Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fear of failure cannot stop us...

Just had a great couple of days at the Wisconsin Math Conference last Thursday and Friday (#wismath17).  I was able to present and get ideas from other math professionals (and computer science).

And I love this conference - I heard someone say "these are the people who drink the Kool-Aid"  and that is definitely true.  These are the professionals who ask for the PD time, prep the speeches and put themselves out there with their peers!

Yet....     Often we hear a ton of good stuff but it becomes so hard to implement...
time, administration, testing requirements, fear of moving backwards....
Where our only question should be "Is this best for students for actually learning math (not tests or college readiness, or state report cards).

I have almost always moved on good ideas and adjusted as I go.  I commit to changing a minimum of 10% of my practices (sometimes I try and go-back)  But if you don't try you are stagnate.
And I believe you cannot plan perfect transitions and by trying to, you end up not moving - your practices don't improve.  And that is worse than moving with some errors - I am willing to try/fail/revise/try/fail/revise.... to improvement.  And it works - we must remember that 2% improvement per year leads to great gains in just a few short years.

That said so many of us want all the steps and answers and I believe that over-analyzing slows us all down to no movement.  Many teachers ask about how I decided to move to a retake system and a homework system which uses no class time.  How did I get my admin on board?  (Did not ask) What plans did you do ahead? (Just started and fixed as I went) Etc.  I did not plan them completely - I just kept making small truly new adjustments - then one day a new system was there.

I definitely make mistakes - but my overall trend is 2% positive - which is best for my students.   I want my peers to know that the path is not straight or without pot-holes...  but we must walk the path.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rural Schools — Tiny Incubators of Possibilities -- Art of Teaching

Happy to link you to my latest post here:

McGraw Hill Art of Teaching

I was invited to share a story about why I love teaching in a rural school....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rural Schools hoping for State's help

Had a Channel 3000 news crew come to Juda today.  They stopped in my Calculus class, it is part of the news because of talks at Madison about how to fund rural schools. 

Here is a link:

Channel 3000 Report

Saturday, October 1, 2016

STEM - Measurement Olympics

Juda has been part of the I^2 STEM summer institute at UW-Platteville the past 2 years; its goal is to have more STEM in schools which couples extremely well for my desire for large hands-on projects.  So I wanted to post about the Measurement Olympics I ran in my Intro to Engineering Class this semester and encourage other teachers to use it (motivation came from the institute and our school's Olympic theme this year).

Instead of homework I am trying to issue challenges this year.  I am pushing students to be persistent and solve difficult problems - really trying to focus on Habits of Mind.

I created a short youtube video about the events (so that my judges could know see first hand what the students were doing  - also here is a link to the materials)

It went great.  The students were divided into teams and estimate, calculated and worked hard on solving these problems - it ended with them presenting their results to panel of judges.  It went well and taught a lot of the real world skills we want in students.  Plus first prize was cool (see facebook post).....

Friday, July 29, 2016

Grow Rural Education Winner!!

Happy to announce that our STEM initiative at Juda receive a $10,000 grant to expand our robotic equipment used within our STEM program for all 6-12 grade students.  Monsanto Grow Rural Education funded the school project (2 years now - 2015 and 2016).

The STEM program is done during homeroom time through-out the year as ungraded part of our curriculum to help develop and practice 21st Century skills like persistence, flexible thinking, problem solving and team work.  It is key part of our visions to create life long learners.

Habits of Mind are quickly becoming the skills that separate people in the work place.  I am excited because this grant helps Juda continue on its vision of changing the school culture from one problem-one solution mindset to a growth mindset - one where students attack problems with multiple solutions and refine thru multiple revisions.  Like the world the students are entering.

Watch for updates!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Raising funds & Getting a cool math shirt......

Trying to find funds is always a challenge.  To help support our math team I already ask local businesses to sponsor the team and put their logos on the back of our shirt each year (levels of sponsorship include Nerd level & Uber-Nerd level).  But as the team has expanded to 50% of the HS and MS - it keeps requiring more funds.

And I refuse to let the math team be exclusive - it is inclusive.
I also refuse to sell pizzas or candles, etc.  Cause it does not have a good return for the time required.

Now I am trying teespring.  Here is our first shirt:

A Day Without

Is Like A Day
 Math Sunshine Red T-Shirt Front

Link to order

I will have to update in a few weeks if it worked (or did I at least get enough orders to get the one I order printed).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Good versus Great - Making tough decisions.....

Had my great friend (thanks Mary!) send me an article on how good teachers become great.  I am always looking for the great activities, the best, and those are done at the expense of good things.  Knowing what not to do, I believe, is as important as knowing what to do -- because there simply are not enough minutes.

I found the post great because it started talked about perfect lesson plans, bulletin boards and binders.  The title said great teaching - and that is my goal - and I don't do any of that.  Ugh!  It was talking about all the things I skip to put time on authentic tasks that make students ready for what lays beyond my walls.  But then just about when I was ready to scream - it pivoted about how students need opportunities - authentic tasks.  And how much of the good teacher tasks must be skipped to be great (whew...) ---  saying: "In fact, becoming a great teacher requires that much of the good teacher code be broken." 

Think of all the things that can suck time -- Having perfect lessons, or the best hall passes or having all the right forms and binders prepared....    Heck those are things I often make the office ask for twice (cause a lot of stuff they ask for they just file, and most of the time - they ask once and not again).  Doing TPS things just takes more time than it is worth.  Uhhh...yeeahh...

Making things happen takes time but I think great teaching is letting students go (it was the number 1 thing in the article) - and that does not take as much time.  But I think that is hard for us as teachers.  Control can seem like a precious commodity, but in the end it is in the student's best interest to put them in control.  And success is nice but a lot more can be learned in failure and revision (for us teachers too).  

And the results are undeniable once you put students in control.  For years I have assigned projects using ideas and software that I have not done.  I think I could - but I am after end results, students can figure out details to create things (assigning a 3D house in Google Sketch Up is the largest project - I can barely draw a prism in Sketch Up). 

I plan to focus my upcoming reflections on how important minutes are in my classroom.  Not just for me and my time, but more importantly, my students time.