Posted in Books, Education

Make It Stick Reflections

My grandmother had Alzheimers.

My mother is try to do preventative things to avoid getting it as well.

I have a group of students in front of me every day that I want to maximize their learning potential.

This book I believe holds many keys to improving memory and learning.

I read Make It Stick a couple of years ago.  I knew it was a quick read but I could not remember all of the various tenets of the book.  I wrestled with the idea of rereading the book as I DID remember from the book that rereading is not the best way to study.  However, I went ahead and reread the book and am so glad I did.  Reading this book reinforced some of the ideas I had for teaching my class this year as well as my desire to read Powerful Teaching in the near future.


I had already thought that including student blogs in my class would allow them additional opportunities to excercize their voice.  This book helped me realize the added learning benefit from reflecting on learning.  I sincerely hope that the time invested in this activity during my class, one that I devote to 50 minutes of MATH every day, will pay learning dividends.  I am trying to prepare myself for the pushback that it doesn’t have the immediate rewards of massed practice (read “cramming”) but am hopeful that through employing this, along with other strategies of the book I will be able to move my students forward.  The book points out that fluency does not equal understanding.  I see this on a regular basis in math when I have students who can fluently give multiplication facts but struggle with understanding that multiplication is really just iterated addition.

I will start with having students write a Friday blog about what they did in class and what they learned.  I just started an EduBlog myself to blog alongside my class.  I might have them post daily “quiz questions” and encourage students to comment back with their answers to encourage the other tenets expressed in the book.

Self Quizzing

Getting feedback from quizzing can be daunting as we tend to overestimate what we know and remember.  However, I have seen the benefits personally of this technique.  I am reminded of when I was taking a course called History and Thought of Western Man and we had to learn many artworks by sight for an exam.  I performed the best on the exams where I prepared my own flashcards and practiced at regular intervals.  Cramming seems to work but there is not much transfer to long term memory.  I’m hoping to add in better forms of this through more strategic bellringer activities, having students write questions based on daily lessons (ooooh maybe I will have students write their questions on a notecard as an exit ticket, offer extra credit if I use their question in the future, keep the notecards in a box for readily available use).


The idea of interleaving either different topics (similar to how we interleaf subjects during the day) or kinds of questions.  This idea plays credence to the plan we had this year for our students to no longer have two hours in a row of math and instead split it up during the day.  Given the data from the tests our students took last year, we need to change something to attain better results.  This change alone could be helpful to change those results.

Spaced Practice

I honestly had to look up this strategy, however, if by looking it up and correcting my understanding I learn the tenet better, then I am happy I did it.  Additionally, by writing about it now I am using an additional tenet, elaboration.  Spaced practice is like hitting the sweet spot on a bat, long enough to make it work to remember thus helping solidify the learning but not too long as to completely forgot.  It makes me wonder if the summer slide is actually a little bit of a good thing?   Who knows.


Last year I was really intent on incorporating sketchnotes into my life and especially my teaching practice.  I do not think that I succeeded in my goal to pass this idea on to my students, however, given that sketchnotes are an enjoyable part of elaboration, maybe I need to push it harder this year.  Elaboration has the learner take what they already know and build on it.  It is important, then, to understand what students are building on otherwise you do not have the solid foundation necessary to hold the new understanding.

Embrace Difficulties

This is a tough one for anyone.  No one really prefers challenging situations.  However, those challenging situations provide the best opportunities for growth.  I need to do a better job of reframing challenging activities as growth opportunities.

Growth Mindset

Definitely a buzzword but worthy of understanding in class.  How many times have I heard “I’m not a math person” or worse is when the PARENT of the student I am working with says that.  We are ALL math people!  Growth mindset is easier said than done but a worthy goal especially in a math classroom.

Next Up

I am totally stoked to read Powerful Teaching but that is on hold until I finish The Happiness Advantage that I started reading yesterday.  I am super excited as this book is also very research based and comes from a growth mindset.  I’m already thinking, “ok, I’m on board…. happy people find more success, have fewer sick days, etc etc… so what do I need to DO?”.  I hope that the blog associated with that book has actionable steps like this one did.


Posted in Admin, Education, Professional Development, Sketchnote

Rich 227 Administrative Retreat Takeaways

A week of ice breakers, activities, tech tools, feedback, presentations, data, laughter, competition, and work is the quick version of the administrative retreat for Rich Township District 227.

