# And They’re Off!

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…so, I’m off to a great start this school year!  Its been a smooth beginning so far – and looking forward to this group of students.  Here’s what I love so far – their attitude, their effort, their go get-it-ness!

We were looking at simple arithmetic and geometric sequences – students were asked to create their own and write an equation to model; as well as look for other math sequences and a famous sequence.

Of course we had several examples of great sequences – the two most common were the Fibonacci and one I was not familiar with – the Morris sequence.

As part of my “borrowed” idea WCYDWT?  I offered up a bouncy ball…with the intent to lead into a couple of data collection labs related to the sequences.

lots of ideas brainstormed…circumference, radius, diameter (hmmm. but can we directly measure all of those???), weight, compare different size balls and their rebound heights with a fixed drop height (how do we determine size? weight or diameter?), drop height vs. rebound height, drop height vs. # bounces (oooh, Zeno’s Paradox…what’s that?), how long does it take to drop from different heights, how long does it take to reach its rebound height- the list goes on, but asking the students to look at everyday objects mathematically…this is going to be a fun weekly adventure!

As part of their “HW” assignment, I simply asked that students think about how the highlighted examples are related…a few students had some good thoughts jotted down – but the student who found a bouncy ball and actually collected the data…and explained the relationships to me verbally – I think the student has the right idea!  Right on it!!!

It was interesting to listen to them “read” what they found on Zeno’s Paradox…but how cool to see a twinkle of interest in some of their eyes.

Just now getting into our assessments, the first target quiz today – went just as I wanted – after asking students to self assess on each of the learning targets – they went a step further and made specific notes to themselves – as to what mistakes they needed to look out for next time.  Ensuring that I am purposeful in my assessments.

We’re just getting started, but its going to be a gr8 year!

# The Conversation Begins…

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As part of my district leardership team, I was asked to share a few things I’ve learned this past summer about Standards Based Grading to my entire school district.  Makes me nervous – not sure why I agree to this type of thing.  Then I realize, I require my students to stand in front of their peers and share what they’ve learned/understand or how they’ve solved a problem…so I should require the same of myself.

My intent was to begin a conversation about SBG.  My hope was to help teachers in my district to pause and reflect on their own classroom practices and thinking…

Mission accomplished.  First of all, I am not an expert by any means.  I am a teacher who paused and reflected on my own practices.  I received kind comments – but those emails, texts and questions I’ve received in the past 24-hours let me know there is a need to learn more.  I will link to my PPT on this post and also share resources that others have sent me in the past 24-hours.  Its amazing to me the response!  Its teachers at every grade level, various years of experience and different subject areas.

One of my co-workers is sooooooooo close to retirement – yet she had ordered her own copy of Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli.  A teacher – takes the time to learn more about something to improve differentiated learning opportunities for her students?!?  I mean, who does that???  The nerdy, weird teacher who drank the kool-aid?  No, a teacher who cares about her students – gives her best effort and sets an example for the less experienced teachers to follow…that’s who.

How to Grade for Learning overview of Ken O’Connor’s book(s).

His book How to Fix Broken Grades is the one that caused me to pause, reflect and seek how I could make needed changes to improve my classroom.  My curriculum specialist shared someone texted her requesting the book even before we left our session yesterday.

A colleague who is “not sold yet” shared this link @mrsebiology Standards Based Grading in the Science Classroom: http://t.co/DOjqfhP .  I am not trying to convince anyone this is the best / only way to think about grading…but as professionals we must reflect on our own practices – decide which ones are worthy of keeping and which ones we can improve.  What needs to change in my classroom is not the same as someone else’s classroom.  I will not judge someone if they disagree/don’t go along with what I think works.  As long as student learning is the focus of every decision we make, we’ll provide the best educational opportunities available to our students.

I will continue to add/update links on this post – to give teachers interested in learning more a place to start.

