1.14.2017

Digging Deep Wells

After my post about feeling basic, I got a lot of comments, tweets, and messages of others who are feeling the same. We are not alone! Thank you so much for your feedback and for always pushing me to dig deeper, even to write this follow up post.

I had a great conversation with a few of my longest Twitter teacher friends about this and they also encouraged me to narrow it down to something I can work on and actually change.

Tom had a great comment, especially for a super-logical-organized-planner-rule-follower like myself, which was to use the Charlotte Danielson rubric, which my school uses as an evaluation instrument, to pick some areas to work on. This is exactly what I need to give myself some focus.

As I read through the 4 domains, I was encouraged that I feel like I am rocking Domain 2 and my recent post-observation meeting confirmed that. She pointed how students came in and got their binders and start working, knew where supplies were and got them out when needed, discussed their work with each other without prompting, helped each other pick up stuff when a student dropped a drawer out of the cart, and that my procedures are in place. I thought those were things that came naturally....because they do come naturally...to me. Cue Annie's on point comment. It also follows with how I see I'm a great teacher but not a great mathematician. Domain 1 scares me and I'm floating on sea level in Domains 3 and 4 with plenty of room to grow.

I picked a few things that I thought were doable and I noticed an interesting pattern...


  • The teacher’s plans demonstrate awareness of possible student misconceptions and how they can be addressed
  • The teacher’s plans reference curricular frameworks or blueprints to ensure accurate sequencing. 
  • The teacher connects outcomes to previous and future learning.
  • Assessments provide opportunities for student choice.
  • The teacher uses rich language, offering brief vocabulary lessons where appropriate, both for general vocabulary and for the discipline.
  • Students have an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate their understanding
  • The teacher’s assessment of the lesson is thoughtful and includes specific indicators of effectiveness.
  • The teacher seeks regular opportunities for continued professional development, including initiating action research.

These are all things I can create! I am a creator at heart. Now that my curriculum is aligned, I'd like to write some nice unit plans. 3 out of 8 on my list have to do with plans.

I have provided student choice on assessments by giving them 6 questions and asking them to choose 5. What other ways can I give student choice?

I included the one about rich vocabulary because I am bad about breaking things down so much that I don't used academic vocabulary like I should- a student pointed that out in our semester reflections and I know she is right.

I was including some reflection questions on quizzes and tests thanks to @pamjwilson's suggestion. I need to do this consistently. I also need to remind students about shading their colored circles in their INB table of contents.

Sadly I just completed my post-observation assessment but I love the idea of 'specific indicators of effectiveness'. I need to think about that for each lesson- what do I want to achieve and how will I know if I achieved it? I think that also ties back to plans.

But the last one got me really excited- action research! I learned about it and did it during my master's program but never used it since. Once again, it's something I can create. I don't even know what to do but it sounds fun!

I already feel like this post is rambling but this is me explaining my brain.

I think what makes me a good teacher is that I am very observant and I think very logically. I want to enhance those traits in my students. I think Number Talks and WODB are great tools for that so I am committing to reading Number Talks books and researching it in depth during this year and this summer.

I also think I ask good questions and while I get better at it every year, I'm definitely not asking those higher order questions like synthesizing and application.

Shelly @druinok brought up a good book we read a while ago and so I dug it out.



I'm also committing to reading these throughout this semester and this summer. My goal is to come up with one good question a week for the rest of the school year. It can be for any content area and it might come word for word from one of these books but that's okay. My plan as of now is to maybe just add a slide at the end of a lesson with a 'challenge' question for students to discuss and maybe something like it will also show up on the study guide or as a bonus question on a test. The idea of asking questions and adding one here and there doesn't overwhelm me- even though making them up does. I know I have to start before I can get good so this is my plan.

For those of you who commented on NBCT, I'm applying for funding in February even though it scares the crap out of me. My state no longer has stipends and no one at my school has ever done this so....there's really no financial reward for so I don't see myself pursuing it if I don't get funding from somewhere. Thank you for thinking I can do it!

