DITLife – May 17th, 2017

5:30 – Alarm. Reading. Exercise. Get ready for the day.

6:50 – Leave for school.

7:10 – Arrive at school. (I love this commute, just long enough and the sunrise as I drive over the mountain is generally gorgeous.) Eat breakfast. Check email.

7:40 – Students arrive for homeroom.

8:00 – I’m “free” for ELT as we broke into field day teams and I don’t have a team this year. I use the time to set up for my class and watch the students who are in the hallway sorting field day events for another teacher.

1st – Each class runs very similarly today. We finish Genius Hour presentations, have time to work on the end-of-year reflections and then start our movie: Hidden Figures. I’m so excited about this movie! The students are too, but they are disheartened to find that there is an assignment associated. Students are adding sketches to quotes from the movie and responding to four question sets. Nothing too much and mostly drawing (which they LOVE to do at other times). As we started and listened for the quotes, they realized it wasn’t bad and stopped complaining.

2nd – same

3rd and lunch – Students were asked who they wanted their audience to be for their presentation and were given choices of their class period, their team, their grade or the whole world. Several students chose wide audiences but backed out when the day to present came. One presented to our team last week and today, one presented to the whole grade level at lunch. We projected her presentation on the screen and gave her a microphone and she addressed 300 of her peers. That is a scary thing to do and I was proud of her for doing it. I’m glad I gave children an option even if they didn’t all follow-through. Perhaps next time they have an option to put themselves out there, they’ll take it!

4th – same

1:30 – sending the students to connections at the end of the day feels like a monumental success as the year winds down.

I spend the first half of planning grading and reading a couple of education articles. I then go on a hunt for paper and talk with colleagues addressing some concerns for next year and creating a way for us to collaborate and cultivate our ideas so we don’t lose any thoughts as we prep for the coming year.

3:30 – I remember I need the popcorn machine for tomorrow (my students thought it would be easier to complete an assignment while watching a movie if they were also eating popcorn). The next hour is spent cleaning the machine and I have more to do tomorrow morning as well.

I am feeling much less stressed today than I was a month ago and completely missed writing my DITLife post. That day was crazy with the morning starting with me getting to school only 5 minutes late, but 40 minutes behind my plan. (Teenager with keys in a locked car across the county.) I was running that whole day – I didn’t even realize I’d missed my post until I went to sleep the NEXT day. And with standardized testing, field trips, course exams, and running my first Edcamp, the post never was posted.

Today was a calm day in the middle of a “normal” week. Last week we had three field trips, next week we have field day, Honors day and the last day of school. This week feels like a gift in comparison. It helps that my course finished their last exam already and the presentations and now finished. We get to watch this lovely movie that highlights the power of math and makes it very cool. Today was a good day and tomorrow will be too!

5:00 – pick up daughter at the high school

6:20 – meet the photographer who took our family photos last week and picked out the ones I want to print

7:00 – watch television while my husband and children are at the church (I totally should have started working on my other job, but enjoyed the quiet, uninterrupted veg time!)

8:30 – family time

9:30 – work on BYUI course

11:30 – remember I was supposed to write this day up and post it



When you’re really really busy – take on one more thing.

This seems to be my theme lately. And I really need it not to be.

Perculating lately in my head.

  • going gradeless in my classroom
  • problems vs. exercises
  • problem-based curriculum
  • online courses
  • student feedback
  • student ownership of learning
  • google-based apps to make learning more engaging and more natural to track
  • communicating with parents the meaning of classroom structures, math practice and what grades mean regarding student understanding and student worth
  • preparing students for jobs that don’t exist with applicable skills to learn processes and tools that don’t exist yet
  • service-based learning
  • teamwork
  • adult learning
  • personal finance
  • volunteering in the greater community
  • engaging with my district on a more significant level regarding professional development
  • engaging with the greater MTBoS
  • setting SMART goals
  • helping dispel math myths
  • growth mindset
  • teaching children perseverance

I need to narrow this list or at least focus my efforts.

Visual Patterns

6th-grade students. 12-year-olds. Given this problem today: Find the rule for the pattern.

