Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS, Sketchnote

EdCamp Chicago Fall 2017 – AMAZING :)

EdCamp Chicago went down to the south suburbs so I HAD to represent ūüôā you can take the girl out of the Southside, but never the Southside out of the girl :).¬† Anyway, I learned soooo much today and am excited to get back and put it into action.¬† I was talking with @MrsBronke through Twitter about the fact that I LOVE EdCamps but I totally struggle with how to describe them to educators so they can feel the awesomeness and come as opposed to being scared by the “scary” parts (i.e. there is no agenda before the day, people can come and go at will, etc – which I admit are scary but after your first EdCamp you realize that these factors are ACTUALLY empowering and really force you to really be super present and invigorate you). Below are some of the lasting ideas that stuck with me from the sessions I attended (for the first time at an EdCamp I didn’t leave any session to attend another one – maybe just really good choices on my part, or maybe just my desire to make the most of where ever I was – regardless, I liked it so much).¬† Shout out to Danita and Mia who sat with me at the beginning, it was so fun to connect with Hammond, Indiana folks….maybe they will get on Twitter ūüôā I’ll be on the lookout.

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Scouts, Sunday School, 4H and More

This was a small group but we were a mighty force.¬† I loved how diverse the room was despite the fact that we only had 4 people in it :).¬† I was impressed with the connections we made when it came to how you communicate with the members of your extra-curricular, how do you hold them accountable,¬† how can we “gamify” attendance so it doesn’t need to be punitive, to how can we recognize members for their contributions on a regular basis so that they aren’t so fixated on end of year MVP awards.¬† I really liked how this session made me reconsider how I encourage my students in Mathletes and Snowball.¬† I’d like to maybe recognize “streaks” (one person mentioned Homework streaks in his classroom, maybe I can do that with attendance or for my Mathletes their practice skills or other attributes that I want to see more of in my activities).

My Favorite Four Letter Word: Math

I suggested this session.¬† I’ve suggested it before at EdCamps and have LOVED it but never have I experienced so many math teachers in one room at an EdCamp!¬† It was fantastic.¬† Also, very surprising for me, we didn’t even utter a peep about Desmos or Geogebra (my personal favorite go-to math resources) and DESPITE that the conversation was soooooooo good.¬† We shared so many great things about why we love being math teachers and it was fantastic.¬† I’m excited about the possibility of using this clip in my class – the teacher who mentioned it talked about a Mindset Monday and I was totally intrigued.¬† I gave props to Sara Van Der Werf and her¬†Name Tents with Comments activity that I used with my students this year and it was awesome to see other teachers who were interested in making the same connections with students.¬† I liked the idea of Blind Kahoots – similar to blind Quizlet Lives that I have been in love with lately – so I will have to try Kahoot in this way.

Someone talked about how our students tend to be missing some basic skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing to name a few).¬† I don’t believe that I have all of the solutions, but I do believe that it is my duty to help any student who walks in my door to be better for entering and engaging in my class.¬† I feel like my math talks, notice/wonder, estimation, clothesline math, selective use of Khan Academy are steps in the right direction.¬† A couple of times we circled back to this idea of mindset and I believe that some of these basic skill problems come back to mindset issues.¬† Which makes relationship building so important.¬† When you build the relationship, you can get students to do amazing things that they didn’t even believe were possible.

Then during the last five minutes someone brought up the topic of homework – such a great topic that needs soooo much more time than 5 minutes.¬† However, being with math teaching peers and openly questioning the role of homework and whether the homework we are giving actually achieves those goals strengthened my resolve to only assign homework with a specific goal in mind that I believe will ACTUALLY be achieved.¬† I feel a much bigger blog post on that topic coming soon.¬† For now though, I am happy about the place I am in with homework at this time and don’t plan on changing anytime soon.¬† I mean I actually have some of my students ASKING ME for homework, which is DEFINITELY a switch and I have tailored assignments for them based on their needs as a learner as opposed to my needs to justify a grade.¬† I have students actively asking me questions about problems they are getting wrong in Khan Academy (that they are doing of their own free will) and want to better their understanding.¬† I must be doing something right.¬† And I might not have it ALL right, but it is working for some and for that I am grateful.

