A Different Type of "Notice" and "Wonder"

As I was walking down a middle school hallway yesterday, I glanced up and noticed some hand drawn pictures of student faces with the phrase “I wonder…” at the beginning of each one. I noticed statements like:

–“I wonder how many stars there are in the night sky.”
–“I wonder if horses were ever used for something else.”
–“I wonder what New York looks like from the air.”
–“I wonder who is leading rushing in the NFL.”
–“I wonder how many hairs are on my head.”

I was excited at first, thinking this assignment was from a math class where students were asked something like, “What have you always wondered that might be number/math/geometry related?”

When I noticed the next set of pictures, however, I stopped in my tracks and my heart sank as I read:

–“I wonder why I’m here.”

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Perplexed in Patterns

So much time has passed since I last blogged that I forgot my account/password. I think I tried at least 3 combinations of each before I cracked into my Blogger account. Hopefully I will do better in the future. I know I promised two blog posts tonight, but I forgot how difficult blogging is with my attention span.

Instead of conducting PD this week, I’m actually attending some professional development through the University of Mississippi’s Center for Math and Science Education (@UMCMSE). I’ve probably mentioned how great this group is many times before. I attended their CCSS 3-5 workshop last year and fell in LOVE with elementary mathematics. What I love most about these workshops is that it doesn’t rely on a whole lot of tech. It’s basically, “How can we teach the standards in ways that students can make meaningful connections with stuff you probably already have in your classroom.” Unfortunately, “technology” isn’t standard across the state. In some schools, cell phones are banned from campus and wifi is wonky most of the time. This is also true for several schools in my district, SO going “low- or no-tech” is a challenge for me.

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How Much Is A Ton Of Dollars?

NOTE: Apparently Chris Robinson already asked this question on 101qs.com and I totally missed it (or forgot).
Sorry, dude. Ma bad.

I rarely watch TV these days, but today I heard this commercial while watching a recording of Perception (“Silence” episode):

“If you had a dollar for every dollar car insurance companies say they’ll save you by switching, you’d have like a ton of dollars.”

Oh really? Interesting.

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Mario’s Parabola… Or is it? (with Update)

Most of the time my A.D.D. is a huge pain, but tonight it actually gave me a cool idea. Well, sorta cool. Maybe not cool at all. I dunno – you make the call after you read this and let me know if I’m way off base.

I’d shown a Dan Meyer video today (short and sweet video here). As usual, I didn’t close out the tab after I showed it (yes, Joelle, I know I have a problem). Tonight, I started to use that tab to search for something else, but a video on the side caught my eye:

Parabolas in Mario?!!
**watch it**

I thought, “Hmmmm… I see a some errors in there. I wonder what the reasons were? Is it a true misconception or is it lack of drawing capability? Do they think some of these statements are truly correct? Did they verify it mathematically on paper and can’t draw to match?? WHAAAAAAT happened???”

**I’m telling you, A.D.D. run amuck – I can get quite dramatic**

Anyway, I started to dismiss the video and get back to what I SHOULD be working on, but I accidentally scrolled in the wrong direction. I saw this comment:

…hold the phone. This could get interesting.

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Teaching CCSS-M to Administrators (No, I didn’t get fired)

While many of you are gearing down for the summer months (or are already enjoying your freedom), my job is kicking into gear. I am sad to be losing my summer (I can hear the sounds from the local pool from my back porch), but at the same time I’m looking forward to working with admins/teachers who are excited to learn new things.

All of our grades will be 100% CCSS-aligned by next year. Our K-2 have been doing CCSS for about 3 years, and grades 3-8 had fully implemented CCSS this past school year. Our high schools will be the last group to transition and those teachers have spent the last few weeks gearing up for that shift. The standards for Common Core are quite different from our previous state standards. In the past, we might have 60 +/- standards for a grade/course that were equally important. Some of those standards might be repeated for 2-4 years in a row to “ensure” retention/understanding. This, in my opinion, wasn’t efficient.

Teachers had too many standards and not enough time, so they were hitting it and moving on while hoping it might “stick” with the next grade. And our assessments were just… well, they were CRAP, to be honest (but that’s a rant for another time).

