2016 First Ever Room Tour

Let’s start with my very favorite thing in case you check out before the end or the tour.

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My husband and I visited Boston two weeks ago and we toured Fenway Park. He took some pictures during the tour and I didn’t think much of it because that’s just what he does. I headed for the beach two days after we got home for one last hurrah before school. When I got home he had a present for me. It was this photo mounted on a canvas. He said it was for my classroom, because I’m a little different. Isn’t that the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard? I’ve been teaching ten years and he now gets it. What a guy! BTW, if you don’t know the story, the red seat marks the spot in right field where Ted Williams hit the longest recorded home run in Fenway.

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This is my front door. See my Varsity Math sticker? Bottom right: #ObserveMe Notice.

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Look around and you’ll see lots of recycled items: jean pockets to hold calculators and whiteboard markers and odd socks as erasers; CDs to cover old filing cabinets that will hold commented and graded student work for return; carburetor lamp; type writers circa 1927 and 1941; rotary phone; old chair.

Can you spot #TMC16 inspirations? Birthday (function) wall; Varsity math badge;

MTBoS nods? Mind Set bulletin board; not yet; #ObserveMe feedback forms are on the clipboard on the middle bookcase

Vaughn originals: Pencil sharpener for the hallway secured with red duct tape; posters; bad artificial tree that says “Math, you can’t fake it”; shoulder partner buckets for supplies

Misc: Vertical work surfaces; standards for mathematical practice; 36 student desks (moving 4 more in tomorrow)

Well, that’s my first room tour ever. Hope you found it above average.


Top ten signs school is about to start…


10. You get giddy at the sight of the back to school supply isle at Walmart (don’t judge).

9. You start going to bed earlier but stop sleeping.

8. You keep reminding your spouse that the next real meal may not be until Thanks Giving.

7. You become hyper-creative and see uses for items like Cool Whip tubs, Ice Cream buckets, stray socks, pieces of string…

6. You scour Pinterest for 87 ways to use frozen hamburger.

5. You start paying attention to what day of the week it is.

4. You nest and make sure the house is in order, or at least that it will be ok until Christmas.

3. You iron for the first time since Christmas break.

2. When you go to the copy room, the laminator is already warmed up.

1.  You suddenly remember that you forgot to lose five pounds over the summer.

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Waking Up My Intensions!!

It’s no secret that last year was horrible. It was my tenth year and it was bad. I lost it. There was no joy. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. I could never see anything through. So this summer, I PDed like crazy, cause, well you know, it’s all my fault.

The major theme that has run all through my reading as well as the PDs I attended was the need to be intentional with absolutely everything we do as teachers. I confess that I have never thought deeply enough, thoroughly enough, to figure this intentional thing out. For nine years I would plan and execute and veer off a bit and replan and recapture and then several miracles always happened because the kids got it. I feel now like I threw lessons up at the wall and saw what happened. If it stuck for 1st period I reused it for 4th period. If an approach was a disaster 2nd period, I changed how to do it for 3rd period. I basically did this for 9 years; and it worked. I did more reacting than I did acting.

Last year was a wake-up call. This summer was an awakening. This fall, I’m getting up and I am going to figure this out.


Here’s my plan so far—ask myself continuously, why am I doing this? Does this lead to better understanding for students? Can students see the connection between what we are doing and the math supports what we are doing? What do I want the outcome to be? Is the activity serving a purpose or do I have an activity in search of a purpose. What I do must BE ON PURPOSE! No more waiting on miracles. I think I used up my share of them my first nine years.

Signs for the back of my room and my desk and my mirror—where ever I look: Why am I doing that? What are my students learning? Is what students are doing and learning what I intended? Deliberate. Conscious. Intentional.

Specifics yet to come. Stay tuned. Much work to be done.07anthc

Practicing on real kids!

You have to love a PD where you get to watch other teachers as they hone their craft as well as get to practice yourself…on REAL live kids!!! The kids were on fire as they made models of houses. I wanted to take one home, but I didn’t. (I mean a kid, not their house. The house was swell and all, but talking with these kids was a treat!)

This set-up the need for area and scale and unit conversion in order to make cost estimates of building materials.

The problem created the need for the content. The content did not set the stage for some hokey, convoluted, boring application.

Kind of getting excited for Aug 29!!!

Best PD ever…it was personal

Today was extremely enlightening! We completed the Change Style Indicator. This is published by Discovery Learning International. This is truly the most accurate piece of the personality assessment activities we have done this week. (We will have more at our retreat in the fall. I can’t wait!)

