Posted in Blaugust, Education, Geometry, Math

What is that? How do you use it? #blaugust

Side note, this blog post is in no way a criticism of anyone or school or anything along those lines.  It is just what happened in class today.  If anything, it might be a criticism of myself as while I was planning this lesson, I assumed my students’ experience would be greater with this tool.

Today was the second day of real “content” with my Geometry students.  After years of the Common Core Standards in place, which I know includes Geometry standards at the 7th grade level, I am still amazed when students remark that they have not used a protractor before, and I am fairly positive that they are being truthful (or at least that they didn’t remember actually using one).


What was intended to be a five minute “review” of these skills to launch into the real lesson activity of the day turned into a much more in depth “teaching” of how to use this tool.  Although they might NEVER use a protractor outside of my class again I do find the task of measuring something using a tool useful. The task also spoke to the CCSS Math Practice Standards of attending to precision and using tools strategically. It is so challenging (especially at the beginning of the year) to determine what are appropriate scaffolds to help students work on a task. Moving forward, I plan to assume less which is actually a good thing because then we can talk about refined meanings of things.  For instance, because of their lack of background we were able to really talk about that the measurement in degrees was actually a measurement of a rotation. I think next year my approach might be different.

Posted in Blaugust, Education, MTBoS

Taking Everything In Stride #blaugust

The first full day with students is always challenging.  I still have classroom set up things that I want to take care of (read: love putting things on my walls but also saw a quote that read “don’t make it look like Pinterest threw up on your wall” and that has stuck with me).  Students come to your class at the wrong time, late, or too early.  You have the utopia of school still fresh on your mind from summer but the reality sets in and you realize that you sometimes have to have Tim Gunn moments where you need to “make it work”.  However, through it all I have to admit that I am less stressed than previous years and that is a definite improvement.

I tried some of Sara Van Der Werf’s ideas for my first day.  I’ve had 17 years of first days and this was a good one.  I will never forget about 10 years ago when students actually started fighting on the very first day (not my fault as they were continuing an argument from the summer and one student was eventually expelled for continuing that behavior in other classes, but I digress).  Anything shy of that start is a good one :). I will admit that I miss the #TLAP playdoh beginning, but I have a feeling that I will use playdoh at some point this year in my classes 🙂 and #TLAP is so much more than JUST day 1, though day 1 is important.  One of the best parts of Sara’s feedback form is that I got to know some things about students that I never would have known otherwise.  One student noted that he is hard of hearing and he liked where he sat today.  Another student gave a shout out to her previous teacher (who also happened to be transferred to another school in our district) and when I texted him what she wrote he said that it made his day.  I was floored at the honesty of my students and can’t wait to see what they write for the remainder of the week. One of my favorites is below:

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When I declared my major in college I said the same exact thing.  I believed it too until a couple of years into teaching.  My hope is that at the end of this year, she will value the multiple ways to a right answer that took me so long to appreciate.

I’ve started using #teach180 on my Twitter.  What is #teach180?  Check it out here.  This is the first year that I have told my students that I have a Twitter and I actually gained a new follower :).  I’m interested in seeing if I can leverage this form of communication to better my practice.  I like the idea of pictures and 140 character reflections on the day moving past #blaugust.

Posted in Blaugust, Professional Development, Sketchnote

Institute Day 2 #blaugust

My school went outside of the box today with the Professional Development, literally out of the box that is our school and held sessions on the football field, courtyard and practice field.  IMG_7344.JPG

It was nice to be out in the sun.  I wish that the technology would’ve worked for them but I give my administrative team a ton of credit for the effort to make it happen.  Even with the tech fails, they still seemed united and excited about the upcoming school year which was awesome. Selfie below is me, no filter, but it was hot so not much of a smile either.IMG_7343.JPG

Here is my sketchnote from this afternoon’s session that was mostly about business.  I am on cycle for getting evaluated this year so you can probably tell that my ear was open to that part of the discussion. ALSO should note that the “Late Arrival Sherrie Birts” is a note to self that if I see that on a schedule, I need to send those students to the auditorium (not that Sherrie Birts is a late arrival).

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Overall, a productive day but I still have a number of things I need to attend to before I am ready for the first day of class on Wednesday.  I’m just going to get plenty of sleep tonight so I can be 100% for freshmen tomorrow and welcome them with the most Rocket Pride I can.  You only get one day to be your first day at Rich East High School and I want to be a part of theirs and be a blessing to everyone I encounter.

Posted in Blaugust, Education, MTBoS

Classroom is Coming Together

I’m so grateful that my husband watched the kids all morning so I could work in my classroom. 


I purposely clean my classroom as though I am going to move out.  First, for seven years I switched classrooms every year.  I eventually embraced the process as a good way to purge unnecessary items.  Second, one year I returned from summer to discover that my room had changed.  Having everything already packed at the end of the year when you have time is so much easier than packing when you are trying to plan for the new school year.  Finally, it is nice to have a clean slate to work from.  


Great MTBOS idea to post a vocabulary bulletin board by alphabet. Genius

Vertical number line. My sophomores still need it. 