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 8.54.28 PM
Image credit: visualpatterns.org

Their answer: answer

Amazing! Such good thinking today. This is the day we work for all year long when it comes together so beautifully, and the students reach what I initially may think they cannot, and then I get blown away by what they can do when given the opportunity.

Here’s how it came together today. My only wish is that I had taken pictures of student work. We had so much to do today, and this warm-up was quickly pushed aside as we started the lesson. I asked one student at the beginning of the second period, but he’d already tossed the scratch paper he’d worked on. But maybe it wouldn’t have shown much, the conversation was around the pattern and that discussion built on the responses other students gave.

I presented the visual and then, just like the other times we’ve done thisScreen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.27.31 PM throughout the year, asked students to draw the next stage, fill out a table, and then see if they could find a rule that would match the pattern they saw.

Draw next.

Complete the table.

Working a visual pattern today was last minute switch, so I hadn’t picked a pattern out in advance and randomly selected a page at www.visualpatterns.org and grabbed the first one to catch my eye. I started working on the problem at the same time as my students and as I solved my thought was, “This is too much for them, we won’t get to the rule today, so we’ll spend time talking about how we see the pattern growing.”

Anticipating the need for students to speak about the part of the task they would be successful at and build from there, I had them turn and talk to a neighbor about how they saw the pattern growing. “Leave the numbers for now and just discuss how you see the pattern growing.” After a minute or two, the discussion died down, and I asked them to compare their tables. The conversation buzz was short, and so we started discussing.

Students saw the pattern growing in a doubling pattern. “First sorta downward, then to the right, then down.” Mass agreement. Positioning a ruler across the lines of reflection, I asked the students to give an angle measure, “45º”, quickly followed by 90º and 180º. This also fit their doubling observations. We talked about what the next image would look like. Most of the class reflected it over a vertical line, while a handful reflected it over a horizontal line. No one offered up a third alternative. Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.28.49 PM

As we start to fill out the chart, as student pipes up with answers in prime factor form as he saw the pattern that way, so we fill in the chart thusly:

I ask about the pattern and if anyone has an idea about the rule. The doubling pattern is noted a few times. I mention that the rule is something more than sixth graders are expected to work with, but they do know a notation for multiplying the same number over and over.

And the conversation tumbled on, quicker than I could have imagined.

Student A: “What if we used it like an exponent, but it’s always one less than the number, so n-1.”

In my head: Oh, my stars, they used a variable expression without me prompting that. Last visual pattern they would not use the variable in the expression even with me steering the conversation there constantly, instead, they wanted to define each new step recursively and felt just fine about working out 42 steps to find step 43.

Me: “How would that look?”

Student B: “It would be like 3 times exponent of n-1.”

Me: Draws on board working1and then this working2as student clarifies her meaning to be 3 as the base with an exponent of n-1.

Happy murmuring agreement in the class.

Me: “Great, let’s check it.”

Didn’t work.

Me: Not wanting to discourage her great thinking even though it didn’t result in the right answer at first, “Okay, so that didn’t work, but you’re actually really close. Let’s think.” And I paused. I’m so proud of myself now that I paused! Becuase a half a breath later, another student spoke.

Student C: “What if we did 3 times 2 to the n-1?”

Me: Write it on the board, “Yes, that’s exactly what it is!” Now, I wish I had just calmly said, let’s check it, but I didn’t.

Another student gave us their answer for the 10th step, her method was to continuously double, and there was a general agreement for this method. We used a calculator to find the 43 step, and I told them the answer in scientific notation, which they aren’t used to, and they insisted on seeing the number written out on the board. It’s impressive. A short discussion about bacteria, exponential growth and the actual numbers of bacteria that we all have on us all the time ensued and I was reminded of a book I have that I should pull out for the warm-up tomorrow.  I can’t remember the title, but it has students figure out things like, how many eyelash mites can fit on an average eyelash?

DITLife – March 17th, 2017

5:16 AM – Read in bed before and after the alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, Get up – pack for a camping trip I’m going on with my daughters tonight – leave for school.

6:50 AM – Arrive at school, check my online course for issues that need to be addressed, read blog posts on education, eat breakfast.

