Sunday, September 24, 2017

Math & School & Life --- Help Students Avoid Negativity

Article written for School Newsletter:

Math & School & Life
Help Students Avoid Negativity

Student:  “I hate school; math is just too hard.  I can’t ever get it.”

Parent:  “Don’t worry about it; I never understood math either.”

This is an example of an all too common exchange with students and adults.  Now if you have heard about my math classes I often admit that the exact skill we are learning is not going to appear in some sort of “Real-Life” test - but I also quickly point out the skills of learning, processing and problem-solving are the skills we need, and math class is where we practice!  

These “Habits of Mind” are at the heart of creating resilient, lifelong learners who can attack problems in the world and workplace - but it starts with changing the exchange about tough subjects, tough days and tough events!   

Everyone can be successful in school and life, it is simply persistence!  We simply need for students to continually strive to do their best!  So try rephrase the above interaction:

“I hate school; math is just too hard.  I can’t get it.”

“Just keep working.  Everyone just learns at differents speeds.  You’ll get it, it just takes a bit more work and that’s okay.”


“I hate school! Mr. Anderson just goes too fast during class!.”

“Just keep working.  Just talk with him maybe before school or during a study hall.”


“I hate school, it is just too _____”

“Just keep working. Just talk with your teacher - I am sure there is way to go forward.”

We - parents, teachers and community members - are all creating young adults ready for our world.  The great thing for a student is we give multiple chances, an opportunity to stumble, show persistence, then succeed.  We only need to encourage them not to give up!  Help them keep their fire burning for learning and participating.  And keep encouraging our students to have empathy for others, too!

I am extremely excited to have the students back September 5th!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thinking about why.... Learning Myths

Why do we do what we do in the classroom?  How much is based on data versus administration expectation, parent expectation and our own past experiences as students?

I like to think of myself as a non-typical teacher who really is reflective on my practices - and when I took this short quiz on Wisconsin Public Radio's site on learning myths I expected not to be too surprised.  Yet I missed two of the seven questions.  What I thought was fact - wasn't....

Which leads to a great reflection point - even after 12 years in the classroom it is so important to pause and reflect.  To think about why we do what we do based on true data - not perceived data.  Is what we are doing really helping students, or is it just part of other's expectations of teaching or our own experiences?

Lots of questions.  Those questions need reflection - that is what makes us and schools better.  Reflection is still the most important thing I do when thinking about curriculum and students. 

Finally - it is not one size fits all; every teacher must find their own answer.

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!