Reflection on Quarter 1 2018

The first 9 weeks of the school year has come and gone, and so has week 1 of my two-week intersession break. I spent my first week off doing lots of personal things – finally unpacking from the honeymoon and wedding, lots of band (including percussion tech stuff for my husband’s band and playing in Alumni Band for University of Illinois’ Homecoming), and end-of-garden tasks. Now, in this second week I am able to focus on being ready for 2nd Quarter at school. But first, I’ll reflect on how 1st Quarter went:

I feel like this year is just going ok so far. It’s the first year that one of the classes I’m teaching is the same as last year, so that should have made things a bit easier. I also was really happy with how the beginning of the year last year went, so I did pretty much the same stuff this year. It was really nice to be able to see my past work from my blog post! Even with what I thought would have made this year start off easier, I feel like I still wasn’t quite ready for the year to start. I had to move to a new room this year but wasn’t really able to do the moving until I got back from my honeymoon, which was only a week before the school year started. Not trying to make excuses, but the timing of everything didn’t really help me get off on the right foot for the beginning of the school year.

Nevertheless, it was a good start, just like last year. I also learned how to use Airdrop to quickly show the class photos and use photos from class, Adobe Spark for collages, and the Photos app to blur faces. These have all made sharing things from class way easier.

The rest of the quarter has felt a lot like same old same old. I feel like the students are learning and haven’t felt like there are complaints or anything, but I just feel like I am not doing enough. I was supposed to be less busy this year (since I’m not doing nearly as much as last year), but I’ve felt like I’m playing catch up all the time. For example, this is the first year I haven’t called every family on my roster to introduce myself. But I’ve been praised still for my Weekly Summaries, Parent Survey, and Unit Newsletters to communicate with families that get emails. I haven’t done enough activities – lots of notes and regular worksheet practice. But I’ve still done some.








Next quarter will be better. I’m ready to try some new things and get back into the swing of things, as well. I’m also ready to get back to blogging, now that I’m not as busy 🙂

Aux neuf prochaine semaines!


2017-2018 Teacher Report Card Results

EDIT: Here is the Teacher Report Card Survey that I used. It was modeled after Matt Vaudrey’s Teacher Report Card and others that I’ve seen over the years, and adapted from my previous ones.

Teacher Report Card Survey (Google Form – will prompt you to make a copy first):

Only 75 of my 105 students took my Teacher Report Card Survey. I’ll post a reflection later.

I think that Ms. Walczak:

  • Respects each student: 4.73
  • Tries to see the student’s point of view: 4.48
  • Does a good job of treating all students how they deserve to be treated: 4.6
  • Explains topics clearly: 3.87
  • Seems to enjoy teaching: 4.63
  • Shows interest in students’ lives: 4.31
  • Makes me feel important: 4.11
  • Keeps the class under control without being too tough: 3.91
  • Grades fairly: 4.48
  • Encourages me to be responsible: 4.39
  • Cares about her students: 4.6
  • Loves math: 4.88

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What do you like BEST about class with Ms. Walczak: (some put multiple things in their answers so that’s why it won’t add up to 75)

  • She makes math easier/fun/how she teaches (13)
  • Reviews for tests/games (8)
  • Friendly/chill/caring environment (7)
  • Notes packets (6)
  • Getting to be in a group (6)
  • Fun activities (6)
  • Her energy/enthusiasm (5)
  • Warn Ups/ Mindset Moment videos on Mondays (5)
  • Not much homework (4)
  • Moving tables/changing groups each week (4)
  • Nothing/NA/She’s cringey (4)
  • Freedom but still kept under control (3)
  • Retakes (2)
  • Plickers (2)
  • Using chromebooks (2)
  • It’s organized
  • New math things
  • That it was first period
  • Prizes
  • High fives
  • Good pace
  • Whiteboards on desks
  • All the things

How can Ms. Walczak improve her teaching for next year?