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Elevator speech: How we each react to change is a unique part of our make-ups. There’s neither good nor bad, but there is a range with the majority of people landing in the middle as pragmatist. Clearly not me. So, pragmatist is in the middle and to the left are conservers (rule followers) and to the right are originators (wild outlandish wide open thinkers and starters.)

I’m an originator and I didn’t even know it—well at least I didn’t know it was a thing. I just knew I was very different from just about every educator, boss, friend, and family member that I know. I’m not lonely out there; I’m just different. To process this I will review 1) the characteristics, 2) my behavior in a group dynamic and how I need to turn that into something productive and how I can better help myself and others when in a group. (Two can be a group too.) Sounds fun, right?

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Characteristics of an originator that I qualify for: The only constant is change—so true in my classroom. I change seating arrangements regularly. I try new things probably weekly. I’m super excited to try something new. I’m about dangerous as I try out ideas from a new book. Sometimes I try them before I truly understand what’s really intended. I’m really honest with my kids about trying new things in my classroom. My desk is a complete mess, but if you need the locker list or the post-it note I wrote my gynecologist’s phone number on, I can grab it in a second. I really want to be organized, but I just can’t see it through. I love to have multiple projects going on at home at once. I have boxes of unfinished projects at home. I have an electric bass that I’m going to learn to play. The quilt I was making for my husband for a wedding present is about a third done. In a box. In the attic. I got married in 1987, I think? Details are not important. You get the idea. It’s just who I am.

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To a group I bring big ideas—that may not work—but they may. I approach group problems in a multitude of ways all at the same time. Look, there’s a squirrel. Before you can shoot me down, I’ve come up with six other approaches that may work. The idea that you want to try that is the same thing as we did last year isn’t going fly. Let it go. I need a pragmatist to help me get the conservers to MOVE! I need to be heard once in a while, but I need to listen more. I need to try to enhance what the plan is rather than get pissed that they aren’t going to test out something on 1,000 kids and their parents and then try to fix it. I get it!!! Finally. And here, I thought people just didn’t like me. We just didn’t understand one another. Or appreciate one another’s strengths.

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So let’s take a bit of a personal detour here. My husband does not allow me to rearrange the furniture every week. This is a good thing. He loves that I fix something new and different to eat that nobody has ever heard of as long as it’s good. (OMG, sautéed green beans and beet green stems. Pretty and delicious.) He also tolerates me making all the pillows and coats and leather crap I want. And take a felting class! My English teacher partner for the past 6, maybe 7, years reigns me in in the most delicate, beautiful, loving way. I’m out-there, but she grounds me. These are the 2 two most important people in my life on a daily basis (relax Austin, Kari, Mom, Dad, Beth, Becca—read that last phrase please). I’m lucky they each love me.

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Whoa baby. What to do with all of this? I’m excited. I did Myers Briggs. OK, fine. I’m a INTF. I’m also a Capricorn. BFD. I could read about any of those and they would be believable. But not this. This IS AMAZING. Thanks for listening.




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Today’s PD had us processing the culture and leadership in our schools. I got lots of helpful insights. No time for that tonight, however.

I am getting a new principal this year and I meet with him Thursday. He asked staff to prepare for some specific questions before we each meet with him. The three questions are the exact three questions our instructor said good leaders ask their people. I like him already.

Big take away for today…

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When something goes wrong…don’t dwell on what happened. Focus on why it happened. Stop with the war stories already! Jeeze! Whine on your own time. We have to focus on fixing what is broken and figuring why it broke so we can take better care of it in the future.

PD Week 2–learning about myself. Ouch.

I started week two of a two week PD at Wake Forest. The program originated to address a need at a much higher level than 8th grade math. The education center is part of the Wake Forest Medical School. Seems medical students could pass tests but could not apply, connect and transfer their knowledge into practice once they got into the hospital with real patients. A new and different approach was needed. The center for education was created to address this need. Somehow, and I don’t exactly how this came about, the Piedmont Triad Education Consortium was created. This then merged with a group out of UT Dallas as I understand it. The program I’m at is called PTech. The method is somewhat a PBL (problem-based learning) approach, but not exactly. The elevator speech is that content is delivered as needed rather than up front. Students identify what the problem actually is and then determine what they know and what they need to know and this helps students define the problem(s) to be solved. Instruction is delivered as the need arises. Basically the approach is context then content rather than the traditional content then corny application.

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Today (Monday of week 2) we started our personal profiles. This included Myers-Briggs as well as looking at early personal commandments that we grew up with such as ‘clean your plate’ and early experiences such as ‘being homeless for a period’.

