Posted in Admin, Blaugust, MTBoS

Top Takeaways Week 7 – How Jackie Got Her Groove Back

This week I finally felt like I knew what I was doing.  Maybe it is because the first week of school is over.  Whatever the case may be, I am just excited to finally feel like I am living into this new role and liking it.  I knew I really liked this role when it was the first Snowball Tuesday and I only missed the being with the students part of Snowball.  I thought it was going to be harder than this to walk away from being a director as I aspired to role for so long.  However, the role taught me so much before I stepped into this role, I really felt like it prepared me for what would lie ahead.  Without further ado, here are my top takeaways this week.

1.) Single Moms/Dads Are Amazing…and Deserve GRACE

I have said this line 100s of times since my son was born.  Anytime mommin’ gets tough, I get thankful for my husband’s role in my life and can’t imagine the struggle of the single parent who has to go it alone.  The last three weeks have really tested the generosity of my mother, mother-in-law and even good friend as my son’s camp ended in July but school did not start for another three weeks.  So each week on Monday through Thursday I had to arrange care for him while Eric worked.  This would involve either the additional pickup at my parents’ home, my in law’s home in Aurora, or out in Lockport at Shannon’s place.  It made me have to leave work much earlier which usually was not a problem, however, this week already involved a late night.  The agenda for a meeting I was requested to attend said the meeting would end at 5 which would be perfect for getting out to pick up my kids by the 6pm cut off (did I mention the fine is pretty hefty for picking up my daughter late from daycare?).  Anyway, the meeting was still going at 5:15 when I had to leave or I’d be late to the pickup.  I hated leaving.  I don’t like being judged but on the other hand I truly had no choice in the matter.  As I was beating myself up on the way home for leaving when I did, I realized it was a moment to be thankful for the situation I am in to I 1.) have kids 2.) have a husband who loves me 3.) a great daycare to go to 4.) a job.  I am trying to give myself some grace but it is hard.  I just hope to channel the feelings of guilt and badness into giving a single parent grace when they need it.

2.)  Stay In Your Lane

I love to problem solve. Makes sense since I became a math teacher.  When I see problems, I naturally tend to want to help out.  I have discovered the longer I stay in this position sometimes it is best to just stay in your lane.  When I dabble outside of it either I get swatted down for not staying in my lane or the problem I would have attempted to solve comes to a resolution anyway.  This does not mean I should give up helping others.  However, seeking first to understand a problem and whether my services are necessary is a good step to prevent the smack down to my lane or unnecessary  worry on my part for a problem that will come to resolution anyway.

Loved this game for killing 5 minutes in class.   Students have to guess my number between 1-1000.  I love how it gets at place value, factors, and a variety of other “boring topics” but gives students a way to practice those skills in a pseudo-authentic way.

3.) Seek First to Understand

This week we had a problem in a classroom with a substitute.  I was made aware of the problem and talked to the substitute to get a better picture of what exactly happened.  Additionally, I spoke with the teacher upon her return to widen my knowledge of the situation.  Had I acted before talking to either of these individuals, I would have totally made some mis-steps.  However, after the situation came totally into focus by taking into account all of the sides of the story I realized no action was really necessary on my part.  Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is applicable in sooooo many situations.

4.) Seek the Good

I was talking with someone who was pretty pessimistic this week.  Despite the HUGE walls they put up in our conversation, I was absolutely RELENTLESS with my pursuit of seeking the good in any situation and IT WORKED.  Honestly, I was astounded by the result.  As I was chatting with the individual, I had doubts that my positivity would bust through the seemingly brick walls that were created in the conversation.  However, focusing on the good and seeking it out in this person paid off.  I will think back to this situation in the future when I doubt my positivity and will fondly remember how this person TOTALLY changed their tune.  Even in the face of a super challenging conversation, there is good there.

5.) Feeling the Flow

Friday this week was amazing for me.  I had many great conversations with staff members about improving practices at Rich East, a fantastic lesson with my Geometry class where students almost literally felt the headache for which math was the aspirin (separate blog post coming), and I left work a whole hour earlier than normal and didn’t feel guilty at all because the major stuff was basically taken care of.  I finally felt in the groove with this whole administrator job.  I believe this can be accredited to working with teachers.  Since this was the job I was hired to do and it was the majority of the day I honestly feel like this is the reason why I felt in the flow on this day.  I’m hoping for more flow days in the future but will appreciate this one until those ones appear.