You Will Live as a Team, You Will Die as an Individual

I loved the focus on teambuilding and ice breaker activities.  Some of my favorites included the team scrabble tournament, brown bag introductions, crowd cheering rock paper scissors tournament, the communication line activity (similar to the game of telephone but with motions and no words – HILARIOUSLY awesome and drove home the point, ESPECIALLY with the video), land mine trust walk, and find your team karaoke sing off).  I think we ignore doing these activities throughout the course of the schoolyear beyond the first week.  I would love to incorporate these activities both in class as well as with my division or grade level time.  I’m pretty excited to use one or two with the students who plan to come help with freshmen next week.  Additionally, Jeff Bonomo showed this video (spoiler alert: you might need a tissue) about how students react to hearing that you believe in them and I would love to incorporate this idea into something that I do this year.

Dr. Thomas spoke about our targets and goals and it was a breath of fresh air that the message seemed the same as the previous year as to how we will proceed with working to attain goals related to math, reading/writing, and AP.  It is good that the focus remains tight and on the same goals.

Shadow a Student

I am most excited about one of the big takeaways I had from our all admin team read, Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  You can read more about my reflections in this post.  I plan to shadow a student on September 10, 2019.  I plan to use a freshman student and, just as Couros did, I plan to do everything that they have to do for a day.  I am really interested in what life is like for a typical student.  I already put this in my calendar so I am pumped :).


The thought that I kept having throughout the week is how to build and maintain trust.  It is key to so many aspects of the job.  I learned last year that to be clear is to be kind.  I am working on ensuring that my communication is much clearer than before.  I think at times I have been hung up on being liked or being nice when really people seek out good feedback that will help them in their future pursuits.

All I Do Is Win, Win, Win No Matter What

This week was filled with wins which I have to admit felt pretty good.  I was on the winning escape room team.  Our team won the land mine teambuilding/trust building game.  We won the transportation competition (nice job Whitaker with your “prize”).  We won the Kahoot for the Operations Day Kahoot.  How can I give my staff and students more opportunities to win because it is a pretty awesome feeling.

READ THE FINE PRINT! Nicely played Mr. Whitaker.

Illusion Versus Reality

We had the awesome opportunity to see The Spellbinder Show.  He is an illusionist and was very talented.  I was intrigued by what seemed to be real but I knew really was not.  I considered how this idea of how things appear versus reality plays out in our schools.  How Rich South admin celebrated as if they won the bowling game but in reality, when you look at the scores, they were so very wrong 🙂 see the pictures below…. just kidding, or am I?  For real though, with our school, illusions are everywhere.  How our school building appears just fine from the outside, but really has a plethora of life safety needs.  How our students come to school and maybe don’t wear it on their face but have a home life that makes it impossible sometimes to come to school.  It really drove home the point to me that you need to look underneath what you see to really understand what is truly going on.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

One of the recurring themes throughout this experience was one of relationships.  I learned last year as a new administrator that relationships are HUGE to being able to do my job effectively and efficiently.  I want to pour into my relationships even more this year so that our staff truly knows how awesome they really are.  I appreciate the dedication and time they give to the work and to our students and I want them to know they are noticed.


Last year was the first time I tried to play Spades.  I felt so out of my comfort zone.  Although this year was not my first time with the game, it was the first time in a while.  Ms. Glenn and I did pretty well 🙂 and it was fun.  I was vulnerable, made some mistakes, but overall was impressed with being able to hang in there.  I need to continue to take risks to remember how that feels and help my students



Here are my sketchnotes for the week.











Ready, Set….

I haven’t felt this excited about my job since last year this time.  I have so much work to do but it will be totally worth it for our students to make gains toward their future.  I am excited for year two as I kinda have an idea of what to sometimes expect (but like Big Brother on TV, you always have to expect the unexpected).  I am hopeful that I can get back to blogging on the regular and I can’t wait to see what I will learn this year.

Let’s Go!





Posted in Admin, Books, Education

Innovator’s Mindset Reflections


I’ve really enjoyed reading books through Audible and Hoopla.  It has made the commute to work more enjoyable and productive.  I’ve read more books this way than through traditional ways.  I wonder if I would have been able to do a better job of reading books in high school if this format was more readily available?

I would like to find a way to take notes while listening and driving though.  This is more challenging now with the Illinois Laws related to cell phone use and distracted drivers, a necessary law and I am not complaining.



