Tag Archives: teaching

T-Minus Twenty

T-Minus twenty days.

Including today there are twenty days of school left in the 2016-2017 school year. The need for a break in the action is showing on students and teachers alike.

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk during my prep period, trying to muster up enough energy to grade some papers that had been piling up and looking for a little motivation to keep me going. During this moment of soul-searching my gaze found the small posters of math quotes that I asked my students to make the first day of the trimester.

The assignment I had given the students that day was to find one positive math quote that spoke to them. Something that they could hold onto this trimester and look at when they needed a little inspiration. I had read through all of them when they turned them in and then hung them on the wall, but I hadn’t really looked at them since that time.

Yesterday I realized just how glad I was to have students who took that assignment seriously and really looked for quotes that were math related, positive, and inspirational. I’m going to share some of my favorites with you because you might need a little math motivation too!

If you’re a teacher, a student, or a parent of a child in a math class I’m sure we can all use a little end of the year pick-me-up!

Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms. Its about understanding! - William Thurston


Even the hardest puzzles have a solution.

My students know that I value perseverance over a quickly achieved correct answer and seem to have embraced that as a norm.

Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. - Robert Collier


Math is the most beautiful and most powerful creation of the human spirit.

Some days I wonder if they listen to anything I say, but then I see quotes like these and I know they’ve heard some of the things.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them. - Albert Einstein


A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new. - Albert Einstein

Not all the quotes were specifically math related but they were all related to thinking, persevering, and learning from mistakes.

At the end of the year my students may not all know how to write a quadratic equation. They may not know how to find a linear regression formula to fit a scatter plot. They may not know how to find the height of a building using trigonometry. But, hopefully, at least most of them will know that math is more than just memorizing equations and getting right answers. I hope they leave my room with a little more confidence in their academic abilities. I hope they leave with a more positive outlook on math in general.

So here is my motivation for the last four weeks of the year:

All of my students deserve the best educational experience I can give them. My best might be different for each student. My best might be different depending on the day and how I feel. But I know I can’t take the easy route just because we’re all counting down the days. There is still teaching and learning to be had!

T-minus twenty days to (hopefully) reach one more kid. We have T-minus twenty days to try some new strategies. T-minus twenty days to make a difference in someone’s academic career.

T-minus twenty days. Let’s do this!

If my post or one of my students’ quotes inspired you or gave you a little motivation to finish strong this school year tell me about it in the comments!

If you’re still looking for that little push you need tell me that too! I love to hear from my readers!

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Summer is Coming

Summer is coming
Summer is coming. Slowly but surely, little by little. 

Twenty days and counting.

Friday… one day closer.
For many people their favorite day of the week.
As a teacher, I have a love/hate relationship with Friday’s. It’s the last day before I have some time away from full-time teacher duty but it is also the day I get the least amount of focus from my students.
It usually starts out pretty well, but by the last class of the day if I can get them to stay on task for half an hour I’m doing pretty good.
By fifth block today, I was tired and a little frustrated because my fourth-hour students weren’t understanding the skills we were working on as well as I thought they would. So instead of getting them started on the activity and walking around to check in with each set of partners I ended up running all over the room answering questions for which I knew they should already have the answers.
After about ten minutes of constant questions, I started asking myself, ‘Why don’t they understand this concept? What did I forget to teach them? How can I help them learn this concept?’ And on and on.
Then I stopped to reflect on what I had done to help them learn these skills.
My thought process went something like this, ‘We have been working on these skills all week. Each day I added a little more complexity and a couple more vocabulary terms that fit into the big idea. Building up ideas a little bit at a time. I’ve given them a notes page each day to fill in important information as it comes up. I’ve even looked at and provided feedback on all their practice work in a timely manner. What else do I need to do? Why aren’t they getting it?’
I went into fifth-hour with these thoughts at the forefront of my mind.
Just like in the previous class, I explained the activity and broke my students up into random partnerships. At this point, one of my students decided that she would have nothing of working with a person I chose and walked out. (Par for the course on a Friday…) After that brief interruption everyone got started and, as before, I expected to just make leisurely rounds checking for understanding occasionally and making sure everyone was on track. (Fingers crossed that my misjudgment was isolated to just one class.)
I was hoping to hear some good mathematical discussion about how to solve the problems.  What I got was a repeat of fourth-hour with the added fun of indignant, disrespectful comments about how long it took me to get to each group with their hand up.
After I got off my soap box about patience and disrespect, I went back to the questions at the front of my mind.
‘Why aren’t they getting it and what can I do to help them?’