In talking with teachers last August, I kept hearing phrases like, “We don’t really know what to expect with the PARCC assessment.” So I started digging and, in December, showed the collaborative team leaders across the district how to read the test specs and put that information together with the performance level descriptors. This gave them a better understanding of what to expect on the PARCC (prior to the release of the sample test) and a lot of teachers were surprised about how much of a role the Standards for Mathematical Practice would play on the PARCC. (SIDE NOTE: I am working on a “How to Read PARCC” blog this weekend as well and will link as soon as it’s finished)

But for teachers to really be successful in this shift, I wanted to make sure they had support from administration. Math class doesn’t always look like they remember it to be or what they experienced. And it’s difficult to appreciate the difficulty, wonder and complexity of that shift if you can’t experience what math SHOULD be like. Or at least, that was my thought when we had our final meeting with administrators across the district.

My ELA comrade did a fantastic job showing our administrators a video of a wonderful elementary teacher in our district. She walked them through the video and the led discussions in the important parts of the CCSS ELA lesson. She had them point out student discussions and interactions so they could envision what they should see in a CCSS classroom.

My turn. They THOUGHT I was going to show them a video as well… Mwah ha ha ha…

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Out of the Classroom – Year in Review

Reflection time.

I’ve always been pretty tough on myself at the end of any year in the classroom. It was never in a “pity party” way, but more like a “come to Jesus” meeting with myself to keep me accountable for the following year. As a teacher, I always found things that needed tweaking the following year (classroom organization, boring lessons that needed tweaking, scaffolding issues, etc.). 2013-14 was completely new for me in every way. Needless to say, this is going to sting a little lot more than usual.

I’m going to set this up “Letterman” style.

5. Online PD Modules

I really wanted to put a lot of PD online so that we could cut down on the time that I had to pull teachers out of the classroom (which I HATE to do). Hopefully I can work on developing some of that over the summer. Teachers deserve access to PD that allows them to learn on their own time. They deserve for our professional development opportunities to transition with emerging technology in the same way they are expected to transition their courses with emerging standards.

4. Organizing Resources for Teachers

I’m constantly finding resources for teachers that I think might be helpful. I had such great plans to disseminate those resources to our teachers, but could never find a method that would work. But I need a method that I can use quickly and easily. Does something like that even exist? Here’s what I envision for my perfect app: I receive an e-mail, see a tweet, read a blogpost, etc., and here’s this amazing link that I want to make available to my teachers. I want to be able to immediately (from phone or computer) categorize it by pre-set notebooks/tags by grade and/or gradeband/course, then CCSS domain, possibly along with specific Common Core standard(s) and/or math practice(s). I want to be able to do this within a few seconds. I want teachers to be able to have access to those links as well. My brain screams “EVERNOTE, you big dummy”, but I can’t seem to streamline it so that it happens in the time constraint I want. What am I missing? I know there has to be a way.

3. Read

No, I don’t mean recreationally (I didn’t do that either). I mean I failed at reading things that matter to my profession. I didn’t feel like I had the time. I saw the books and book studies my MTBoS crew collaborated on and I was honestly in envy. I only read one professional book this year, and I need to make time to do this over the summer and next year. With my a.d.d. brain, I need to make a schedule and commit to this 100%. Opportunities for professional development for math coaches/specialists are limited in my area, and I need this in order to serve my teachers and schools the way they deserve. In the same way I would research and study to learn something to be a better teacher for my students (like I did with logarithms), I need to do this to be more effective for the teachers in my district.

2. Meeting with PLC/CLT from K-12

Some schools call them Professional Learning Communities, some call them Collaborative Learning Teams. I met with several across the district and across the grades, but I felt like it was Waffle House-style: scattered, smothered and covered. Next year, I need to set up a scheduled rotation to meet with our teams. Not half, not most – ALL. They can’t believe I’m in their corner if I don’t see them all face-to-face. I can’t make them comfortable with my presence in their classrooms if they can’t get to know me on a personal level. I can’t build trust if they don’t see me as a resource. I need to find a way to make this work.

