The Intangible Aspects of Teaching

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this and at first I struggled to think about what really sets me apart from any other teacher. What I've come up with is some common themes...

Effort Is Attractive

I think students feel safe knowing I'm always going to put forth effort and even extra effort. Which teacher do you trust more? The one who wears khaki pants and t-shirts every day or the one who puts together outfits with coordinating jewelry and make-up? The one who's classroom is cluttery and hasn't changed in 10 years or the one who keeps it clean, smelling fresh, and nicely decorated? The one who does the same worksheets and lectures year after year or the one who tries new things, fails, fixes mistakes, and asks for feedback?

I put effort into knowing my students and letting them know me. I know the slang, I'm active on social media, I learn their nicknames and hobbies, I have inside jokes with them, I compliment them, I ask them questions to get to know them better. I think this is something people take for granted. I like my students. I'm interested in their lives. I want to be part of it. I want to make it better. I like my job. I want to be better.

The students laugh at the extra things I do but also give me ideas on how to be even more extra. "Why haven't you decorated your SMART board remote? Everything else in here is decorated."

Treat People Better Than They Deserve

This really came to light at the end of this year. I always do something special for my seniors. This year I made them t-shirts- individually customized for each student. And before I gave them out, those students made me so mad. This wasn't even my favorite group of seniors. But you know what....I give gifts because I'm good...not because they are. Gifts are my love language and giving them fuels me. It makes me happy. And my goal as a teacher is that I give them a good high school math experience, that they enjoy my class, that they are observant, that they ask questions, that they put forth effort, and that they operate out of love. And t-shirts fulfills like at least three of those.

I buy them their favorite candy on their birthday. For Valentine's Day I wrote a little heart message to every kid. So many of the taped it to their notebooks or binders or lockers and that just made my heart burst. When I tell some teachers about those things, they look at me like I'm crazy. Everyone wants to be celebrated. Think of what you would like people to do for you...and then do it for them.

Be Authentic

Keep in mind that I am the only math teacher in a small school so I have the same students for 3-4 years in a row. We get to know each other really well. They know when I'm mad or sad, they tell me when I look tired, they remember the one time ever that I went home sick. They know my favorite colors, that I'm obsessed with chevron, the snacks I eat, where I shop, and that I take naps every day. I talk to girls about make-up and they bring me colors they aren't brave enough to wear. They tell me when they see something chevron that I need to buy. We gush over our favorite pens to write with. Share memes. I ask about their weekend and they ask about mine. We tell stories. We laugh. Oh man, we laugh!

While it's important to remember they are humans, it's also important to remember you are. It still humbles me that when I tell a personal story in the middle of class how eyes are on me and there is almost a feeling of everyone holding their breath to hear my story. It's crazy. Don't take for granted that they want to know you too.

Be Consistent

I have really good hearing. I catch almost everything and they HATE how consistent I am at enforcing my two nice things rule. Even school rules that I don't agree with, I am consistent with enforcing them by just saying "You know the rule." We have a no backpack rule. I watch students wear their backpacks to every class and then when they come to mine they put it in their locker first. After my class, they go right back and get it again. If they bring it to my class, I just say "Hey, please go put that bag in your locker." I don't yell. I ask. I say please. My tone tells them that I know they just forgot. Basically, I remember that they're humans. I consistently show up. I consistently enforce rules. I consistently run my classroom with routines. I am consistently myself- and that gives them permission to be themselves.

I'm a Learner

I have literally asked my mom how she taught me to always do my best in what I do, even if I don't like doing it. Secret is- she has no idea and thinks I could have been raised by wolves. But I think, I hope, I model learning for my students. I want to learn about them. I want to learn math that I don't know well enough. I want to learn new technology. I want to learn new makeup and hair trends. I want to learn how to be a better cook. I want to know the popular music and dances, even if I can't actually do them. I want to learn more about myself. I want to improve. I want to be better- in every arena of my life- and I think that reminds them that I'm human.

Once again, I think we take it for granted how important it truly is to like our jobs. Like our students. Like our classrooms. Like our jobs enough to dress up and show up. Like ourselves. Like learning.

Make Pretty Things + Make Things Pretty

To sum all this up, I think that my students respect that I will always try to leave things and people better than I found them. Whether that is cleaning, organizing, decorating, teaching, questioning, disciplining, I see the beauty in others and use my gifts to draw out and display that beauty as much and as often as possible.

What is 'essential' is that students leave my class feeling better about themselves, me, math, school, the world, etc because of how I used my gifts; that they are then inspired to go out and fully use their gifts.

And that is invisible to the eye.


