#DITLife of a middle school math teacher: January 23, 2017

Welcome to #DITLife, winter edition, Kodiak style! Have you had any snow days in your district? Not us. Well, technically there was one around 2009 or so, but not since then. So I head out of the house by 6:30 AM to start my car in the winter weather and start my day at Kodiak Middle School.

6:40 AM. I’ve been getting to school early in the morning this year. Today I start off with some administrative tasks: updating my daily expectations, warm up, listing today’s lunch, sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils (not a typo – it feels endless!) Our 6th grade team has gone through thousands of pencils this year. We finally found a system that (sort of) works. We “tag” our pencils with duct tape and we each have bins where students can return them after borrowing them during class. Math has tie-dye duct tape, language arts has yellow, etc. It’s not a foolproof system, but we have had several students return pencils that were accidentally taken and found in other classrooms. Hey, we’re in Alaska here. We’re hunters and trackers – even with our school supplies!

I then make some copies of tonight’s homework assignment: completing a table and turning it into a graph. I give two homework assignments per week: a Monday assignment is due on Wednesday and a Wednesday assignment is due Friday. I’ve gone back and forth among a variety of types of homework: ixl practice, learning reflections, spiral review, etc. What kind of homework do you assign and why?

7:30 A colleague stops by with a difference of opinion. I love my colleagues and the fact that we can have great, open dialogue and respect each other even when we see things differently!

7:45 I spend a few minutes working on a spreadsheet.This week, four different colleagues and I all came up with a similar idea pretty simultaneously. We need a better way to track student progress on our standards based grading system. So several of us came up with a template for a spreadsheet/clipboard/folder/chart with student names and standards. Does anyone use anything similar?

8:00 Finally first period arrives! We are working on creating and interpreting tables and graphs. We have just done the jumping jack experiment in the CMP 6th grade curriculum. A student raises her hand shortly after we get started. “I have something to give you; can I go to my locker?” When she returns, she stands by the door and motions for me to come to the door. I walk to her and she hands me a 12 pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups! I want to cry and instead keep it together, most likely until tonight. With no rhyme or reason, she just gave me chocolate on a Monday morning. I love middle school. You are amazing, “B”!

Students made graphs in groups and are now looking for any patterns they see as well as looking for places where the jumping jack rate increased or decreased. How is that visible on the graph? We have a hundreds chart as a rewards chart (an idea from the CHAMPS program, which is amazing.) I’ve been thinking about what I am looking for in my classroom, so I post a list of square-worthy behaviors. This process also holds me accountable for holding high expectations for classroom behavior and culture to lead to a climate which fosters a rich understanding of mathematics. The kids will definitely call me on it if someone asks a thought-provoking question or we start a math debate and I forget to give them a square!

10:05 Third period is normally my prep, but today is reserved for a peer observation. The math department has engaged in peer observations for the past few years. I think it has helped build collegiality and has helped strengthen us. Today I am visiting an 8th grade classroom, my students from two years ago! It is great to see them again, though I try to be unobtrusive in the back of the room to not disrupt the lesson. We get to debrief tomorrow morning before school. Each teacher is observing another teacher during her prep once a week during the next few weeks and meeting to debrief afterward.

11:00 Back to class, then a short lunch break before meeting with our tutorial group. We have a half hour tutorial group that rotates every 2 weeks. My group is working on division, and they are doing an incredible job!! Teachers can request students for tutorial if they are struggling in a concept, or students can pick a free choice topic if they are not assigned to a section by a teacher.

1:00 Afternoon classes run slightly differently, as two of my classes are with a co-teacher, a model which our district has been espousing. I am incredibly lucky as my co-teacher is an amazing teacher and an amazing person. I will have to do a blog post sometime just about co-teaching, as I cannot do it justice in a few sentences here. It’s a powerful model and one that I’m grateful our principal, Jethro Jones, has established at KMS.

3:45 End of the day! But not really, as I stay at school to straighten my room and get set up for tomorrow, as I have a 7:30 AM meeting. I send out a quick update on Remind.com to let parents know what we are currently working on. Our team uses this regularly and it’s a GREAT app for parent communication. I highly recommend it and would love to help you out if you want to try it!

5:30 Dinner with the family and some down time. Just when I think I’m done with school, I suddenly remember that it’s almost 7:00 and it’s time for. .