1. Getting feedback to teachers after visits

I honestly thought that being in classrooms would be the majority of my work. I realized pretty quickly that a lot of work has to go on behind the scenes, and I struggled trying to keep a balance. I got overwhelmed a lot. I would often pop into classrooms and have small conversations immediately after, but not the in-depth ones that I wanted and needed to have. I need to learn more strategies for questioning when I talk to teachers. In the same way that we have strategies for questioning students about their thinking and understanding, I need those types of strategies when talking to teachers. But with that also comes scheduling and time to have those discussions. I want it to be meaningful, but I am very respectful of the limited time teachers have during the day. I feel e-mails are way too impersonal for something so important. I would rather do it face-to-face and soon after the observation. But I don’t feel that I did that well at all. Not even a little. Not even close. This is my biggest failure, in my opinion.

If any teacher from my district were to read this post, I’m sure they would have dozens of additional ways that I failed them, and I would probably agree with every single one. It might have been easier to roll into a position where norms and expectations were previously defined, but then again maybe not. The great (and completely terrifying) thing about my position is that I am creating a job description from the ground up. But would I say that I fulfilled all of the expectations that I set for myself in the beginning? NO.

We have many upcoming changes in our district over the next several months, including an election for a new Superintendent. I have no idea what might happen over the next year, but here are some things that I do know:

    • One of the best things about my job is being able to see teachers in action that I’d never have met if I was still in the classroom. I have found teachers that are, for me, the equivalent of professional “Red Bull” – they bring it 100% every day and I get energized as soon as I walk in their classes.
    • Everyone in my department puts students first and we support each other. I don’t think I could have made it through the year without my ELA “partner in crime”. I have never seen anyone fight harder for students and support teachers more than our Assistant Superintendent. And our Federal Programs Director wears so many hats and does more in a day than I think I do in a month. None of them read my blog, so this isn’t about kissing up. It’s about saying up front who I am thankful for (and who I’d lose my mind without). If any one of those people left our organization, our district would suffer tremendously.


  • I’ve lost friends over this job and it sucks, but it’s reality. However, I have to remember that I know where my heart is in all of this (even if other people don’t). I have to remember that sometimes a person’s concern/fear needs a target, and that my forehead now offers that bullseye. I have to remember that it’s probably not personal but if it is, it’s probably because of my approach.


I have a lot of work to do (as you can see by my summer calendar):

And, just like when I started teaching, it may take me a few years before it runs like clockwork. Implementing CCSS cannot happen overnight and it won’t be a complete success the first year. But I think our teachers and our district are both dedicated to making it happen.

I hope they will allow me to continue to support them in that process.

Sunshine Blog

I usually do my reflective blogs at the end of the school year, but @jstevens009 nominated me for this “Sunshine Blog” thing. Since I never back down from a challenge and I totally personify “Little Miss Sunshine” hahahaha…. Here goes.

First of all, the agenda. Sorry guys, I’m redesigning items as “acts” because there’s just A LOT of “11’s” so I need this for my wackadoo brain. 😉

Act 1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger

Act 2. Share 11 random facts about myself.

Act 3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for me.

Act 4. List 11 bloggers that I believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love! (These people can’t include the blogger who nominated me.)

Act 5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate.

Soooooooo, here we go:

Act 1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger

If you don’t already follow @jstevens009, STAAAAHP reading right now, follow him on Twitter and add him to your blog feed now. John is one of my favorite new “finds” of 2013. I found John because I’d seen a few retweets of his tech/app suggestions that were straight up legit. Then I read his blog (cuz I’ve become quite the blog stalker in my new life) and he’s become my “go to” for helping teachers with tech. He also has this really awesome “Would you rather” site that I think is great for student discussions along the lines of Fawn’s Visual Patterns and Stadel’s Estimation180. Go check it out, cuz it’s great. John also has some great concept extensions (projects, labs, etc.) for the courses he teaches. On top of all that, he’s wicked smart, very funny, and understands my weird little brain. Looking forward to attending his sessions at TMC14. I was honored by his nomination.

Act 2. Share 11 random facts about myself.
I would’ve been finished with this post DAYS ago without this freakin’ section. Grrrrrrr. Here comes the boom! (I’m kidding – skip this part cuz it’s really boring)

1. I had two other majors before math: computer science followed by accounting. It’s a really weird story. And no, I wasn’t the reason my calculus professor died – it was an ACCIDENT, not any wicked voodoo.