End of Year Reflection

Things I Did Well This Year

  • Integrated Google Classroom in a natural way; replaced things I already did in a more efficient way: bell ringers, weekly wrap ups, and semester reflection papers, schoolwide Homecoming and Prom surveys 
  • Followed through on #teach180 posts on Twitter for my virtual colleagues, on Instagram for my students, and on facebook for colleagues and parents. Posting daily made me more aware of what lessons I planned as well as keeping me active on Twitter, which I don't know that I've done since year one. I got more positive feedback from parents and colleagues on fb and in person than any change I've ever made.
  • Celebrated students with summer birthdays on their half birthdays instead of a million on the last day of school
  • Started going to baseball games which really seemed to matter to the boys and coach; I think I take it for granted that they care because I'm the cheer coach and go to every basketball game but baseball games are my choice
  • Read the room and gave second chances or extra time when I knew students' anxiety and stress was too high to do any mathematical good
  • Connected; I don't really know how to explain but I really felt like I was in the trenches with my students this year
  • Ended the year by getting things ready for next year; cleaned my room, replaced borders, cut INB bookmarks and painted with nail polish to prevent shedding, copied all INB table of contents
  • Celebrated my seniors with custom shirts designed individually for each of them
Things I Want To Do Well Next Year

  • Send out remind messages and make instagram posts for each students birthday
  • Boost pre-algebra skills by assigning practice problems on Delta Math for each unit and replacing unit reflections with  related pre-Algebra prerequisite skills (if that makes sense)
  • Use Google Classroom to naturally integrate debate questions, at least once per unit (anyone have ideas how to assess this or promote conversation between students?)
  • Create a factoring (bell ringers) booklet/flip book during the first week of school that students can refer to for Factoring Fridays throughout the year (this will replace the review unit I did in every course this year)
  • Plan better usage (spacing) of whiteboarding, Kahoot, pong, and Hedbanz games
  • Positive Postcards- I've mentioned these for years and have never actually done them!
  • Plan my end of year routines better; I skipped a lot of things I like to do because I was trying to shove too much into the last two weeks of school
My Big Summer Project
  • I want to record voice overs of me explaining and writing in our INB notes; I have issues with students who are absent or in ISS that miss out on instruction and never seem to catch up. This would also be a first step to flipping instruction. I plan to start with Algebra 2 and depending on how long that takes, trickle down to Algebra I. I want to have a recording and digital answer key ready to post after each lesson I teach.
My Big 2018-2019 etc etc Project
  • Slowly transition my fourth year math class from trig only to precalculus (I have no idea what I'm doing!)
Things I'm Not Sure I Did Well or Should Do Again
  • Mathematician Projects- First I did a Google Slides Presentation then I tried a Fakebook Profile which wouldn't load for everyone and I ended up dropping at the last minute
  • Managing unruly students and seniors
Things to Celebrate
  • I taught factoring better than ever before! They recognized the different types! We didn't use any tricks! They retained the information through several units!
  • I got farther in Algebra 2 and Geometry than last year! I taught at least 3 new units this year!
  • I made digital INB answer keys for almost every skill that I can easily print instead of rewriting every year! Why didn't I think of this sooner!
  • I worked a couple hours on Saturdays and very little on weeknights! I only took grading home twice all year!
  • I kept the same 18 pencils for at least the first semester of school!
  • We changed seats every two weeks all year #onegoodthing posts
  • I've personally learned a lot of new things this year which keeps me humble and reminds me of what it feels like to be a student
  • I'm presenting at #TMC18!


Weekly Wrap Up Questions

In the past few years, I've done daily bell ringers with a theme and weekly wrap up questions. Until this year, I had always done them on paper. I took home 100 papers every weekend to read and respond to the weekly wrap up questions.

This year, I wanted to use Google Classroom in every possible way.

Bell ringers and weekly wrap ups were my first victims.

I made individual bell ringer forms for each period.

I posted this at the beginning of the year and deleted responses every Monday.

For the weekly wrap up, I posted the first week of school and then updated every weekend.

In the first week, a student asked if I would keep numbering the weeks so I did; which also helped keep track of the question numbers.

I asked two every week, usually one silly and one more serious; usually only asking for an explanation on one of them.

Near the end of each quarter I asked more reflective questions. Sometimes I asked students for suggestions. Sometimes I answered the questions too; sometimes they asked me out loud.

What I LOVED about this so much is that this became a running conversation between me and each student in the private comments. We built on it. If I needed to address other topics, I could. For student who rarely talked out loud, I still got the chance to connect at least once a week. Since it was on my phone, I had nothing to carry home, I could respond while watching tv, riding in a car, taking a bath, lying in bed, etc.

For those of you looking for a way to build relationship, this is so easy and almost foolproof. If thinking of questions seems hard to you, you're in luck.

Here are most of the questions from this year.

Tip: If other people ask you about an idea more than once but it seems so obvious to you that it's hard to put into words- this is part of your gift.

Warning: Do not take this on if you do not plan on responding! They will hold you accountable!