Proud to be an Illini #MTBoS12days

You might be able to tell from my Twitter picture that I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But you may not be able to tell that I’m also a super huge Illini fan. This is mainly because I was a cymbal player in the Marching Illini Drumline. I also participated in the basketball band as part of the Undergraduate Staff. The band was the best community I had ever been a part of. No matter how dumb the Illini were sometimes on the field or on the court, we were still the biggest supporters. I will admit that I haven’t been able to keep up with the games as much this year, but still get into the games that I am able to watch. Every other Thursday, when we don’t have a spirit day planned, I wear Illini attire and truly believe that the University of Illinois is an amazing school and community. Go Illini!

This has been very fun to write and read all the #MTBoS12days posts! I look forward to blogging more this semester.

Les jours d’université me manquent.


New Year Resolutions #MTBoS12days

Here are my professional and personal new year resolutions for 2016:

  • Get in shape – I joined the #FitBoS 2016 Challenge to try to log 100 hours of working out this year. I used to run for 20 minutes a day but now this year I’ve run a grand total of 7 times since the school year started. Hoping to get back to running and start adding more strength training to the workouts, too.
  • Cook one *actual* meal a week (not just pasta with store bought sauce and a salad with store bought dressing every week – needs to include protein, too!) with minimal setting off of the smoke detector. I got some new cooking tools (frying pan, crock pot, spices) for the holidays and hope to really use them this year.
  • Be more efficient at school (copying Meg Craig here but she says it so well)
  • Play drums more – I have a drumset and access to percussion equipment any time I visit my boyfriend’s school (at least once a week for tutoring). I need to use these opportunities to play since I don’t have a band to play with anymore.
  • Keep up with speaking French. I’ve already lost a lot of my French skills, I fear, but I don’t want to lose them all!
  • Keep trying new things in the classroom and blog about them!

Je crois que tous ces résolutions pour la nouvelle année sont réalisables. J’ai hâte de les faire!

Looking Forward to in 2016 #MTBoS12days

Here are things that I’m looking forward to in 2016:

  • Being better at teaching my classes
  • Doing my second presentation at a conference at MMC in February – it will be better than the first one!
  • Watching my first high school graduation as a teacher
  • Watching my brother graduate from college
  • Possibly TMC16 – will have to see if I’m teaching summer school or not
  • Going to an AP workshop and possibly summer institute – Excited to teach AP AB Calculus next year!
  • Hosting people at my house finally
  • Using my new kitchen tools (croc pot, fry pan, spices) and learning to cook (got some great recipes from this challenge!)
  • Being part of the #MTBoS and blogging a little more

2016 sera une année exceptionnelle!

Classroom Wishlist #MTBoS12days

I’ve been in four classrooms since I started teaching (I have to say my favorite was when I was in a science classroom for a summer), and in each one I’ve always had my own wishlist. It’s like I can’t be satisfied anywhere. Also, as a kid I used to spend hours just drawing out my dream bedroom that in reality would have to be as big as my whole house to fit everything…But now in my current classroom, even though I am really fine with how it is, here’s my wishlist:

  • More room! OR less students/desks that have to be in the room – I have all classes of 15 or below except for my one class of 25 that means I have to have so many more desks than necessary in most classes and then in the big class, we just have no space to move around all the backpacks and kids. OR desks that have detached chairs that are easy to move around
  • More whiteboard space. I love that I have a full wall of windows and another full wall that’s a big bulletin board, but I’d rather have whiteboard space – or a set of big group whiteboards!
  • An interactive white board – I had one at my old school and I really do think it can add a lot to some lessons
  • If no interactive white board, then a projector that projects onto the board – I work with an HDMI hook up to an LCD monitor and it’s ok, but I wish I could go up to the display and point to things or have students come up to it
  • Wall space outside my classroom to display stuff (I could do this but my room is in a cave with the special ed teacher and outside of the cave is the LA teacher’s room so I don’t want to get in her space)
  • Visible storage for supplies that kids can just go for
  • Furnaces that don’t sound like an explosion every time they kick on
  • A plant that’s just as low maintenance as my terrarium but is outside of a bowl (does that exist? I’m thinking like a bigger plant like a tree)
  • Space for students to work sitting on the ground with pillows and lapdesks/clipboards or standing with standing desks
  • One of those cool clocks that has math expressions instead of numbers

Je suis certaine que je peux penser des autres choses, mais ils ne sont pas nécessaires.

One Thing To Improve On #MTBoS12days

If I had to choose one thing to improve on for next semester, and only one thing, it would be my planning. This was what caused me the most stress last semester and that stress impacted everything else in the classroom. I always felt like I was just going day by day in my planning, even though sometimes I was planning about a week at a time but then everything would change after the first day of the week. It led to really jumbled units and assessments that weren’t the greatest. I’d say each day by itself was fine, but when you put them together it was kind of a jumble.