7:20 AM – School day start time for teachers and I head down to check my mailbox and check in with fellow teachers

7:30 AM – Check email and head back down to the office to discuss discipline issue that came up.

7:40 AM – School day starts. Today is Genius Hour and I have students working on individual, student-selected, research projects. While most students are working on Genius Hour, I’m able to reach out to those who are missing work and work with a small group of students who need remediation. I love, love, love Genius Hour for the ability it gives me to work more one-on-one with students.

2nd, 3rd and 4th periods happen much the same as 1st and I’m grateful for that on a Friday. My planning is my own today and I get a weekly grade in for each student. I finish a letter to send home with report cards on Monday, set my lesson plans for the week and make the copies I need for next week. Woop!

4:30 PM – My daughter arrives to pick me and my other daughter up and we head off to the campground.

Mother-daughter campout with church friends – campfire – chili dinner – smores – stories – games – talking – laughter.

Midnight – Put out the rest of the fire and head to bed.

DITLife February 17th, 2017

My alarm went off at the regular time, 5:30 AM. I reached over to hit snooze and felt the effects of my close contact with a group of students who have had multiple illnesses. I think it’s a chest cold, but my throat was burning this morning, so I slept as long as I could and then made use of my wonderful teenage girls who ran into the both Starbucks and Dairy Queen to pick me up a breakfast of bacon, grits, and Carmel Apple Spice Cider. (I love breakfast in the South.)

I rolled into work exactly on time this morning, and since I changed my tutoring times to Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I had time to go visit with some teachers and continue a conversation we’ve been having about professional development and student engagement.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve introduced Genius Hour to all of my classes. Fridays are the day set aside for Genius Hour. I’ll have to blog more about how I’ve made Genius Hour work for my students. My first-period students were engaged and working when I left class to use the restroom and ran into my assistant principal in the hallway. I mentioned Genius Hour was happening in my room and she went to visit. She was able to get a good survey of how it was working (and where it could be improved) before the power went out across campus.

Ah! This is that time all those education classes told us to prepare for with lesson plans that had a plan B. Since my students were in the research stage of Genius Hour, my plan B was the media center and the several sets of lovely encyclopedias housed there. We had a mini-lesson on how to use an encyclopedia, and we kept on working. My second period started in the library and part-way through the lights came back on – much to the disappointment of the students.

The day continued without further interruptions, and I spent my planning meeting getting ready for the next week and grading so that I wouldn’t have anything left to do before the upcoming long weekend. I paused for a moment during planning to stand in the sun and anticipate the weekend I had before me.

I worked at the school until 5 PM and then headed to my church building with my family. It was our turn to help clean the building.

I spent my evening watching shows, working on the website for the Edcamp I’m hosting in May, checking on my online course and trying not to hack up a lung with my cough that’s developed.

I’m signing off on this post with peace, I’ve wrapped work and not left a mess for myself to return to on Tuesday (and wrote this DITLife post on time) and my goal this weekend is to read a book and to sit on the beach in the sunshine.


DITLife – January 17th, 2017

Ah, I’m late again.

5:30 AM: The alarm goes off, snooze it used once. Read some news. Head out the door, stopping at Chick-Fil-A who is offering free chicken minis this morning.

6:55 AM: Arrive at school. Check in with my online course, make vocabulary quizlet sets for my sixth-graders.

7:20 AM: Tutoring opens and the day begins.

Extended Learning Time today worked really well with my second period working diligently on Khan Academy. This has been the first Tuesday of the new semester, so this was their first big chunk of time to work, and they did a splendid job.

I started using a Problem-of-the-Week this week. I gave the students a paper to record their thinking, and I’m hopeful for how this will work. I plan to have students work on this officially three times a week at the start of class. I plan on combining the thinking they show on this problem with a self-assessment they complete at the end of the week to come up for a classwork grade for the week. I’m trying to have the students be more reflective about their own work, and I am looking forward to the results.

First-period students continued to work on surface area, they spent the period calculating surface area of Angry Bird nets.

One instructional strategy I keep trying to implement is station activities. I want to work with small groups of students and allow other students to work independently. I’ve been able to effectively do stations before without having a small group, but when I through in a small group station, my other groups seem to fall apart.