While this post might seem all over the place, it's better than how I was feeling two weeks ago and it went a long way as far as 'underwhelming' me. Also, I'm giving myself nine months to read two books so that I don't feel rushed and give up.

Anyone have idea for an action project? Formative assessment? Questioning? Vocabulary?

Anyone want to do it with me? :) :) :) :) :)

1.10.2017

#DITL Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

6:00 Wake up and  get pretty.

7:42 Arrive at school and drop off my lunch in the home ec room so I won't have to walk all the way to the office. Head to my room to get my cooler and race to the cafeteria to fill it with ice and water. (Students aren't allowed to bring food or drinks so we provide water in our rooms.)

1st hour- We are finishing six problems on the right side of our INB about parallel and perpendicular slope. Students seem to be taking each problem in stride and doing well. Glad I already have the next activity prepared....although it takes the majority of the class period to finish those six problems. Now students get out dry erase markers to practice on the desk while we play a game of trashketball. Two problems later and the class is already over.

2nd hour- Students are finishing a handout from yesterday to prepare for a quiz over reciprocal functions. Everyone starts and finishes at different times and I wait for everyone to be finished before starting the next activity. We are making an almost-fortune-teller-cootie-catcher for our INB notes on quadrantal angles. Why does it take 8 upperclassmen 40 years to cut and fold a piece of paper? Even following my verbal directions, with the picture on the board, and my completed example, students still mess up and have to start over. Never give up teaching students to follow directions! We don't even have time to start writing in them before class ends. :(

3rd hour- Algebra I has a quiz today over finding intercepts and graphing horizontal and vertical lines. For practice, all I made was a boring worksheet of 12 problems. I remember an idea from someone's blog post about a buried treasure powerpoint game that I downloaded. Every slide has ships on them and students get to a click a ship to find the treasure. I tell students they get one click after I have checked each set of 4 problems. The winner gets a baby butterfinger. I spend the rest of the class period bouncing back and forth across the room to check answers- I don't even have time to print out an answer key. Students are HIGHLY engaged. As they finish, they start gathering around the board, waiting for the next person to click, in expectation of who might actually find the treasure. It's adorable. I stop the class and handout the quiz. I probably burned more calories traversing the room than I did all day.

4th hour- Almost scripted word for word...thanks for the dry run first hour. I have a class full of boys and basketball players who expect to be awesome at trashketball. It's a very humbling game. All students in each team have to agree on their answer so a lot of good discussion is happening. We also get done with only two problems. Crazy how consistent(ly slow) I can be.

5th hour- Students are finishing a quiz while I make an answer key for the study guide they are about to take. I cleaned out a binder last week that I thought I didn't need so there went a few answer keys. The last page I'm getting all wrong answers but students are starting the study guide and need my help while I'm feeling anxious about the last page. Luckily, nobody gets that far by the end of the class period.

Lunch- The bell rings at 12:10 which means I get down to my food around 12:15 and then have to be back in my classroom and ready to go by 12:30. The healthy lunch plans are  joke at our school and the teachers are having a fit over what is served while I eat the leftovers my mom saved for me. I've been trying to convince these people for two years to just bring their lunch every day...

6th hour-My rowdiest class is finishing the quadratic formula and are taking a quiz today. I put one problem on the board for them to review first. As I'm walking around, the levels range between not knowing the first step, not knowing which numbers are a. b. and c and students who finish the whole problem independently. After the quiz it's time to start the dreaded........word problems!!!!!! It takes forever for students to fold two pieces of paper in half and tape them in their notebook. I give a lecture about how these problems are hard, now is the time to focus, stop playing and distracting others....We finish one problem and class is over.

7th hour- My class of five is taking a quiz over simplifying rational expressions. We just finished trig identities so I feel like this is going to be a piece of cake. By the time we finish reviewing so that they feel prepared, there is only 15 minutes left of class. There are 6 problems and only 1 actually complete the quiz. To be continued. Literally.

