Category Archives: GRIT

Frustration with Class Attendance #junechallenge 1


I have had so many thoughts running through my mind the past 2 weeks – wanting to put them down, yet trying to get through the final days of school.

I struggle with Algebra 2.  It is frustrating to me – SOOOOO much stuff jammed into one course.  I feel there is simply not enough time to really develop true understanding of many concepts.  I try to pick big ideas – focus on enduring skills –  from our curriculum that best suits our students in Room 123 and search for strategies that will best meet their needs, helping to move them forward.

As I look at these students at the beginning of the school year, three are meeting college readiness.  Several fall within the 10-15 ACT score range and majority in the 15-20 range.  Majority are down on math, do not enjoy it and feel there is “only one way to get THE right answer.”

I recall one particular day in class – a student stating, if you don’t get what the teacher said, they move on without you and you’re stuck, set up to fail.

Our goal: to make it accessible, less painful, allow students room to think on their own, discuss their claims / strategies, test one another’s suggestions and move their thinking forward.




A look at 3 years of EOC results shows improving results.  Is it enough?  Not sure, I’ll need to look at our district projections.

The 4th year is hypothetical – 20% of  students missed the next achievement level by 1 question.  1 question.  This is frustrating to have several that close to moving up another step, yet barely miss the mark.  Yet, we’ll celebrate their growth anyway!

I am concerned about this though because I experienced a high level of frustration the last quarter of school.  Added to weeks of snow days, no spring break to make up some time, it seemed our class attendance was the worst in recent years.  In the last 9 weeks prior to EOC testing, there were 33 days instructional time was interrupted – either by scheduling presentations, other state testing, benchmark testing, college visits, competitions, field trips, field trips.  The day prior to EOC testing, there were eight students on a reward trip.

Don’t get me wrong – student life and involvement is imperative – some of these activities are the only reason a few students even make an effort to be at school.  I would never want to take away these opportunities – they deserve the best.  However, I feel that our instructional time is valid, important and needs to be protected in a sense.

I am not a worksheet kind of person.  So much of what we do in Room 123 is hands-on, small groups and class discussions.  Its impossible to capture those same learning experiences when you’re not there. Trying to continue in-depth discussions and learning tasks was merely impossible.   There was no continuity with 7 students out one day and 6 out the next with a different 8 students out on a third day.    I failed because I gave up.

What if I had kept pushing through?  Maybe those  students would have reached their next level.

I’m not trying to whine – I’m looking for strategies – how others handle these same frustrations.  This summer, I intend to find or outline a resource, update an old class blog – something to provide for those students who are absent for whatever reason.  I’ve tried Edmodo (its okay), Class blog (very few students utilized it).  What about evernote?  One Drive notebooks?

So, how do you handle it when a students asks “What did we do?  What did I miss yesterday?”  How do you fill-in  for in class learning tasks for your absent students?



Goal – Setting on a Small Scale


During summer PD, we had leadership days focused on the 7 Habits.

I am trying to make lists and prioritize my daily & weekly responsibilities.

This weekend, I wondered why I didn’t try to instill this habit in my students as well.

Whether they go to college, the workforce, they will still need to look ahead and plan.


Each student received an index card and asked to respond to…
List things they have coming up this week.
Prioritize 1,2,3 in their list.
What is something they want to accomplish by Friday? Goal
How will they know they’ve accomplished this? Measure
What are things they can do to help reach this goal? Action Plan

It’s been quite a realization to read these cards this afternoon.  Goals are quite varied, but very telling: doing well on ___ quiz, staying ahead of school work, actually paassing all my classes, study for driving permit test, getting derby car ready for weekend, learn 3 new dances before game, buying a doberman, be nice to people (notice this one didn’t say nicer…I believe it – tough one but I plan to encourage), perfect attendance until Friday (from a student with horrible attendance last year), job applications, physical completed for cheer, goal at physical therapy, food for home, earning money for rent…


Yes, we want to begin with the end in mind, but for some students…thinking ahead to the end of the week is a stretch.  Starting small and we’ll expand as the semester progresses.