I tried again today, and I was happy to see that they worked. I think the change was that there were no new activities at the stations. The students were working on things they had done before, so they could focus on doing the activity rather than “how” to do the activity. It may have also helped that one of the stations was a game.

The success of the stations and the success of the game gave me encouragement to find additional number sense games that I could put into future stations so students can practice their flexibility with numbers.

Each class period, (2nd, 3rd, and 4th) was just as successful, and I’m motivated to continue this practice.

3:30 PM: I was out the door at the end of the day today.

At home, I was able to work on my online course for a little bit. However, the internet went out at my house. I’m looking forward to the day when we have choices in internet providers at my house.



Hidden Figures and an Early Release from School

Walk Confidently 2017.png

The governor declared a state of emergency starting at noon today due to the snow expected at 8 pm. I love the South. Our superintendent encouraged us all to go home as soon as possible after the busses. I packed up my daughters, and we caught the 1 o’clock showing of the movie, Hidden Figures. I think I’ve found a movie about math I can show my 6th graders. (Besides, Donald in Mathemagicland, which makes an appearance in class the day of the state math test.)

Things that are sticking with me about this movie:

  1. She still the one typing up the reports.
  2. “Stop talking about it and do something.”
  3. I was amazed to see how close to the edge NASA was working. The didn’t have the answers until very close to the time they absolutely needed them. They didn’t have the mainframe installed – what? It made me think of minimally viable products and design thinking and how they were iterating on a large scale. Maybe all successful companies work close to the edge, and that’s what makes them successful (ground-breaking). Being afraid of the edge means not getting ahead.
  4. The forward thinking needed to be ready to move the whole computing department into programming was impressive.

Something my daughter mentioned not liking, the label of “computer.” Like the women weren’t even human. Much like the label of “colored.”

What an amazing set of examples we have with these three women. My class has been listening to the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, and his life story is inspiring, and I think ties into the struggles my students’ face, but I’m super excited to have these modern women in mathematics to refer to in my classroom. The image above is one we are going to revisit as we update our goal page each week. It is such an empowering image. We looked at it today as I mentioned the film during our number talk about 2017.

Financial Literacy

For the past three years, my sixth-grade students have put on a walk-through financial literacy experience for their classmates.


Every sixth-grade student comes into the media center and is tasked with balancing a budget. Students are assigned a career and a family size at random and then walk through the rest of the media center stopping at stations where they buy a house, car, utilities, insurance, clothes, entertainment, food, phones, electronics… and try to have money left as they finish. After they finish totaling their expenses, they draw a chance card and see what surprise life has in store. Maybe their insurance will cover the problem, or maybe they didn’t buy enough insurance. If a student has an even or positive balance, they get to stop at the prize table!

A Photo Essay

As they enter, students are given the tools they will need (clipboard, pencil, calculator, recording sheet) and are directed to pick up a career.


At the career station, students are given a sticky note that gives them a job (randomly selected from a list of career choices created from my first class of students to do this project). The sticky note shows them the Annual Income, which is very exciting. Then lists the taxes and the monthly take-home, these are much less exciting. The student is also given an envelope full of play money that equals the monthly take-home pay.


The student is directed to the family station, where they are randomly assigned a family size (we tried to mirror this to our actual county as much as possible, so we looked up how many single households there were and the average family size). Some possibilities were single, married with two children, single parent of three children, … Regardless of marital status, students completed the budget sheet as if they were the only income for the home. It was interesting to hear some students express sadness if they ended up single. We assured them this was only a simulation. Many students took the responsibility of providing for their family seriously.

The first purchase station was housing. This year, our real estate group had a variety of housing choices, but were high pressure on the expensive houses. I heard many students regret going with the recommended house that was much too expensive for their income.


Picking out a car was next. Every year, I need to have frequent talks with the students who build this station about providing a broad range of cars and not 10 dream cars that no one will have the budget for. 🙂 It’s very hard to provide sensible car choices when there are so many cool car images to view! This year, we had one very concerned salesman who would talk students down from their dream choice to a car that would be just big enough for their family and fit their budget too.


