Posted in EdTech, Geometry, Math, My Favorite Lessons

First Time I Created a Custom Polygraph Desmos Activity

My goal this year is to become even more knowledgeable in Desmos and hopefully get invited to join the Desmos Fellows next summer.  Part of the application process requires you to submit an activity that you created.  The one that I submitted last year was very rudimentary.  I knew that it was a weakness of my application, but am glad that I went through the process last year so that this year my application will be VERY solid.  To that end, I thought it would be a GREAT opportunity for me to create my own Polygraph this week.  My first attempt was actually pretty good and I was impressed at how easy it was to create the activity (less than 20 minutes).  I created the images in SmartNotebook as I am much more familiar with the drawing tools in there than I am with the Geometry tools available in Desmos (another area that I can work on this year).  One area that I “improved” for the next iteration this week was made all of my lines MUCH thicker as when the sixteen images appear on a Chromebook they must be very bold to highlight the subtle differences between rays and lines.  Overall, I am happy with my progress and look forward to more opportunities to create this year.  Want to check out my most current iteration of the activity?  Here ya go!


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 Geometry, MTBoS

Popcorn Prisms

popcorn prisms

My Honors Geometry students Monday lesson was inspired by a lesson posted by Fawn Nguyen that related to surface are and volume.  I loved the idea of it and figured that the day after Spring Break that also happened to be the day before all school testing would be a great one to review the topics from two weeks ago (and enjoy a snack, yum! 🙂 ).

I totally overestimated my students ability to perform this task.  I was really upset about the experience until I remembered this awesome quote:

“If you haven’t failed in the classroom lately, you aren’t pushing the envelope far enough. “Safe” lessons are a recipe for mediocrity at best.” ~

I like how this quote gives me liberty to try things outside of my comfort zone, potentially mess up and come back and try again.

Very few students were able to construct the prism, measure, and calculate the desired quantities.  I was impressed with the variety of rectangular prisms students created.  However, I found students had a number of difficulties with this project that made it hard to assess students understanding.  The activity was super beneficial and eye opening to me.  I’m writing this post to highlight the fact that I take full responsibility for their errors because I as a teacher did not 1.) give them enough to understand my expectations and 2.) assumed that they had background skills in measuring with a ruler and finding area and volume.  There are so many areas that I need to work on with my students based on their performance during this activity not to mention that surface area and volume are real life skills so I can’t just pass the buck and hope they get it next year. I am struggling with which area to address FIRST.

  • constructing the prism
  • measurement
  • surface area
  • volume

Where would you start? What would you do?




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.