This lesson from Desmos on Finding Midpoints totally gave my students the headache for which math is the aspirin.


Posted in Admin, Blaugust, CTE, MTBoS, Sunday Funday

Top Takeaways Week 6

This week was amazing.  Our staff returned last week and this week heralded in the Rocket class of 2022.  2022.  What?!  When did that happen.  I mean I graduated in 1997….how did we get HERE!?  It was awesome to cheer them in :).  I was sidelining and my principal coach, Dr. Brass, goes to me “Jackie, they need your energy”…. and that was my call to action.  It was HOT out and I sweat at least a pound off that day but it was totally WORTH IT!  Check out a post by my fantastic Associate Principal, LaTanza Boarden.

On to my takeaways this week…

1.)  First Division Meeting…Teaching Skills Totally Came In Useful

The original agenda allowed me an hour and 40 minutes with the division teachers.  Due to some great data conversation, and I am totally serious about the quality of the conversation here, coupled with some previous day agenda items moved to this day due to some fantastic collaboration and networking among our staff my time shrunk to about just 35 minutes.  However, as a teacher who ALWAYS over plans for any given day I was able to cut down to the nuts and bolts of the meeting and it went well.  It’s amazing how applicable teacher skills such as flexibility, pedagogical understanding, and communication skills are to other arenas.  Additionally, the activities that I cut (a fun little getting to know you Quizlet and a nice little data activity powered by Desmos activity builder) will be readily accessible for the next meeting.

2.) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

This theme will probably be a regular occurrence for me.  Some situations I learn from along the way are not appropriate for discussion on a public blog, and this is one of those situations.  However, I can say that this idea of listening and really trying to be in the other person’s frame of mind really helps in almost ANY situation.  I totally saw it come into play in a hostile situation that I dealt with as well as a benign situation at a party.  I just wish that I had learned this lesson way before this point in my life.  I did not realize how powerful it is to understand the other person’s point of view when it comes to making your own point of view.  Additionally, when you understand the other side, sometimes your opinion will change and that is ok.

3.) You Can Do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY

Finding balance between the administrator life and the teacher life has been a challenge.  Shoooooo balance in general has been a huge struggle for me.  But I digress.  As I began teaching Geometry this week I thought “hmmmm, maybe we can do Notice and Wonder today”, so we did.  Then I read this article for probably the 10th time, Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say, and realized that Notice and Wonder TOTALLY allows students to say what I want to say.  So I am kinda on a mission to do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY 🙂 well at least the first week of school.  The students have responded sooooo well and I love seeing their insights.  I’m excited to use Notice and Wonder this week as we introduce real curriculum.  I am hoping that I can start to create the headache that math is the only aspirin for (not my idea, but totally stealworthy from Dan Meyer).

4.) CTE is the BOMB

I love the CTE part of my job.  Most of the teachers come out of industry and have awesome stories to share from the real world.   Their passion for their craft is palpable and I am psyched to see what students will be able to learn from these amazing people.  I love our new robotics teacher.  He has some amazing experiences in engineering and has a verve for electronics. In addition to being exposed to amazing people, the students have the opportunity to get dual credit and sometimes certifications that will allow them to get jobs immediately.  I always talk about how my brother uses the CAD skills he learned in high school to do his everyday job now.  I always used to think that college was the answer however working with CTE has opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities in which college is an answer but that other options are just as viable if not more so.  It is all a matter of finding out about students’ why and then getting them exposed to opportunities that let them live into that why.

5.) Everyone Needs Feedback

I love doing name tents with feedback and I did it again this year with my students and it has really made me think about feedback in general.  Last year one of my biggest complaints was that administrators would come into my classroom (sometimes a group of up to six at a time) and not give me any feedback (heck, they wouldn’t even say goodbye on their way out).  We are looking to change that narrative.  This year we (administrators) will pop into a teacher’s classroom two times a week each month.  Then on Friday that teacher is invited to a VOLUNTARY meeting with us to receive feedback or ask questions about the feedback they received regarding the pop in visits.  I personally am coupling this with an initiative I was interested in doing last year called #ObserveMe.  I was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone last year but I felt like with this year that if I am going to be going out of my way to provide feedback for my teachers, they might appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback in return to me.  If you would like to give me feedback on my form, I would love a comment below.  Here is the form.  Check out the poster for my classroom and my office.