At the insurance station, car insurance was mandatory, but home and health were optional. This group provided lots of options and bundles. This year, we had a lot more insurance purchased than in previous years, and many students were grateful for the protection when it came time to draw a chance card.


At utilities, students used the expression cu+50 to determine their utility cost. This group had three options for heat: gas, electricity, and wood. Students multiplied their housing cost by the percentage associated with the type of heat they wanted and then added in water to get their total cost.  Students who picked too much house for their income were hit again at this station. We had several students that had to turn back at this point and start over as they were already out of cash. Students running out of money after this item were asked to continue and total how far over budget they went.


Clothing was a required stop. This station had initially planned for four bundles, high-end and budget options for both men and women. However, they ended up with Expensive and Billionaire status, so they did some price slashing as the project got underway. The initial plan was to present one representative outfit and then multiply that by how many different outfits someone would buy each year and divide that by 12 to get a monthly clothing budget. Not shown are the amazing paper costumes they created to add to their display once we got into the media center.


Phones! This group of students had a station near the back of the experience, and on day two decided not to wait to start selling. They “paid” a fellow classmate to walk an advertising banner around the front of the media center, where students were waiting in line to buy a car. Her pitch, “You need a phone, save your money for a phone, phones are in the back corner, buy a phone.” Hilarious. More fun was listening to the students (middle schoolers who are probably asking their parents for the latest phone at home) insist, once they got to the phone station and had little money left, they didn’t need a phone and phones weren’t a necessity, so why did they have to buy one!


The food station was a primary source of financial pain for students. Over and over, students expressed the high cost of food as the most surprising part of this experience. And since this station came after phones and clothing, many students didn’t have enough left to buy as much or the type of food they would have preferred.


The entertainment station was the last payment station and was an optional one. The group staffing this station realized a lot of students weren’t buying much, either because
they didn’t have any money left or they were tired of buying, so the cat sticker.jpgstation started making incentive stickers. They offered a “free sticker, with every purchase.”I thought that was very entrepreneurial of them. They generously gave me this cat sticker to wear – which may have been an advertising move on their part.

The final stop for students with an even or positive balance was the prize table where they throw two fraction dice and then find the quotient. Their answer determined they type of prize they won.  They could win a water bottle with flavor packet as a prize or if they were lucky enough, they could pick any prize off the table (there was a wide variety of cool prizes). However, this year, the favorite prize was the water bottle with flavoring packet, so even those students who won a “bigger prize” chose the water. It’s amazing sometimes how easy it is to please a middle-schooler.

Throughout the media center, we had quotes for students to read and ponder. This gave them something to do if they had any down time waiting for help at a station.


Student Quotes

Overheard as a student was totaling her expenses, “I need to apologize to my dad.

The following were written responses to the reflection questions on the bottom of their recording sheet. All errors were preserved.

Question 1: What surprised you? 

What surprized me was the chance card. I never thought I would have to repair an appliance.

How hard it is to no to go over budget.

I was suprised the most by how much money food is. Food is very expensive.

Question 2: What did you learn? 

To be smart with my money and not spend it on stupid things.

I learned that in life sometimes you have to get less nicer things, to save money.

That real life is hard.

that I don’t need a big house.

I learned how to shop appropriately with the money I had. It’s a lot more stressful than it seems.

Question 3: If you did this again, what would you do differently? 

I would change nothing. I was very underbudget and prepared with insurance. I could even take my family on a vacation.

Make sure that I had enough money to start with

Question 4: How will this experience help you plan for your own future? 

It helped me prepare myself for real world experience and think how hard my parents work for me.

it will help me learn to save money for more important things.

A Note of Appreciation

For this project to work, I need help. A big thank-you to my students who buy into this project and built it, enhance it and enthusiastically present it to their peers. My fellow teachers who bring their classes to participate in the experience. Our lovely media specialist who lets me take over the media center for three solid days. My amazing team members who allow me to disrupt the schedules of our students for three days. And the parents, grandparents and invested community members who volunteer their time and share their wisdom to help students as they complete the experience.