7:00 #akedchat

I join my state’s twitter chat to talk about technology tools. Several great ideas come up for math. I have always wanted to do a #mysteryskype but as a math teacher. I had no idea there was #mysterynumber! Who wants to try this with my 6th graders? Please join your state’s edchat if you haven’t already! Or join ours! Monday nights 7PM AK time, which is 11 PM for insomniac East Coasters. The fabulous Kate Muelling and I will host in March to discuss math concepts.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

#DITLife of a Math Teacher: November 23


It’s time you found out the truth.

Once upon a time, in a small country town, lived a quiet mayor and her husband. By day, they built businesses, settled feuds, crafted wares, and forged a life of quiet glory. By night, they held fast to a terrible secret that threatened their community. Why should this matter to you? Because the secret has to do with you. And it is that. . . .

Curious yet? You are going to have to wait just a little while longer.

November 23, 2016

It is the day before Thanksgiving. I teach 6th grade math in Kodiak, Alaska. We are off from school, and I am getting together with family in Las Vegas. Yet it is my day to blog about math education. I decide to spend my day interviewing as many people as I come in contact with about their experiences with math.

9:30 I take my daughters to a bounce house. I start a typical conversation with our Uber driver; Where you are from? How do you like it here? etc. He talks about having a military background and having been in Alaska, where I am from. I try to work math into the conversation – “So did you do any math while you were in Alaska?” “No, but I hunted and fished a lot.” He doesn’t bite on my conversation starter. Not many people want to chat about math. So I end up being more direct. “So I teach math. How did you like math in school? What could have made it better for you?” He says, “Math was all right. I guess I could have studied more.” He comments on how math is taught so differently now. I give an example of how my daughter decomposes numbers to figure out that 5+8=13. His eyes light up. “That’s just how I would do math! I’ve always done it in my mind that way.” I’m left wondering what his education was like, and if his teachers ever helped him connect his mental math strategies to the problems and formulas he worked with.

10:30 At the bounce house, a parent sits next to me and starts a conversation. He asks what I do in Alaska. “I’m a math teacher. How did you feel about math?” This time I have a much stronger response. “I hated it!” “Why?” I ask. “Well, I moved around a lot, so my education was disconnected. I would start one unit in one school, then move to another school and redo that unit, but I would have missed other units completely.” He acknowledges this is beyond his control, but it makes me wonder whether within the CCSS if we should also have a common order. I ask what his teachers could have done to make math more interesting. He gives an example from history. “A teacher could just teach which wars happened when. Or, they could tell the story of history. There is a story to math also. Who created 0? Who were important mathematicians? What contributions did they make? How is math taught in other parts of the world?” I have to admit that I don’t know all the answers to these questions but I’m inspired to continue my own math education to learn. Dan Meyer’s 3-act math lessons are always a hit with kids as they watch the story unfold. But how often do we see our role as “storytellers” on a daily basis? I have to admit it’s not as often as it should be.

12:30 I am returning from the bounce house en route to our hotel.  Once again, we have a 15 minute or so ride with our Uber driver: another opportunity for a short math interview. I finagle the conversation toward math. “How do you feel about math?” I ask. “Great, I love it.” I must have been surprised because he immediately asked, “Am I not supposed to?” I tell him that as a math teacher, I want everyone to love math, but often people have had a bad experience and feel negative about math. I ask why he loves it. “Always been good at it. We use numbers all the time in life.” He pauses and thinks of other reasons. “Well, I hated English class,” he suggests, feeding into the false dichotomy of being a “math person” or a “reading person.”

How do we break this mindset that one must be either/or?

4:00 At a hair salon before going out to dinner, I chat with my hairdresser about math. “I liked math,” she says, “up until Geometry. There were two classes and one teacher said she would take students who wanted to work at a slower pace. I should have gone with her.” She is less concerned about her own education, though, than her daughter’s. Our children are about the same age. Her biggest concern? “Common Core Math. I want to help my daughter, but I don’t know how.” This brings up a huge issue: how do we teach parents, as well as students? How do we communicate with families and the community about what we are doing? Do we have an obligation to do so? Are we meeting that obligation? How?

All of these conversations bring up huge issues in mathematics education. But in the end, the one that will haunt me is the idea of math as a “story,” which is why I started this blog entry with the beginning of a story.

Did it hook you at all? Did you buy in? Did you want to know the secret? How can we tell the story of math? Is the story verbal or visual? Or both? I know what it is not: a contrived story problem. Most students do not care to know how much fruit salad Bill will have if he shares 3 gallons of it with 7 of his closest friends. But what if we spun a tale that unfolded in such an authentic and compelling way that students saw patterns that helped them make sense of the world?

