Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I work at the BEST school ever ...

I really do believe that I work at the best school in the entire world. We're a family. We support each other. We hang out together. We all really do love each other. It's a happy place to be. Yes, we've had a lot of new (and old) things thrown at us this year, but we stick together through it all.

We also have an amazing administration who supports us through anything. I wanted to share this email from one of our assistant principals that we received tonight.

How awesome is he?


The following is a public service message:

All hard working and dedicated teachers, please read the following. I am very worried about you Mr./Ms./Mrs. Hardworkingdedicatedteacher. You always do your job to the utmost of your ability, no matter how hard, no matter how long it takes. You are always reading way too much into emails, directives, and requirements. You always take low scoring kids and make them show high growth on their EOC. And, every year, you always believe that you can't do that again. You always ask me questions about the proper way to evacuate during a fire drill, or apologize to me for asking me to do my job and send in a work order. When Ms. Owens wants it turned in on Friday, you hand it in, perfectly completed, on Wednesday and apologize that you didn't hand it in on Tuesday, You volunteer to do traffic duty every year just to be helpful to me, You always believe that every admonition from the administration is about you when you are, in fact, an exemplar of the right way to do things, You donate money to everyone who is out of work for medical reasons, And, you bring a wheel barrow full of artifacts to your post conferences.

You are also always here late at night and on weekends: running copies, grading papers, coaching, doing laundry, watching film, putting up posters, mowing fields, pressure washing, waiting for kids rides to show up, drilling cadets, arranging classroom seating, working on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, picking up after kids, scheduling events, creating a yearbook, directing a musical rehearsal, feeding animals, running a dramatic production, watering plants, blowing entire Saturdays at tournaments and contests, putting up decorations, planning trips, driving activity buses, counseling kids, planning an art show, re-imaging computers, holding club meetings, filling out DECs 1-225, researching a new website, painting murals, and taking up tickets at ball games.

In short, you Mr./Ms./Mrs. Hardworkingdedicatedteacher, are a wonderful employee. You are a major reason why Northwest is so great. However, your inner drive to do everything perfectly, is slowly killing you. More specifically, your desire to perfectly complete the new teacher evaluation, TeachScape, new EC Read Aloud requirements, a mentoring program, counting money 25 times and signing your life away when you take up tickets at a ball game (Which, by the way, you always volunteer for), PLCs, Parent emails (Email is a boon to cowards. It makes people who wouldn't normally complain feel brave and fiercely complain.) and the Marzano strategies is actually killing your morale. My advice to you folks is to lighten up a little. You are far too valuable to this school, and these kids to get burned out and leave the profession. Ask McKinney, or Hardin, or Patterson, or Basinger, or Vernon, or Sloop, or White, or Proffitt. They'll all say "This too shall pass." Do a good job, and do what is right. However, don't stress yourself out over these things. It isn't worth losing you over.

In keeping with tradition, the NCHS STAFF is, by far, the best staff in this system, making NCHS the best school. As a token of her appreciation, our leader Ms. Rhymer, (There really should be an equestrian statue of her out front.) will be providing you with some food tomorrow:

During the PLC training you will be provided with drinks and snacks.

For lunch there will be pizza, salad, dessert and drinks in the downstairs office conference room. (The hall door will be unlocked).

Treats, made by our own OCS program, will be in your mailboxes.

On Friday, the PTSA will be serving BO-Berry Biscuits in the teacher workroom.

It isn't much, but it is all presented to you with love, admiration, and respect.

Regardless of how the public treats us, we do one of the most important jobs there is. Hold your head high. You are a teacher at the greatest high school in the World. Hooyah.



Love my school!


Also, here is a reply we got from a veteran teacher:

I was told when I first began teaching in 1981 that there were 3 things that every true teacher must possess: the heart of a child, the mind of a scholar and the skin of a rhinoceros! The most valuable is the "heart". Without thick skin, you just get wounded, but you will recover. Without a sharp mind, you just appear stupid, but you will live through the humiliation. Without your "HEART", you can not survive.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Yes, I am still alive ...

Yes, on this first day of November, I am still alive. You shouldn't be too surprised that I haven't posted since August because well, this blogging thing just hasn't caught on with me yet. What have I been doing?

1. Part-time Math Teacher ... I am teaching two classes (we're on block) ... Foundations of Geometry (part one of year long geometry) and Honors Algebra II. Not too much to say here other than Foundations of Geometry is a major struggle for me and my Honors Algebra II class is HUGE and fourth period AND very smart AND very talkative.