  • Nothing/idk (21)
  • Explain/help more clearly (12)
  • Be more in control/strict (11)
  • More examples/notes (11)
  • More time for review and questions/slow down (5)
  • More things in the grade (2)
  • Don’t treat students like they’re 6
  • Keep giving out worksheets
  • Be louder
  • More activities
  • Don’t change her name
  • Less notes
  • More videos
  • Don’t allow phones
  • Stop being cringey
  • Speak slower
  • Better absent notes
  • More extra credit
  • Encourage more practice at home

You find out that your friend has Ms. Walczak next year. What do you tell him/her? (Note: dropping the class is not an option)

  • Pay attention/actually write down the notes/study/work hard (29)
  • It will be fun/good (12)
  • Be nice to/respect her (10)
  • She’s easy going/chill/nice (9)
  • Her class is enjoyable and easy once you get the hang of it (4)
  • Your sooo lucky/You’ll love her (4)
  • She’s the best/fav math teacher i ever had (4)
  • Sometimes things will be confusing u just gotta ask for help and she will help u/she will do anything to help you stay on top (4)
  • Good luck (3)
  • Nothing/idk (3)
  • She’s easy until you get on her bad side
  • You will take notes
  • Do not be afraid of her
  • She does daily warm-ups
  • She’s cringey
  • Make sure you ask questions
  • Do not ask for her social security number
  • Retake as much as you can
  • She will challenge you to your fullest ability
  • She kind of cheats at mathketball
  • Don’t get stuck on an escalator

What is something Ms. Walczak should keep doing next year?

  • Notes packets (11)
  • Warm Ups/Mindset Moment Videos (11)
  • Teaching (10)
  • Everything (9)
  • Plickers (8)
  • Review games/study guides (7)
  • Nothing/idk (3)
  • Math (2)
  • Weekly Summary (2)
  • Switching seats every week (2)
  • Sitting/working in groups (2)
  • Having fun (2)
  • Pushing students to do their best
  • Quizizz
  • Google Classroom reflections
  • Chromebooks
  • High fives
  • Being great
  • Desmos
  • Not giving a lot of homework
  • Not Just Dead White Dude Mathematicians
  • Letting us listen to music
  • Retakes

What is something Ms. Walczak should change for next year?

  • Nothing/idk (31)
  • Warm ups/warm up sheet (10)
  • Stop being so nice sometimes/be tougher (4)
  • More explaining/explain better (3)
  • Plickers/when we do Plickers (3)
  • Weekly summaries (3)
  • Groups/seating (3)
  • Less notes/assignments (3)
  • Offer extra credit (3)
  • More individual practice/homework (2)
  • Changing groups every week
  • Calling people’s names
  • Review
  • Letting us use our phones
  • Slow down
  • Reflections
  • More things (warm up sheets) for grades
  • Give notes on tests
  • The classroom
  • Not have the room be so cold

What is something Ms. Walczak should stop doing next year?

  • Nothing/idk (41)
  • Warm Up Sheet/Warm Ups (7)
  • Being too nice (5)
  • Changing seats every week (3)
  • Reflections (3)
  • Pulling names with the sticks (2)
  • Notes (2)
  • Plickers (2)
  • Assigned seats
  • Slope Dude
  • Set
  • Rick Rolling kids
  • Letting kids be on their phones
  • Giving answer keys
  • Going too quickly
  • Activities
  • All the quizzes
  • Not giving extra credit

What is something that’s memorable from this class?

  • Nothing/idk (13)
  • Review/review games (8)
  • My friends/the people in the class (6)
  • Set/Warm Ups/Mindset Moment videos (6)
  • Plickers (3)
  • Quizizz (3)
  • Changing seats every week (3)
  • Tin Man project (3)
  • Learning new ways to do math/math (3)
  • Mathketball (2)
  • Her room (2)
  • Quadratic formula/song (2)
  • Not having that much homework (2)
  • Activities (2)
  • Water bottle incident (2)
  • Donovan’s/Carter’s pencil (2)
  • Notes/practice (2)
  • Tests/quizzes (2)
  • Having freedom
  • Slope-intercept
  • Ms. Walczak being an amazing teacher
  • Weekly Summaries
  • Group work
  • Chromebooks
  • How happy she would be when we were working together and helping each other
  • Having fun
  • That she’s cringey
  • Getting Rick Rolled
  • Somebody making fart noises while taking a quiz
  • All of first semester
  • Everything
  • Slope Dude
  • Struggling
  • Getting a donut

What is one word you would use to describe this class?


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What do you think the benefits to teh Daily Warm Ups were?