Inspiration and Financial Literacy Resources

My initial inspiration for this project came as I listened to a representative from the Chick-fil-A Foundation who came to speak (and provide lunch) about the opportunities for students at the newly created JABizTown. The experience for middle schoolers sounded awesome – with miniature versions of real business, a bank, a grocery store, a Chick-fil-A. The downside was it wasn’t available for students in my county. So, there was this amazing idea, and my students wouldn’t have access unless I did something. And I did something. With the help of DonorsChoose and PWC, I was able to fund the creation of our project. My students have cardboard and plastic cash registers rather than shiny storefronts and computer registers, but I believe the experience is just as meaningful. The resources provided by PWC are valuable as well; they have paper and video resources. There more than I can find room for in the year I have my students, my next goal is to expand the teaching of financial literacy to every grade in our system.


How do I set up the media center? 

The day before I have a group of students help me after school. Sometimes it’s the students who help build it. This year, I took advantage of the fact the day before was a club meeting day for img_20161214_102719212the Make Stuff club I help sponsor, and those students helped me hang the main sign, hang butcher paper to cover the bookshelves, and put up the roof for one of the stations. Since I used my first and second periods for the project and my classes went first, we had the first two periods to finish setting up and these students set out the quote posters, set their stations up, and place the direction arrows on the floor that we found to be immensely helpful in the flow of traffic in the media center. Also helping in the movement of traffic is having each incoming class of students wait in the hallway outside the media center, letting them in a few at a time and then as they finish, having them go back to the hall to answer the reflection questions.

Our SRO stopped by to try her hand at budgeting a new career and family size.

How does the schedule work for the days in the media center? 

Honestly, this is the hardest part of the experience. It works without a hitch for the other teachers who come to the experience, their students come during math class, and the experience is designed for a class to finish in about 50 minutes. For my students, it’s more complicated and it only possible due to my flexible team members. I make a big spreadsheet of who is where and when, but it’s middle school, and it’s the end of the term and things don’t always go as planned. Fortunately, my administration believes we may be able to get a sub for my classes next year, and that will ease the burden on my team providing the experience for the other two-thirds of the grade level.

How do students work before hand to make the experience? 

Before hand, I have groups in two of my four periods assigned to a station, and they research and create the station for the experience. I like to use design thinking and a student-led design team to head this up. Having students self-select themselves for this team helps me learn a lot about my students and provides another opportunity for students to have a leadership role.

What standards are covered during the experience? 

Common Core and GA math standards: 6.RP.3, 6.NS.1, 6.NS.3, 6.EE.2.C, 6.EE.8  and the following math process standards:

  • MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • MP7 Look for and make use of structure.

What learning takes place before the experience? 

I generally only teach financial literacy lessons to the students creating the project, as I want them to be the “experts” for their peers during the project. We learn about budgets and then each group becomes a further expert on in their field. For example, the insurance group will get a mini-lesson on insurance.

What learning takes place after the experience? 

The budget project is a shared experience that provides just enough “pain” for a student to seek a solution. I think this fits in with what Dan Meyer calls finding “a headache” that math can then provide the “aspirin” for. Financial literacy lessons taught after the experience have more meaning for students than those taught before, which is one reason I like completing this project in the first half of the year.

Can I have a copy of all your resources?

Yes, I have everything I created for this project available in my TpT store. The Financial Literacy Walk-Through Experience includes:

  • Budget record sheet (PDF and Editable versions)
  • Chance cards(PDF and Editable versions)
  • Career Pages (to print on sticky notes or print and cut apart)(PDF and Editable versions)
  • Family Pages (to print on sticky notes or print and cut apart)(PDF and Editable versions)
  • The quotes we used around the room.(PDF and Editable versions)
  • Money to print if you don’t have access to other play money.(PDF and Editable versions)
  • Design Team Application(PDF and Editable versions)
  • Links to budget materials I used in my classroom and explanations of how I adapted them to my sixth-grade class.
  • Details on what works in creating a successful experience, all the info shared here and more. Including suggestions for groups (size, station ideas, research guidelines and strategies that been proven to work in the experience.) More details on how the chance table work and ties in some critical understanding for dividing fractions.
  • Expansion on how the project covers the given standards.
  • Advice on how to get most of your project supplies paid for, even in a district that has no extra money. This has worked for me the past three years.