LUNCH with the Marian and Math Peeps

Lunch was great conversation about all kinds of fun topics.  Whether it was about taking a last name, classroom activities, what you were doing later Рall of it was so fun.  I wished that we could have boxed up that group of people so I could have lunch with them everyday :).  Sharing a meal does great things for connecting with others.  Also, it is amazing to me that even when surrounded by a whole bunch of Catholic School educators that we as educators have so much in common.

I’m mad at myself for not taking a real picture of the chairs that were similar to this in one teacher’s classroom:

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The desk part was bigger and swiveled to the other side for lefties.  They were so sweet.  I kinda want to start writing a Donors Choose project and get them for my students.

Additionally, I liked this image I saw today:

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Power of Positivity

I needed this ūüôā I always need this.¬† I have been working so hard on this in my classroom.¬† I HATE when my husband criticizes me HOWEVER he usually has a point when he does (though I will never give him the satisfaction of saying “you’re right”).¬† Anyway, he told me recently that I was being negative and it hurt my heart until I was real honest with myself and realized that he was right – he doesn’t read my blog so I am safe :).¬† Anyway, it has been a goal of mine to be more positive, which lead to a goal of being more grateful, which lead to a goal of being more present.¬† All of these things have worked well together and I can honestly say that I am in a much more positive place in my life now than when he made that comment to me :).¬† Whether it be standing at my door thanking my students for coming each day (which was a “fake it before you make it” thing for me at first but now I TRULY am grateful – like for real, and I recommend it to everyone) or handing out my new Bitmoji-fied Post-Its (blog coming this week – they really are my favorite thing right now) or taking the time to REALLY get to know students, this positivity thing has done wonders for my classroom management (I’ve only written 4 referrals this whole year and two of those I really had no choice but HAD to write them up) and wonders for my students’ work ethic.

The Angel Project idea really spoke to me as I had actually mentioned this idea to my administrative team – and it got me thinking that maybe I could do this for just my students in my classes as in I would put my own dots next to my own students who I had made a personal connection with this year already and really make it a goal for me moving forward to make connections with the ones I have not made that connection with yet.

With my son I want to implement the idea of asking him “How were you kind today?”.¬† Such an awesome question and one that will show my son what I really value out of him in addition to asking him what he learned today.¬† Maybe I should ask my students the same question.


So sad that I had to dip out of this one early as I am new to Sketchnoting but I totally believe in the power of it.¬† I shared my story about how I got started (long story short, an administrator admonished me during a faculty meeting for what was in her eyes “off task behavior” and so I started sketchnoting so I couldn’t get in trouble for taking notes ūüôā .¬† Anyway, I loved hearing how one teacher was using this technique with her special ed students and it made me think that maybe I should be deliberate about giving my students the opportunity to try sketchnoting in my classes. Below is my sketchnote about sketchnoting. One thing that I didn’t get to note is that when you sketchnote you have a built in picture for blog posts and everyone knows that pictures get more views than just text alone.Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 7.53.43 PM.png

I think to take my sketchnoting to the next level I need to incorporate more icons.¬† Also, although my dog doesn’t have a name, I believe I already have a learning mascot, or maybe he is my creativity creature…whatever, it was nice to think about him in a new light.

Posted in Books, MTBoS, Sunday Funday

My Education Book Recommendations

I’ve really been into “reading” books lately through listening to them through Hoopla or Audible.¬† I have a 45 minute commute which gives me LOTS of time to listen.¬† I used to fill that time with NPR but given our current political scene, I just *couldn’t* anymore.¬† I was looking for a new job last year to shorten the commute but given my new use of the time, I am thankful for the time.¬† I highly recommend the format for reading books.

Here are my book recommendations.

