So I'm trying to design my own posters for my classroom thanks to Zazzle.com (also @zazzle).

I'm looking for good quotes to put that aren't cheezy and lame.

Students these days are hard to impress.

The whole theme of my room is blues and greens, a relaxing beachy kind of place.

I want some short, direct quotes. Nothing overly optimistic, but something that appeals to the kids, sets high expectations, funny, interesting, etc.

Oh and I also need some cool backgrounds. But I digress.

Here are some of my ideas so far. Critique as needed.

Enjoy every moment.

Avoid negative people.

Don't forget to laugh.

Not perfection but progression.

Don't compete, complete.

You can do it. I can help.

Mathematics is like love; a simple idea, but it can get complicated.

Embrace failure. Life = risk.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Life is a ladder: Every step we take is either up or down.

Um...that's all I got.

Teachers Don't Like Work

This is what I have learned from my own experiences in high school, college, the workforce, and from the Internet.

Teachers don't like to work.

I've been reading all these articles lately about President Obama and merit/performance-based pay, etc. This would be the appropriate place to throw in some links but the only one you need is here. Anyway, what I repeatedly see is that teachers are the most skeptical/against merit pay.

I can't help but wonder if this is from fear of being 'found out'. If teachers are rewarded based on test scores and my students aren't passing, somebody might just be taking a closer to look into what I'm doing.

I'm sorry if my skepticism is harshly judging the majority of teachers but what I see in my own school is that teachers don't want to work.

We know we need to improve so we read some more books, change our seating arrangements, try a new form of technology, dress different, talk different, go on home visits, start clubs, involve parents, go to meetings, and create committees.

It seems to me we are missing the real point of education reform: the way we teach. I think it's time we take a look at our curriculum and lesson plans and begin the reform there. We are against this because it's hard. We are against this because it's time consuming. We are against this because it means stepping into the unknown. All these side benefits and outside of school meetings and after school programs are not affecting what affects students the most: the quality of our teaching.

Let's cut back and trim down all the extra bull crap we do and make time to look at what we are teaching. Am I really cut out for this? Do I have any idea what I'm doing? Who can mentor me on this? Do I need to take more classes or learn more to do this? Am I prepared? Do I have someone who can teach me? What resources do I need? How can I improve? Is my current curriculum working? If it is, then why am I afraid of merit pay?

You're a good teacher or you aren't. We all know who the good ones are and aren't. But it's hard to document those things in order to reward teachers.

And while we are talking about performance-based pay, does that mean bad teachers will be docked for not meeting certain criteria?

Standardized tests are to monitor if we are teaching what and how we should be. We shouldn't be teaching to the test. If we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, the tests reflect that. To me, merit pay is a wake-up call to change and improve or that hey, I actually know what I'm doing here.

If you don't want the wake-up call to come from someone else or to come in dollars and cents, then wake up on your own.

Teaching is work- it's hard but it's what we get paid for.


Watch Me Live It

Imagine reading a book about a place you have never heard of. The book describes other people's trip there, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like, what you should take on your trip, and basically the amazingness of said place.

Now imagine the book ending without telling you how to get there.


I've been reading a lot lately and I'm not sure if it is helping or confusing me further.

Ok, I take it back. It is helping but not the kind of help I want.

I just finished Understanding by Design and There Are No Shortcuts. Both encouraged and discouraged me.

Understanding by Design showed me that I need to have a whole new mindset and perspective on learning and curriculum in general. Which isn't hard to do, since I didn't really have a set perspective anyway. But it left me discouraged because 97.8% of the math examples were about non-Euclidean geometry which is interesting but nothing I've ever seen at the high school level. Or that I could even teach. So. I felt more lost and confused than before. Here is the magical place that makes school interesting and engaging and meaningful and leads to improved student achievement. But I don't know how to get there. I can think of creative ideas and trips and activities and lessons for any grade or subject area but my own.

Sometimes I question, How DOES math relate to the real world? Why did I ever find this subject interesting? In school, I did what I was supposed to because I was supposed to. I didn't question how I would use this or why it was important. Teacher said it, I did it. I just graduated high school 5 years ago! Have things really changed this much? Ay yi yi.

So then I read Rafe Esquith, There Are No Shortcuts. (PS Is it Rafe like Rake with an f? Or is it Rafe like Mafia with an R? And without that last A. I'm terrible at pronunciation.) First of all, it made me feel like a failure for being a high school teacher. I mean this guy spends from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM with the same group of kids. I have 8:00 to 8:52. How can I possibly fit life changing moments with every student in that amount of time?

He had amazing stories that brought tears to my eyes and horrible stories that made me uneasy because I know I will be facing some version of them myself. But overall, I didn't get a lot of practical advice on how to do what he does. That's what would have been most helpful for me.