  • Got our brains working before jumping right into math (32)
  • Fun (7)
  • I don’t know (7)
  • Thinking about stuff you wouldn’t normally/outside the box (5)
  • Good challenge/brain squeeze (4)
  • Getting to know each other better/work together (3)
  • It doesn’t benefit us (3)
  • Brain skills (2)
  • Easy (2)
  • Break from the heavy math
  • Engaging at the beginning of class

What do you think the drawbacks to the Daily Warm Ups were?

  • Nothing/idk (29)
  • Took up class time (19)
  • Went too fast (3)
  • Too much of the same/boring (3)
  • Not everyone did them (3)
  • Weren’t graded (2)
  • All of it (2)
  • Extra writing and learning
  • Too much talking
  • Losing the paper

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Je suis heureuse avec mes resultats!

Review of 2017-2018 School Year – What I’ve Done

I ended my fifth year of school last Friday, but have been working this week with the other freshman teachers and math department chair to design an Algebra I curriculum (moving away from Integrated). So it feels like summer but then doesn’t. We’ve been doing some good work and it’s nice to just be able to chill and plan.

This year was difficult but rewarding. I felt like there was never a chance to relax and breathe. First, I taught all new classes – Integrated Math I and Honors Integrated Math II. There were technically topics from both those classes that I had taught before, so it wasn’t all completely new. I taught the same classes as two great teachers that collaborated with me and we did some really cool things with our classes. I was also part of our Freshman Academy, which meant our students mostly all had the same core teachers and we had extra weekly team and monthly Academy meetings to attend. I presented at the NCTM Regional Conference in Chicago and also at the Western ICTM Math Conference, and also participated in training with the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC). I tried to start a math club/team but it didn’t really last past February. I joined the Environmental Action Committee (EAC), which is our environmental club at school so that I can take it over for next year. I’m also going to be moving classrooms for next year so I’ve started that process. I’ll talk more about all that later.

Personally, I was also pretty busy. I finished my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from American College of Education in May. I’ve also been planning my wedding all year (done with that in July). That meant lots of weekends making the 3-hour drive to where the wedding is on pretty much any weekend that wasn’t filled with band. I’ve been continuing to be a Percussion Technician for my fiance’s band program and have been very involved in his band this year. I also started to tutor one of his students in Calculus and helped a few more of his students at random moments throughout the year. I did well for a little bit with working out and #FitBoS, and then fell off again – but I’m getting back at it now! I took my first bereavement days and coped with other health problems in my family, but am thankful that everyone is doing great now! I took a vacation to visit my brother in Washington D.C. I also learned to cook some more things after getting an Instant Pot for the holidays! Who has some good IP recipes to share? I also started a fruit/vegetable garden for the second time and have learned to take care of some plants. This school year has definitely led to a lot of adult-y growth.

It’s weird to think about all the things I did. Over the school year, my mind always seems to be about what the students have done.

C’est vraiment beaucoup! (Et tu me manques, grand-père.)

Favorite Reflection Question Ever

I do not give regular daily homework in my classes, but instead, give what I call a Reflection after every assessment. I give them a week to do it, and it’s always a 5-6 question assignment where they write their responses in a Google Doc and submit it through Google Classroom. The first 2-3 questions are related to the content that was just assessed. Usually, ones that take more thinking and are higher order, or sometimes I make a 3-Act in it, but it’s always something that makes them do more than the rote problems I have to give in the assessments. The last 2-3 questions are more of the typical reflection-type questions that are about the student.

I asked a question on my last Reflection that I think might be my favorite ever. “What is the most important thing you have learned in math class so far this year (could be a math skill or a study/organizational skill; could have been taught by me or learned in some other way)?” Here’s a highlight of some of the responses:

I did get plenty that listed math skills, but these examples just made my heart swell. Special thanks to Sara VanDerWerf @saravdwerf and her suggestion about the Scale of Persistence ( The beagle and people stuck on the escalator obviously made an impact.

Ma classe a affecté mes étudiants avec plus des maths simplement.