Friends, how do we do this?

#DITLife of an Alaskan Middle School Teacher

Hello from Kodiak, Alaska!  This is my first blog post in a DITLife series about what it means to be a 6th math teacher in Kodiak, Alaska. This is part of a compilation of DITLife blogs in a group project spearheaded by Tina Cardone to show what it means to be mathematics teacher today.  So here goes!

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7:30 AM My first task today is a relational one. Yesterday at a building level in-service, two people opened up and shared some personal stories about things that affected them this summer. With respect to their privacy, I cannot share more than that. But I spend a few minutes writing cards to give to them. Relationship building isn’t just something I want to focus on in my math classes; it’s a part of how I see the world and extends beyond the classroom into who I am.

8:00 AM I enter the KHS auditorium for our district-wide in-service. Almost immediately, a colleague finds me and and we start hashing out details of next Friday’s 6th grade Blast Off Day, a fantastic event originally coordinated by elementary counselors and community sponsors designed to help with team building for students entering middle school. I would be happy to share more about this if your school is interested!

8:30 AM Our new director of instruction, Kim Hanisch, is introduced; I’m always excited to learn from someone new! We also have a presentation by our superintendent, Stewart McDonald. He is awarded the state Superintendent of the Year award, a great honor.  His message:  Be a champion for the kids. IMG_0394 2.JPG

We then have a Star Wars parody film, starring our counselors, about Luke Skywalker being a champion for his students using counseling strategies. It’s hilarious!


Next, our principal, Jethro Jones, talks about pioneering home visits for our district. Our middle school visited the homes of our students before school started to welcome them and start off with a positive home-school connection. This was a lot of fun and we even have a great video with lots of photos and dancing from the day!

10:15 Session on using iPads in the classroom. I have a class set this year. What is your favorite app?

11:30 Lunch with my team! Of course we talk shop constantly. We spend our time talking about schedules, trainings, and our yummy Thai food. Like the kids, I have been looking forward to lunch for hours. The food is great but reflecting upon it now, it’s because it is meaningful, fun, and social. How do we imbue this tone in our classes?

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12:30 Afternoon sessions for middle school teachers include how to analyze data using Excel. At one point we are separated into two groups. These are the groups that we will be split into for our two separate school lunch periods as well. I quickly scan the lists of teachers in the “A” lunch and teachers in the “B” lunch and realize I am separated from my 3 best friends during this year’s lunch period. I have a temporary moment of middle school drama and panic – why have they done this to me?? As an adult I am able to quickly compose myself and get over it. But my sixth graders may not if they are separated from their friends. I am grateful for having had this experience because it will remind me to be extra sensitive. What seems minor to me may be a crushing blow to an adolescent.

2:30 Literacy training with Yolanda Westerburg. This woman is amazing and has worked with our district for years. I walk away with ideas on how to incorporate a variety of sentence structures for exit tickets.

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My table team plays around with the structure and we make some for math:

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I quickly present an idea to Yolanda an idea I have about a thinking chart for word problem solving strategies. She loves it. So much to work on!

4:00 Our in-service day is over, but I head back to my classroom for my math book club. Before I get there, I run into a parent who has questions about the first week of school. I share our plans for the first week of school including 6th grade Blast Off and the parent looks relieved and excited. I hope his child will be as well! Again I’m reminded of the emotionally charged aspect of school and of the need to intentionally and caringly build relationships with students and parents.

4:15 I join my online math book club. Abby, Connie, and Amy share their experiences and perspectives on teaching in Minnesota and Connecticut. We have read and discussed Principles to Action and will be reading Making Number Talks Matter next. Today’s topic was professionalism. A main idea from the chapter was that we have to continue our education and become life long learners, which is exactly what we are doing right now!

6:00 I head to a board of directors meeting for Kodiak Teen Court. This is a nonprofit youth court program in which minors train to become attorneys and judges in our community. It is not a mock trial. Juveniles charged with a crime can opt to go through the teen court justice system, which focuses on restorative justice and does not leave a criminal record. As a board member and teacher, I help recruit students into the program. Students can receive a school district credit for participating in the rigorous training program on law and civics and then contribute to our community in a meaningful way. I strive to intentionally involve myself in activities beyond math; we are not teaching content, but people.

