the rover (I’m mad I didn’t get my last run as I got the rover to basically parallel park which was pretty sweet).  I was saddened when I was running my last run and I overheard someone questioning the application of this activity in a math classroom.  The TI person was caught a little off guard and I stepped in a little to talk about how I loved how this activity really spoke to the attendance to precision and measurement (I would make my students measure the course in order to do the programming) and discussion possibilities of area versus perimeter and I could keep going but you get the point.  I will admit that this changed my mind about TI.  I have been a little down on TI products with the advent of Desmos and Geogebra as those products are FREE and it is hard to argue with FREE.  However, this product made me reconsider their products.


This session intrigued me as I know that my school would like to improve AP offerings, increase the number of students enrolled in AP, and get students to achieve scores of 3+ on the exam.  They mentioned that their school has both regular and honors taking the same curriculum which I LOVE that idea because think everyone deserves to be challenged and get high quality instruction.  I was intrigued by their Geometry in the summer program as I wanted to know if the topics dealt with in the summer were to the same rigor as a typical Geometry course.  It definitely gave me food for thought.

Standards Based Grading with Darshan Jain

I just loved this presenter from the beginning.  He was so welcoming and I felt like I wanted to learn right from the start.  He was very interested in the story of the people who attended his 8am on a Friday session.  He talked about the difference between assessing and evaluating a situation which is slightly nuance but an important idea.  I loved that he took time to discuss why teachers get into teaching because I believe that SBG/SBL really speaks to who you are as a teacher.  He talked about a process of asking some vital questions to structure the standards assessed:

  1. What do I value?
  2. How can you show this value?
  3. How well can you show this value?
  4. What helps to show this value well?

Check out my sketchnote on the session below.  I had other sketchnotes from the conference but spilled water on them :(.


I loved some quotes from this session like the idea that 21st century illiteracy means someone who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.  This really spoke to me as I know plenty of people, myself included, who struggle to unlearn something even if it is not a correct understanding.  I loved that the idea of SBG/SBL does not mean that we forget everything that we as teachers have done to get to this point – hence the house quote of “don’t tear down the whole house, just rearrange the furniture”.


I volunteered to work at the #MTBoS table during this morning for an hour.  I loved getting to meet some of my #MTBoS fangirl favorite people.  I always struggle with how to explain the community to people ESPECIALLY when they don’t have Twitter.  However, I usually say something like “well I was you once, where I thought Twitter was only for celebrity gossip and couldn’t possibly offer me anything”.  Working the table made me highly aware of all the great things that the #MTBoS has exposed me to, the fact that I love this community and that my teaching practice has improved because of it.

Side note to working the booth is that I got to play with Mannifold which I LOVED. Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 8.58.02 PM.png

I couldn’t put it down so I promptly ordered my own stackon Amazon for my playtable at school.

Math Games with Susan Chadaz

I felt like I learned some things through this session (even if they were not my personal intended goals of attending this session).  First, she incorporated sign language into talking about the common core math practice standards.  We learned one sign for each of the 8 standards.  Additionally, she showed us how to tie a string without letting go of the ends which was comical to see a whole ballroom of people attempt to do.  She showed us a couple of her games.  I don’t know if I will use them in my classes but others seemed interested.

Tech to Increase Conceptual Understanding with Annie Fetter

I was so excited to meet Annie when I was volunteering at the #MTBoS table.  I liked her applets for this session.  The triangle applet was fabulous as I hope to use it the next time that I introduce triangles in my Geometry class.  I loved how she modeled the Notice/Wonder routine for this activity.  Notice/Wonder has really been a game changer in my classroom this year and I hope that I can continue to do it justice in the future.


I could probably go on an on with this post but I am going to just #hitsend or in my WordPress world hit Publish on this.  But before I do, I will mention that I am thankful for Chicago.

IMG_1480.JPGI love being so close to a metropolitan area that attracts great events like this one.  I love all of the food, culture, and unique opportunities that this city affords.


I am grateful for the AWESOME weather during the last two days and just so proud that this is my home.


Posted in MTBoS, Professional Development

Webinar on Visual Patterns

I attended this week’s Global Math Department’s weekly presentation about visual patterns given by Michael Fenton.  I loved how simple it was (low floor) but how how you could go mind blowing (high ceiling) as well.  People shared their images using a hashtag pretty easily and I loved the questions posed that I plan to use in my own classroom like:

  • What comes next?
  • What comes after that?
  • What comes way down the line?
  • What comes before?
  • What comes in between?
  • What comes at stage 1.5?
  • What is in the middle
  • What is stage 1?
  • What is stage 0?

I loved the idea of allowing students to be creative and get them out of the idea that they could be wrong.  One of my favorite tweets of the night highlighted this idea of being right.  I think that I need to focus my classes more on being able to see multiple points of view as opposed to the fear of not being right.  I know that if I asked students to draw stages 2 and 3 that they would be fearful and I need to try to break down this fear.  This webinar really has me thinking and I am excited about what I will do with what I learned in class this week.

Posted in EdTech

Screen Extending

One of the problems I have is that my SmartBoard mirrors what is on my computer desktop.  Therefore, I cannot have my gradebook open at the same time as my bellwork on the board(my SmartBoard does not have a freeze feature like the old ones and projectors do).  That is, until NOW.

1.)  Hold down the Windows key and P

2.)  Select EXTEND

3.)  After the screen has adjusted, move a window from the SmartBoard screen to the desktop screen by dragging it to the desktop

4.)  Your cursor will only appear on one screen at a time

5.)  To get back to the original state, just hold down the Windows key and P again and select DUPLICATE

Click here for the video on how to do this