Where’s Waldo… in Room 148


Over Christmas break I visited a 5 Below store and ran across a Waldo.  I thought – he is totally worth the price marked.  I had no clue what I would do with him, but I’d soon find out.

About a month into last semester, I placed Waldo in my room.  Some students noticed him.  Others were still looking for him.  I was surprised at how many never had heard of “Where’s Waldo?”

Anyway, as the semester progressed, students asked if they could start hiding him.  I agreed.  The only 2 rules – Waldo must stay in Room 148 and Waldo must be visible.

Students would come in daily – looking forward to finding Waldo’s newest hiding place.  And getting the chance to hide him for the next class.  It was quite hilarious.

Something so simple brought a bright spot and smile multiple times a day.

Do you have something that is unique to your classroom?  Something students look forward to coming in and seeing on a daily basis?

Becoming a High Performing Collaborative Team #blogitBINGO Newly-Ed Part 2


Are my best days behind me or ahead of me?

As we continue to consider how to build an effective PLC culture, these are the 4 critical questions we ask / should be able to answer:

  1. What do we want them to know / be able to do?
  2. How do we know if they know it?
  3. What is our response when they don’t learn / know it?
  4. What is our response when they do?

Seven stages of Collaborative Teams was shared.  I know where I felt our team has spent most of its time in recent years, but I wondered if others thought the same.  So I emailed a snapshot and asked.

7 stages

Though some differences, most fell from stage 3 planning to a couple of courses stepping into stage 5 this year, but our goal could be to reflect on where we are, refine and adjust that will move us into Stages 6 and 7 by next spring.

The discussion tools provided in this training for High Leverage Team Actions are straight forward, seem like they will be easy to implement – but force you to take an honest look at your practices.  Responding to them as a team brings transparency and accountability, always bringing the discussion / debate back to our shared vision.

As I skimmed through the Team Building Worksheet, I wondered – have I disengaged because I lack courage? confidence?  Have I shared my expectations or let them fall by the door?  Have I been open enough / giving permission for others to care enough to confront when a conflict arises?

My goal – to be the best teacher I can be.  Not to be better than my colleagues – but to be my best for my students.  They deserve it.  When I try something new, its because I have found a gap in my teaching – a place for growth. – I am searching for a better way to reach my students.  It may work, it may not.  I’ll reflect, refine, adjust as I gather evidence.

I am excited to dive deeper into the protocols shared in this training – to utilize them in helping us know IF we are doing high quality math implementation or not.  And what are our next steps to becoming our best for our students.

What is the #1 vital adult behavior essential to effective instruction in our department?


Newly-Ed #blogitbingo #coherentvision


Old. New. Borrowed. Blue.  Commitment.

The past 2 days have filled my brain to overflowing.  I left GRREC both days feeling… alive.  Overwhelmed.  But alive.  That sounds weird, I know.   But I was not surprised, just saddened, with the a statistic shared from Gallup:

Only 31% of our teachers are fully engaged in our schools.

The people who are supposed to be engaging young minds are not engaged themselves.  And I was one of them.

I’m not sure what happened, how I ended up in that place, when it happened.  I”m not even sure I knew I felt that way until yesterday.  My realization began with this question posed on the opening slide of our 2-day venture.

Are Your Best Days Behind You or Ahead of  You?  Chicago Tribune 2002

I left yesterday with a smile on my face, excited to call home and share some of what I learned with someone!  And when I looked so forward to returning to our session “Leading and Sustaining a Coherent Vision for Mathematics Teaching and Learning” – I knew this was a turning point for me.

Defining our vision.


Is our vision coherent?  What we hope to become…but we must be patient because it may take a while to get there.  These are the non-negotiables, our professional duty.  Are we compelled by our vision?

Do we mean it or not?  Do our actions / ways honor it?  Does our instruction / behaviors advance our vision?  We agree to the vision, do we hold each other accountable?