2. Part-time Technology Facilitator ... I am doing my grad school internship. I was super lucky to have a principal that let me go half day to get it done and help the school out. I love every minute of what I am doing technology wise. Offering staff development is the highlight of my job and I want to do this for the rest of my life. I am so happy doing this. Now, I just need to find a place to do it full-time. I got a walkie which is helpful when needing to find people, but that also means it's easy to find me. No comment. :)

3. Grad School ... yep, trying to graduate in December. I've got two classes (one being my internship seminar). The seminar class is just fine, easily floating through that one. The other class ("Planning for Technology"), I was so excited for because of the description but it has actually turned out to be horrible and I am counting the days until I'm done (34 days). So glad this wasn't my first course because I think I would have dropped the entire program. It's THAT bad. I won't get into details, but yay, assuming I don't fail this class, I get to graduate in December.

4. Swim Coach ... still coaching part time at Pfeiffer University. I love those kids with all my life. I don't know what I would do without them in my life and going out there. Yes, it takes up A LOT of time and brings some short sleep nights, but they make my world go round. When I stepped down from high school coaching to go to grad school, I never thought I would be able to fall in love with another team. But, this part-time coaching deal has made me fall in love with these kids. College kids are SO much fun. I can't even explain.

5. Daughter, friend, girlfriend ... these are probably where I am slacking, but I am working hard to find balance in my life. I'll find complete balance soon ... I hope.

So, between all of this, I am rarely on Twitter and not blogging. I do read blogs and sometimes can catch some of my Twitter feed (though that is rare). I am alive. I am trying to make it by. So, bare with me as I finish up things and get my life together.

I am happy and content. I wish there were 30 hours in a day. But, we all make do with that we have. I'll be back, stronger than ever soon enough.

And, hopefully, I'll get to see you all at EduCon 2.3 in January! :)

(Last Minute Realization ... I have 45 followers? What? Man, I need to step up.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Algebra Review in Geometry

Alright mathys ... I could use your help.

As most of you know, I've got Geometry this year. It's not your normal Geometry ... it's like Intro Geometry. These kids will go into "Full Geometry" in the Spring (since we're on block). This is just to build their skills before they get into regular Geometry. So, as you can imagine, it'll be the lower kids with fewer skills (or so I am guessing). So, it's not a full blown Geometry class - just the highlights!

I think that I want to spend the first week doing an Algebra I Review. Make sure they've got some key concepts down before we go into the Geometry. I've got the time, so why not?

I've put together this list of Algebra I Concepts necessary for Geometry (or so I think). I haven't taught Geometry in four years (and when I did, I was a first year teacher, so I don't count that). Will you look at my list and add or take off things?
  • Solving Linear Equations
  • Solving Linear Inequalities
  • Writing Linear Equations
  • Simplifying Radicals
  • Systems of Linear Equations
  • Factoring
  • Solving Quadratic Equations
  • Rational Expressions
  • Literal Equations
What's missing? Or, what do I need to take off?

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Day Blues

I've always struggled with what to do on the first day. @Fouss came up with some great ideas and I have enjoyed reading what everyone else is doing. I'll be honest, I did slightly steal Kristen's idea. But, I'll own up to it, so it should be okay! :)

I spent four days of my summer at a SMART Notebook Training and learned a lot of cool tools that I either didn't know existed OR I had never played around with. So, I figured I would make my first day presentation in SMART Notebook. I have no clue how to embed an interactive SMART Notebook file into my webpage, so I used Jing to video it - with me moving things. Obviously, this two minute video will last WAY longer in my classroom (hoping for 90 minutes!) but it gives you an idea of what I plan on doing. This video is for my Honors Algebra II Class. You'll see it's not 100% done as I don't have a textbook in front of me to make their assignment and the blog is no where near ready. But, it gives you an idea. Also, I love the attachments tab in SMART Notebook because you can upload all necessary docs (or URLS) for your presentation right there, so it's one (easy) click away.

See it here.

The other class I have is Foundations of Geometry. I will be going over the same basics ... they will take the same quiz and create their own numbers. Then, I'm going to have them walk around and get to know each other with this worksheet. But, then I am going to have them write on an index card (in five or less sentences) what they think Geometry is. And, then I am going to have them write down words they associate with geometry on post-it notes. We'll put them up on the board (probably into categories - my units?). Then, they will work on the Who I Am worksheet and we'll wrap up.

