Reflecting forward

My tenth year has ended. It was the worst year I have EVER had. It lacked joy. I didn’t sleep most of the year because my mind would never rest. My mind was constantly churning and constantly beating me up. For ten or so days after school was out, I slept so hard. Like my mom. Like a kid coming home from a drive-in movie. No light, alarm, dog, husband, phone, touch or voice could wake me. I would get up mid morning. Get myself something to eat and change my clothes and then go take my morning nap. Sometimes I took an afternoon nap too. I‘m now normal. I’m up around six and don’t stop moving until 11 p.m. or so. I’m sleeping about four consecutive hours each night and then just sort of lying there. Thinking. Only now I’m thinking about next year. And that’s good.

tumblr_mutyi75nfp1s149ovo1_500Next year is going to be great. I’m a bit anxious because I am going to have one Math 2 class rather than two. I will then have either three Math 8’s or I will get to add a Math 1—which I have never taught—to make up my 4 classes. There will be 35 to 40 students in the one Math 2 class. As I packed up my room for the year, I was packing with next year in mind. I also packed thinking about what drove me crazy last year and what went well or at least ok that I want to keep and improve.

I revised my opener procedure mid-year for the better. It is going to be even better this coming year. I will have a weekly sheet that students will use to record their openers that I won’t have to customize each week. Last year I varied each day among Which One Doesn’t Belong (, solvememobiles ( ), Estimation 180 (, Would You Rather ( ), student error analysis, blast from the past, pre-view to testing, Visual Patterns ( and do it another way. The students noticed and wondered though some wandered. I thought I would set a certain day for certain openers and I just couldn’t keep up with the schedule. Mid-year I compiled the openers for the entire next week Friday afternoon or Sunday (like a normal teacher). I also began with a different opener for my Math 8 kids from my Math 2 kids. That was stupid. My Math 8 kids could do Math 2 prompts and Math 2s needed some Math 8 prompts as well. By spring break I was down to one opener for all four classes. I’ll generi-size my opener recording sheet and continue with the Friday harvesting of opener prompts next year.

First day of school….wish…IMG_1275The first day of school we will practice getting to and from the whiteboards quickly, quietly and neatly. Last year I tried having individual what boards in sacs which were on the backs of student seats. Seemed brilliant, but it was a mess. Markers would go missing. The socks I have students use as erasers would get lost. Trash piled up in the bags. The custodian would throw my dirty socks away. I’m changing (I actually changed before Christmas). I want the kids standing anyway. We just need to practice so they know what I expect. I envision doing the white board routine at least three times for each class this first day and at least once a day for the first week and every Monday and then another day per week for the first month. As soon as we get the lap-tops/tablets we will incorporate desmos activities as well as desmos calculator. I will introduce them to desmos at the same time as they are getting to know their devices since that will be our main use for the devices.IMG_1161The third day, Wednesday, I am definitely doing Sara Vanderwerf’s 100 challenge for design group work as well as partner work norms for the classes. If you haven’t seen that, go here, but come back because I’m not finished.

See what I just did? I got so excited I just interrupted myself. That happens in the classroom too. There’re enough interruptions without me interrupting myself. I may need to have someone monitor me with the “um can.” I learned about the um can in 1992 in a Dale Carnegie class I was taking through work (pension business back then.) We would prepare and give short talks to our class. If the speaker said “um” more than twice in the speech the leader would shake a can of pennies at you after each additional um. This cured the ums in a hurry.

That first week I absolutely need to see who these new students are and let the kids figure out a bit of who I am. I love high energy and adore math dialogue among students. Non-math talk however makes my hair stand up. It also raises my blood pressure, my heart and breathing rates and my voice. The only thing that is lowered is my ability to think. I just freak out in chaos. (It’s not only in class, but also while shopping, at parties and in NYC… I need to get this figured out because…well just because.) So, I need clear expectations for my students.

I am definitely adding Number Talks on a regular basis. Daily at first, probably starting Thursday or earlier if there is time. I know I am not doing Interactive Notebooks (INB). I tried last year and that was part of my misery. It was awful. It seemed to be all craft and no math and that drove me nuts. It was also harder to plan for than I expected. The math didn’t have a chance to ramp up at a good clip and it just stunk. I really tried. What a disaster! Kudos to those who do it successfully and make it look so easy. I will never forgive you, however, for fooling me into thinking I could pull it off.

Because of the INBs I made the smooth move of putting together shoulder partner buckets so they weren’t a total loss. I’m going to stock the buckets better this year. Besides glue, crayons, highlighters, rulers aka straight edges, and scissors I’m going to add index cards (I use them for formative assessment almost daily). I’m going to have 4 quadrant buckets that contain tape and staplers for each of the four quadrants of the room to share.

If I graphed the neatness of my classroom throughout the year it would look like this:


I want it to look line this:


See all the students making a mess while learning? Isn’t it great?

To help me reach that goal all the while making myself a better teacher for students I am doing some amazing professional development this summer. I truly believe each of them will be game changers for me.cropped-why-i-teach1.jpgMy first PD is Twitter Math Camp aka TMathC16, TMC16, TMC, etc. It’s being held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. I got in. They filled registration in 8 hours and I got in! I can’t even believe it. I’m not worthy, but I’m going anyway. I want to learn from the best so I am going to the best. TMC is put together by teachers for teachers—a group of teachers who are collectively known as MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere.) I didn’t get into the Desmos session that precedes it, but I’m on the waiting list. I really want to go to that. Hopefully enough people will share what they learn there with me so I don’t miss anything. Or, maybe, they will Periscope it like they did TMC last year. I was a super-stalker last year once I found the Periscope link. I will get more ideas than I am even imagining and I’m imagining lots!

I am also part of the second cohort of PTec. It is a professional development opportunity funded through a grant partnership with PTEC (Piedmont Triad Education Consortium) and MAPSS (Math and Problem Based Learning for Student Success). This is a group of teachers from certain counties in NC who are going on a multifaceted quest for better teaching and therefore better student learning. There is a leadership component where I will learn about myself and how who I am is affecting my classroom. There is also problem based learning incorporated, but not PBL in the normal sense and not PBL exclusively. We will be together at Wake Forest University for two consecutive weeks learning, planning and even test-driving what we learn on real kids! With this PD comes classroom support. They will actually come and observe me in action at my school and give me feedback. I’ve been waiting for substantial feedback in my classroom for more than 10 years if you count student teaching. There are also two retreats (fall and spring) where we will tweak and plan our classes. If someone would have to put a price tag on this PD would be well over $15,000, but it’s free to me because of a multi-county grant! Are you kidding??? (I even get paid to attend! That will pay for TMC!)

I know, too many exclamation points. Sorry. I’m just, well if you’ve stuck with me congratulations!. You have earned the Vlog-merit Badge!

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