DITLife – December 17, 2016

When I started this project, I wondered if I would feel more exhausted before the Thanksgiving break or before the Christmas break. My blog has answered that question. I haven’t posted at all between Thanksgiving and Christmas, missed by DITLIfe day and while I may not have felt as physically exhausted before Christmas as I know I did before Thanksgiving, I was emotionally spent. I literally ran out of time for the list of things I wanted to get done. The priorities piled up, and this blog and reflection fell by the wayside.

On December 17th, my family had Christmas. It was a Saturday, and so there was no school and my life balance was entirely focused on family. We wanted to celebrate early as one of our teen daughters was going to be out of town for Christmas helping our Grandma recover from surgery in another state. This wasn’t planned and so upped my timeline of family things unexpectedly. Which is fine, as my family is the most important and I was able to get the important things done at school. I just haven’t had any time to write about them. And now, a week after school got out (last day was the 20th) I find myself with a free moment to reflect and write.

In the last full week of the term, my class set up a walk-through financial experience, but I’m posting about that in another post. My thoughts the last week were often about finding the balance between the following:

  • What experiences can I provide for my students that will be meaningful in their lives beyond their school years?
  • How can students interact with the content I’m asked to teach them in a way they will find engaging and will inspire them to want to learn?
  • Reluctant learners won’t learn anything unless I convince them they can learn and inspire them to want to learn – this is the first battle, and I find it the most difficult when we run up against the brick wall of a grading period when a letter grade must be assessed, or anyone asks for proof of learning. The change in a child’s mindset is difficult to measure.
  • How can I grade this (experience, growth, learning) in a way that is meaningful to the student and doesn’t take forever for me? (Especially when students and their parents want an instant answer.)

DITLife – November 17th, 2016

Work Day: 7:20 am to 5:20 pm

Today was my last day before the Thanksgiving break. We’re off all next week and tomorrow I have a sick day to take care of my son who is getting his wisdom teeth out. It’s Career Day tomorrow, which made it easy (no sub plans to write).

I walked away from my classroom today with a clean desk and all the piles of extra copies, lesson plans, activities and manipulatives put away from our prior unit of study and having two weeks of plans and copies ready in organizers for when we come back from the break. This is the best I’ve ever done in being ready for a break. I already feel relaxed!

For the past two weeks,  I’ve had a student teacher teaching my second period. She’s a former teacher working on a masters degree full-time before going back into the classroom. She had great classroom control and her lessons were fun to listen to/watch. I learned things, which was great. Also great, the opportunity to work during that hour – grade, plan, identify and support my struggling learners. So, I was able to not only walk away with a clean classroom today but also with having reached out again to my student who got their progress reports on Monday and who are receptive to fixing their grade.

Today was a quiet day of working in class. My first period took a test that they should have taken Tuesday, but so many students weren’t ready that we stretched out the review time. Which is fine, but used up all the “extra” time left in my schedule and December is going to be jam-packed. I really don’t want a snow day! Since my second period had the student teacher and the extra assessment for her schoolwork, my third and fourth periods had more of a work day today – working independently on the same concept we learned yesterday. This gave me a chance to meet one-on-one with several struggling students in these classes. Shout-out to my 4th period who were so quiet today and actually working. I hesitated to dwell on the realization when it struck me in class because I didn’t want to mess it up. I will try not to draw any correlation to those who were absent today.

Another plus for today, I was able to clear my inbox of parent messages before I left school. Including the one that started my day with an insult. By the end of the day, I was able to respond politely, firmly and with a suggestion that I hope was both helpful and instructive. In the balance of life, I attended my daughter’s recital and ran into a former student who greeted me warmly and enthusiastically talked with me about what was going on in his life. There are good people in the world and I have great hopes that all of my students will eventually grow up to be good people.

When I thought about this post earlier in the month, I anticipated writing about the stress and frustration and walking away with piles of things to get done. I’m surprised at the calm I feel. It was a solid day today and I was only slightly jealous of those tweeting from NCTM Innov8. I’ll look forward reading all of those posts as I prepare jello and pudding for my son after surgery tomorrow.