My Brain is Fried

Posted: October 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

img_0098I’m home from a day of teaching.

I’ve written emails, some responding to parents and some just giving parents information about what’s coming up in class.

Now I sit here with a pile of projects that students turned in last week to grade.

But my brain is fried.

You know that feeling when you’re just exhausted and you don’t want to focus on your work? That’s where I’m at.

You know that feeling when you’ve given so much during the day and you just can’t give anymore? That’s where I’m at.

Why am I writing this?

Well . . .

If your students are giving all they have in every single class during the day, then some go to sports practice or a game and give all the have . . .  This is where they would be at.

However, how many teachers gave homework today because they give homework every single day.

Where are your students at?

How many teachers are sitting at home watching tv because they are “off the clock”, but gave their students homework, because they should have it.

Where are your students at?

When I think about how tired I am and how I just can’t give anymore, I think about my students. That’s one reason why I don’t assign homework every night. My students have 25 questions to complete over 7 days (some of which we do together in class) and a project they have to do over a month.

But I rarely say, “Go home and do these questions to be graded tomorrow.”

Wait, I never do that.

Where are your students at? Did you expect them to give their ALL in class today and think they were expected to give their ALL in every other class they had today? Did you think about that?

If they gave their all, they’re exhausted like me.img_0045

If they gave their all, they just can’t give anymore. Some of these kids are now at home taking care of their younger siblings as their parents are at work. They are still giving. Should they be expected to do their homework after giving their ALL today?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give homework, I’m saying that you need to think about your students . . . . I am kids. They are kids. They should be kids.

My brain is fried. Are your students with me?

This past week we had quite the debate in my PLC (Professional Learning Community). We gave students the problem

What is the difference between -15 and -9?

Not a big deal, right? Well, we had two main answers from students. -6 and 6.

So which is it?

Well, when I place the problem on a number line, I see that the two numbers are 6 spaces apart. Also, when I subtract, I start with the larger number and subtract the smaller number. That means -9 – (-15), giving me an answer of 6.

Other teachers in my PLC saw this as a problem in which we are teaching students to subtract the numbers in order, meaning -15 – (-9), which has an answer of -6.

It was quite the discussion. I even looked up some other thoughts to see what was said.

In a math forum with “Dr. Math” we can read the following:

Elementary algebra books tend to twist the English language a bit here, to make things easier for the students. In real life, the difference between a and b is |a-b| (or |b-a|, which is the same); differences are always positive. But that would lead to ugly equations that students would struggle to solve; so they pretend that when we say “the difference of a and b” we mean just a-b–in that order, even though if b were greater than a, the “difference” would be negative.

You can also find another explanation here.

I understand that we teach 7th grade, so it should be interpreted to be the first number subtract the second number. However, if I’m confused, maybe we should rewrite the question.

Formative Assessments

Posted: September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

This year our PLC (Professional Learning Community) has been working hard to change how we determine students who need remediation. What have we done?

Well, I need to explain what we use to do. We use to just determine individually who we needed to pull into our class for intervention. We each had our own ways of deciding, sometimes just who we saw struggling or didn’t really “get” what we were currently teaching. It worked, but I know I wasn’t always focused on what needed to be retaught.

So this summer we sat and talked about our new standards and how we can make sure students are understanding what we teach. We set up dates to give formatives as well as created the formatives. We gave our first one last week. After we gave our students the formative, then we each graded our students’ formatives. We had talked about how to grade them so that we all graded them the same way.

We then sat down together and decided how we needed to split our students who needed the most help. What’s exciting is how we divided the students up.

Taking the students and placing them in three groups, we decided who would teach what. Yes, we are sharing students with each other. Instead of us all trying to help all of our students in the different areas that they need help, we are leaning on each other to help our students out.

Now, it’s the first week of students going to each other, but I feel that it is working. Students are getting a different view/explanation of the concepts that have been covered and may seem confusing, but many students have commented out it makes more sense now.

Does that mean their regular teacher didn’t teach it well? Of course not! What it means is that when students hear from another teacher, it helps them understand a little more and see that all teachers are there to help them.

As they year goes on, I’ll share more about this new process that we are trying this year.

Self Grading

Posted: September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

This summer I was looking at the websites of other math teachers in my district. I saw something that I liked and thought I would try it out this year.

When students are working on practice problems, we will grade them in class. As we are grading, students can make changes or notes on the paper as they need. At the end of grading, students will self assess according to the document below.


We have talked about the fact that as a student, they could write a 5 on every paper. Then we discuss when I will find out if they were lying when writing the 5s. Is the unit test when you want me to know that you are not getting a concept?

As we have been using this in the past few weeks, students pull me aside and ask my opinion about what they should write. Some mention that they missed two questions, but they were silly mistakes and they see what they did wrong. They feel confident and have even helped others on their work. So they wonder what they should put because they feel like a 5, but since they missed 2, they aren’t sure. I then ask the class their thoughts.