I was reminded of a reflection our department did several years ago, what we wish to see in a dream math student and what actions can we take to support students to reach our dream student?  Here was our poster from 2014…

dept vision dream math student

Like so many other things, I’m not sure we ever had follow-through with this task.  But I wonder how differently our reflection would look if we repeated it today?

Here are a couple of examples of other groups’ work on Monday… They used the acronym DRIVE and SOAR.  Other groups used CARDS (school mascot) and MATH.  He shared one with Math Teachers lend an EAR:  Equity, Assessment and Reflection.

My big takeaway – that we arrive at consensus, an image / tag that we can quickly share / refer to with parents / students / other stakeholders.  Then we make every decision – based on our shared, defined vision.

Within the discussion, Dr. Kanold defined consensus as – everyone’s voice is heard but the will of the group prevails.  If I’m honest, I cringed.  Am I willing to let go of new things I want to try and do?  What if an idea is outnumbered?  What if I never get to try anything new?  So I presented a question on our parking lot.

His response today – we are constantly in action research in education.  Part of the team can try a new idea.  But our agreed upon vision becomes the authority.  IF we want to try something new, we must ask IF it advances our vision?  Does it exceed our opinion?  Why?  Provide evidence / research.  Try it.  Compare.  If it works better for student learning, everyone agrees to use it.  If not, then stick with old way.   In the end, I (we) have to sacrifice my opinion(s) in an effort to advance student learning.

Over the next several days, I plan to revisit my notes and share a summary to reflect / process / plan considering these big ideas from the past couple of days:

  • Instruction / Planning Whole group vs Small group discourse
  • Check for Understanding vs. Formative Assessment
  • Common Assessments & Tools to evaluate quality
  • Homework
  • 4 Critical Questions of a Collaborative Team Culture
  • My Intentions for the upcoming year…

On a 1-5-10 scale of Stinky, Good, Great – I will give our #coherentvision days a 10!


Do you have a successful PLC?  Please share some things that made it work for your team!


Summer Reading 2017 #MTBoS #BlogItBINGO Challenge


And so I begin…the #BlogItBINGO challenge!


I usually try to give myself 2 weeks of down time from most school talk, etc. before starting in on my summer reading.

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Visible Learning in Mathematics – I started this book but the end of the school year happened and I intend to finish the last chapters over the next couple of weeks.  Though I have read some controversy of the authors statistical reports – I find there are still some great ideas to think on.  I’ve read @cheesemonkeysf several times refer to transfer learning.  This book discusses the ideas of surface learning, deep learning and transfer learning.  So far, I feel like it will help me gain a better understanding of different types of learning and be intentional in my lesson / assessment planning.  I will post a review/share ideas learned when I finish it.

17 Equations – I’m not sure where I saw this book but it reminded me of some displays I saw at MICDS last year when I met up with @druinok and @mel6871 in St. Louis over the Memorial Day weekend.   I thought this book seemed to be a fun read that could provide me with some insight as to “why” we have certain things we teach.

Teaching Math with Google Apps – last school year, we were introduced to Google classroom.  I semi-implemented it with my classes, but know I can do a better job of utilizing the many options available.  I’ve listened to Alice Keeler on @bedleybrothers podcast this spring.  I am looking forward to what she shares in this book and hoping to implement some new ideas this fall.

I am the slowest reader around.  My friends can gobble a book up in a day…me, well, I’m just slow and that’s okay.  I’m reading and that’s all that matters.  For my summer-fun reads…

I always like to have a devotional book going – I find this keeps me focused on what matters and helps me get past those challenges / negative / struggling moments.  This one arrived in the mail the other day.  I love receiving surprise gifts!

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit – a study of Ruth.  So far, as we began chatting about the first chapter, we found it was chock-full of quotes- not only great life-lesson reminders, but that can easily make their way into the classroom.  For example, I really like this one Nicki Koziarz shared:  “The space between where we are and where we want to be is called potential.”  I wonder how I can use that with my students…I see and know their potential, but until “they want it”  I can only be a resource and encourage them to seek it.

