Friday, July 10, 2015

Math Department Lead Teachers/Chairs

This past week was the EngageOK Conference sponsored by the SDE.  One session that I attended was about the role of Math Department Lead Teachers/Chairs.Here are several ideas discussed.

A lead/chair should...
1.  Focus on excellence in their own classrooms
2.  Build relationships
3.  Focus on helping teachers who want to improve
4.  Be aware of and tend to issues as soon as they arise.
5.  Be a good example in all areas (ex.  Strive to learn on PD days, be attentive at faculty meetings, be positive in lounges/workrooms)
6.  Mentor all newer teachers
7.  Inspire teachers to inspire students
8.  Communicate opportunities to improve
9.  Share information about standards
10.  Collaborate with teachers in other areas and buildings
11.  Strive to discuss vertical alignment
12.  Pay close attentions to individual teacher's needs and help get them met
13.  Be willing to take on challenges within the department 
14.  Be an advocate for the department
15.  Hold department members accountable
16.  Focus on improvement
17.  Share your wisdom
18.  Let the department know that you have an open door policy (allow teachers to enter your classroom to observe your teaching anytime)
19.  Observe the teacher in the department to ensure that they are doing what they say they are doing (non-evaluative) and discuss what you see.

Feel free to add additional thoughts below.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My TMC14 Highlights!

I must start with WOW!  I had never been to such a relaxing, comfortable conference!  150 teachers who are willing to listen, learn and critic each others work.  I love the way the focus seemed to be totally different than other conferences.  I had the feeling of "I can do technology".  I felt encouraged to tweet more and blog more!  It's not that everyone needs to read what I write, but it is a reminder to myself of what is important to me and ideas that I have!

My biggest Aha moments:
1.  Every time you ask a class why, allow them to turn and talk.  Everyone's answer to why is a little different and if they turn and talk it allows the students to process.
2.  SnagIt!!!  I can't wait to create lessons using snag it for my virtual and/or absent students to experience.  What's more exciting the Techsmith guy, Jason Valade, showed me how to do it!!!!!!!  Watch out Jason, I have your email address AND phone number! 
3.  You start the problem.  I have the habit of asking students to finish solving a problem during lecture time, but what if I allowed a student to START the problem.  Then I could guide them through the entire problem as they go the direction that THEY choose.
4.  Not all secondary math teachers agree on what topics are the most important.  AND, that's okay!

Hope to see you at TMC15!! :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day of JOY!

A few days ago I noticed that it was time for our Algebra 2 teachers to teach conic sections.  I noticed the Conic Cards, which I first introduced to students about 10 years ago, we're being used in several classrooms.  I haven't taught Algebra 2 for 2 years and teaching Conics is what I miss the most!  I have now sent the Conic Cards to 26 states and abroad!  I never hear from most teachers who use them, but today I did!  One of the teachers in my building sent this very kind email.

     I'm just completing another successful year of teaching conics thanks to your brilliant invention of Conic Cards.  Just looking around the room today as students review, I'm so pleased to see how involved most of the students are.  Several are sitting on the floor matching cards for practice.  Others are working on the review worksheet and I'm hearing good learning going on as they discuss how to tell which direction a parabola opens or how to graph an ellipse given the equation.  It really is amazing to see how much they have learned and even better, how motivated they are. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

It feels great to know that I have impacted student learning in classrooms of students who I have never met and probably will not ever meet!  I am thrilled beyond belief!!!

Friday, November 1, 2013


I have had the opportunity to attend the 8 day training on Cognitive Coaching.  In a nutshell, the training is how to guide other teachers how to become more effective, plan and resolve problems without telling them what to do. I have met many educators from across the state who have the opportunity to influence other teachers.  Most of them are instructional coaches at the elementary level.  They spend time helping teachers prepare lessons, collecting classroom data and work as a bridge between teachers and administators.  

It makes me wonder...Why is it that Instructional coaches are at many elementary sites but not secondary?  As teachers are desiring scores above 3 on the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness, now would be the time to pilot a high school instructional coach!  I know that many teachers would not take advantage of an instructional coach, but those who would, could make minor classroom changes that would have a positive impact on student first time taker's EOI scores.  

This leads me to my developing passion!  I have always desired to have observer preservice teachers and intern teachers in my classroom.  I love to have the opportunity to guide them into a successful start of their career.  I now have a strong desire to work with other teachers to improve/refine their skills in order to increase their effectiveness!  I know that it sounds weird, but I am very excited at changing my priorities as teachers ask me questions about what they can try in their classroom.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The End and the Beginning!

As the end of the year approaches, I wonder where my students will be in 10-20 years.  I realize that I can only imagine their possibilities!  Many will have careers that do not exist yet. Some will have the opportunities to travel the world and regret not listening in English and history classes.  Many will work on college degrees.  Some will attend technical training beyond my imagination.

Then, I think back.  I have been teaching for 20 years.  What kind of difference have I made?  I have had over 2000 students in class.  I am proud to say these students have become ordained elders in the methodist church, local pastors, youth directors, professional football players, contestants on American Idol and The Voice, stay at home mothers, lawyers, engineers, teachers (of many subjects and levels), and many more.  How many of them remember something that I said to them?  When I can't even remember everything that I have said to encourage students in the past two weeks.  It reminds me of when I was in high school and a math teacher asked my why I wasn't on the advanced math track.  That one question motivated me to do more!  What do I say to students that could change their lives in a positive way?

