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 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, Math, MTBoS, Professional Development, Sketchnote

NCTM Regional Conference in Chicago

Who loves being around math people?  Well I do and I had the great opportunity to be with a whole bunch of them (3,000+) at the Regional NCTM Conference.  I should mention that I was able to attend the opening presentation virtually.  Huge thank you to the people who posted live video and tweets that night so that I could put my kids to bed AND learn from the session.  The session really spoke to me so Thursday morning I attended a presentation on equity that was hosted by one of the speakers from the previous evening.

8am Hidden Figures by Dina Williams

I was unaware that when I chose this session based on the idea of equity in our classrooms that it would be led by one of the speakers from the previous evening but was pleasantly surprised when she began singing a song similar to one she did the previous evening.  During the piece she sang on Wednesday evening the quote that stuck out to me was “no need to wonder why, just write it down”.  I think that quote can come out of anyone’s mouth in utter desperation to “get through” things or “cover” topics (speaking of “cover” have you ever noticed that that word “cover” can mean to hide or conceal something, I realize that teachers don’t MEAN that when they say it but it is another meaning, but I digress).  I really liked Dina’s songs and it made me think of how powerful a force music can be.  I’ve been using “bumper music” in between classes lately and it has been a great addition.  Parts of her talk that really spoke to me included:

  • the use of pictures from our students’ world to teach the content of my class (she showed the image below, overlayed a grid and talked about having students estimate which was more and by how much)

I loved her use of math talks to get at some very important fraction skills.  First, she talked about using money.  IMG_7153

I remarked to someone near me that idea was all fine and good but what about thirds and Dina happened to be standing right there and she was excited about how that was the next portion of her talk.  It was awesome.  I do question on whether my students would know that 1/6 of an hour is 10 minutes but I believe it would be worth teaching if necessary


I really liked this session and I hope to incorporate these number strings soon.  My biggest issue with these ideas is thoughtfully incorporating them.  I find that I get these great ideas and if I don’t use them the next week I lose them, however, this doesn’t always work well with whatever I am teaching in my curriculum.


Sendhil got me to volunteer for this event.  I didn’t know what to expect but it was a worthwhile experience.  First, I was privy to the wi-fi access from before the event even started.  Second, when I checked in for my assignment I was introduced to the layout of the hotel which was good because the only way you could get to one side of the hotel to the other was on the second floor.  Also, I became VERY familiar with the rooms on that side of the building which made my own experience of finding rooms much easier. During the lulls in the crowd I was also able to make lunch plans for my crew which was amazing because about five minutes after we were seated we saw a line forming outside that was down the street a bit. I LOVED getting to help people where they wanted to be and I even got to see some people that I haven’t seen IN AGES in the process.  It’s crazy when you see people you know from outside of the context of the conference you are attending….for instance, the picture below is of one of my former students who is now an administrator!  I barely recognized him but was so glad to see him.


Coteaching with Tech by Allen and Eutsler

It was so amazing to see this team of teachers work together.  You could tell that they truly shared their responsibilities in the classroom and had the utmost respect for each other.  That kind of relationship is amazing to watch in action and gave me so much to think about my own co-teaching relationship.  They even named their classroom as a combo of their two last names.  Maybe we could be Janicone or Staniki.

TI Rover/Programming 

I walked in late to this session but am soooo glad I made that move.  I loved doing a little programming with TI’s new product, the TI Innovator Rover.  We got a quick lesson on how to do the basic code commands in TI’s menu system and then were set loose to get the rover to move through a short course.  I have a little programming experience (three courses in college, writing SHORT TI programs on my calculator, and dabbling during the hour of code every year in my classroom).  I was able to capture a short video of my second to last trial run with the rover (I’m mad I didn’t get my last run as I got the rover to basically parallel park which was pretty sweet).  I was saddened when I was running my last run and I overheard someone questioning the application of this activity in a math classroom.  The TI person was caught a little off guard and I stepped in a little to talk about how I loved how this activity really spoke to the attendance to precision and measurement (I would make my students measure the course in order to do the programming) and discussion possibilities of area versus perimeter and I could keep going but you get the point.  I will admit that this changed my mind about TI.  I have been a little down on TI products with the advent of Desmos and Geogebra as those products are FREE and it is hard to argue with FREE.  However, this product made me reconsider their products.


This session intrigued me as I know that my school would like to improve AP offerings, increase the number of students enrolled in AP, and get students to achieve scores of 3+ on the exam.  They mentioned that their school has both regular and honors taking the same curriculum which I LOVE that idea because think everyone deserves to be challenged and get high quality instruction.  I was intrigued by their Geometry in the summer program as I wanted to know if the topics dealt with in the summer were to the same rigor as a typical Geometry course.  It definitely gave me food for thought.

Standards Based Grading with Darshan Jain

I just loved this presenter from the beginning.  He was so welcoming and I felt like I wanted to learn right from the start.  He was very interested in the story of the people who attended his 8am on a Friday session.  He talked about the difference between assessing and evaluating a situation which is slightly nuance but an important idea.  I loved that he took time to discuss why teachers get into teaching because I believe that SBG/SBL really speaks to who you are as a teacher.  He talked about a process of asking some vital questions to structure the standards assessed:

  1. What do I value?
  2. How can you show this value?
  3. How well can you show this value?
  4. What helps to show this value well?

Check out my sketchnote on the session below.  I had other sketchnotes from the conference but spilled water on them :(.