In a brief epiphany, I realized that I was the problem. I wasn’t making them try hard enough on their own. I was encouraging their learned helplessness. Rather than first asking them if they had checked their notes, read the problem again, and consulted their partner I just answered their question.

Not only did I answer the question but I told them why. I didn’t make them figure it out.

I was the problem.

This is only my third year as a teacher, I learn new things every day, but I think that my discovery  epiphany Friday afternoon was one that will be a game changer.  I knew that learned helplessness was a problem but I thought I had been doing a decent job of trying to combat the issue in my classes. My frustrating Friday told me I was wrong. I had been doing a little bit, but I wasn’t doing enough.

I know it’s not something that can or will change overnight. That’s not a good way to make changes in a teaching style, not if you want it to be permanent and effective. It will take time, but summer is coming.
Summer is coming.

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And the Job Hunt Begins…

Interview Road Trip

Some of you probably noticed my absence last week.  Sorry about that, life got crazy and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Seems like something of this caliber happens every time I decide it’s time to make some changes and announce my goals to the world.

I knew it was coming, I’d been sending in applications left and right for the last couple weeks hoping for a phone call or two. Well last week I got them.

Two calls. Two interviews. One week. No babysitter on call. (I’m a stay-at-home-mom ya know!)

The first interview was for an online teaching position, thus online interview.  My responses to the interview questions had to be recorded using my iPad and then sent off to the interwebs to be viewed by the schools hiring committee. I think the idea of online high school is intriguing and I was very excited I was chosen for an interview but the virtual interview process was just as nerve-wracking as in person.

No news yet, but hopefully soon!

The second interview required a road trip across Iowa because the job was on the other side of the state.

Usually I love road-trips; sight-seeing, picnics, a little light hiking, and lots of adventure.

Not this road-trip.

Four and half hours one way, if you don’t stop, with a 9 month old.

Wednesday afternoon Dragonling, Grandma, and I set off for Eastern Iowa. We only stopped 3 times on the way over and arrived at our hotel a little after 11:00 p.m. My interview was Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. so in a perfect world I still had plenty of time to sleep.

Dragonling had other plans.

After two hours of baby partying I was finally able to get her to sleep next to me on the bed. She slept for about three hours; I probably slept for those three hours too but not very deeply, I was too paranoid about her being next to me. After her early morning snack we both slept again for three hours, same set up as before. (Why did I even bring the pack ‘n play?)

I was up at 7:30 to get ready for the interview. I planned for time to get ready, eat breakfast, nurse Dragonling, and go over my lesson plan. All was going well until I sat down to review my lesson and realized I had made a huge error and there was no way to fix it before I was supposed to be at the high school.

Nothing like improvising a math lesson for 25 kids you’ve never met while being observed by two instructional coaches, a classroom teacher, the assistant principal, and the head of the math department….


The entire interview process lasted about 3 hours, after which I returned to the hotel to pack up and get ready to head back across the state.

We left for home at about 2:30 p.m. and by the time we reached Great-Grandmas to drop off Grandma it was 10:30 p.m. After driving in rain and snow all day I decided to stay the night.

Yep, you read that right.


In April.

Gotta love Iowa.

Friday morning after breakfast, Dragonling and I finished our journey back home where I promptly collapsed. (More or less.)

At least the last leg of our trip was short and uneventful.

I spent the rest of the day Friday, all day Saturday, and most of the day Sunday and Monday in bed. I cannot remember the last time I felt so terrible.

Headache, chills, cold sweats, fever, stuffy nose, cough.

No fun.

Tuesday was the first day I started to feel almost human again.

Which brings us to now, faithful readers. Now I’m ready to get back in the game. I’m ready to write, I’m ready to work on my April goals, and I’m ready to get back to normal!