07 January 2019

Look into my Journey with SBG

I've now completed a full course using Standards Based Grading (I previously completed just 1 semester) for my Integrated Math 2. I only had 1 section of it this time, so I'm not sure if my successes and struggles are common or a fluke. Here is the good, bad, and ugly of my experience this year. I'll include my reflection and next steps at the end too.

Good: Most students appreciated that I was trying to emphasize learning over memorize, regurgitate, and dump. And many appreciated that they were allowed to have multiple opportunities to show understanding of skills. I had several students who said that really helped to alleviate stress. And many really took the opportunity to learn and improve.

Bad: I felt like I was constantly assessing (I really was). I assessed every week on concepts from the previous week (usually 2-4), and allowed the opportunity for anyone who needed to reassess the previous concepts. Since students only needed their best effort, many stopped practicing the concept after they achieved the desired proficiency level.

Ugly: since students weren't graded on completing assignments, many just didn't do them. The times I was providing for students to practice became social time for several, especially as we got to the end of the term. This became very evident with results from the final- students showed little ability to recall and apply what we had worked on throughout the course.

Bitmoji ImageMoving forward: I start over with a new term in just a few days and spent the past month reflecting and refining so I improve. I went through the concepts taught and prioritized them by MUST know (to pass with a C), should know, and good to know. My plan is to collect classwork more often and assess less often but cycle concepts more frequently. I plan to strictly provide feedback on assignments and assessments. This feedback will highlight what was done well and what steps should be taken to improve. Students will self-assess and keep evidence of their learning and understanding. I will conference with students prior to each  grading period ending to determine a letter grade. I have 1 section so I really feel this will be manageable, and I'm excited to see an increase in learning and understanding, and therefore retaining. I know it still won't be perfect, but I'm hopeful of the opportunities it will provide students.

I'm getting ready to do a presentation (today) on this journey to some of my staff members. You can access it here

29 November 2018

Let's Get Personal

I'm not one that really shares a lot about my personal life. Those close to me, I'm totally an open book, but other than that, I'm a bit quiet. I'm writing this post as a way to express something that I've been quiet about. And, as we head into the Holiday season where we are with family, friends, and acquaintances, maybe this will remind you to choose small talk and words more carefully.

I got married in 2004 to my college sweetheart! Do you know that after you're married everyone always asks "when are you going to to have kids?" Answer: when we are settled: career, location, home.

In 2009, we figured we had finally settled into our careers and purchased a home, so we decided we would start a family. The answer now to "when are you going to have kids?" became, "I already have x# that I deal with each day!" - it became a response that was so much easier. See, after several years we were in the "unexplained infertility" category. I know a lot fall into that, but no one ever knows because we don't want to discuss it; we are ashamed. We finally got confirmation in 2013 that yes, we could have a child, but our only option was IVF (totally skipping IUI). In 2014, we had finally saved up enough money and froze 10 embryos. For our first transfer, we initially transferred 2, but only one stuck. I didn't think much about the embryo we lost - after 5 years we were finally expecting! Once we were pregnant, I never was shy about her costing $30,000, or that she was a product of IVF. Our beautiful daughter was finally born in August 2015. We were over the moon!

Then, the question became "when are you going to have another?" Our plan was to wait until our daughter was close to 2 to try for another. When that time came, we started the process. Thinking it would be easier now that we knew our process and we still had 8 embryos, we were very wrong. We ran into issues - it took 4 different doctors, several procedures, and about a year of time before we finally got the okay to move forward with a transfer. The date was set for September!

As the school year was beginning, life was getting crazy. My in-laws moved in, so that added 2 adults and 2 dogs to our home; I picked up an additional course, so I was now teaching 4/3 (and on top of the more than full time schedule, each of my classes was a different course); I said yes to supporting another beginning teacher, making it 2 new teachers with one off-site; and I was still department chair. At a time I needed to be relaxed and calm, I was stressed to the max!! 

It's been about 60 days since we found out we lost our little embryo. I can't help but feel like I did something wrong. I'm told I didn't, but with the added stress I induced, how can I feel otherwise? We still have plans to try again. Right now we are waiting for the body to recover from the medications, the insurance claims to catch up, and the bank accounts to replenish.

Over the next month or so, all of us will be going to several holiday parties. Skip the small talk! Don't ask, friends of not, when they will get married, when they will have kids, when they will have the next kid, ect. It isn't your business and you have no idea what struggle they may be facing. It seems so simple, but those conversations have lasting affects.

I guess as educators, the same can be said with those conversations in the classroom that we have with students. They may be late to school because they struggle to have a reliable ride. They might not have finished that assignment you gave because they weren't able to go home (or don't have a home), or have to take care of siblings since parents aren't home. In the scheme of it all, while we think our class and school is a priority, it just really isn't for many - they have way too many other life things going on.

Okay... personal life story done!