# PLN

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While cleaning out a file cabinet this past week, I ran across a packet for a presentation I gave in 2002 at KCTM conference (the electronic file is long gone, but I’ll scan and post it soon).  As I read the description and looked through the activities – I asked myself, what was different about my teaching back then?  My explanations and reasoning in the packet were very thoughtful.  So what had changed?

In 2002, I had become a NBCT in Early Adolescence Mathematics.   I spent a lot of time talking with educators, sharing strategies, learning new things for my classroom. I was fortunate to attend several workshops focused on making Algebra more accessible for all students through the use of graphing calculators and hands-on learning activities.  The workshops provided great resources, but the conversations which took place with other educators is where the real growth began.  As part of the NBCT process, I was required to videotaped lessons and reflect on my own classroom…how what I was doing impacted student learning.  How could I make it better for my students?  When I felt I need to make a change, I could email someone with my network and ask for advice and ideas.

In recent years, I have gotten in to a bit of an educational rut.  I’m not blaming becoming a mom – but my child was/still is my priority, its just a little easier now to start venturing out to conferences and workshops again.  Relying soley on what my administration provides for my only source of professional growth, well, much like our students , one-size fits-all isn’t the best option for everyone.

At times in recent years I have felt overrun by all I was being asked to do.  There were so many “things” I was told to implement into my classroom.  I hadn’t had time to process and study, to really buy in to what we were doing and why.  I attempted it all, checked it off the list, but I didn’t do any of it well.  I felt like a failure (hmmm…is this how some of my students feel at times???).  I don’t like being a failure.  I like to focus on one, maybe two things and put much effort in those and give good quality.  When I’ve mastered those, I can set new goals…isn’t that how it should be?

This past semester, however, I began meeting with 2 colleagues weekly for some good wholesome talk about math class.  Our conversations ranged from things we were doing in our classrooms, lessons we were using, strategies for assessment and technology integration.  We shared videos of our classrooms and discussed what we saw, what worked well, and again, how we could make it better.  Reflection + Conversation = Growth for me.

Who knew what I was doing had a name.  This summer, I’ve learned it was my PLN – personal learning network…the people I have chosen to follow and connect with, the educators from around the world who seem to share the same philosophy and goals for education that I do.   As educators, we are much like our students in that we are all at different points.  My PLN is not required, but it allows me to focus on where I need to grow…I can focus on my own learning and teaching needs.

The one-size fits all required professional development can be so frustrating.  Yes, I suppose it’s needed for those who don’t want to take the initiative to find their own means for growing.  But by receiving constructive feedback from administration (& colleagues) – based on observations and other evidence, I should be able to determine my specific areas of growth (hmm…sounds a lot like self-assessment in my classroom for my students).

Life-long learning is an essential characteristic found amongst effective educators and something that should be modeled for our students. With so many changes occurring in the field of educational technology, curriculum, pedagogy, and law, it is imperative that educators receive opportunities for growth in their school. Additionally, they should be provided with the knowledge and foundation to develop a Personal Learning Network. This will enable them to learn more according to their diverse interests and passions.  E.Sheninger

As a professional, I must hold my own practices up to scrutiny and then decide if those practices are worth keeping.  By expanding my PLN to include online resources like twitter and teacher blogs, I have opened an array of tools I had not even considered in the past.  I am inspired and encouraged by their tweets and blogs.  Whether in-person or online, by surrounding myself with like-minded educators, I can focus on my interests and passions – which will enhance the learning environment in my classroom and allow my students to focus on their own interest and passions.

Interested in PLN? @NMHS_Principal provides a wonderful blog on how to get started.  Not convinced you need a PLN? See skipvia’s fantastic video he provides at the end of his blog.

A couple of things from twitter I find interesting as a teacher and a mom:

FLAG – fix learning and grow via @jreulbach

Summer Fun: 12 Ways Parents Can Build a Mathematics Brain in Children

And I continue to learn about SBG…