Yes, this took about 10 minutes of classtime, but I have gained some new perspectives for most students.  Time invested in making connections.

A Good Start…


Thanks to our GRIT team, this was my view as I waited in the turning lane this morning…


And as students entered the building, the walkway was lined with faculty and staff cheering them on, welcoming them to a new school year.  High fives, smiles and laughter…a great way to start our Monday!

Every staff member had on safety yellow t-shirts with this logo…


With traits we hope to instill in our students each day…


As I looked through my rosters during prep, I was a little nervous.  Not many names I knew. 

My first class attended a school – wide session with our administration sharing their expectations for the year.

Our new principal spoke very direct to our students.  No fluff.  He shared how he used to look at our school and wonder what made us so great, thinking he’d love to work here some day.  He shared that settling was not acceptable.  Our students are passionate in their sports, band, vo-tech & SkillsUSA, FFA, jROTC as they compete at the highest levels – but that’s not enough, we must also be passionate about our academics.  We have a challenge to face, we work hard and practice because we want to win and be our best.

I left today feeling a bit defeated, like I had not connected with most of my students.  Though a few moments I saw twinkle in some eyes as they were thinking.  It was one class of students who have not been successful in math in recent years that what we did felt good and right.

After a few minutes with them, I changed my plans just a bit and went with Pascal’s Triangle and a Notice and Wonder (thanks, Max). 

Did they see all I wanted them to see? No.  But today was about letting their voices be heard, sharing their ideas (no matter how big or small), letting them experience ownership of their ideas.

After a silent (a difficult task for some of them) 2 minutes to simply look, they were given 2 minutes to jot down things they noticed.  Next we were up around the room for a quick, pair-share.  One student asked, “if I hear someone else’s idea and I like it better, can I add it to my list?” Sure!

As I began listing each notice, a student was worried someone else might steal their idea.  I asked, “What if I +1 with your initials beside it, so you can share the idea?”  And that’s what we did. 


Everyone shared something.  I was very intentional to initial their ideas, write their thoughts, without judgement or approval.

We then took 2 minutes to wonder. I called time, and asked them to share.  As I turned to the class after writing the first wonder on the board…I saw nearly every student with hands in the air eager to share.

I smiled and thought…this is how it should be.. it’s going to be a good year.

GRIT Team #julychallenge


Our afternoon session was a culmination of our discussions as they would pertain to ourselves, our school, our environment.

We had 4 big ideas-each table brainstormed and discussed possible options, then shared our 1 best idea which we added to a combined list.

These posters were hung together on a focus wall.  Our final challenge was to have volunteers for our teacher GRIT team.  As soon as the afternoon session ended, Mr. Blackford requested the volunteers meet up front for next steps. 

Shout out to these folks – our Goal-Driven, Resilient, Influential, Teachers team: 

It was great because these are NEW faces!  Awesome. Exciting. New volunteers.  One colleague said to me “… I really want things to change, and instead of talking about it I want to be a part of it!”

Our teacher GRIT team will meet, review our big ideas lists, provide a plan to our faculty with goals and timelines…first week of school, first month, semester, year, etc.

We have made some big strides over the past couple of years in the right direction, but I am honest in saying I am fearful because I have trust issues.

It was a statement in a video clip that pushes me forward… “…There was something Abraham Lincoln said – he’d rather trust and be disappointed than distrust and be miserable all the time…”
~John Wooden

I choose trust because miserable is not part of my goal.

If you ever have the chance for William M. Blackford IV to be a consultant, I highly recommend him.   He is genuine, fun, energetic and challenging.  I left our last day of a 3 day training re-energized for sure, excited to see these changes take place.  I believe it’s going to be an amazing process for our school and community.