I’ve found that when I traditionally write up my thoughts on a book I’ve read that I haven’t done a great job of implementing the ideas I’ve garnered through the title.  Therefore, I am going to limit my takeaways from this book to hopefully improve the impact on my career.


TAKEAWAY 1:  Blog, girl!  BLOG!

I realized when I went to my mailbox and saw this book in it as an all administrative staff read that I was lucky as I had already read the book last summer.  I fired up WordPress and searched and searched but found no mention of Innovator’s Mindset in any of my blog posts.  Then I questioned my memory and wondered if I had indeed read it and searched Twitter as well and found a single, solitary post on the subject.  This is such a shame because the book was really good, encouraged readers to include student voice and blogging which are core beliefs that I have carried forward since reading it last year.  Long story short, I need to blog more.  Couros often empowers readers to find their voice and challenges that even bad bloggers help move us forward.  Although I am not winning Pulitzer prizes with my blog posts, I have recognized my growth through using the medium to connect with other educators and push my thinking when it comes to educational policy.  Blogging is helpful for me and the profession and this book has inspired me to continue blogging as well as find a way to implement blogging in my classroom this school year.  Additionally, as soon as it goes on sale I would like to have my own domain :).



As a math teacher, I have felt tasked with giving students the skills they need to attack any problem that they encounter.  Often students have been upset with my assignments when they do not mirror the problems we encountered in class, but I remind them that it is not my task to show them how to do every problem, but rather, provide them with skills and opportunities to be able to work through the problem to answers.  Couros says on page 50 that “While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.”  This really stuck with me, and convicted me.  I have spent so much of my professional life on problem solving but have often neglected problem finding.  I think that in recent years I have attended to this more through my deliberate use of notice and wonder in my class.  Reading this book has cemented the need to adhere to this strategy not only on a more regular basis but maybe even on a daily basis.  Problem finding is essential because you cannot solve the problem that you cannot define.




I love EdCamp.  Every time I attend I am inspired to try new classroom techniques that I learn.  Here are blog posts related to my experiences (here, here, here, here, there are others but you get the drift).  I love the voice and choice involved with this mode of presenting Professional Development.  I know that it has catapulted my use and knowledge of online tools such as Google Apps for Ed, Twitter, Tweetdeck, various poster making sites, etc.  I know that other educators in my school would enjoy the experience as well.  I need to make this a reality for our staff because I truly believe that it could foster better relationships and innovation at our school.  Couros tauts the importance of relationships, voice, and choice throughout his book and this idea of EdCamp as PD is one that I truly want to make a reality as it plays into all three of those ideas.


It was amazing when Couros described the images created by Sylvia Duckworth related to his ideas how I was able to immediately conger up the picture he was refrencing.  Pictures are so central to conveying ideas to others.  I’ve often been mocked for my sketchnoting, but now more than ever I believe in the power that sketchnoting has on my learning.  I would love to employ this technique in my classroom and encourage others to use it more for their own learning purposes too.  I want to reread Make It Stick and read Powerful Teaching to be able to support my claims with the evidence that I know resides in those books.



Whether I need to connect to the heart of my students or staff, that connection is huge.  I plan to shadow a student for a day this fall to really get an idea of what our students do on a daily basis and what their experience is like.  I really want to get to know students and their goals and aspirations more.  I want to do something everyday that I can point to and say “I connected to the heart on that one”.

What do you want kids to do with technology.png




Posted in Admin, Education, Professional Development, Sketchnote

Impact and Legacy Summit 2019


I had the pleasure of attending this inspirational conference hosted by Humanex.  There was careful attention paid to details such as promotional materials, variety of speakers, and a fantastic venue.  I really enjoyed getting to know my counterparts better while learning best leadership practices from across a variety of industries.  Major themes came through to me from this conference, that I believe, are applicable to not only education but management in general.




There is dignity and we need to honor excellence in every role

– and –

You are not “just a” anything

I loved how this idea played out again and again throughout the conference.  All of the roles we have in our organization are important.  While talking to one of the other division leads, we realized that often we will say “I’m just a Division Lead for ____ at my school”.  There is nothing “just a” about the roles we serve in.  Additionally, if you have ever had a day when you felt more like 70% than 100%,  it is important to then give 100% of the 70 as opposed to anything less than your best.  This resonated with my current state of affairs given the many directions I have been pulled in lately.  I really made the effort to give my most and best throughout this conference and I believe my experience was richer because of it.  Jimmy Casas mentioned that “people who feel valued and appreciated will always do more than expected”.