30 October 2018


The past few years the majority of our department has dressed up with a common theme for Halloween. In 2016 we were "Pi-Rates" and 2017 we each were a digit in the Fibonacci Sequence (and ordered by height from least to greatest). We also dress up for Spirit Days and Pi-Day.
Halloween 2017
Halloween 2016
This year we started early in deciding (like mid-September) what we wanted to do for Halloween. One of the members, jokingly I think, mentioned Crayons. Well, that'll teach him because a few just took it and ran with it. Each member picked a color and made it math-y, like Radical Red, Exponential Emerald, or Octagon Orange. And one lucky member gets to be the Box.

Here is my journey: I got he cardboard from a co-worker that was perfect. I spent about 2 weeks working on my Box. I had to get the shape right; make the cuts for the head and arms; made a trip to Home Depot for finding just the right paint colors; measured out the stripes so they were as close as possible to being proportional; had a student draw out and color the crayons; sprayed, painted, and touched up until it was nearly perfect; added details until I ran out of time. Below are pictures at various points in the process.

Here is the completed front and back!! I'm thinking it looks really good. I'm also thinking I spent WAY too much time on it. When my husband mentioned a month ago to just buy one... I should have! But I also know if I had purchased one, this wouldn't be as cool and customized as it is.
Back - look closely :-)
I plan on posting pictures of our Department after we take some tomorrow. And, if I'm lucky, I'll get some photos of my family. See, my daughter (whose 3) heard me talking about a crayon box and decided she wanted to be a Crayon too (Orange). I wasn't sure what my husband was going to do, and then a co-worker suggested a white t-shirt to color. So I'm the box, she's the crayon, and he's the paper. It's pretty good.

Here is our Department.

15 October 2018

Learning over Grades

Finals was last week! Well, we call them midterms, but it's the end of the first semester so I will be forced to give a transcript grade for my classes. Yup, already! We just finished our 8th week of instruction, so on our 4x4 that means midterms!

Last spring I had started Standards Based Grading for my Integrated Math 2 class. I liked the idea of it, but I wasn't happy in the end with how my system translated to a semester letter grade. I refined a little this summer and stared this school year with a modified system. So far, I am so much happier! It was a little difficult at the start since it was something new for the students, so they had some trouble comprehending and understanding. But with constant communication, I feel students are getting it. Some are working hard to improve. They are coming in to ask questions and clarify misunderstandings, though I always wish there were more doing this. Several students have commented that they feel less stressed about math and they are "happy your teaching style stresses learning rather than memorization." Students take an assessment and are provided feedback over points or a grade. The hope is that students are looking at their mistakes and learning from them.

I've tried really hard to focus on the concept and skill, and students learning it- both conceptually and procedurally, and having the ability to explain it. The "explain it" part is where some students really struggle. But, I think it is a vital part of understanding and I will continue to push students into doing it.

I have not perfected this! Heck, I've been teaching 13 years and will never perfect that. But it feels good to be constantly improving and working toward improving. I just wish more appreciated the learning over the grade.

15 August 2018

2018-2019 Goals

I will be starting my 13th year teaching in just a few days (I actually started today, but it took me longer to finish this post 😳). I've had a lot going on this summer, including time to reflect on how I can be a better teacher. Below are my goals for this school year; I hope you will help keep me accountable toward them.

1. Make better connections with students. I really didn't feel I did a good job with this last year. In the Fall I had a student teacher and the Spring I had a lot going on personally. This is just an area I really would like to improve on this year. I want to know more about the students personal life and how I can help them be successful.

2. Incorporate more music and musical cues into instruction. I've let students listen to music on their own when they've been working, but I realize they need to be available to talk and discuss with their classmates. I have also played music on some days for them. Inspired by Ed Campos, I'd like to use songs for various cues - getting up to the board, pairing up, starting and ending class. I've got Spotify and Amazon Music ready to go on my computer (and phone), just not sure which platform will be best until classes start.

3. Not bringing so much work home. This is going to be super tough. I'll be teaching 3 classes (for the first time in like 2 years) and having all different preps (Financial, Senior AVID, and Integrated Math 2). On top of all that, I will also have a period of coaching and curriculum planning for Math 1 & 2. And somewhere, I'll be needing to complete the preparation for my three classes, including one which will be Standards Based for the first time all the way through. - We are only 1 day into the school year and I'm already failing at this, but hopefully I'll get in a groove and planning will go smoother.

4. Not over committing. With what I'm hoping on accomplishing with the above (#3) goal, this will be very important. I enjoy being involved, but I also need to make sure how it affects my home and family time. Personally, I have several things going on this Fall (new fence, garage, roof, solar for house, In-Laws moved in, PT for ankle and knee injuries, and additional medical visits/procedures). It will become so important that I really try to take a deep breath, and the best way for this to happen is to realize what is important and say no to the other stuff! - I've already bombed at this... In addition to Department Chair and Sophomore Class Co-Advisor (which I've been doing), I am a support provider to two new teachers in our District. I've been doing this the past 4 years, but didn't last year for scheduling reasons. Hopefully, everything else that comes at me I have the strength to say NO.

Here's to a great 2018-2019 School Year!!!