7:30 PM Yesterday at our in-service we listed our core values. Multiple teachers listed work-home balance. I will admit I am terrible about this; I wholeheartedly throw myself into everything I do. At 7:30 PM I am tempted to head back to school to work on my classroom. Keeping yesterday’s conversation in mind, however, I drive myself over to CrossFit Kodiak Island for some self-care. If I am going to focus on relationships, I have to start with myself so I can better meet everyone else’s needs. I am about to tell my coach (whose son I taught) that I’ve been working since 7:30 AM, but before I can, she mentions that she taught the 5:30 AM crossfit class. Perspective.

The theme that kept resonating with me during yesterday’s building level faculty meeting was “relationships.” One comment I hear over and over again from parents is “I hated math in school!” This is a really emotionally charged statement, and largely channeled by a disconnect – maybe with a teacher, a challenging math problem, etc. This is ironic because mathematics is all about relationships and connections: finding patterns in visuals and numbers that inform our reasoning and sense-making of our world. Yet for whatever reason the ball was dropped – someone sought a connection and it was never made.

My goal this year is to change that.

Questions or comments on anything I wrote? I would love to hear from you! Happy teaching, everyone!


I can only ask questions


MtBos recently had a blogging initiative which included a prompt on writing and asking better questions in mathematics instruction. The two questions I tend to fall back on are “Why?” and “Can you prove that?”

But some days I feel like I get asked more questions than I ask.  Here’s an example:


Student: “Is this right?”

Me: “You’re on the right track; keep going!”

Student: “But is it RIGHT?”


We want to encourage students to reason about mathematics, not just to get the right answer and be done.  So, inspired by this prompt, I took drastic measures to intentionally ask more, listen more, and talk less.

I told one of my classes that when they were working in their groups, I could ONLY ask questions when speaking.  Their job was to reason, ask questions, answer questions, share strategies, justify, and look for other possibilities.  My job was to help guide them with good questioning through this process, and so I could only ask questions, not answer them; they had to think for themselves.


Here’s how this played out:

The first time I tried this, I was worried about asking questions; would I ask good questions? Would I accidentally give away an answer? So I asked almost no questions.  I just listened so I would know how to guide the summary of the listen.


Here are the great things that happened:

Student cooperative group discussions changed almost instantly.  Knowing that they couldn’t get answers from me for reassurance, students asked each other. And justified.  And worked incredibly hard.

Because I was so worried about slipping up, I talked less and listened more.  From listening carefully, I had much better ideas about how to direct the summary part of the lesson based on what I saw and heard.

We decided to up the stakes.  During group work time, if I made a statement, I had to “dab.” (If you don’t know what this is, just ask any middle schooler.) I even posted a sign (per their request) that showed when I could only ask questions so students could hold me accountable. I completely failed. I chose to break questioning mode almost immediately after I set this rule, when one student said nervously, “I’m probably not right.”  I can’t remember my exact response, but it was something like, “Don’t second guess yourself.  You’ve got this.  And if you don’t, we’ll work through it and learn.” In choosing to let myself fail by making a statement, I was choosing to let her see the possibility that she could succeed.

My students got to see me take a risk.  Sometimes I succeeded.  Sometimes they got to see me fail, and persevere through that, modeling resilience.  Doing a perfect dab may be as challenging for me as math is for some of my students.

It created a goofy, fun positive tone to the class.


And here are the things I learned/experienced:

Not all questions are created equal. A strong statement is better than a weak question any day.  “Let’s look for a pattern here,” may be more effective than, “Should you have a negative sign in problem 3?”


I will be taking the signs down soon. Anything overdone will quickly lose novelty. My goal here was intentionality with asking questions and being transparent with students about why. Students have become more intentional in their group discussions, and I have become more intentional about listening more and talking less through questioning.  But throwing random (though good) questions around like “How did you get that?” “What if I used a different number?” “How else can we do this?” might or might not directly lead to a strong learning outcome. We have to constantly be reflective about asking not just good questions, but the best questions – or statements – in any given moment.

My Favorite Tier 2 Intervention: Tutorial


My favorite schoolwide initiative:  Tutorial!

Our Kodiak Middle School bell schedule contains an hour between morning and afternoon classes.  Of this time, half an hour is provided for lunch and half an hour is provided for “tutorials.”  Students can either be in an “A” rotation (tutorial/lunch) or a “B” rotation (lunch/tutorial.) Rotations last two weeks. This program was created by our principal, Jethro Jones.