A mathy Welcome sign I found on the MTBoS (link with appropriate shout outs coming soon). 


Found an old set of transparencies (for the young folk, there was a time before LCD projectors and SmartBoards). Before pitching them, I came up with a repurposing to make vertical non-permanent surfaces with them in my room. 

That’s it for classroom.  I started the process for planning my classes and attempted to access my online bootleg copy of my textbook (2010 Glencoe Geometry) that has been shut down :(.  I guess that just means I need to Ditch That Textbook ;-).  

Posted in Blaugust, Education, Sketchnote

Year 17, Day 1 – A New Hope


The face of someone that has been teaching since 2001.  I’ve had more than my fair share of Institute Days.  Normally, I zone out (I get points for being honest on here right?!).  Today, I decided to try sketchnoting and it was pretty awesome actually.  Having something to engage with while listening to 3 hours of speaking this morning (yes, you read that right, THREE HOURS of basically direct instruction from a PowerPoint) really made the time fly.  Here is my first sketchnote:


One of the things that I noticed when I read about sketchnoting online is that the words and symbols don’t have to mean much to anyone outside of you :).  However, I will pick out some of the highlights from this just for my own reflection.

RTHSEA to the left – I am a proud member of the Rich Township High School Education Association.  We worked ALL LAST YEAR without a contract.  We were able to settle our contract this summer and I am so happy about that situation.  It is definitely one of the blessings that I am counting.  Also, as I am counting my blessings I am actively CHOOSING to be a blessing to other people.

HOPE at the top right – In addition to our contract I am REALLY excited about the fact that for the first time in a couple of years we actually have a real superintendent.  I was skeptical of him at first, but after really listening to him (thank you sketchnotes) I really tuned into his ideas.  One of the major ones is listed below.  He left me feeling hopeful for this new year and that is not something that I have said in several years.  It was definitely a breath of fresh air.

The Boxing Glove still in that upper right corner – I loved that when our new superintendent, Dr. Johnnie Thomas, spoke about WHY WOULD HE COME HERE he talked about wanting to fight for OUR kids.  That really spoke to my mission.  He seemed so sincere and I really wanted to be on his team fighting for my community.

at the most top right – I set a goal for today that I plan to set for my students next week (inspired by a blog post from  At the end of the first day, I want students to get to know 5 other people’s names.  So today I achieved that same goal for myself.

Engage and Passion – Engagement and passion work so well together.  If you are passionate about something, you will engage.  The more you engage, the more it speaks to your passion.  I want to feel that same passion we all have as first year teachers.  I need to engage more and possibly outside of my comfort zone.

Denominators Matter to the far right – So many people threw around percents before lunchtime in two different sessions.  I wanted to scream, “What is the denominator?” because it TOTALLY makes a difference in the situation.  I hate when people quote percents and they can’t articulate the denominator.  It’s a much bigger deal than most people probably realize.


Below are some pictures of my blank classroom. Some key features that I want to point out are:

  • although my desks and chairs do not remotely match, my Chromebooks do…I’ll take matching Chromebooks any day.
  • I am not married to this seating arrangement but I will be fitting at least 30 students in this space, so suggestions are always welcome.  I like paired seating because it is easy to have pairs turn into fours for group tasks, but again I am open to suggestion.
  • yes, I am blessed to have that sweet flat panel SmartBoard and my very own classroom – I waited so long for both of those things so I am so grateful to have them right now in my teaching career
  • this is NOT a new classroom to me.  I actually used it last year.  I am so used to moving classrooms (for about 7 years straight I had to change classrooms and/or share with other teachers) that I always leave my room completely clear to actually make things easier on myself.  I like it because it helps me declutter my life and keep the walls fresh.
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Posted in Blaugust

Grace #blaugust

This year is the first since I’ve had kids that I haven’t gone in to school before institute to set up my room.  We just really couldn’t afford the extra child care and I didn’t want to inconvenience my family.  I’m kind of stressed that I won’t have everything together in time for next week.  However, I’ve decided to grant myself the same grace my students expect from me.   I will teach 180 but I’m going to enjoy these last two days of summer with my kids and my husband and give them my all.  So with that said, good night and may God’s grace be with you. 

Posted in Blaugust, Education

Seeing Clearly #blaugust

My son got glasses today.  

I have mixed emotions.  I am so glad we have the means to provide these for him (so many of my students’ parents cannot afford this “luxury”).  I can’t believe that we have placed over $100 on his face but still can’t trust him to properly wipe after #2 (it’s a work in progress).  I’m sad that he’s not been able to see and we only now know about this.  

Then I recall my own vision experiences.  I remember seeing blades of grass for the first time.  Seeing hawks on the telephone wires that my mom always pointed out to me and I just thought she was crazy because I never saw them.  It was like my whole world changed.  But it wasn’t the whole world.  Actually, the world hadn’t changed at all that day.  The only thing that changed was my outlook.  Pardon the pun, but all that was different was the frame I put onto the world.  

As I go into this new school year, what can I do to “frame” mathematics differently so that my students can see the light of problem solving the way that I do – as a positive thing?