Class Twitter Page (Updated 11/27/17)


One way that I communicate with parents is by my Class Twitter (an idea I stole from Annie Forest). At the end of every week, I have students do a Weekly Summary. One of the prompts they have for that is to answer the “Tweet Question”. Guardians do not see these answers when they get the emails. That’s because I curate the tweets to put on our class Twitter. I usually use one tweet per period. I have the Twitter feed on my class website and currently have 5 followers…but some students have said that they just look on my website. I also post pictures from class on the class Twitter. I haven’t gotten any parent comments about it yet. Honestly I don’t know if any look at it. I just keep putting reminders that it’s there when I send my unit emails and, if nothing else, it’s nice for me to chronicle the year.

The Tweet Questions I ask can be something about the current topic, or can be more general. Some examples:

  • What is the most difficult part about ____?
  • What is one piece of advice you’d give about ___?
  • How can you use ____ in a real-life situation?
  • What do you wish your teacher knew about you?
  • What is one good thing that happened this week?
  • What is your goal for next week?
  • What is your favorite ____ and why?

I try to get one per class to post but sometimes I do more.

J’espère que les parents apprécient les mises à jour.

Weekly Summaries (Updated 11/27/17)

Parent communication is hard. At the start of last year, my principal mentioned something his old school did where students texted their parents during the day with kind of a status update on how they’re doing in classes and what they’ve been doing. I took this idea and tried to do it daily but that was a little much, so I made it into a Weekly Summary. Students do these at the end of the week (mostly Fridays but sometimes Thursday if we have Friday off or something like that).

I made a Google Form for each class and used a few Add-ons to make it so that when the students submitted it, a copy of their responses would be sent home to their guardian email and cc’d to me. The link to the Google Form is posted on the home page of my class website. Here is what I ask them to answer:

  1. What they did in class this week
  2. What they learned in class this week
  3. A rating of how they’re feeling about class
  4. The response to the day’s Tweet Question
  5. Anything else they want to say.

Also, the form will automatically pull the student’s grade to put in there (I have to copy it from my gradebook into my Class Roster spreadsheet that’s referenced in the directions below). Students were surprised the first time that it actually went to their parents (I guess my disclaimer at the top wasn’t convincing enough). Since I receive an email, I am able to check this and send additional notes to guardians if necessary. I use the responses, especially the ratings of how they’re feeling in class, to help me know who I need to talk to most and what I need to address.

These are what students see:


This is what I see, either in the spreadsheet (which I really only look at to get the Tweets) and the emails that get sent home:


My favorite student comments about this process were along the lines of: “Ugh I wish we didn’t have to do this. It makes my parents want to talk to me about class!” I did have students that told me they liked the process, though. Some of them write notes to their parents, like what they hope to have for dinner, in the “Anything

I do not get too many parent responses (I set up the email so that they would reply to me). It did keep guardians updated and I hear from them that they appreciated the updates. I did get one response that stood out. It is an email from a board member that teaches in another district. She said:
Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.28.04 AMTeacher sharing for the win! So since this was a pretty important person that was requesting it, I spent some time making sure my directions were good. I will admit, they are pretty long and it will probably take at least 30 minutes to set up your first class, but after the setup, it just always works. I’ve never had an issue.

Here are the directions: Class Update Directions (docx)    Class Update Directions (pdf)

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I want to be in touch with families more. The Weekly Summaries helped, but I know it doesn’t reach everyone. The ones that don’t have an email, unfortunately, do not get a weekly update, so I try to call those families.

Il faut communiquer avec les parents, mais c’est très difficile.

My First Few Days Fall 2017

I am teaching all freshmen this year! I have four sections of Integrated Math I and one section of Honors Integrated Math II. Because they’re all freshmen, they haven’t seen me do the activities I did before for the first days (unless their middle school teachers did them, but I’m gonna just assume not)! School started on Thursday for students. Also, many of the students’ schedules will change in the first five days of school for whatever reason, so I need to be more cautious than before about using things that I’ll reference later in the year and making sure I catch new students up better than before. I will also keep in mind that my first unit is on solving equations with the absolute first thing being distributive property. And, I’m gonna do the same activities in my Math I and Honors Math II class because I think the norms should be the same and they need to learn some of the same things about the class.

I will be doing a lot of the same stuff from last year (semester 1 semester 2) because it actually went well!

And by the time I’m posting this I’ve already had my first two days, so I included what actually happened after those days.