Tutorials provides time for Tier 2 interventions, enrichment opportunities, and student choice.  Math and language arts teachers generally use this time for interventions, while other content area teachers provide a variety of offerings for students to choose from.  Some recent offerings were American Sign Language, study skills, breakdancing, Alutiiq cultural hat making, theater, and many others. So if you are a middle schooler, in between studying landforms in social studies and dissecting fish in science class, you can learn a few breakdance moves, or perhaps some origami. Students who are not in need of Tier 2 interventions can select a tutorial for the next cycle using an app created for our school.

As a math teacher, this program gives me targeted time to work with small groups on particular areas of need.  We have year long math foundations classes for Tier 3 students, but sometimes students will need help just in a particular standard or two.  I have offered math tutorials in multiplication and division strategies, fraction division, and distributive property so far.  The way that this program works is that teacher choice trumps student choice, so if there is a particular need for a student at a given time, we can assign that student a tutorial for that cycle – generally math or language arts tutorial or work completion.  The only exception is that if a student is registered for math foundations and language arts foundations as year long courses, he or she is given a free choice tutorial to have some say in his or her day. We can also assign students who have been absent for an extended period to give them an opportunity to get caught up in the content.

The first time I ran a math tutorial, I set a cap of 10, but only assigned 8 students. On the Monday that begins each tutorial cycle, teachers receive a roster.  To my surprise, all the slots were full.  That meant that two students had chosen to attend math tutorial with me.  I thought this was a fluke.  As an experiment, I left a few slots open for each cycle I taught. It turns out that every single cycle, students have signed themselves up by choice and filled my tutorial section.  Kids know what they need to be successful and want opportunities to improve.  In fact – I kid you not – there is a wait list for the next long division tutorial.

During the last cycle, I kept data, using the same 3 questions as a pre- and post-assessment.  100% of students made growth.  We use SBG (standards based grading) in our school district. 80% of the students in my fraction division tutorial went from a 0-1 to a 3 or 4 in two weeks. Anecdotally, many students said they enjoyed the tutorial and felt it was helpful.


It has taken me a while to figure out how to make the best use of tutorial time as a math teacher.  Previously this year I had picked topics that I knew many students were struggling with based on my informal observations as a teacher.  I then moved more toward using data, still having preconceived ideas about which topics I would teach (or re-teach, or pre-teach.)  Tomorrow I am going to give a formative assessment on a smattering of standards we have covered this year.  If I notice several students with a deficit in one area in particular, I will create a tutorial on that standard.  If I notice many students with a deficit in one standard in particular, that will inform my instruction.  If I notice that the same students are regularly in need of in math tutorial, I can investigate further to find out if a math interventions class might be a better long-term fit.

Please comment with questions or ideas about this program!  I would love to encourage your school to try it also.




A Day in the Life – Kodiak style

Ever wonder what it would be like to teach in Kodiak, Alaska? Here is one day in the life. .

7:30 AM:  Good morning from Kodiak, Alaska! I have just dropped my kids off at their elementary school and am on my way to Kodiak Middle School to teach 6th grade math. I wish I had taken a picture to show you what the morning looks like here, but didn’t think of it until later.  Here is a picture which looks similar to this morning:


If you’re thinking “I can’t see anything; it’s all dark,” then you are correct.  The good news is we are gaining several seconds of daylight per day and will continue to do so until the sun sets at 11 PM this summer.

I do spot movement out of the corner of my eye.  It’s a mother deer with two fawns.  I think they just appeared so they could be in this blog to give it a more rural feel.

7:45 AM:  Quick stop at Starbucks to amp up for the day.  The woman ahead of me in line is a parent of a former student, and we chat about her son’s progress in math for a few minutes.  My barista is a parent of a current student, so I share with her how proud I am of his work this week.  In case you can’t tell, Kodiak is a really small town.  My students are the children of my friends, co-workers, baristas, doctors, etc.  It’s 7:50 and I’ve just had two parent conferences, and school hasn’t even started yet.

8:00  I try to run to the copy room to Xerox some assignments before our day begins, but I have three students come by.  Two former students come to visit and we chat about welding.  A current student pops in; she brought a moonstone from home to show me.  I accidentally drop it, and she treats me with graciousness when I panic over a small chip I just made.  I make a mental note to make sure I treat her and every other student today with the same compassion when they make a mistake, whether in their math skills or behavior.  (I make another mental note to check Amazon for a replacement moonstone.) Two colleagues chat with me – one about data and one about parent communication.  I zip off to the copier with just a few minutes to spare.