Well, there's day #1. How about the other 89 days?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What? Those Twitter People Are REAL???

Who would have thought those twitter people are real? [And, who would have thought that I'd make two blog posts in ONE day?]

Yep, they are real. And, not even me could have guessed I'd have two posts in one day.

There's been a lot of conversation going around about how we refer to our Twitter friends (are they friends? colleagues? tweeps? strangers?).

Well, I refer to my Twitter PLN as my friends. They are my lifeline of support when needed. I am lucky to already know some of my Twitter friends that are currently in my school district.

But, my Twitter Math PLN is simply amazing. They provide more support to me than some of my real life friends do. And, guess what?! I got to meet TWO of them! :)

@jreulbach and I met at Panera in Huntersville, NC (we live like 30 minutes from each other!). We ate lunch, talked math, projects, grading, Google Docs, PreCalculus and the list goes on. It was wonderful to meet face to face and learn from each other. Here's us: (Pardon the horrible picture ... my excuse is that I came straight from outdoor swim practice. Her excuse? Apparently it's that she's old! :) Haha! Love ya Julie!)

Then, exactly one week later, I was already headed up to Cincinnati for the 4th of July. I had been harassing @fouss about meeting her since February. So, as the time got closer, we solidified plans. She was kind enough to pick me up at the airport, we headed to the Gap Outlet, then to Newport for walking and lunch. It was so amazing to meet another math twitter friend! We didn't talk much math (which was totally fine with both of us (I think) as we are both enjoying our summer break), but she did bring her new PreCal Workshop book for me to peruse (it's awesome, by the way). It was so much fun to get to know each other even better. Here's we are:

Oh, and inbetween, I got to spend an amazing afternoon with @carissajunek. But, that's not a new meeting. We're college friends, first year of real world roomies, MOHs, founder of the Math Hotties and life long best friends. I don't have a picture from that day, but here's one from the good 'ole days. I love her because we can talk math and school, but then we also talk life and relationships. I wish she was still my roommate or atleast lived in the same city. She's an amazing friend.

Alright, who's next? NCTM Baltimore with my Math Friends? ISTE11 with my Tech Friends? Twitter Math Cruise? Let's GO!


[I began writing this post on June 4th, 2010 while administering an exam.]

As I sit here and watch my amazing PreCalculus class take this final exam, I can't help but look back over my four years and be content. As a teacher, we focus on growth, we want to get and be better, but sometimes it's hard to track and notice. If you're like me, you have taught just about every class under the sun and haven't taught the same thing more than three times, so you don't have many scores to compare. If you're like me, you change how you teach something everytime, so there's not much room to compare there either. So, we live with what we see and notice and make assumptions and decisions.

[I hit save when I couldn't write anymore and now, on July 7th, 2010, I am finishing it.]

I've never felt growth. I've never felt like I've seen it. Until this year. The second semester, I had an interesting set of students, two classes of which, hated math. And, when I say hated, I mean HATED. Not the typical whiny, "I hate math." I mean, dreadfully, despise, loathe, never want to touch, hear or see it. It was painful [for all of us].

But, I learned SO much. I learned how to pick my battles. I learned that it was OK if I didn't get to every single topic required. I learned how to better relate to students. I learned how to help them with things other than math. I learned that some days, the math warm-up can just wait. They have more important life things going on that need to be dealt with. I learned to pick my battles. (I know I already said it, but it needed to be said again.)

My third class (we're on block) was absolutely amazing. I learned so much about them and myself and I learned to love teaching again. They were my light, they were my inspiration. I wanted to be better because of them. They worked so hard that it inspired me to be 100% prepared and ready every single day.

But, back to that growth thing. I've already blogged about the fight that I had in my classroom, in my third week of my first year of teaching. Looking back, I handled it how most 1st year teachers would (minus the fact I walked right up to it and tried to break it up). I balled my eyes out after it (what? math teachers cry? we have feelings?). I felt horrible. I felt like it was my fault. I lost it. "Why in the world did I decide to be a teacher? I'm crazy."

Well, I ended up having a similar situation happen in the last week before finals. The fight never happened because I diffused it. I literally talked the kid out of it. I saw it beginning, we went in the hall, we talked, I made the "call the front office" gesture to a fellow teacher and they came and got him. I held him back from going back in my classroom, I let him peel the paint off the wall to diffuse his anger and there was no fight.