Whether it was creating the “diamond drops” to recognize the work of others to sending a quick text to someone that is important in your life, taking the time to be intentional to honor those who inspire us daily is important.  Finding a way to be authentic and ensure that my team feels seen and heard is very important for me moving into next year.



What did you say in the interview chair?

I loved the session by Jimmy Casas.  He was incredibly honest and authentic with his message which can be challenging to do when you have a past that isn’t rainbows and unicorns.  He posed the question of “What did you say in the interview chair?” and then reminded us that we should live into that passion even into today.  That brought me back to when I was interviewing as a first year teacher.  I remembered how nervous I was to do a good job and I think in my years of experience have given me a degree of comfort and swagger with what I do.  I’d like to recapture a little of that innocence as I believe that it could help drive me to really put student needs at the forefront of my instruction.


Our Dream Box

Opportunity for growth at our school based on last year’s data

During the breakout sessions, one of the presenters talked about their dream box through Humanex.  I was curious about our data so I looked up the information provided.  We celebrated our success with staff as we really made huge gains with earning and I am so happy that we have moved in the right direction with them for they inspire our students daily.  When I looked through the student data I saw a great new opportunity to work on goals to improve their engagement and satisfaction.  The overall dream box for our school was at 49%.  We are at about half of our population feeling engaged in their environment.  I think that we need to get a better idea of what the student experience is like in our schools so that we can find ways to improve this engagement.  Shadowing students might be a good opportunity for us to see our classrooms from a different lens and consider the possibility for making changes that improve student success.


Toyota Lessons

Bill Taylor mentioned lessons that companies were able to learn from the Toyota company as documented in Good to Great.  One of the lessons learned by a hospital included getting rid of waiting rooms and posting actual prices on the wall.  This made me think that we could post the cost or financial benefits of the high school education earned at Rich East High School.  I also loved this idea of “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”.  We claim to be lifelong learners but are we actually learning?  I considered my most recent endeavor of getting Google certified, which was a great experience but one that already resides in my wheelhouse, and this experience reminded me that I need to be cognizant of the leadership areas that I need to work on and I need to actually put in the work.




Are you proud of the work or are you defending the work?

I love love LOVED seeing Joe Sanfilippo speak.  He was totally fantastic as a public speaker and was completely energizing.  I saw hints of my previous Athletic Director come out when he spoke of his #gocrickets tagline.  I loved how he interwove moments of levity with audience interaction (get 2 inches away from the face of the person next to you) to take home lessons on gratitude (take out your phone and text someone that means something to you.  The messages were simple yet powerful.  He was able to show that you can change culture in less than 30 seconds…what you do for less than a minute can be remembered for a lifetime…so we need to make it count.  His enthusiasm was contagious and inspired me to bring that back to my staff.








I did not know who Inky Johnson was prior to this event but his message will help me never forget him.  It was a nice way to finish out this experience as he reminded me about the “What is your why?” that our district worked on last year.  Your why will drive your what.  He said that “people do not burn out because of what they do, they burn out because they forgot WHY they do what they do”  What legacy do we want to leave?



One of the characteristics of many of the leaders who spoke was the ability to reframe situations.  Often, they would speak of things that would be considered drawbacks but many times they reframed the idea as an opportunity for growth.  I love this idea.  I changed my mindset on a situation like that just tonight and realized that this is a powerful idea.  When we consider data next year that might not be the best, we need to remind ourselves that this is just a benchmark to eventually look back upon and tell the world about how far we have come.


#sketchnote and Blogging 

It’s been a while since I’ve sketchnoted.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  It helped me remember the tenets of the Make It Stick book (I remember from that book that I shouldn’t reread it, however I REALLY want to now – maybe a good opportunity to turn it into a book study at school?).  I forgot how people will look at your strangely as you draw pictures during lectures, but I also remembered that I don’t really care what others think 🙂 .  I liked this opportunity to step back into blogging.  As I spoke of before, my lack of blogging lately is not a drawback but rather an opportunity for growth in the coming year – year TWO of administration!


Posted in Admin, Uncategorized

Wild Adventures in Admin

Well, my New Year Resolutions did not last HOWEVER, I have made some significant changes in my life that I would like to share :).  Additionally, with the start of Lent I am always reminded to simplify and be the person that God intended me to be.