Observe Me Poster - Made with PosterMyWall (1)



Posted in Admin, Blaugust

Top Takeaways Week 4

I made it a month! Wow! All I can say is WOW! Each and everyday I have learned, grown, and improved. Additionally, I have had plenty of storms but I am so glad that God has brought me through. I cannot WAIT for teachers to come back next week and students the week after. I am EXCITED to see plans come into fruition and help others reach their potential. Without further ado, here are my takeaways:

1.) be present even as you walk down memory lane

I had the absolute PLEASURE of escorting some Rocket Alumni through the hallowed halls of Rich East. I loved hearing stories; the cookie breaks, the smoking lounge, having teachers like Claudon, Polanczyk(sp), Raftery, etc, time spent in the gym, etc etc etc. I was a last minute addition to the day but it was awesome how everyone was so excited to have me there to be their personal escort 🙂


I typically tend to think way into the future (what am I doing next) or reminisce about the past and this event was truly about being in the moment with these amazing people. It was fantastic to see the school that I have called home since basically 1993 seen through the eyes of these alum. The experience totally jazzed me to do more and learn more about our fantastic school.


2.)  if you’re gonna do a job, do it with your ALL

We did registration this week. I was assigned to a station with the counselors but then got reassigned to the very last station. What could’ve easily turned into “please give me your paper, have a nice day” turned into a fun little party :). Kameelah would call out when we had a new Rocket in our midst and then some of our fantastic students would cheer.


At the end of day 2, our amazing Principal took a moment to recognize all of the staff and students who assisted with the event. Everyone introduced themselves and again, it felt like a family reunion party. I loved the atmosphere and I loved the school spirit and pride. I honestly feel like we are at the beginning of something really memorable. I loved how everyone did their part and did it with such fidelity and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what this school year holds.


3.) all things come together for our good

The week before this was STRESSFUL. However, I now truly believe with my whole being that it was a necessary evil. I learned the value of a contract. The experience left me stronger and I feel more empowered for the next time I am in a situation like that. I still need to work on leaning in a trusting God more but I fully believe that I handled this situation with God’s grace so much better than I have in the past.

4.) it is just feedback

I am learning more and more that when I receive criticism that if I frame it as feedback and as an actionable intel then I don’t take things so personally. In the end of the day, it is RARELY personal and I personalize things WAY TOO MUCH. Treating the criticism in this way the last week really helped me to grow personally. The next time you are receiving criticism, you TOTALLY have to give this a try. In your head, just say to yourself, this is just feedback and don’t take it personal. You can thank me later.

5.) look for the good, you will find it

We are searching for a candidate to fill one of our teaching positions. Looking for a candidate in August is TOUGH. However, even in August these are people that we are dealing with and when you look for the good you will find it. Always seek the good, you will find it.

Posted in Blaugust

The End of #Blaugust

I was not completely successful with blaugust but am happy with the result anyway.  Blogging really helps me to look for the positive in every day.  Even when situations are negative, you can make them positive by learning from them.  I have noticed that my posts that earn the most attention are ones that highlight the positive things I have learned.  Even when I have admitted mistakes on this blog, I have learned great lessons that I have shared.  Moving forward into this school year I plan to continue with the #Teach180 picture posts with 140 character reflections, or microblogging, if you will :).  I would like to publish longer blog posts approximately once per week.  I wanted to thank the #MTBoS for inspiring me to get back to blogging my reflections on teaching and inspiring me to get more involved on Twitter again.  I also committed to moderating the #MTBoS hashtag on the 30th of each month which was a fun experience yesterday.  It is great to help others feel welcome in this community that I have learned so much from and I like giving back in any way that I can.

Posted in Blaugust, Education, Sketchnote

Late Start Thoughts #blaugust #Teach180

Today was our first late start day.  Our district opted to start doing these again.  We used to do these MANY years ago but they would only be once a month.  This year, we will do these weekly.  I hope that this time around we will get better attendance on these late start days since it is weekly.  Given the near perfect attendance in my classes thus far, I’d say this concern is not really warranted :).

I did some sketchnotes during our morning session.  I can attest that they do help keep me focused and in the moment which is one of my goals for this school year and really in life. My tablemates took notice of what I was doing and made comments that were positive.  Really they just help me to stay on task and help me to reflect later on the important parts of the meeting or activity.FullSizeRender.jpg

Some of these items only make sense to me.