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My early commandment was “love and grace trump all”. What this means and meant to me is that I could screw up, but my family would never leave me or hate me because of it nor should I judge somebody else for a screw up or something that I don’t understand or agree with.

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My early experience was pretty enlightening. (Why I chose this, I don’t know.) When I went to college my second year, I was not allowed to register because my bill wasn’t paid. I was embarrassed and shocked. I went up to the financial aide office and they acted like it was no big deal. They helped me apply for loans and whatever. With that done I went and registered. It didn’t keep me from getting any classes; it was merely inconvenient and embarrassing. The thing is, I was the 3rd kid in college. One of my parents had just driven me 650 miles one way. In all that time, how college was getting paid for didn’t come up. Really? I learned that I had to just figure things out and problem solve as I went. My family just didn’t talk about unpleasant things—like money. And, I never asked. If you ask you get answers. If you don’t ask, you don’t get much of anything.

When I think how this affected me further down the line, it takes 25+ years for it to manifest itself. Education was a given growing up including college (though not how it got funded.) My kids were raised the same way–you will go to college–no discussion. We were fortunate enough, however, to be able to fully fund our children’s college educations. I suppose at a ridiculous level I expect to be thanked for that regularly by my children. Stupid, I know. We did that because we chose to. Because we could. It just happened. No scars. No stories. No trauma. (For the record, much to my surprise, my parents sent me a check for half of my tuition each semester when I was in graduate school. I never expected that. They didn’t need to do that, but they were then in a financial position to do so, so they did. Kinda swell. Thanks Mom and Dad.)

So, how that affects me now is, when people don’t appreciate what I have done to make their lives easier without being told, I get irritated. Sometimes I can’t stand it and I let them know what I have done, but I sincerely feel like they should have noticed without being told. Unreasonable, I know. If I cut the grass and my husband doesn’t notice or gush about it, I’m livid. I fold the laundry but I don’t put it away. If I do, it will go unnoticed and therefore, in my mind, unappreciated.

So let’s circle back to school. That’s why I’m taking this training, after all. When I sponsor clubs like math club and quiz bowl, these cost not only time, but also substantial amounts of money. There is no compensation and no reimbursement. A quiet thank you may come once a year. We actually have to invite admin to the banquet even though the events are in the daily announcements. We want the kids to be acknowledged by admin. We get a quiet thank you, maybe and that is all that happens. Groups go to state and even nationals. The school picks up the entry fees, but mileage, hotels, meals, these are all on the teachers. End of year celebrations/awards/banquets are completely funded by the teacher sponsors. Yes, we do it for the kids. But still, gushing appreciation is actually expected for the glory that is brought to the school. But, no. “Thanks for doing that” is all we get. My head really wants to stop this nonsense and stop sponsoring these clubs until the school and county decide they are worthy of paying for, but waiting that out hurts the kids, so I don’t do that. I continue to be abused and unappreciated. I keep going and doing and paying…for the kids. The school and County literally bank on that.

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When I first started teaching, the treasurer came to my room with my first check during class because auto deposit was not yet set up. I opened my check and my eyes filled with tears. I had just spent 65+ hours each week for four weeks and I got $1,900. I made more at Sea World in the summers 20 years earlier and now I had a Master’s degree. I actually almost threw up. I then spent the next eight years spending as little of my own money as possible on school (with the exception of clubs). I still gave my time because clearly that was priceless-not worth a thing. I would see teachers with these elaborate bulletin boards and treats for their kids and decorations for their rooms and storage systems and workbooks and whatever else. They bought all of these things with their own money. Many had the only salary in their houses and they spent way too much of it on school. I refused to do it. They all thought it was normal. I used to get paid mileage reimbursement in my real-life job before teaching, so when I went to math competitions on Saturdays, I submitted my mileage to my principal. He was conflict avoidant, so he paid it. I soon learned that nobody else submitted mileage, so I stopped. I should have never done that. I should have insisted that all teachers submit mileage reimbursement. I hate to be a jerk, but perhaps it’s time to start submitting mileage reimbursement again. They can tell me they won’t pay it. But they’ll at least have to realize that the personal investment took place.

So, what I’m getting at is that I learned that early experiences affect what I do now and how I react to situations. I love my students and will walk over fire for them, but spending money, wow. That’s for the state, county, school and parents. Seriously. And they need to be told.

Dang. Guess I had some processing to do. I hate that this sounds like it’s about money. That’s not it. It’s about appreciation. I want my efforts and financial contributions and sacrifices to be acknowledged and appreciated. Is that so bad?

If you’ve read this far, you have earned another VLOG merit badge. Go you!

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