Most of the time, students are harder on themselves then we as teachers are. I have had students who have written 2s on their paper, but when I give them another set of problems to work for me, they get them all correct.

So what do I do with these scores? Well, I do place the scores in the grade book (according to in the parenthesis) and as I do, I look at the scores. When students write 4s and 5s, I think “great job” and move on. When I see 3s, I glance through and see why they may have placed that. When I see 1s and 2s, I set the paper aside and look at it later. Most of the time, it’s just helping build confidence in the student.

I don’t have students grade everything, but when I do, it’s helping me see how they feel about themselves as well as getting grades into the grade book. It seems to be working and I have high hopes for this new way of grading.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried anything like this before?

I Am A Teacher!

Posted: September 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

This past summer I attended Nuts and Bolts where Debbie Silver stated:


She shared this to remind us that we are important and that we should be proud of what we do each day.


Now, for those of you who don’t really know what is going on in Oklahoma (except for the earthquakes), education has not been at the top of our state legislation agendas. They continue to take money from us, which is why class sizes average in the 25-35 range across the state.

We have teachers leaving the state because the pay has been bad and nothing has changed in many, many years. It’s so bad that this year David Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma, started a petition and now has on our November ballot to have a one percent sales tax increase to help with teacher pay raises in the state.

Is this the all out answer? No. Will it help? Yes.

What has me bothered is that this past week I saw that the city I live and teach in will be having a city council meeting on Monday. What are they going to talk about?

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-29-55-pmNow I know that most people think that a city saying to vote no on a sales tax increase can make sense. In fact, they’re saying that they are afraid that if we have this sales tax increase that it could make it difficult when we vote on a sales tax increase to help with city projects.

I understand your view. However, did you think about what it feels like you’re saying to me?

Everyday I walk into my classroom because I love to teach. I love helping students learn new things and to become better citizens. However, I feel like you, the City of Stillwater, may want to punish me because the State of Oklahoma legislation didn’t do their job.

Yes, you stated “The Oklahoma Legislature has repeatedly failed to adequately fund common and higher education in the state” and I agree with you. However, is it my fault?

By saying that you do not support this sales tax increase feels like you do not appreciate the hours that I put into my career. A career that is teaching our youth, not just about math, but how to be strong citizens and how to better themselves.

Not supporting this sales tax increase is saying that Oklahoma State University (with over 6,000 employees) is not important in our community. Over 20,000 students attend this university and without the sales tax increase, they may have to downsize (which they’ve been doing). Also, they are teaching students who will be teachers in the next 1-5 years. Right now, newly graduated teachers are leaving Stillwater and Oklahoma in hopes of higher pay. Do you want to kick people out of town?

I feel that we need to say YES to this question to help Oklahoma become a competitor in the education world. Right now there are so many AWESOME educators working their butts off! However, if we continue to get treated the way that we are, many more are going to leave.

I hope that you take a moment to think about how this effects teachers, parents, children and everyone else. This is not just about a future project that you may like, but it’s about the future of our city, state and most importantly our children.

Vote yes to State Question 779 on Tuesday, November 8, 2016!

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Posted: May 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

The past few weeks in PreAP 7th Grade Mathematics has been used to look at the Pythagorean Theorem. I introduced the unit to my students by saying,

“A lot of teachers would teach this to you by giving you a formula and telling you to plug numbers in. However, I’m not going to teach that way.”

Some students were excited, some were upset. I know that some students are more formula driven while some are more explorative. I enjoy using AIMS The Pythagorean Relationship when teaching the theorem. It allows students to first see the squares around the triangles and then build the understanding of the formula themselves.

After students had gone through the understanding, I wanted to try something that I saw Tyler Cronin post on Twitter having students flying a kite while using the Pythagorean theorem. My first thought? A song got stuck in my head. So I played the following for the class.

Kids were excited to watch the video and some even knew the song! Then I told them that we would go fly a kite.

I found kites on Amazon that were not too expensive. I got them pretty quick. They are small in size and not that expensive, so I wasn’t sure how well they would fly. . . but they did great!

Besides having some difficulties with the wind not staying steady, it went pretty well. The conversations that I was having with students was great! Some students wanted to keep the string short so that they could work quicker. The kite wasn’t flying so well and a student said, “If we fly it higher, there is more wind, so it will stay up better.” Wait, that’s not math . . . but I loved how that input helped the group see success.

Other conversations that I had included the transcript below.

  • Student: We’re trying to find the height.
  • Me: Correct.
  • Student: So the ground from the person holding the kite and the person under the kite is a leg. The string is the hypotenuse, so we’re trying to find a leg?
  • Me: Correct.
  • Student: After we find those measurements then we square the numbers and we take the answer of the hypotenuse and subtract the leg?
  • Me: Correct.
  • Student: Ok, thanks.