But on the positive side, I loved his take on how we have made education look easy, when the truth is that it's not. It takes hard work, discipline, practice, determination, commitment, etc. There are no shortcuts. That's on point. I also loved using Atticus Finch as a role model. Rafe and Atticus both have a bunch of wisdom and good character.

In the end, the more I read, the more I know I can't do this.


I can't do this alone. I know without a doubt, 100%, that this is where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I don't really know how to do it.

I think God has moved me from what a predictable teaching career is and into something far beyond that. I know I am on the edge of something bigger than me but not quite sure what, where, or how to approach it. My insides say that it is probably going to come one day at a time in ways that I would never have expected.

So someone smarter wiser than me needs to write a book that tells me step-by-step how to be an amazing teacher that changes lives, wins awards, and how to plan a curriculum for high school algebra and geometry. Or else you all are just going to have to watch me live it.

Two options.

Read it or Write It.


10 Ways to Create a Positive Learning Experience

Hustle & Flow: Classroom Style

The words hustle and flow describe one basic word to me: activity.

I want my classroom to be full of activity. Productive activity. You may not agree with some of the things I'm posting, but remember, I'm suggesting these for the long-term effect they will have on the student culture and classroom atmosphere.

The following are some ways to keep the hustle and flow going in your classroom and to help create a positive learning enrivonment.

  1. Address student by name. Our names are our identity and we should use them as much as possible. Learn your students names, and the correct pronunciation immediately!
  2. Using please and thank you. We take these words for granted but we need to keep in mind how important giving respect is in order to earn respect. Put these words to daily use on tests, homework, worksheets, presentations, etc. Saying thank you for an answer shows you hear them and appreciate them, even if the answer is wrong.
  3. Listening. Students crave our attention and focus on them. We should be extremely careful that in listening we are NOT physically turning away, sighing, frowning, rolling our eyes, talking to someone else, or looking away. We show people they matter by our body language, whether we mean it or not. My body language can create a division in the classroom.
  4. No bullying/teasing/put downs. Students need to know that they are entering a safe environment. They need to be comfortable and know where they fit in before they can learn and take risks in their learning. This needs to be implemented from the very beginning. No bullying from students or from teachers! We are responsible for what we allow in the classroom. For every one put down, require two put ups. That person now has to say two nice things. The put ups don't mean anything; what matters is your consistency in protecting life and creating a level playing field for everyone.
  5. Eye Contact. Making quick eye contact is important in creating a culture of trust. Students matter. They aren't lifeless objects just sitting our room (although they may look like it) and we should we treat them as the valuable people they are. Recognize them.
  6. Accept more than one answer. Instead of students reading their own mind, we want them to read ours. Don't set kids up for failure by only asking for one right answer. Don't damage the students in the process of learning. When kids get all the wrong answers, they start to think something is wrong with them. Ask open-ended questions to encourage divergent thinking. Ask "What do you think?" instead of "Why?". Say "That's not exactly what I'm looking for" instead of "Wrong answer."
  7. Anonymous positive feedback. Pass out blank papers with each student's name at the top. Every student has to write a honest, positive comment about every other student. Read and discuss. Have students sign their name next to the comment to check for participation and being positive.
  8. Lineup. Ask the students to line themselves up in order from who contributes/participates the most to the class to who contributes the least. This can be controversial as students try to explain their behavior. Once in order, give each student a chance to pick another student who should get to move up in the order.
  9. Use a variety of inquiry methods. Students need at least 6-8 seconds wait time after a question is asked. While you are anticipating their answer, they are processing the question, thinking about what they already know or have experienced, and deciding the best way to answer your question out loud. That takes time. Give students silent time to reflect, ask them to discuss with a neighbor, write down a few words, etc. This gives students long enough to think of answer or learn what their partner is saying. Now everyone has an answer and is prepared if you call on them.

    And probably the most important classroom management technique ever is....

  10. Greet students at the door. This creates a welcoming environment from the very beginning. For a better explanation, read Dan Meyer's view on this technique.

Strategies not linked to another website came from Lions Quest Social Emotional Learning Workshop based on the Skills for Adolescence curriculum. Or my brain.


Curriculum Design

*Update: Check out my first ever Algebra lesson: The Real Number Line*

So apparently this curriculum design thing is hard.

Really hard. Especially when you are totally unprepared. I don't feel like I have learned anything about how to plan and design a lesson, let alone the entire curriculum. Sure, we learned how to make a lesson fit Madeline Hunter's lesson plan outline but that doesn't help me answer the questions I'm asking myself now.

Where do I start? How much should I review? What order does it make sense for me to teach these lessons in? What format will I teach each lesson in? How do I set up each lesson? How do I involve students and give them ownership of their learning? How do I start the lesson? How do I close it? What's best for the students?

These are hard questions that I know I can't possibly figure out all at one time. I know that I can't know everything my first year. But I want to.

My perfectionist nature is taking over to the point that I am so overwhelmed with options, ideas, suggestions, formats, and so on that I end up doing nothing and getting nowhere.