My very first download on my kindle was Unbroken – about Louis Zamperini.  @fawnngyuen had a great post about seeing him speak years ago.  This spring, I downloaded Seabiscuit also written by the same author, Laura Hillenbrand.  So far, so good.  Maybe that’s why I’m such a slow reader…I have too many books going at once! #adhdreader

I had seen several recommend  A Man Called Ove last year.  Two of my closest colleagues read it this spring and after listening to their conversations, it is now on my list.

After seeing Hidden Figures, I started reading it as well.  But again, when I get overwhelmed with school work – my reading begins to slack.

Last summer I read several titles by Ninie Hammon and thoroughly enjoyed all but one.   A bit of suspense, a bit of connection to my home state, unexpected twists.  Black Sunshine, Homegrown, Sudan, The Last Safe Place, The Memory Closet, The Knowing.   I have read 2 of the 3 titles included in  Based on True Stories and plan to finish When Butterflies Cry this month.  I also have Five Days in May on my summer list by this same author.

I have both of these titles on my to-read list, but seemed to get pushed to the side as my growth focus was not in this direction.  I still intend to read, because snippets and conversations support the great things the authors have shared!

Mathematical Mindsets  Making Number Talks Matter

A picture from @cmmteach has gotten me to look at these two titles.  I will attend a 2-day training with @tkanold in a few weeks, so hoping those days will lead me to which will have the most impact on my classroom.

Heart and Balancing the Equation

So what’s on your Summer Reading Shelf?

MTBoS June 2017 #BlogItBINGO Challenge


Always leave it to my good friend @druinok to hold me accountable to a blog challenge! After reading a link she shared to a PD BINGO (how awesome is that?!?) – we thought we’d give it a shot for blogging.

The goal is simple.  Blog.  We are only providing the BINGO board for anyone who is challenged to find a focus!  You choose how you want to BINGO!  And there is not just 1 free space, but 5!

Anyway, join us over the next few weeks – to learn, reflect, share.  repeat.



Thanks for playing along!  Cannot wait to hear someone shout #BlogItBINGO!!!

The Birthday Heist Breakout (non math post) #escape #breakout


Students’ last day was Friday, with Graduation and Project Graduation that night.

I must be getting older or something, I cannot bounce back as quickly after an almost 24 hour day.  My friend and I created a short Breakout Room for the Seniors at PG “A Year Like No Other” and I will post our clues and game later.

Sunday night my 12 year old told me she would like a breakout room for her birthday.  Monday evening while getting supplies, I picked up a boxed set of 4 games.  She gave a look and informed me she thought I was going to make up one just for her.  Hmmm.  I sat up past my usual bedtime and began planning, wondering what all I could recycle from the Project Graduation game…

Here are the items used for the Birthday Heist:


There were 5 locks they had to get through – the black box has a combination lock as well.  Notice I’ve attached the codes with papers in case its a few months before I need them and I likely will not remember each code.  I learned that the hard way.  Most re-settable locks require you to open before resetting.


I love having fake clues / distractors.  Pictures of people with #’s in the pictures in a folder are great, easy and cheap.  Some of our crumpled “bookmarks” actually read “fake clue.”


Here is a document that outlines my clues / process with The Birthday Heist.  It was a 30 minute game the girls completed in about 28 minutes.  S/O to Ms. KC Potter and some of her ideas/documents I modified for our use!

The Birthday Heist –  goal was to retrieve five items needed for the birthday party.  It seems fairly versatile and can be modified to reflect your birthday group.


It was fun watching the girls.  Most had never played breakout before.  I was shocked several had never played with tangrams…heartbreaking!  They wouldn’t give up on the square, even after breaking out with a different clue, they went back to see if they could complete that puzzle!

Send me a link to your birthday game if you create one / modify mine!  I want to hear how it goes!