I admit that there are students that I encourage more than others, but why?  My excuse is always I don't have time to talk to every single student every day.  But, if I make the time, if we all make the time, look at the change we can make to the world we live in.

If you are reading this, I challenge you to speak to a young person today who you don't normally take the time to visit with and just tell him/her that you are proud of the efforts they make to be successful. You will never know how much one conversation can do to change someone's life.  For example, in college I struggled through Calculus 1. I had not yet figured out that I needed to be careful when choosing an instructor.  A different math instructor (also a family friend)confronted me at church and asked "I received a list of students who changed their major this semester and you were on the list.  Why?"  I responded saying, "I can't even make a C in Calc 1, there is no way for me to make it through Calc 3 and beyond to be a math teacher."  He said (with his gentle voice and finger pointed at me), "You WILL take Calc 1 again next semester, you WILL enroll in MY section, then you WILL change your major back to Math Ed.  Do you understand?"  I couldn't say anything but "Yes, sir!" The three minute conversation changed my entire life!  Whose life will you change in 3 minutes?  You may never know, but they will remember for a lifetime.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Time to Learn!

I have been teaching for 20 years. As I reflect over this school year, I have thought about this being a "Dream Year". I have been in a brand new classroom, used brand new computers and started a brand new course, all things I have dreamed of.

But, as I think back to my first year of teaching with books, pencils, paper, chalkboards and chalk. i taught in a small building with 7 teacher, being the only math teacher. My classroom was my world. No computer. No TV. No phone. I seldom knew what was going on out the wall of my class. My goal then was to teach students how to make the grade. My dream was to survive the school year.

I would have never dreamed of this schedule: teaching students who were taking a 4th year of high school math, by choice, teaching with the help of a smart board, instant Internet access to look up questions asked (such as "Is the tower of Pisa really that tall with that Angle?"), phone to quickly and easily contact parents, textbooks online, homework completed online and student access to computer generated examples.

I would have NEVER dreamed of this Dream Year. What will my classroom look in another 20 years? There is no way to know today! But if I continue to strive to learn, my students will benefit every day

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Students have changed!

This year we were given the amazing opportunity to pilot the My Math Lab program with our Algebra 3 with Trigonometry class.  It is a program where students complete all coursework online.  WOW!  Students have changed!  Last year, my students would just skip word problems and if they couldn't figure out a problem, they would just ask me to work it for them in class.  This year, my students work on assignments until they are perfect!  Anything less that 100% isn't good enough!  Students choose to come in during lunch, and during other class periods, to work on their math assignments.

Last year, my students would attempt to work review assignments for tests.  If they need help, they would only work on only the problems on the review assignments and hope for the best.  With My Math Lab, my students are allowed to work review assignments as many times as they would like.  I now have students work the entire review several times.  A few students have even completed unit reviews as many as 10 to 12 times to make sure they totally understand every type of problem.  Many students work the reviews until they score a 100%, therefore increasing the number of A scored on every test.

Last year, my students would NEVER read an example from the book to figure out the process to solve a problem.  This year, my students are constantly reading through examples to make sure they are working the problems correctly.  Plus, they are telling the students near them to just read the examples!

Last year, I had my students complete homework quizzes each week.  I very seldom looked at every problem completed by my students because of time.  This year, my students know immediately whether or not every single problem is correct on every assignment.

Last year, I hated work that was turned in late.  I never wanted to even look at it.  I set a deadline in early May so that I would have plenty of time to get everything graded.  This year, the grading is not an issue.  I still have to look at every problem on the tests to make sure my students didn't type their answer incorrectly.  For example, if they are to enter a point as their answer and the program provides the parenthesis, the program would count the problem wrong if the student entered an additional set of parenthesis.

Last year, my students frequently worked together and help each other.  The students who have always been successful in math usually did the explaining.  This year, all of my students are more confident when they are helping their peers.  My lower achieving students have a tremendous amount of confidence.  They already know that their problems are correct.  They know that they know what they are talking about.  They enjoy discussing their assignments.  Some groups of students even try to find different ways to solve their problems.  This year, my students have gained the mathematical confidence needed to be successful in college.

My favorite moment this week...I have a student who has been absent many times this semester.  Hmmm...she was always absent on test days.  Three weeks ago, she had a 44% and 4 tests to complete.  She, with some help from her mother, decided that she better get these missing tests taken care of.  She stayed after school several days, came in when she was released from her virtual class and brought her lunch to the math lab every day for two weeks.  She was so focused that she earned a 100% on each of the 4 tests.  One of her friends was jealous.  The "absent all the time" student worked with her jealous friend to complete the reviews for the 2 test that she needed to make up.  The absent all the time student said yesterday to the jealous student made a 98% on her test, "I am so proud of you!"  It shows that students with Fs, can still be successful with hard work.

My students have changed and it's all because of our amazing administration who provided us the opportunity to use My Math Lab!