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first two weeks of school reflections

We started what is considered to be early to some. I’ve been starting in the second week of August for some time now so I’m used to it. Actually, my first year of teaching we didn’t start until September 10…as in the day-before-the-September-11. Sometime I’ll share those experiences with you as I think it has affected my teaching in positive ways that never would have happened otherwise, but for now, it’s just to drive home the point that by September 11 this year I will have already been on school for a month.

The great part of Teach Like a Pirate, is that it is  always in the back of my mind.  It feels like I have a whole new set of tools for my toolbox.  I’ve started striving for incorporating more and more of the hooks into my lessons.  I’ve also bought into the 1% philosophy.  Basically, it means that I just try to do things 1% better everyday.  Anyone can do 1% more any day.  Eventually all of the 1%’s will add up to big success.

I’m working with one of the teachers in my school to challenge ourselves to flipping our lessons this year.  Both of us got overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year and I will admit that I didn’t step up to the plate like I thought I would.  I think I need to take an approach like I did for Math Talks which was to start with small goals and work up to larger ones.  So my thought is to start with a classroom video of my own content to teach students how to interact with the video and then set small goals along the way and deliberately work toward flipping an entire class next semester.  I need to build my PLN more and just jump in and get my feet wet.  I am positive that once I do, I won’t regret it.

Sharing my classroom this year has been easier than in years past.  I think I’ve gotten better about streamlining my stuff and my space to ensure a quick departure at the end of the day.  It also helps that I get to start in the room.  Overall, I feel good about the classroom environment that I have started to build.

Today I participated in school led PD on the Danielson model. We jigsawed out the four domains and went back to our home groups to report out.  I can appreciate the effort made to engage us in discussion but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a larger conversation.  By that I mean, I want to interact with my administrators.  I want to know what they think and how they believe that the Danielson model should live in our classrooms.  Just like I can gain formative information by participating in my daily lessons, I want my administrative team to gain those same types of insight from our professional development.  So my question is, how do I invite others to the conversation without overstepping my bounds as a teacher?

Overall, I am happy about the year so far and am looking forward to making more effort toward personal growth.  I am excited to teach not only my AP Stats class but my Algebra as well.  Checking in to this blog has also reminded me about my goal to build more healthy relationships with others at school.  Thanks for reading.

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Day 1 of school, I loved it! #TLAP

After reading Teach Like A Pirate, I wanted to plan out my first three days of school. The more I thought about it, I finally decided to just do the first day like Dave Burgess described in his book. I’m not too proud to admit that I love to beg, borrow and steal EVERYTHING teaching related. Today was in one word, awesome. I’m pretty sure that my students think I’m crazy and it am ok with that. The upside is that EVERY EYE was fixed on me and what I had to say and I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience. My students started to regulate the classroom too whenever meanness would erupt. Also, the larger the class, the better the result. I’ve never known more of my students’ names by the end of the first day, I’ve never known more about my students at the end of the first day. I’m so energized from the experience that I can’t wait for tomorrow. I can’t wait for next week. I want to continue this feeling for a while. I also feel inspired to share it with others but just need to find the right forum. All I can say for now is that I am so happy that I’ve taken my PD into my hands and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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It Starts Today! #TLAP

Today our youngest minds enter the building as we open our doors to the class of 2018. 2018. Sounds like a movie title and it’s really not that far away. My son will enter school by then. Crazy.

I’ve committed to The Teach Like a Pirate philosophy this year. I haven’t been this excited in a while. The two days of district sponsored PD were not completely wasted on me. If anything, I know my mission is even MORE important to grab the attention of my students and help them get their learn on :).

Big thanks to my PLN for the inspiration. I wish everyone a great school year!

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School Starts TOMORROW! #edchat

The summer has finally come to an end.  This has been an amazing summer of learning.  I have read so many inspirational books (Teach Like A PirateFlip Your ClassroomTransforming Classroom Grading, and Transforming School Culture).  I attended three conferences related to math education (the Rich Township professional development related to Understanding by Design, the NCTM High School Math Institute and the Common Core Summer Institute presented by SCMI where I actually presented a session on stats).  I have engaged in several Twitter chats and internet chats related to education (#iledchat on Monday nights, Global Math Department on Tuesday nights, and various other chats throughout the week).  I’ve done my morning walks and several workouts while listening to podcasts (my favorites right now are EduAllStars).  I don’t think I have ever engaged myself in this much PD in a summer ever.

I’ve started some prep work for the school year.  I have made my own play-doh so that I can start my classes “Pirate Style” in the first three days.  It will work out well since there are only three days this week anyway.  I am really excited to establish the relationships with my students from the start.  I can’t wait to meet them.


I’m still trying to figure out logistically how I can make the flipped model work.  I think to start with I might have students watch videos actually in my class.  I plan to start making some tomorrow.  I have also committed to really flipping my Algebra I and doing a partial flip with AP.  I also am going to try to connect via Skype or Google Hangouts with the AP class at Central since they meet at the same time my class does.  I think this will be REALLY FUN with our surveys and experiments unit.