  • We were reminded of one of my favorite Rich East entities this morning when the brother of Bill Yarborough came to talk to us about financial freedom.  Anyone who has met him has probably been called champ but you felt like the number one champ in his book whenever you talked with him.  Building relationships has been key to my success this school year and I need to channel his enthusiasm into my lessons.
  • We have a pretty worthwhile (yet lofty goal) of 29% percentile rank improvement goal in math over the next several years.  I like the fact that we are planning on how to achieve this goal instead of diving right in.  However, as always with any % I would like to have a clear “numerator” and “denominator” so I know where the benchmark lies.  Sometimes people will use percents and will not really understand what those two numbers are which makes it difficult to measure success.
  • I am proud of how far I have come when it comes to using de-escalation techniques with students.  There were definitely some points in my career that I interacted with students in a way that I am not proud of.  I think that these experiences taught me so much about how to effectively deal with situations and when I see a student getting more upset, I have strategies that I employ that help de-escalate things (active listening, employing the assistance of another adult, etc).  I would like more strategies to employ in the future.
  • I am always looking for ways to improve.  You can make improvements year to year or day to day or minute to minute.  I’m happy with my progress when it comes to engagement and I hope to continue on this path during the remainder of this year.
Posted in Blaugust, Education, Math

The Beginning of My “Math Play Table” and Broken Circles #teach180 #blaugust


I was excited this morning because the magnatiles I ordered for my play table will arrive sometime today.  However, I realized that I already had some puzzles that would work well on the table for this week :).  I already had some students try out the math puzzles here today so I am looking forward to what this table will do in the future.  I thank Sara Van Der Werf for the inspiration for this in my room (I believe my students will thank her too).

Additionally, today my students worked with the Broken Circles activity.  The inspiration for this activity came from reading the Math Equals Love post about this activity.  I believe I learned more about my students through this activity than they learned for themselves but I am ok with that outcome because I really do think they learned about how to work on a team and that sometimes your solution will not help other people with their problems. At one point, this team had waited a VERY LONG TIME to have one student give up any of his pieces so they just gave them all to him.  He struggled and was unable to put the four circles together himself.  I tried to check in with the students and I look forward to reading their feedback to see what this group gleaned from this experience.  I definitely learned something and plan to use that information to move forward in my class.IMG_7507a.jpg


Posted in Blaugust, Education, Geometry, Math, MTBoS

My Favorite Five Minute Games #blaugust

Today I gave pre-assessments in all of my classes.  It is a necessary evil in this world of data driven decisions. However, it also allowed my students the time to register for Remind and Khan Academy which is worthwhile.  Two of my classes still had five minutes left at the end so I played “Guess My Number” and had a blast.  When I first started teaching my arsenal of five minute games was pretty limited.  Below are my favorites.

Guess My Number (Between 1 and 1000)

Though it sounds daunting it really isn’t.   Students are in groups and ask yes/no questions to determine my number.  Each group gets three guesses at any time that they turn in on a post-it note.  The inspiration for this game came from the internet but I could not find the blog post to give it credit 😦

Sum Sudoku

I blogged about this fun one recently. It has a really quick set up and an endless array of possibilities on level of difficulty and scaffolding.

Tech and One Minute: Math Mayhem

My high school students STILL struggle with their multiplication facts.  When I have out my Chromebooks and we have finished an online activity, I introduce them to Math Mayhem.  It is elementary BUT after the first round when I DOMINATE them and they realize the challenge of beating me IT IS ON.  My students will clammer for this activity.  I will usually only do it once a year but it is a glorious one day.


My district bought us a set of these cards a long time ago and I will bust them out when I have five minutes in class.  I’ll challenge students to find multiple ways to make 24 in their groups. This game is also a super fun way to talk about order of operations.

Draw the House 

Again, a no set up game.  I challenge my students to draw the following figure without lifting their pencil off of the page (in other words, one continuous line) and without retracing any lines.


Connect the Dots

Challenge your students to connect the dots without lifting their pencil off of the page, using only 4 lines, and no retracing any lines. It cracks me up to see them draw and redraw the same wrong answer over and over and over.  I’ll give them a hint to “think outside the box” and they just have no idea.

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Spelling Bee

I have Geometry so there is a TON of vocabulary.  I will take students who want to participate and have them do a mini spelling bee of Geometry terms from class.

Integer Ball

I have a beach ball that I have written integers all over.  We toss the ball and the students have to perform an integer operation with the numbers that their thumbs are touching.  You can do this game as an elimination game or one for points for your team.