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

This book has had a huge impact on my instruction!¬† I loved how you can take what you read in the book and apply it in your classroom right away.¬† There is a THRIVING online community of #TLAP on Twitter that if you haven’t experienced, you should.¬† I hosted a¬†Twitter Chat for people who JUST read the book.¬† I was geeked when people just showed up but got STARSTRUCK when the author showed up too.¬† Since that point, there have been books like Learn Like a Pirate and Lead Like a Pirate and movements like Explore Like a Pirate.¬† I need to check these out.¬† I remember reading this book in the summer by the pool and getting excited for the school year – who does that?!#$¬† I highly recommend this book and this community if you haven’t checked them out yet.

Additionally, a previous post I wrote a couple of years ago,¬†My reading and SummerLS experience thus far, includes a couple of good education reads. ¬†I’m saddened by the fact that I have been researching standards based grading and flipped lessons for several years yet have not found the courage to fully implement either of these strategies in my classroom full time. ¬†I’ve flipped a couple of lessons and have been working on getting others on board to try standards based grading with me in my school (I really don’t want to be the lone wolf with that one), but feel like I have failed myself when it comes to both of those initiatives.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Not necessarily “education” but definitely had an impact on my teaching, this is one of the books I highly recommend to just about anyone.¬† Here is the blog post where I discussed this title.¬† I think as educators we get caught up in looking to administrators for validation of the work we do since students sometimes won’t be completely honest in their assessment of our teaching (for example, you might be challenging your students which is good but they will not realize that it is good until much later in life).¬† This book helped me look within to find my validation.¬† It helped me get my swagger back in my classroom after a season in my life where I felt like I was not meant to teach anymore.


Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized


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:

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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.

Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS

What is Data? What is GOOD Data?

I miss teaching statistics sooooooooo very much.  I have to work hard to try to get the class BACK at my school because statistics are literally EVERYWHERE and the class is required for so many careers these days.  Everyone wants to be data driven and make decisions with data in mind.  We are looking for improvement and maximization or minimization.  We are looking to see if there is a significant difference which is literally the culminating topic for most statistics courses.

Today during our weekly late start Wednesday professional development session more “data” was distributed to our staff about attendance and discipline. ¬†I really appreciate the transparency of our administrative team with this distribution. ¬†Anytime I am presented with data I want to know more about it before I make any judgments. ¬†I wonder if my students look at data with that same lens or if that is something that I need to teach to them. ¬†When I do get the opportunity to teach statistics as a course, our first unit is all about data and what data is. ¬†So I pondered the question for myself:

What is data?

I began thinking about a definition that we develop from class about the fact that numbers become data only when we have a context.  Google says:

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When you actually dive into the definition of data, you are almost forced into considering the following:

What is GOOD data?

Now THAT is tricky because now you have to make a value judgment.  Or do you?  Does just putting it in context make that value judgment for you?  Can what I consider GOOD data to me be just mediocre or bad data to you?  As an educator, what do you consider to be GOOD data?  Why?  How do we get others to consider this when they present data?

I wonder if people think that I am being “type A” or a “B*&$%” when I ask about the who, what, when, where, and why of the data that I desperately want to know before making any data minded decision. ¬†I won’t stop asking though. ¬†It is important and I want others to see the importance too. ¬†Without that information, how can you know if you have GOOD data? ¬†I guess for me, GOOD data can satisfy all of those questions and provide a good basis for decision making that will allow the most positive outcomes to occur.

Posted in Education, Geometry, Math, MTBoS

“Upside Down” Triangle

I’ve incorporated Which One Doesn’t Belong¬†tasks into my bellwork. ¬†I love how they fit nicely into my Geometry lessons about definitions and saying what you mean and meaning what you say. ¬†Given the image below, I was not expecting my students to write what they did about the upper left corner image.

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Students wrote some of the following statements:

  • the only upside down one
  • it is the only regular triangle <— especially shocking since we have worked with the term “regular” in this class already
  • the only normal one
  • different shaped triangle

I was shocked at how many students referred to the triangle as “upside down”. ¬†It really made me think about how we represent triangles to our students. ¬†I plan to do more work with showing multiple representations and pressing students to work on how they verbally express themselves. ¬†How do you address this issue of “right side up” in your class? ¬†I think it is really important especially when we head into concepts like area and perimeter.