Every day I will:

  • Greet students at the door with high fives (if you haven’t been doing this yet, just try it on Fridays or something – it’s really a game changer)
  • Have a welcome message and directions up on the board to set the tone to look there at the beginning of each class
  • Have students use Sara’s Name Tents

Day 1 (Thursday 8/3): BOY_0a Slides

  • Students can sit anywhere they want.
  • Introduce myself to the class “Hi! I’m so excited to be teaching you math this semester! I’m so impressed at how well many of you have followed the directions I left for you. If you didn’t get a chance yet, please follow the directions on the board.”
  • Demonstrate how to make the Name Tent with pictures on the board and I make my own with them.
  • Take attendance and mispronounce names but apologize profusely. Write down phonetic spellings on the roster.
  • Give homework – Dan Meyer Who Am I worksheet due next week
  • Show Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational (2) Math Video 1 about brains growing and changing, discuss for a few minutes after
  • Noah’s Ark from Fawn at Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces
  • Fill out name tent to hand in

Reflection: This went really well! I actually planned out the timing pretty well (for like the first time ever). My honors class was the only one that had multiple groups actually try to work out solutions to show on the boards, but the beauty of VNPS is that if there’s one group that is doing it, eventually there’s 3 and then 5 and then all. We only had about 15-20 minutes to work through it, and many groups were convinced it was 2 or 4 seals, but that was also awesome because then I could alert them to a group that had a different opinion and they could debate it out. It also allowed me to see how students were 1) willing to try to do something and 2) using anything more than intuition to prove their answer. We will revisit this problem later in the year in both classes.

Day 2 (Friday 8/4): BOY_0b Slides

  • As students walk in, they read the board and hopefully follow the directions to sit anywhere and have a writing utensil.
  • Hand out the syllabus and go over it. In the middle of that we come up with classroom rules that I’ll put together from all my classes that night. They need to fill out an information sheet to turn in by the end of next week.
  • For the class rules, what I did was I said “You guys have been in plenty of classes so far in your life, and you probably can think of some class rules that helped EVERY student be more successful. I want you to think for 30 seconds of at least one rule that you think should be in our class. After 30 seconds, you’ll have 2 minutes to talk with your table group to come up with 2 rules. Every group will then share one rule and we’ll see at the end if we need to go around again for more. (Then when they were ready to share) When each table shares, 1) I reserve the right to say no to any rule that’s unreasonable, or goes against school rules, and 2) we will open it up to the whole class to object to or adjust the rule. If a group said something like “Be respectful”, I’d ask them to clarify by telling us what that would look like. 

Reflection: So I had thought that going over the syllabus would take like 10 minutes and then maybe 5 minutes to make the class rules. But then…

So we didn’t get to do Sara’s 1-100 Group activity that I had thought we would do. It’s ok, though, because I think this collaboration was really important. I was really impressed with the quality of their rules. You can see that one class tried to get a little more out of their rules, but I applaud them for knowing what they want.

Day 3 (NOT Monday 8/7 because I have to give MAP Testing now on this day, so probably Wednesday): BOY_0c Slides

  • Refresh our memories on our class rules that we made last week
  • Sara VanDerWerf’s 1-100 Group Task
  • 1-100 debrief
  • Get to Know Ms. Walczak w/Plickers (I may save this for the first time we have a Plickers question to do but we’ll see if we have time)

Day 4 (NOT Tuesday 8/8 because I will still be giving MAP Testing, so probably Thursday): BOY_0d Slides

Friday I’ll have to give my school’s Pre-Test for the classes.

If any class ends early any day I’ll tempt them with Petals Around the Rose.

You might be thinking “whoa Marissa, you are taking a lot of time before getting to start instruction! Aren’t you worried you’ll run out of time to teach?” Yes, I’m always worried I’ll run out of time to teach, but I also know from 4 years of experience that if you do good relationship-building activities in the beginning of the year/semester, it can end up saving you time in the end. For example, I started teaching the first lesson 3 days after my colleagues did last year when I taught Math II, and I ended up being able to spend more time on certain concepts in the end. Trust me, it works. So I’m not that worried. Also, I’m teaching all freshmen and I think they definitely need more transition time. A lot of them are visibly scared right now – we need to establish a safe learning space.

Le départ de l’année est très important pour les étudiants et moi.