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What I’ve Been “Reading”

Ever since we started back to school I have been listening to books on tape.  Honestly, if I would’ve known how well I respond to this media I would’ve used books on tape in high school and college.  However, Hoopla really makes everything easy and economical.  Typically books on tape start at $20 each and through Hoopla (thank you Indian Prairie Public Library) I can borrow 7 titles a month.  I’ve also started an Audible subscription which for $15 per month you can purchase one title at a much reduced rate.  Here are the books that I have “read” lately:

The Case for Christ by: Lee Strobel

This book intrigued me from beginning to end.  From all of the courtroom stories and metaphors to the real objective look at the history behind the Christ story, I was hooked.  This book strengthened my faith in Christ and I will wholeheartedly recommend it to Christians and Atheists alike since it really reads more like a secular book.  I have recommended it to almost everyone that I have talked with lately about the general topic of books.

Mind Hacking by: Sir John Hargrave

This book had me laughing out loud and really thinking about my thinking.  It was a relatively short read if you do not include the 21 day challenge.  I have used to help me track the 21 day challenge (I am on day 16 at this point).  I have found it difficult (read: impossible) to do the meditation during the weekend.  It is my current challenge to myself to actually carve out the time and do meditation at home.  However, the meditation and challenges have really helped center me at work and people have already made comment about how much happier I seem.  It is nice to hear that, but it is even nicer feeling that.

Present Over Perfect by: Shauna Niequist

This book was just ok.  At first, it really seemed like the author was INSIDE my head.  It was really crazy how it seemed as though she was reading my mind.  Unfortunately, toward the end of the book, I got tired of what seemed like an endless stream of her consciousness.  My biggest takeaways from this book included the use of pajamas to really get my body and mind ready for bed, finding the strength to say no to make room for better yeses, and the reminder to myself that I don’t want my eulogy at my funeral to be “she was really efficient”.  I liked this book, but could see how to some it might not be their cup of tea.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by: Mark Manson

This book dropped the F-bomb like 100 times in the first 5 minutes.  The author laid off the word as the book went on and went to a much more standard vernacular by the end.  I like how he pointed out counter-intuitive ideas about what we choose to care about versus what we choose not to care about.  This book really reminded me of when I was taking a course called History and Thought in high school and how my teacher would go on and on about “free will”.  At the time, I thought it was just a buzz word for him.  Now I realize that really free will is all we have and the concept of free will is a big one.  I love how the book talked about how you always get to choose what you take as your responsibilities (though you don’t always get to choose the circumstances that led to those responsibilities).  This book was pretty far from most of the positive thinking self help books I’ve been reading but the more realist change of pace was good for me and my psyche.

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Which symbols are precious to you?

How do symbols gain value?

How are symbols created and when are they no longer used?

In my job as a mathematician and teacher I am surrounded by symbols.  We use symbols to make things more efficient, bring attention to items for future reference, to abbreviate ideas, and to represent other things.  Google defines a symbol:

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 7.24.49 PM.png

I am struck by the reference to musical notation as the notes on a page represent a tone and length of that tone but is it really MUSIC?  No, the power to music comes from listening to it.  Are musical symbols necessary?  In some cases, yes.  I think it is amazing that Pachelbel’s intentions for the sound of his piece is probably the same now at the 100 weddings this weekend as he originally intended it to sound in the 1700s.  Without these symbols, that tradition might have been lost. Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 7.27.25 PM.png

I think it is amazing in mathematics that by noting this:download.png

that the observer will know that I intend for lines l and m to never meet, EVER.  After establishing that, we have a whole slew of other ideas to show and prove.  Simple lines on a page take the place of words and meaning, as long as you understand what my symbols intend.  Symbols take on meaning only when the inscriber and the observer “know what you mean”.  Unfortunately, to the casual observer, some of this meaning is lost if you don’t know what I mean.  Thus rendering the symbol useless.

We place so much emphasis on symbols such as our flag, a cross, a star, a rainbow triangle, a plus sign, and the list continues.  We assume that other parties “know what you mean” by displaying these symbols.  But do they?  To show our dislike for an idea, we may dishonor, erase, or disrupt the symbols associated with these symbols.  When symbols we hold with high regard are treated in this way, we react with knee jerk reactions.  Why?  These symbols are just that – symbols.  Symbols may represent these real feelings and ideas, but the symbols themselves ARE NOT WHAT THEY REPRESENT.  Before we get up in arms about how a symbol is treated, we need to reconsider those feelings and realize that just because the symbol was treated in such a way, it does not take away from the essence and being of the thing the symbol is intended to represent.