8th hour- It's my plan period but I have to sub. I bring the class to my room since no plans were left and they play on chrome books and talk while I grade papers and get things ready to copy.

3:20 It's time for cheerleading practice. There is also an after school BETA club meeting to prepare for state competitions in March. Since my whole squad is in BETA club, we split up time between the two. I'm excited that I will get to go home early.

4:00 Practice is over and I have more papers to grade and copies to make so I don't have to take anything home.

5:15 I guess I won't be going home early...

6:00-10:00 I need to make an answer key but I messed up on it so many times already that I'm too tired and unmotivated to do it. I dread it all night and end up not doing it. I finished walking to get my 12,000+ steps in, I pack my school bag for the next day, and do some scripture journaling.

11:00 I decide to go to bed 'early.'

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

Every day I am worried that my pacing is so far from idea but I balance in the tension between pacing and giving my students enough to process and practice. When some students tell me I move to fast, I almost cry with frustration. I've on unit 3 or 4 in every class with anywhere from 10-12 unit on my pacing guide. I'm lucky to do 6 units all year long.

I am proud of how often I ask students to tell me what is different about each new problem and how often I ask them to explain why and how.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately? 

I'm looking forward to my three day weekend and my upcoming Unit Circle project in trig. Even though we've just had a two week Christmas Break I'm praying for a snow day on Friday so I can have a four day weekend.

A challenge for me lately has been trying to decide focus for growth this year. I am feeling pretty basic and like I'm at the peak of my math abilities. I want to work on the things that have to most impact on student learning, but how do I decide what those are?

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

 I heard a girl in the hallway call another girl a fat b*****. A few minutes later I she came to return my pencil and I pulled her aside and told her I hear her. I told her that as a female, we should never call other female's that word since so many men already do. She nodded and went in the room. That may not be my best response but it was off the top of my head. She walked out and said, "Ms. Miller I am really sorry." That was a moment we wouldn't normally have shared.

Overall, I am having some really funny and interesting conversations with almost every class on a regular basis. We have inside jokes and favorite memes and I just feel really open and close with the majority of the students.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

Reread More Good Questions and work on questioning skills, make answers keys beforehand, continue my work life balance, and blog more often!

12.31.2016

2016 Reflection

This has been one of the best years of my life so I couldn't wait to share some highlights!

January- I started using my new curriculum and felt like I could breathe for the first time in eight years! I also started using a bullet journal which is so pretty and fun!

February- Went to a Google Appa conference that was productive

March- A blog post of mine was published in our first ever MTBos book

May- I completed my first ever 30 posts in 30 days for #MTBoS30 and to top it off celebrated my 30th birthday in St. Louis

June- I canoed for the first time and zip lined for the second time. I got new teeth!

July- I went to Minneapolis Minnesota for the first time to attend my fourth Twitter Math Camp

August- I lost 50 pounds in one year thanks to my Fitbit and walking. I also started writing posts for the Day in the Life series.

September- My grandma came to visit; my uncle fixed the power in my basement and built me a beautiful hall tree

October- I surpassed my all time best of 109 blog posts in one year! This makes post 114.

November- I got a new phone

December- I had one of the best end of the semesters, Christmas break, and Christmas's ever!

And now some ideas for 2017...

A bad habit I'm going to break: crossing my arms when I walk around the class

A new skill I'd like to learn: an instructional routine to use

A person I hope to be more like: Rebecka Peterson

A good deed I'm going to do: send home happy notes or postcards to parents

A book I'd like to read: Making Number Talks Matter

A letter I'm going to write: individual letters to my seniors

I'm going to do better at: getting to school earlier

My students wrote to me that my classroom is colorful and welcoming, they look forward to my class, they like math now, I've helped them be more organized, I explain things in a way they can understand easily, they know that I care about them and their lives, and they enjoy being around me.

Good-bye 2016! 👋🏻

12.30.2016

Am I Basic?

aka Am I a Fraud?