Just Say No to Caffeine…in the afternoon

I gave up caffeine in the afternoon.  It started at the beginning of the year when I took a week off of work and realized that I had not had afternoon caffeine all week and just continued that.  Previous to that, I had about 40 oz of coffee in the morning and a Red Bull (or the off brand equivalent) in the afternoon.  Next will be to cut down the morning dose, but I have a three year old and that challenge will have to wait a little longer.

Completed Evaluations

As a first year administrator, my biggest learning experiences have been related to evaluations.  Next year I plan to write the summative evaluation throughout the year to cut down on the stress of second semester.  I realized that in my optimism that I needed to be more direct with people as I have learned from Brene Brown in Dare to Lead, “to be clear is to be kind”.  I had very challenging conversations as well as very productive ones.  I look forward to improving this experience for my staff next year but am proud of the job I did this year.

Meditation and Creating Margin

I begin each day with ten minutes of meditation.  This is huge for me as when I started I was reluctant to the activity (I actually believed that I could not even spare 10 minutes). I’ve seen the benefits of creating margin in my life (I also practice “pausing” for two minutes with a breathing/mindfulness app, 3 long breaths each time I start or stop my car, etc).  Mindfulness doesn’t remove anxiety, but it does help me accept it and move forward as opposed to being stopped in my tracks.  I could probably write a whole blog post on this topic alone, however, I will keep it moving.  Feel free to engage in a conversation with me about presence and what I have learned from Tara Brach.

Moving Forward

I would really like to return to blogging more often.  I love how I am able to look back and see progress when I blog.  Let’s see what I can do in the weeks ahead.

Posted in Uncategorized

Still I Rise

The last couple of months have been the most challenging in my life.  I have questioned everything about my existence, felt emotions that are indescribable and have felt the deepest sense of responsibility I have ever felt outside of when I had children.  I have been reflecting more than I can ever remember but have not been able to put my words to this place because unfortunately some of the words are just not appropriate for the public forum.  I have had people question parts of my being that I thought were unquestionable such as my dedication, my honesty, my integrity.  What I have learned is that those things are still unquestionable and it does not matter what others believe because it is only what I believe and know to be true that is true.

I’m growing.

I’m getting better.

I do not need the validation of others to know this is true.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I am living in this moment.  I believe in the essential goodness of others and am learning to treat myself with loving kindness because I too am essentially good.

I will continue to do the “next right thing”.

I will post on here when I see fit and I won’t feel guilty when the posts cannot come.

I will continue to believe in myself and this place I am in right now.

I look forward to what I will learn and I am surrendering control of every last thing.

I’m getting better.

I’m not feeling better.  Rather, I am feeling better.

Still.    I.     Rise.

Posted in Uncategorized

First Blog for 2019

I’m back.  It’s been a while.  I’ve been working hard… getting overwhelmed… feeling lost… and now trying to get my groove back.  The vacation days did me well.  In the spirit of my top five for Friday lists (which was a great way to keep me blogging and reading) I think I will commit to the following five things.

Blog Once a Week

I hate that it is resolution time as it will seem like this blog is an attempt at one of those.  However, in my attempts to “get my groove back” I think that blogging is a part of that task.  When I reflect, I can see where I came from and where I want to go.  I really want to blog once a week.  I’m thinking I can do that on Tuesdays – but hit publish on Fridays if I want to do one of my Five for Fridays.

Thankful Journal

I also would like to keep a thankful journal.  The daily reminder to focus on all that I am grateful for would be a great way to start the day.  Focusing on gratitude can only lead to good things.

Two Main Ideas

One of the authors I have listened to recommended writing down two main focuses for the day before checking email.  I like this idea.  I think I can incorporate it into my thankful journal.

Establish Boundaries

One of the things that came out my initial meeting with a counselor was the need to establish boundaries on my life.  Last semester I was showing up to work at earlier and earlier times (sometimes closer to 6am than 7) and staying later than what was really necessary (usually until 5 most days).  Although late evenings and early mornings might be an occasional need, they should not be the norm.  The work will be there the next day.  I will not concern myself with what others think or judge myself harshly for coming and leaving work at appropriate times.  This will also allow me time to focus on my family and the needs of my kids.


There is so much clutter in my home and work.  Although Marie Kondo said that he clients never return to her, I think that I need to.  I am rereading her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

This is really just a return to myself as opposed to new year, new me stuff.  Hopefully this will go well.