8:30 I shamelessly steal an idea from the MathEqualsLove blog.  I remember seeing a quote on Twitter recently about how the best use of a teacher’s time is not necessarily to create new lessons but to choose effective lessons and spend time considering implementation to best suit our students’ needs.  I adapt her lesson by putting together a Power Point with pictures of celebrities and have students estimate their ages.  We use whiteboards to record our estimates, actual answers, and differences.  After revealing each actual celebrity’s actual age, we talk about who came closest and list these on number lines on the board.  Class is a little louder than usual, but there is complete engagement.  The closer the estimates come to the actual age, the louder the kids cheer.

Students write an explanation on their whiteboards to the question, “Who came closer: Joe, whose estimate was +2 or Emma, whose estimate was -2?” Students intuitively are making sense of absolute value here.  I wish I had some pictures of their answers.  They make sketches and write about symmetry, counting spaces, folding a number line in half, different directions, etc.  We write down a formal definition and go through several examples on number lines, including a funny one my teaching partner thought of about running a race – in the wrong direction!

A student sketches her understanding of absolute value.  I wish I had taken a picture.  She had sketched an absolute value graph.  I get really excited and tell her that what she has sketched is what the graph actually looks like!  Constantly self-reflective, I make a note to myself as she leaves that I should have asked her more questions about her sketch to have her further her understanding rather than giving away a future piece of learning.

10:10  Prep.  On Wednesdays, our 6th grade team meets during 3rd period, our common prep. I’m the one in the patterned dress.


We talk about what we are teaching so we can look for cross-curricular connections, student concerns, and our weekly team newsletter. But the main topic this week is tutorials.  Our principal, Jethro Jones, has come up with a fantastic tutorial program which allows us to implement Tier 2 interventions for students who need it and student choice tutorials on a variety of topics. Today it feels a bit like the NFL draft as we pick names of students who would benefit from additional support; Tier 1 students get to choose from a variety of tutorial offerings.  Some recent ones were break dancing, Alutiiq cultural hats, theater, etc.  This program has been fantastic and requires its own future blog post!

11:45 Quick lunch with a colleague.  We talk about our implementation of the CHAMPS behavior system and shared ideas about apps that could help keep kids accountable and engaged.


12:25 Afternoon classes run much like this morning’s classes.  Two boys share a story with me about how one convinced the other one to bring a $20 bill that he found to the office.  (The friend insists he was going to return it anyway.)  I give them each a “Golden Ticket.”  (More about this to come in a future post.) One shouts out, “It’s my lucky day! I got two of these in just one day!” My last period class struggles with absolute value, which stumps me.  This is the only class of the day that insists that -1 is closer to 0 than +1 is.  I can’t tell if they are distracted because it is finally beautiful outside, or if they are tired.  One student says it’s because they have always been taught to “round up” so they know -1 is almost 0.  Interesting.  I will have to give this some more thought.  By the end of class, they have a much better handle on it and are cheering when they can solve problems like finding the opposite of an absolute value.  I tell them to start packing up, and one student calls out, “But this class is fun!”  (That’s definitely making it into the blog, I decide!)

3:25  One of our teammates created a behavior chart to motivate her students.  It is a hundreds chart with the numbers 1-8 written in invisible ink in different squares.  A special marker is used to color a square when we want to recognize specific positive behaviors students are working on.


The students love it, so we have decided to try it as a team. Our team decides that we have earned a few squares today on our behavior chart because we have been complimented by our principal for our good team collaboration during our meeting.  We each shade in one square and burst out cheering when we reveal a number: 6!  A student who has been working next door hears us and comes out into the hallway.  “Did you win the Powerball?” he asks, sincerely.  (I love sixth graders!)  “No, we just have some fun things that we are doing in our teacher lives.”  I check our chart:  Prize number six is a board game night!  My teammates and I tentatively pick a date. Taboo, here we come!

3:45 I sneak out for a cup of coffee at 3:45.  Here’s what the day actually looks like:


4:00 I’m back at school to meet with one of my teammates.  Earlier this year, we took pictures of every 6th grader holding a sign that read “KMS 6th Grade” without telling them why.  Now that they have forgotten all about this, we got to work printing the photos out on postcard paper.  Every week we will send home a handful of these with comments from all the teachers about the great things we notice about each child.  It takes a while for our printer to work, and as the postcards emerge, we excitedly pick out our first few students to write to.

5:15 I still have a quiz to make, papers to grade, and lesson plans to second-guess.  (Anyone else do this?)  I decide to spend a few minutes straightening up my room first.  Some of these I can do from home, and by 5:45, I head out the door, though I know there is so much more to do.

What was your day like?  Any similarities or differences?