This semester I’ve already improved on it, actually. I now have an extremely tentative plan of what I will be teaching in each class for the whole semester. Like very bare-bones plan. I got my calendar and mapped out how long I thought it would take to cover certain lessons and where the assessments would go and what units come next. I left “Review/Catch Up” days before every assessment (another thing I’m thinking about is abandoning all review days but we’ll see) and am potentially able to cover way more than I did last semester. Even if I want to, I know I can’t spend 3 days doing amazing activities on one topic, for instance, because I know what is coming up and the importance of other topics. I put a star next to topics that are kind of the extra ones that don’t absolutely need to be covered this semester.

Now, what comes next is planning the actual lessons and assessments. I think that if I go a unit at a time (but don’t make copies of things until a few days before since things can always change), I will be much less stressed. I will know more of the connections I have to make, too. This is probably something I should have known to do, but in the past I was always kind of just given the pacing from the teachers that had taught it before. Ahhh I’m excited just thinking about how much better this semester will be now.

Moins de stress entraîne une prof heureuse!

Challenging Moment #MTBoS12days

Ok this is a tough one. I’ve been challenged plenty in my 2.5 years teaching. I think a moment that sticks out to me is in my first year teaching. I had big big big problems with classroom management and had one class in particular that was pretty bad. It really just consisted of two boys that pretty much ran the class. They’d shout out or at each other, make fun of other kids, end up rolling on the floor, throw things. The school disciplinary procedure (referrals, detentions, suspensions) did nothing and I had had some parent complaints. My first out of three observations happened in that class in December. During that lesson, with the assistant principal in the room, the behavior was still crazy. My AP pretty much told me that I had to get it under control or I’d be in trouble (or at least that’s what I saw it as – she said later that I was always in good shape to be hired the next year). It was after that meeting, right before winter break, that I went to my first blog looking for classroom management techniques. I had also asked for help from my mentor and other teachers and was assured by my team that I could send the two boys to other classrooms every day if I needed to, but I always resisted that and I had tried a few things my mentor suggested but it wasn’t working. So my first real venture into the #MTBoS was because of this moment. I can’t for the life of me find what I read first, but it spiraled into me getting Feedly and subscribing to a bunch of math blogs.

After winter break, I told my class we were “starting over” and told them to do a bunch of crazy things for one minute like stand on the tables, scream, run, etc. After the minute was up they got into their seats quietly and we agreed that we should never see any of these behaviors again, otherwise we would have these specific consequences (that they came up with/agreed on). I also started a “Secret Student” class competition, where I would choose a student to secretly observe for behavior throughout the class. If that student had acceptable behavior the entire time (sometimes I’d announce at the beginning that I was specifically looking at good group work today or something like that), I would say at the end of class “Our secret student Johnny did this and this and this to get you a secret student point today!” However, if the student did not have acceptable behavior, I’d say “Our secret student was not able to behave acceptably today. We will have to try again tomorrow.” I allowed students to see me outside of class, alone, if they wanted to know if they were the one that caused the class to not get their point. When we reached a certain number of points, we’d get a party.

The behavior was pretty good after that. I’m not gonna say that everything instantly turned around, but I was able to usually go a few days without having something thrown or shouted and that was good. It also helped me know how to start off my next year better.

La mauvaise conduite des étudiants ne me conviennent jamais, mais maintenant j’ai quelques stratégies.

Tried and True Strategy #MTBoS12days

I’m not sure if this counts as a “strategy”, but what has always been working for me is my warm up routine. No matter which class, my warm ups consistently get students ready for the day and engaged in the mathematics. In the past, my warm up routine looked like this. I’ve tweaked it this year and I will be tweaking it a little for next semester, as well, but it really still is working.

Monday: Mindset Moment – video where we reflect about mindset

Tuesday: Which One Doesn’t Belong

  • Poll first with Plickers
  • After seeing results, have students from each choice share their reasoning
Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 11.05.56 PM
This was from one of my Algebra II classes earlier in the year

Wednesday: Questions – every student in the class is called on to come up with a mathematical question about whatever has come up