As she was talking with me, she didn’t have notes. She was just remembering what to do and getting the process down before going back to her group and leading them through it. Do you know what’s even better? At the beginning of the year this student was not confident in math and was often relying on a friend for answers. Now, she’s the leader and truly understands what is going on.

You can check out some videos from Gus’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. Remember, Gus is my class mascot and shares what is going on in the classroom.



Summer Planning

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

Well, summer is upon us. . . .well, some of us. For those of you who do not start school until Labor Day, I know that you have awhile to go still. I have 8 days left with my students. I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by again.

So what am I doing this summer? Well, I’m a teacher . . . so nothing. I’m going to sit at home and do nothing all summer.



Now for the truth . . .

School is ending May 20.

The week of May 23, I’ll be cleaning around the house, mowing and getting our dog to the vet and the dog park. This is a pretty easy week.

The week of May 30, I’ll say goodbye to May and then have a PLC training. I’m excited to finally go to a training over PLCs so that I can get more understanding of how to work together. I’ve been using PLCs in my schools for several years, but now I think I can get more insight to the purpose and how to get more things accomplished.

I’m running a half marathon here in Stillwater on June 5. It will be my 3rd half marathon to run. Then I’ll be off to OKMathLeadership for our final installment. I’ll be presenting, which can me scary, but I know it’s going to go great . . . . speaking of which, I should get things finished up for that.

The week of June 13, I’ll be headed to the Nuts and Bolts Symposium in Destin, Florida. I’m excited to go and learn and meet new people. Will any of you be there?

After returning, then I’ll be able to relax and start putting together some things that I learned. It will be my first chance to really put things in place and start to really look at next year and lesson planning.

After a quick jaunt to the Bahamas on a cruise in July, I’ll return to the classroom and start getting it set up. There is a little painting that I would like to do and redesigning of the space for next year.

So, here we go. Summer is upon us and I have PLENTY to do!

Tornado Watching

Posted: May 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

Screen shot of my Periscope.

So tonight was a first for me. I grew up in Kansas and I now live in Oklahoma, but today was the first time I ever saw a tornado. It was amazing. I know that they are powerful and very dangerous, but seeing one is just surreal.

First, I know that I was safe. It was over a mile away. I hope everyone is okay and there is minimal damage.

This evening when I got home from work, I had no idea I was going to see a mighty twister go by, but I did. As I was standing in my neighbors yard with my neighbors (yes, many think we’re dumb, but it was a bonding time) we watched in wonder. We discussed what we saw and were amazed.

Standing there I was calm. Just moments before I was scared and nervous wondering if I was going to lose my home, but when you can see it at a distance and you know you’re fine, it really does seem amazing that something that big and powerful is just right there.

Here are the videos that I captured. It was a little a mile from me.


What They Remember

Posted: April 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

We’re in the middle of testing season here in Oklahoma, which is a fear in all teachers.

“They’re not going to remember anything” is often heard out of teachers.

But will they?

You see, we’re stuck in the thoughts that they must remember everything that we taught them throughout the school year. However, we know that that is not always going to be the case. Hopefully they can problem solve and just do well.

But do they remember anything? Well, today I had an answer to that.

I was having a discussion with a couple of students and they were talking about using dry erase markers. The students were talking about how we used marker boards. I reminded them that we always write on the desk and that we don’t worry about small white boards. They corrected me and said that we used them when they were sitting in a circle on the floor playing a game.

I had to think about what they were talking about, then I remembered. Back in October we played a game. I even shared about it on here. They used marker boards that day.

They could remember an activity that we did 6 months ago . . . They do remember things.

When your students look back and think about your classroom, what are they thinking about? Do you give them good thoughts or fears? What will your students remember when they leave your classroom in a month?


Posted: April 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

So I have to brag on my students . . .

We use Think Through Math in our building. It’s an online program to help students work through math problems. Some are multiply choice and some really get the students to thinking.

Part of the program is that students can work toward “Think Points” and then use the points toward goals. Some goals are by creating an avatar and decorating it with fancy clothing and other items. Another goal is set by the class. As a class, students can work toward getting 500,000 points. They also choose what they get to celebrate when they reach the 500,000 Think Points.

Choices for the reward includes $50 toward a pizza party from choice restaurants, but also can be a donation to a charity. Well, all of my classes (except one) chose the pizza party. What 7th grader doesn’t want to enjoy some pizza?

As I said, one class didn’t choose pizza. When they were making the decision on setting up their goal back in September, they thought and shared ideas. Many pointed out that they could have pizza whenever they wanted. So they decided to donate their $50 to The Wounded Warrior Project.

Throughout the school year, students have been working hard in math and it is paying off! As we prepare for state assessments next week, the class that set their goal to help others reached the 500,000 Think Points. So now a donation is being made in their name.

I’m so proud of these kids! To celebrate, many parents are donating to help this class have a pizza party with drinks and fruits and vegetables later this week.

It’s great when students think about others and WANT to help them more than themselves.

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