I loved some quotes from this session like the idea that 21st century illiteracy means someone who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.  This really spoke to me as I know plenty of people, myself included, who struggle to unlearn something even if it is not a correct understanding.  I loved that the idea of SBG/SBL does not mean that we forget everything that we as teachers have done to get to this point – hence the house quote of “don’t tear down the whole house, just rearrange the furniture”.


I volunteered to work at the #MTBoS table during this morning for an hour.  I loved getting to meet some of my #MTBoS fangirl favorite people.  I always struggle with how to explain the community to people ESPECIALLY when they don’t have Twitter.  However, I usually say something like “well I was you once, where I thought Twitter was only for celebrity gossip and couldn’t possibly offer me anything”.  Working the table made me highly aware of all the great things that the #MTBoS has exposed me to, the fact that I love this community and that my teaching practice has improved because of it.

Side note to working the booth is that I got to play with Mannifold which I LOVED. Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 8.58.02 PM.png

I couldn’t put it down so I promptly ordered my own stackon Amazon for my playtable at school.

Math Games with Susan Chadaz

I felt like I learned some things through this session (even if they were not my personal intended goals of attending this session).  First, she incorporated sign language into talking about the common core math practice standards.  We learned one sign for each of the 8 standards.  Additionally, she showed us how to tie a string without letting go of the ends which was comical to see a whole ballroom of people attempt to do.  She showed us a couple of her games.  I don’t know if I will use them in my classes but others seemed interested.

Tech to Increase Conceptual Understanding with Annie Fetter

I was so excited to meet Annie when I was volunteering at the #MTBoS table.  I liked her applets for this session.  The triangle applet was fabulous as I hope to use it the next time that I introduce triangles in my Geometry class.  I loved how she modeled the Notice/Wonder routine for this activity.  Notice/Wonder has really been a game changer in my classroom this year and I hope that I can continue to do it justice in the future.


I could probably go on an on with this post but I am going to just #hitsend or in my WordPress world hit Publish on this.  But before I do, I will mention that I am thankful for Chicago.

IMG_1480.JPGI love being so close to a metropolitan area that attracts great events like this one.  I love all of the food, culture, and unique opportunities that this city affords.


I am grateful for the AWESOME weather during the last two days and just so proud that this is my home.


Posted in MTBoS, Professional Development

Webinar on Visual Patterns

I attended this week’s Global Math Department’s weekly presentation about visual patterns given by Michael Fenton.  I loved how simple it was (low floor) but how how you could go mind blowing (high ceiling) as well.  People shared their images using a hashtag pretty easily and I loved the questions posed that I plan to use in my own classroom like:

  • What comes next?
  • What comes after that?
  • What comes way down the line?
  • What comes before?
  • What comes in between?
  • What comes at stage 1.5?
  • What is in the middle
  • What is stage 1?
  • What is stage 0?

I loved the idea of allowing students to be creative and get them out of the idea that they could be wrong.  One of my favorite tweets of the night highlighted this idea of being right.  I think that I need to focus my classes more on being able to see multiple points of view as opposed to the fear of not being right.  I know that if I asked students to draw stages 2 and 3 that they would be fearful and I need to try to break down this fear.  This webinar really has me thinking and I am excited about what I will do with what I learned in class this week.

Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS

Games Math People Play

I love, love, LOVE games.  I would love to gamify my whole class, but for right now I’ll just gamify a little at a time.  Here are a few of my favorite activities.



One of my most favorite teachers in my building taught me this game many years ago.  If you have a worksheet or review already worked out, you can easily adapt it to this game.  I love this game because it will allow you to work with small groups who need more assistance since the groups are ability grouped.  Here is a blog post where I describe the game in detail.

Quizlet Live

If you haven’t tried Quizlet Live with Geometry students, you need to.  You can browse the topics others have created (here is an example of a set from another teacher that incorporates chapter 1 vocabulary) and use them with your class for free. I suggest doing this activity 1:1 chromebooks as it gives each student the opportunity to have their own cards and work in a group.  Also, consider using it to INTRODUCE vocabulary rather than just review.  Yes, you read that right, introduce vocabulary.  If you are 1:1, encourage your students to use a different tab to Google terms they don’t know.  My students loved this activity and learned a ton more than on a typical vocabulary day.  There are other ways to use the sets (think traditional flashcards, an individual matching game, etc) but in my opinion, Quizlet Live is the most fun.  I did not pay for the “Teacher” upgrade as I have always been able to find a set that I could adapt to my needs.  However, if you want to include YOUR OWN diagrams, you will have to upgrade.


I love this activity because it is fast paced, involves higher order thinking, and will take any old worksheet to the next level.  First, you fill out a worksheet (I usually do a unit review) and only make about half of it correct.  The other answers try to make mistakes your students typically make. Make copies or distribute this to groups of students (I would only go up to four in a group as more than that will not give students enough to do).  Give students about fifteen minutes to look at the work. Pass out $1,000 in play money to each group.  Then host an auction where students bid on the answers. Group who wins the most correct answers wins.  If a group purchases an incorrect answer, not only do they not get a point but I charge them an additional $200.  Money left over is used for tie breaking only.  I love how I can tell exactly what students really understand versus what needs more work based on their bidding habits.

Slope Ms Stone Says

I learned this game when I was student teaching.  It is a super way to review different types of slope and get your students on their feet.  Read more about this game here.