I always laugh at basic white girl memes and how I really am none of them....I don't like coffee, I've never bought anything from Starbucks, I don't really care for tacos or Mexican, I don't feel comfortable wearing leggings in public, I think Uggs are ugly, and I can't do a messy bun to save my life.

But when it comes to teaching...I just realized I might be basic.

I've been proud of myself for using a new curriculum, getting my resources aligned, reinforcing my routines, being organized and keeping my students organized, working less throughout the week, being more open with students....

But has my teaching improved?

I'm not asking higher order thinking questions {maybe I'm not really sure what they are}, I don't use any instructional routines {maybe I'm not really sure what they are}, I don't do any fancy three-act tasks or really any tasks at all {maybe I'm not really sure how to find/make/use them}, I'm not writing comments, I don't do low floor high ceiling, open middle, I'm not using Desmos on a daily basis, my students are creating anything, I'm doing pathetic job with number talks, and I haven't mentioned growth mindset since the first two weeks of school.

I just finished reading and grading all my students' first semester reflection papers and the comments were overwhelmingly positive.

I'm the teacher I always dreamed of being.

Until I met you MTBoS.

My students are happy with me and my abilities because they don't know any better. I'm an improvement over past teachers so they are satisfied.

They don't know what they're missing out on.

But I do.

And I'm not saying that in a feeling sorry for myself  way, just an honest way. This has been one of the best years of my life and I'm happier than I've ever been.

But what now? Where do I go from here?

I'm not sure which area I need the most growth in. I feel incapable of even trying some of the things I listed above, let alone using them in a way that is beneficial for my students.

Which thing would benefit my students the most....that I can actually accomplish?

Can someone just create a to-do list for the rest of my teaching career?

I've been wanting to try national board certification but I'm too scared I will fail miserably because I'm not sure I'm as a good of a teacher as the professional learning standards requires. I would love to present at TMC but I have nothing to present. Every year I find less and less things to even share as a my favorite, let alone present for an entire 30 minutes. You can tell in my blogging that I have less and less to share....I'm using a curriculum so I'm creating less which means less to share.

I feel like I was on the front edge of the MTBoS when it started and now I've been left behind. I don't even get on Twitter anymore because it feels like everyone sharing these amazing projects and lessons and achievements that drown out my basicness. Also it is so filled with politics that I don't even feel safe posting much anymore.

Again, this is not for pity. At all. It's my brutally honest way of evaluating myself, my year, and my career.

How do I go deeper? What's the best route? What is sustainable?

How do I become the teacher I've learned I'm so far away from being?



12.10.2016

#DITL Saturday, December 10th, 2016


I promise I didn't go through and pick out the 10th as a day that mostly falls on weekends...but it sure seems like it!

Today I had my alarm set for 9:30 but my dad woke me up at 9:00 to work on a pipe. I got up and got ready for lunch with my friend at 11:30. Leaving my house around 10:45, I had to stop by the school and set up a laptop for the music at tonight's Junior High Prom.

Lunch with my friend lasted until 1:30. I ran a few errands around town until 2:30 and headed back home to baby-sit my niece and nephew from 3-6.

My sister got off work and my parents joined us all to go to a live Nativity scene acted out at a nearby church. We finished there and went to McDonald's. Then my sister and I ran to Wal-Mart to get a few groceries. We got home at 11:00 and all I could think about was how grateful I was that I didn't have school work to do. This is the first weekend since school started that that has happened. We finished last week up with semester review and this week we are doing semester exams and papers which meant nothing for me to create/prepare.

I have been counting down the days since Thanksgiving for this break to come. Over Thanksgiving, we had a basketball tournament over an hour away and we played a game every single day except Thanksgiving. I also had to fit in baking desserts, cleaning house, decorating for Christmas, and my regular school work into each of those  5 days. Since each game took anywhere between 4-6 hours of my day, I didn't really get a break at all.

COME ON CHRISTMAS.