Posted in Education, MTBoS

My Teacher Hacks Contribution

I love hacks.  Especially teacher hacks since they usually involve making my school life easier/more efficient/cost effective.  Below are some of the hacks that I use on a regular basis.

1. ) Mail Merge

Mail Merge is a command that you can do in Microsoft Word.  If you have ever wanted to quickly address a memo to individual students and include other information (like their first period classroom number for delivery) this hack is for you. I use this a ton to contact my extra curricular team.  I also use it for my information sheets (I like to have a paper version of what you see online to write on while talking to parents on the phone).

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First, make an excel file that includes header titles in the first row.  If you use PowerSchool, you can obtain this list through the reports function. Then, open Word and select Mailings.Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 7.30.09 PM.png

Select Start Mail Merge>Letters.

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Then Select Recipients>Use an Existing List and locate the excel file you created in the earlier step.  Then start making your master document and

Insert Merge Fields

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such as Name or Period as you go.

Finally, Finish and Merge.  I usually select the option to edit individual documents if I want to see what things will look like before I print.  Since we have student aides who will deliver the notices, I sort the list according to their first period room number to make delivery more efficient.

2.)  1 Quick Share on Google Drive

My document camera is no where near as crisp as my personal phone.  Additionally, our school uses older PCs with Microsoft products which precludes me from using Air Drop to share student work but I have found a nice workaround (I wish I could give credit to the blogger who wrote about it, so if you know that person, let me know and I will credit them here). When I want to show student work, I do the following.  I take a picture of it with my phone.  Then click export.


Then select Google Drive (I have the app on my phone)


Then select 1 Quick Share (named as such so it shows up first here)


That folder is bookmarked on the internet showing in my classroom so that all I have to do is click and the picture is ready for viewing or for inserting into my SmartNotebook.

3.) Export SmartNotebook to .pdfs and Save to a Folder Linked on Schoology

I was not a fan of SmartBoards originally. ¬†I believed them to be overpriced whiteboards. ¬†Then with the advent of better software and apps such as Desmos and Geogebra, I have come around to appreciate the power of dynamic demonstrations and the ability of my students to touch the math. ¬†Now all of my lessons are made on the Notebook software. ¬†At the end of each period, I select Export to pdf and save the file to a Google Drive folder that I have shared with my students on Schoology (previously I would just share the link with a or through PowerSchool). ¬†Now when a student’s IEP calls for providing them with the notes from class or when a student is absent, I can easily direct them to the notes from class and I do not have to keep updating the link.

4.) magnetic tape

Most white boards and chalkboards are magnetic. ¬†Having magnetic tape allows you to stick almost anything to the board for easy access. ¬†I put this tape on the back of my hallpass and it is stuck to the blackboard near the door so I never have to even touch it. I’ve used it on clipboards, dry erase markers, the daily period start and end time schedule in a plastic sleeve. ¬†Basically anything that you would like to have at your fingertips while near the board.

5.) Extra Copies Bin with 31 Hanging Folders

I keep a bin of 31 folders for each class.  At the end of the day, any extra copies go in the folder with the date on it.  Students who are absent need only go to the date that they were absent and get the copies they need.  When I get to that date the next month, I recycle what ever is left over.  I also link a digital copy of anything that has been copied into PowerSchool so that if we happen to run out of copies, a student can make their own copy through the link.

6.) Word Wall with Definitions

I had a conference with my administrator several years ago. ¬†I knew that my district really wanted us to have word walls but I hated the idea of giving up prime wall real estate for just words on a wall. ¬†Together, we came up with the idea of having the word on a flap that could be lifted with the definition hiding beneath. ¬†Genius. Now my word wall had “meaning” and I didn’t mind giving up the real estate since there was more of a purpose to the activity.