  • Funny story about this one as an aside (skip this bullet if you just want the tried and true warm ups): I teach a remedial Algebra I class that meets every day and some of my students sometimes say inappropriate things in class because they just have no filter and care very little about the consequences of what they say. Well one Wednesday, I had a couple of other adults in my room (social worker, history teacher, substitute teacher for another teacher) and the random image that comes up is this one. I was so so so so worried about what this could turn into but my students know (and make sure I know) that we work with what comes up first at random. So I let it stay there and was ready to be fired the next day, but my students really blew me away. Every one came up with an awesome and appropriate question that had nothing to do with the fact that six women were in their underwear. Questions like “What is the average height?”, “What is the difference between the height of Diane and Solveig?”, and even, “How many more hairs does Liz have than Nikki?” (from a student who said their question was stolen). The social worker came up to me after we were done and said she was very worried with how I would proceed with this one but she was impressed at how well these students handled it – she didn’t know if it would have been the same with these students even in a health class. 🙂


Thursday: Would You Rather

  • Also done with Plickers, but give students 2 min to individually think/research on their Chromebooks.
  • After seeing results, have students from both sides share their arguments and then poll the class again!
Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 11.25.05 PM
From my Calculus class around Halloween

Friday: Estimation

  • Give students 15 sec to think, ask for an under- and overestimate, very quick discussion about those
  • Then, ask every student for their estimate and list them on the board
  • See if anyone wants to change theirs at the end before showing the answer
  • Do another one if there’s time (sequels are awesome)

These warm ups have still been great and I’m seeing engagement from students ranging from remedial Algebra I to Calculus!

I do want to tweak it a little bit, though. Since I’m on an A-B block, my students usually will see a full week’s worth of these in two weeks. I started with going through doing it where my A classes had the same warm up as my B classes, but I found it hard to make sure I was getting everything into the rotation (because of my lack of organization). However, I don’t like this day-of-the week thing because if there’s ever a day off of school, they’ll have the same days twice in a row. So I think that this semester I’m going to stay more organized and just go day by day with the warm ups and then try to add a few more in. I want to actually get rid of the Mindset Moment as a warm up and put it on days when I hand back assessments (which is still about every other week so the students won’t freak out – this is the one that has the least clear engagement and I know students are starting to not take these seriously as warm ups). I’m going to add in Visual Patterns, Set, Number/Dot Talks, anything else I see. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Man this could have been a whole (long) Start, Stop, Continue post, too!

Le changement vient, mes étudiants sont prêts.

Semester Reflection #MTBoS12days

I felt like a recent post I made was a little negative but I really learned a lot from this semester and I think most of my students did, too. I have a lot that I envisioned that just didn’t happen or didn’t happen the same way and I attribute that to just being a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the year. I had really been spoiled the last two years. I had only one prep with three other teachers that also taught only that one prep, and was living with my parents who did all the cooking and grocery shopping for me. Now, I’m the only one at my school teaching the four preps I have, plus National Honor Society, plus being a percussion tech for my boyfriend’s band, plus living on our own – it was a lot all at once. It was definitely a challenge, but I did a lot of great things with my classes that they learned from and enjoyed and I showed the faculty some stuff, too! Now that I am more accustomed to this school, I think I can do even more to help my students.

What Will I Start:

  • Spiraling homework
  • Planning my assessments along with my planning of the unit – I was fortunate to receive the files from the previous teacher when I got to the school so I have been adjusting his assessments so far. I figured that if I was good enough for him after two years, it was probably good for me. I think his assessments provided me with a great starting point, but now I’m ready to make my own (which is something I DREADED going into this school year).
  • Talking with the other math teacher in my school more about what we’re teaching. Even though we don’t teach any of the same classes, we’re both new at this (she’s in her second year teaching) and I want to be more collaborative within my school.

What Will I Stop:

  • Worrying that my students don’t like math/my class/me. Like a few people on Twitter said, students don’t like change. We all resist change. But as long as I know I’m trying all I can for them, I need to stop worrying about what the naysayers think all the time. 🙂

What Will I Continue:

  • Checking blogs, Twitter, and the MTBoS Search Engine for all of your amazing activities
  • Trying new things
  • Keeping my head up 😀

Quand je repense au semestre dernier, je connais le bon et le mauvais. Ce semestre sera meilleur.

Books #MTBoS12days

I used to read a ton. Back in middle school. Once I got to high school and we were forced to read certain books and I started spending more time on assignments and practicing and friends, my reading really dropped off. The last book I think I read for pleasure was Harry Potter 7. Through high school and college, I actually did (most of) the reading that was required for my education and French classes, but that was really it.

Book I’ve read since college: Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam (required by my old school’s math department)

Books I’m currently reading: All of my textbooks to try to figure out what should come next

Books I want to read: All of the good ones when I have time. I keep hearing about Teach Like a Pirate and Make It Stick so I would probably start with those.

I do still feel like I read a lot, but it is all in the form of tweets and blogs. That’s good enough for me right now.

Un jour, je vais lire pour le plaisir encore.