2. 2013 was my first year to ever coach archery (so you might not wanna make me mad) and we were state champs.

3. I failed prob and stats the first time I took it. Another weird story, but (thankfully) no one died in it.

4. Although I’ve never played a game in my life, I am a ferocious HS/college basketball spectator. It’s the only time I don’t seriously need A.D.D. meds, but I have thrown my phone and gotten in trouble with admin and security at my school. (See what had happened was…)

5. Anything good/positive about me comes from my grandparents. Those two were by far the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life.

6. My kid is the best thing that ever happened to me, but he LITERALLY almost killed me at birth. If you’ve seen my tweets about the crazy stuff he says, you’ll see why I think he’s amazing. I don’t deserve someone as handsome and witty as that kid. I fail him MISERABLY, but I love him more than he’ll ever know.

7. Once I adopt you as a friend, I am fiercely loyal to you…almost to a fault. I will fight for you, defend you, listen nonjudgementally for hours if you need to cry or complain, give you anything I can if you need it, and do my best to protect you (even if it’s from yourself). But even I have my limits, and (like the mafia) if I cut you from my life YOU ARE DEAD TO ME.

8. When I was in jr high, I was a cheerleader and part-time mascot for our high school squad. And I may still be the same height…

9. I’ve broken my nose twice (cheerleading pyramid crash and bike ramp accident – landed on my face both times) and my wrist once (Olympic pole vaulter wanna be).

10. Because of an encounter with Ronald McDonald as a toddler, I am terrified of clowns. Don’t try to be funny around me with this – I will react out of fear and seriously hurt you.

11. As much as I joke about it, Gavin DeGraw has never actually filed a restraining order against me. He did tweet me once. But after this last album (from which I haven’t downloaded a single song), I think we are done for good. He is no longer the “boyfrand”.

Act 3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for me.

1. Why do you teach?

I went into teaching because of the calculus professor I mentioned earlier (he was really awful). No one deserves to be belittled for not knowing/being exposed to/understanding certain areas of mathematics. I went into teaching to give students the confidence and skills to deal with jackasses like that.

2. If you didn’t teach, what would you do for a living instead?

I’ll combine my two favorites: statistician who is secretly an undercover FBI agent.

3. Money being no obstacle, where would you like to visit? Why?

So easy – Greece. Myrtos Beach, Santorini, Lindos, the monasteries of Meterora, the Parthenon, Herodeon… Beauty and ancient architecture. Love.

4. Kids always ask who your favorite student is. Describe the characteristics of yours

This is TOUGH. It would be the most schizophrenic kid ever. I like different kids for different reasons. Quiet ones, loud ones, sweet ones, bad ones, tall ones, short ones… Crap, I miss teaching so much. This is kind of depressing. THANKS, JOHN. :p

5. What is your favorite board game and why?

Right now it’s Blokus. My kid loves it and it reminds me somewhat of Tetris. Not a really challenging game, but something about playing a game your kid loves changes your perspective about it.

6. What is the most frustrating component of education right now?

I personally get frustrated when people will take something they “hear” and run with it without doing any research of their own. “Common Core math standards are weaker in our state than anything we’ve ever done!! We’re lowering the expectations of our kids.” Really? SHOW ME where CCSS is weaker than what we’ve been doing, cuz ‘honey child’ we live in the SOUTH. I want a standard vs. standard analysis. “Common Core is teaching our children that Obama is the next Messiah and you should pray to him every night!!!” WHAT??? Crazy stuff like this shows up on Facebook every day. I’ll say, “Show me where it says that in the CCSS ELA standards.” They can’t show it to me but swear it’s true because “they heard it” from Billy Bob Joe Mack’s uncle’s sister’s cousin’s wife when she had her big toe removed. Just please STOP IT.

7. Would you rather buy a Mac or a PC?

Mac. I’m still learning and I have yet to become a fan of Pages and Numbers, but overall I love my Mac.

