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!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Graphing Rational Functions

Ever tried to get students to visualize the connections made between the equation of a rational function and it's attributes?  My students always get confused when they first start working with rational function.  So, a friend and I worked to create a "Placemat" that the students could use to see those connections.  My students picked up on the connections quite quickly by using the placemats. 

If you are willing to try them with your students, let me know and I will email you the PDF.  (Or if you would like to tell me how to attach the file here, I would be glad to do it!)

Print the two pages front/back on white cardstock.  I used a highlighter and colored the matching rectangles to help students make the visual connections.  (I created the rectangles to help my color-blind  students make the visualizations.)  Laminate the placemats.  I gave my students a wet erase marker and a moist wipe.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Teacher Leader Effectiveness

This year has been the first year for my school district to use the new TLE for teacher evaluations.  It is a very extensive process which is totally different than any evaluation that I have experienced in 20 years of teaching.  (Oh wait!  Am I really that old?) 

I teach in a large high school where there are 10 administrators.  I started this school year believing that it would be impossible for an adminstrator evaluate me on the 20 given indicators when I don't even see administrators very often.  How will he/she know what I do in my classroom daily?  How will he/she know the additional information about the committees I am involved in at the local and state levels?  Will he/she even know that I am a National Board Certified Teacher? 

I studied the evaluation rubric for weeks and started to analyze my classroom habits to see how I felt I would be evaluated.  I starting writing down how I could justify above average scores on the rubric and later decided that my adminstrator needed access to my written justifications.

Well, today was my evaluation conference.  My administrator was able to use the information that I shared in addition to several classroom observations to complete my evaluation.  But more important than how I scored on the TLE, I realize that I have grown significantly as a teacher, by intentionally working to meet the highest levels measured on the TLE. 

Now, I am ready for my next adventure.  I don't know what that adventure is yet, but I am ready!