I know this is a silly example of growth. But, it really hit me how differently I handled both situations. I would have never handled it that way in my first year. I didn't know better.

Now I do. It's a unique experience to visually see growth. I hope everyone gets the chance to see it. If you haven't yet, it'll happen.

I am so lucky to be in a position that I am. I love being in my classroom. I love being around my students. I can't wait for next year.

And, I've done absolutely nothing to plan for it this summer. I've needed a break.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Famous Failures

I tweeted this video, but love it so much, I figured I would post it here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review Review Review

Okay, okay. I realize it's May. I realize I haven't blogged since January. Life is busy. Plus, I don't really have followers, so what does it matter?

I have recently been struggling with my classes and independent work. If I force them to work alone at their desk, I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I can't get to every student and I can't answer all questions. If I let them work in groups, they socialize and don't get their work done no matter how many times I say "Get to work!"

I am fortunate to have an awesome PLN who offered me many suggestions via Twitter last night and this AM. However, I am also lucky to enough to work down the hall from a 33 year veteran teacher. She retired and came back to the classroom for half-days. While some days I may argue she's antiquated, today, I was singing her praises. She told me how she was reviewing for the Algebra II Exponentials & Logarithms Test and I 100% stole it.

So, the review that I'm about to tell you about is not mine. I am not claiming it, just sharing it. I wish I had brought home my thumb drive so I could post the worksheet I gave them, but I will try to remember to update this post tomorrow while at school. BUT, here's what I did. [Update: Here is the worksheet.]

I created a worksheet with three sets of problems from the worksheet (here, I would attach the worksheet, instead I explain.) I just listed page and problem numbers. I [strategically] assigned groups of either 2 or 3 and instructed them to each pull out a sheet of paper to do their work on. They worked together on one set of problems. When they finished, they switched papers. They did another set, then switched again. So, in the end, each sheet should have three (if a group of three) different handwritings on it. I told them from the beginning that I would pick ONE sheet from each group, collect and grade it, so they needed to make sure everyone was working and working correctly. I also told them they could not consult any other group. They could only consult textbooks, notebooks, group members and myself.

I couldn't believe it, but they actually worked. I mean, like collaborated, talked, discussed and DID MATH. I sat in awe. I was still there to answer questions, but they had to consult notes before I helped them. I don't know if it was my strategically created groups or the fact that it was kind of like a competition or the fact that I was only collecting one or maybe they were just in the right mood today, but THEY DID MATH!

It was so great. I don't know why I didn't think about it before now. And, it doesn't seem great until you see it work. Now, every class is different, but for mine (who usually don't do math), it worked. They did math. My "better" class wasn't a huge fan of it, but it still worked. They really enjoy picking who they work with. But, once they get over that, it works.

Maybe it'll work for you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Math and Art Can Be Combined: My Holiday Project

This is the story of how
Now, I am NO artist. I am not trying to flaunt my skills (or lack there of). But, here's my story.

I was lucky enough to get to spend a whole week in my hometown at my Dad's house for the holidays. They have Apple TV, where one of the features is a running slideshow of pictures saved on their computer. When the above picture came across the screen, I inquired. My step-mom said she took a picture of it because she loved it and wanted it, but didn't buy it. It matches the living room perfectly. So, later, I was talking to my Dad and told him I could probably recreate it ... well, a version of it.

So, wait, where does the math come in? It comes in scaling things. Any picture can be resized and recreated if you want. Just grid it out. So, I printed the photo on 4x6 paper, grided it and then grided the canvas. Make sure both grids have the same number of "boxes" and are evenly spaced. See here:

All it takes is a ruler and some careful measurements. Make it exact! Now, in the right side picture you can see that I sketched in the fleur de lis into the boxes trying to match it. Just go box to box, estimate it and draw it.

That's the hard part! Now, I knew there was no way I could antique it how the original was. But, I was going to give it a stab. I painted the background red and the fleur de lis beige. Then, started to age it. I wish I had some more images to show you, but on top of the white, I took brown, blue, orange, black, etc and painted streaks. Then, once that dried, I "white-washed" it to make the darker colors not seem so bold.

which got aged into

And, voila!
Not that amazing, but it's pretty cool how MATH can be turned into ART! Give it a try!