8. What is your favorite book?

I’d love to give you the impression that it’s some extremely intellectual book, but it’s not. I like to get lost in flawed characters and plots that make me forget where I am. I like the “Divergent” series and I also liked “Digital Fortress” by Dan Brown (although I know a lot of people hated it, but that’s ok).

9. If you had to choose blogging with no way to share it (ex. via twitter) or tweeting with no way to elaborate (ex. via a blog), which would you choose?

Twitter, hands down. I couldn’t live without the people in my Twitterhood.

10. Who is your hero? Why?

My grandparents. Both were mechanics, so I’ve been a grease monkey since I could crawl (instead of Legos, I had spark plugs). We had people of every background, class, demographic, etc. you can think of come through that garage. While my grandparents worked on cars, the customers became family – they were fed, talked to about their lives, and ALL treated with respect. And every person was accepted as an individual and payments were dependent on each person’s situation. Some could pay all up front. Some would have to barter. Some would have to pay what they could every week, but they ALWAYS paid because they respected and appreciated my grandparents. They taught me how to treat people and that differences were NEVER a bad thing, but an opportunity to learn. I didn’t encounter any prejudices until I started school.

11. What is the most exiting part about your job? Why?

When I revisit a classroom now and bring teachers resources or ideas and they LIGHT UP like a Christmas tree, that is wicked cool. Because I get to know them (like I did my students), I can find things that match their teaching styles and personalities. I also like walking into classrooms and kids say, “Ms. H., are you gonna be here all block? SWEET!!” or “I want to show you what I worked on last week after you left!” I know I’m not in the classroom anymore, but I’m still developing relationships with students.

Act 4. List 11 bloggers that I believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
#2-11 are not in any particular order – just #1.

1) Shelli Temple – she’s the reason I’m in the Twitterverse and the reason I didn’t BOMB at teaching stats
2) Christopher Danielson – makes me really think about math and teaching in ways I haven’t before. And he invited/trusted me to meet his family – homeboy can COOK
3) Fawn Nguyen – because I love this wicked smart awesome woman who kicks butt in the classroom
4) Kate Nowak – her blogpost on teaching logarithms saved my students from my crappy explanation
5) Andrew Stadel – estimation180, 3 acts, and he’s one of the few tall people I like.
6) Sam Shah – his calculus ideas make me understand it (finally) and his virtual filing cabinet is amazing
7) Frank Noschese – he teaches physics but so many great applications to math and he gets SBG like a BOSS
8) Chris Robinson – also really makes me think about education and mathematics.
9) Zach Patterson – I adore this kid. Lots of good lessons at “Hungry Teacher” and he once did a race in these fox pajamas and a red wig.
10) Nik Doran – he’s British and there’s the whole “maths” thing, but other than that he has some pretty good ideas and I like his “hinge questions”.
11) David Cox – fascinated by his middle school blog

Act 5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate:

1) If you had to pick one area/concept of math that is your “jam”, what would it be?

2) To quote Rodney (Chris Rock) from Dr. Doolittle, “You can’t save them all, Hasselhoff.” True, but there’s at least one student that sticks out in my mind that I feel I failed. Do you have one?

3) Twenty years from now, what’s something kids will probably remember about you (phrase, moment, habit, characteristic, etc.)?

4) I nominated you because I think you’re great, but I know we are all our own worst critics. What’s something that you’d like to “fix” about yourself in your current job?

5) Name a movie title that describes you and why.

6) I love TMC because at night I can hang out with my favorite tweeps and learn so much from them. Which tweep would you love to have a conversation with over a beverage?

7) If you couldn’t teach your specific subject, what else would you teach?

8) Everybody has a song they car dance/jam out to. What’s yours?

9) TMC13 enlightened me on karaoke night. A few people completely blew my mind (I’m lookin’ at you, Pershan). Who would you love to see karaoke at TMC14 and why?

10) What’s one thing (item, app, software, etc.) that you love so much that you can’t imagine doing your job without it?

11) If you could job shadow one tweep for a week, who would it be and why?

Well, that’s about all the sunshine I can handle one post. 🙂
This is probably the hardest blog challenge I’ve ever had, but it really made me think (so thanks, John!). But I HATED leaving people off for Act 4. UGH. Check out these amazing people to the right in my blog roll that are all WONDERFUL.