My current concern is how to translate my enthusiasm right now into solid teaching this fall.  I have great plans to utilize my new understandings to help promote a better learning environment for my students.  I guess I am really concerned about what will happen when I interact with other teachers at my school.  I hope that I can continue to enjoy this enthusiastic start and maybe impact others in a positive way.  Also, although I whole heartedly believe that Standards Based Grading/Learning is really important, I also know that I need support for that initiative.  My plan is to build that support this year and roll out next year.

I don’t want to stop learning.  I see the need for my students to see me constantly learning so I need to ensure that the success I have found this summer will roll right into the school year.  I hope that the PLN that I have begun to develop online will help me to continue to grow as an educator this year.  

Finally, I don’t think that blogging everyday is feasible for me.  However, I am afraid that if I don’t have a plan I will plan to fail on it.  Therefore, I plan to blog (hopefully) once a week to reflect on what went well and what needs to improve for the future.  

Good luck to everyone else out there who is ready to start the new year and I hope your enthusiasm is long lasting 🙂


Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized

#NCTMInst Reflections, day 2

Today I attended the second day of the High School Institute presented by NCTM.

During Diane Briar’s keynote she referred to the PISA data.  I’m very familiar with the data because of the PD with SCMI.  I LOVE that she had us do the math (I love it when we get to do math together during PD) and then we looked at the student results.

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The first breakout session I attended was about statistics.  The information was helpful for my work this year to get me back in the mindset.  I forgot how foreign some of the terminology can be to those who haven’t taught/learned statistics for a while.  I felt comfortable but I could tell that others were not.  Therefore, when we ask typical elementary, middle school or even high school teachers to teach statistics I guess I have a firmer understanding of why it is such a challenge.  The session really made me consider how I present to my students and the need to keep things hands on and relevant in order to keep their interest and therefore learning on a high level.

Lunch was a great opportunity to share :).  First, we talked at our table about our sessions and it was great to have the opportunity to learn about the sessions I couldn’t attend.  It made me appreciate even more how great an experience EdCamp Chicago was and how I want to be able to share that experience with others.  I love how I never felt locked into a session and the connections I was able to make in such a small period of time.  It’s so hard to explain what EdCamp is and the powerful learning that can occur because when you explain EdCamp it sounds crazy.  This conference would benefit from some of the “norms” that are present at EdCamps.  Anyway, I got to show off my powerlifting skills 🙂 through my YouTube video which is always fun.  Probably my favorite experience of the “networking lunch” was the opportunity to meet one of my Twitter connections in person.  Little did she know, but, @MoonMath, you were the first person I’ve ever met in person through my Twitter connections 🙂  kinda cool.  Anyway, she hooked me up with some great origami stuff that she learned in her session – I wouldn’t have even known that origami was happening somewhere else in the building if it weren’t for Twitter – let alone been able to take the lesson with me.  Seriously, this Twitter thing is mind-blowing to me at times.  Especially when I was one of those people who COMPLETELY wrote off Twitter as useless.

The third session was probably my favorite.  We were given a task.  The task was to create a gravity car that would go down a ramp and the goal was to tie the exemplar car that would consistently go down the track in 2.4 seconds.    The exemplar car was made out of four wheels on sticks through a milk carton – named Vanilla Thunder.  Then we mapped out what we knew, wanted to know, and next steps and then we were off.  We spent a great deal of time in the building process (which the car was made of recycled materials).  We were given very little direction and it was really interesting to see how others were able to interpret the task.  Some people just used a bottle and rolled it down the ramp.  Given the goal was to see where you would have to release the car in order to achieve the same time as the exemplar, I thought that was a twist on our usual goals of maximization – typically the one that would go the FASTEST or SLOWEST.  The open-ended nature of the activity really made my mind soar when it came to the applications of the activity to our curriculum.  I love how the selection of tools and process was just created on the spot.  I love how this activity is accessible to all students.  I want to think of more constructs like this to really get my students engaged in the math.


Our last session was a discussion group.  We were tasked with finding at least 10 ways in which a pattern was growing.  We selected a challenge for our group.  We discovered that the growth could be described in several ways.  The idea of multiple representations was not lost on me.  I think my experiences with SCMI has primed me for multiple representations and when one isn’t working out the way you like, that maybe you should explore a different way to explore the data/pattern.  I decided to do a quadratic regression on the data and the numbers came out BEAUTIFULLY!  So I paused for a couple of minutes because I knew my group would roll their eyes at me when I shared my solution.  I kept trying to work from the equation that I got to how the equation was made up.  Eventually I did share…and I got some eye rolls…BUUUT then something cool happened.  My group was completely FIXATED on how to explain WHY my equation worked.  It was worth the eye rolls to be able to work with them on the productive struggle toward the answer that eventually came about an hour later.  The takeaways from this experience are so many and I could probably write about five blog posts on it.  However, the biggest take away is that I need to share my thoughts, even if they cause an eye roll.  They might be the catalyst to finding the answer.

Finally, a question regarding what I will call the “Cheater Mindset”…is doing the quadratic regression, or any regression for that matter, such a bad thing that it deserves the eye roll?  I mean, seriously, after 20 keystrokes I had something that fit our data VERY well and something to work with.  Why does it elicit the eye roll?