One important thing that I have learned about myself is this: I need to see the big picture first.

I was overwhelmed because I had no idea where to start. So I started with order. I opened up my Algebra 1 book and started looking at each section. Some things didn't make sense- it looked like the authors just threw it in random places to make sure it was covered. So I began to take things out and move them around, or cut it out completely. I kept questioning my PLN to make sure I wasn't making any huge mistakes or totally screwing up. I talked to the other math teacher who teaches higher levels and he helped me decide what could be taken out of my class that would be taught in his class. He even gave me his plan book from last year to see how far he got, what sections he skipped, and how long he spent on each topic. This was all very important for me to get a sense of where to begin. I had to have my framework in order before I could even begin planning a single lesson. Your brain may not work that way, but it definitely worked for me.

So after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears I came up with an outline for the entire year, broken down into separate units and sections. Ta-da!

I would love your feedback on this list. It took a lot of work but it could always use improvement. I hope that by posting this, someone else will find it a little easier to start their lesson planning,

I have since started creating my day 1 lesson, but have not finished. It's slow going and complicated to produce something that you've read about but never seen or experienced. I think I know what I want it to be like, but I'm creating it blind. I've had many recommendations to use the book Understand by Design and I've ordered it but haven't got it yet. =( And it doesn't help that the mail doesn't run until 3:30.

But I digress.

I covet your suggestions, recommendations, guidelines, feedback, and critique. These are the hard but important stages. It's easy and exciting to create a class website, design student and parent letters, organize supplies, and decorate a classroom. But the most important and time consuming thing is to plan the day in and day out high quality content and assessment that every student deserves. This is where I find fault with a lot of teachers. We, myself included, usually don't want to do the work it takes to develop high quality content. We rationalize that doing all these other things like having color coordinated folders, and keeping our desks in five perfectly straightened rows and sponsoring these clubs and coming to x amount of basketball games and high-fiving y amount of students in the hallway or even using z amount of technology in our class are the ingredients to being a good teacher. Those are good ingredients obviously. Ingredients for a good friend, supporter, mentor, sponsor, person that relates well to youth, and etc. But that's not what makes a good teacher. Only one thing matters.

Did they learn?


Master's or PhD? My 10 Year Plan

As I've been twittering away my summer, I've been talking with other teachers about master's degrees, specialist degrees, PhD's, the works. I know it's something I want to do. I love school. Duh, I'm a teacher. I just don't know which direction I want to go in.

I found some information on Wilkes University. I've never heard of it before this, but they are teaming with Discovery Education to provide online master degrees. Um, yeah, exactly everything that I've been looking for!! Just let me list a few classes of the Instructional Media program: Digital Media in the Classroom, Technology Leadership, Project-Based Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, Using Technology to Support Creativity. Are they spying on my Twitter feed? Plus it's only 30 hours and did I mention it's completely totally online?? I think Jesus may have e-mailed them on my behalf.

Now here's the other prong in my fork. My administrators are already talking to me about moving into administration. I've been working closely with the assistant superintendent on many projects and she is already retired but will be permanently retiring in the next couple years. I would love her job because I definitely don't want to be a principal. That's just not me. But to be assistant you have to be qualified to be the super which requires a master's and a specialist. Lot's of work, time, and money. But...I don't know that I want that job soon.

Say these two words with me: Teacher leadership. Now say these two: Instructional coaching. The combination of those four words makes my heart happy and my pulse speed up a bit. I love teaching so why wouldn't I love teaching other teachers! I love organization and structure and I would love to be able to give those to other teachers. Now, I don't know how all this works. There really is no position for teacher leadership in my district other than just volunteering to do everything first and then teaching everyone else. I wouldn't mind traveling a little bit and speaking to other teachers, but I'd still want to be in the classroom. Which poses some obvious problems.

And here's where the most obvious problem of all comes into play.....


Degrees aren't cheap and I haven't even started paying off my first one (which is turning out to be a little bit useless, but that's another post).

So with nearly everything in my life, I need a plan.

Without further ado, here are my 10tative 10 year plan(s):

Within 10 years or less, pay off my student loans from my bachelor degrees. Also within those 10 years get a master's degree in whatever interests me at that time.

Then in another 10 years or less I can work on that admin masters/specialist. That puts me at assistant superintendent at about age 45. Stay there for another 10 years and then I'm outta there! lol

Ok, so it may not be that easy but I can work a good plan. And changing it up keeps me interested and doesn't make me feel like I'm at a dead end job for my whole life (not that teaching is a dead end, but you know what I mean).

And anytime my rich husband or a lump sum of money wants to find me, that would fit perfectly into my plan.

I mean who do you know, really, that has a 20 year plan? lol

Who I do know, is a God who continually gives me favor. Favor gets me what I cannot afford. God has overwhelmingly favored me enough to open door after door and offer opportunity after opportunity.

Trusting that to continue is the whole key to my 20 year plan. =)