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Gots and Needs QUICK Closure Activity #teach180 #blaugust

One of my favorite closure activities is “Gots and Needs”.  You can do it with basically no prep in case you want to check in quickly with your students.  Give each student TWO post-it notes.  Ask them to write down one thing they “got” from the lesson and one thing they “need” to understand better for the next lesson.  Then students place their post-its on the board.  Typically, by the next day I will organize these post-its into groups and report back to students what they said.   I like this activity because it forces students to articulate in their own words at least one lesson they learned from the day and to also articulate what questions they still have.  My students struggle with putting into words what they see in their heads.  Sometimes, I will take pictures of what students actually wrote so that we can discuss how to better formulate questions.  I find it really telling about my lesson when students write things like “everything” because then I know that I have missed my mark (regardless of whether “everything” shows up under got or need).IMG_7504.jpg

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Not All Tools Need To Be Used #blaugust

This year I started with the intention of keeping an online lesson planner.  This would allow both my co-teacher and any other teachers on my team to “see where I am” whenever they wanted to dip in and check it out.  I tried it out for the last week and a half.  I thought that I tweaked it enough to really suit my needs and from day 1 I HATED IT!  It was awful because I could barely keep my schedule straight let alone what copies I had already made versus ones that needed to be made.  I really tried to make it work the second week as well and it is more hassle than it is worth.  So today, I printed out my old school boxes and suddenly felt at home YET disappointed with myself that I didn’t try to make it work.  Several years ago I gave up on my handwritten planner just to go out and buy another one after the first month of an online one – NOW I can barely imagine what it was like to carry the notebook around with me all the time as I LOVE my Google Calendar (I even do all my meal planning in a calendar).  Anyway, this just goes to show that maybe one day I will be ready to do all my planning virtually, but that is not today.  I wonder if the problems I had with technology this week might have led to this decision.  However, I am just going to enjoy the bliss of being in my happy planned space and enjoy my weekend 🙂 Sometimes tech DOES NOT answer all of your problems.

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Great Start To The New SchoolYear #blaugust

This year has had a great start in my classes.  I have been happy about how they have started and my students seem to be “buying” into my class.  The feedback regarding the name tents activity has been incredibly positive and I hope to do this activity maybe once a month with my students. I also did some work with my students on productive struggle which gave me some great insight into some of my students’ work ethic.  I have fallen behind in my #blaugust posts but hope that I can catch up in the next couple of days.  Here are some blog ideas that I need to flesh out:

1.) What I do/leave for substitute/guest teachers teachers

2.) The Solar Eclipse Hype

3.) My experience using an online lesson plan book and whether I think it is sustainable and useful

Moving forward from surviving the first week of classes, I am considering implementing homework that is reflection as opposed to practice or problem solving.  I need to resolve what to do about 1.) students who do not do the reflection and 2.) students who are absent.

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Building Relationships and a Shout Out #blaugust

I want to thank the entire #MTBoS for their support these last couple of years.  From positive vibes online to providing a window into your classroom, I am really grateful for the great lessons and ideas you have shared that I have implemented.  Special shout out to @saravdwerf for her blog.  It has been instrumental to me reconsidering some aspects of my practice.  

I really was drawn to a couple of Sara’s posts related to the first week of school.  Specifically, I was drawn to the name tents as a way to start building relationships.  I have a REALLY hard time remembering names.  I’ve been amazed at the names I have learned through this activity AND the unique things I probably never would have known without this activity.  


I am always floored when students reveal very personal information after just one day.  I am glad she told me so now I will be aware. I really liked this activity and might incorporate it later this year as well.

On a side note, I have always been on a quest to have a better way of distributing and collecting Chromebooks.  I have a two sided cart with 30 Chromebooks.  You cannot see #1-15 when you face #16-30.  Here is what I am doing.  I will get the computers out before school, set them up on the wall like this.  Have my students (seated in fours) to come grab a stack for their desk.  At the end of class someone else will return the stack.  Thoughts?  Better ways of dealing with this situation.

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Shell Centre’s FALs and Desmos Card Sort

It’s no secret that I LOVE Desmos.  To the point that my teaching friends roll their eyes when I bring it up.  However, the awesomeness was stepped up a notch today when I searched Desmos Activity Builder for a card sort on expressions and found a familiar FAL. I am excited because 1.) I’ve always wanted to try the activity builder since the launch but haven’t made the time and 2.) I am well aware of the quality present on the Shell Centre site so I know this will be a good one.