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Reflections on a Surprising Unit

First: I am not happy it has taken me more than a couple of weeks to get to this blog post. I like to blog while things are fresh and I remember all of the little things.

I probably shouldn't even be blogging today. There are so many other things I need to be doing.

But this is a post that needs to be written, and it needs to be written before I forget EVERYthing (and I know I've already forgotten a lot of the things I wanted to write about).

It was just systems of equations. Nothing special. I teach it every year. I didn't expect anything too different.

But the unit surprised me.


This was the first unit I attempted some self-pacing. I have always struggled with how to handle the kids who "get it" quickly, finish the work I need them to do, and then have time to spare.

I don't want them to feel punished with extra (or busy) work.

I don't want them wasting time.

I don't want to lose whole class activities and discussions.

But I decided it was time to e…
Recent posts

#flipclass Flash Blog: An Essential Aspect of my Flipped Classroom

It's a #flipclass Flash Blog!!!

Wow; this is hard! Just one?

So much is essential to my flipped classroom.


But I think everything goes back to relationships.

It was one of the first things I remember reading about flipped classrooms. You have more time to get to know your students better.

And it's true.

I know where they're weak. Where they're strong. I know things that are going on at home and outside the classroom. I know when they need to be pushed and when they need more time. I know when school is overwhelming them.

And students know me better, too. They know I care. They know I have their backs.

As my flipped classroom has evolved - and it is changing more than I every thought possible - the relationships I build with my students are the cornerstone of everything I do in my classroom.

Knowing my students better is the catalyst for many of the ways my flipped classroom has evolved.

I'm playing around with some self-pacing (blog post to come) because I know my …

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

I'm a pretty reflective person. I guess that's obvious, given this blog and all, but I've been reminded again this week of the power of reflection.

I just completed two projects that required me to look at my classroom and my teaching, examining what I do and seeing how far I've come. One project looked at my teaching as a whole and one was more focused on my flipped classroom.

And I found the process...emotional. No kidding, I cried after the second project was finished.

I am NOT where I could be. There is more to learn, more to change. Way more than I care to think about.

But I am so far from where I started.

I'm thankful for all those who have contributed to and are a part of my growth. People in my building, district, community, and people all around the country. A few, even, around the world.

I ended this week with a renewed thankfulness for what I do. I love my job. It's hard, and it takes almost everything I have to give.

But it's who I am. My gift.…

Top Ten Posts - 2016

I'm not exactly sure a "Top Ten" is necessary when there are only 17 posts for the year, but I like looking back through the blog to see what people are reading.

10) Summer School Reflections - I feel called to teach summer school, but this one was pretty difficult.


9) Just Keep Swimming - A mid-grading period, mid-winter pep-talk (I have to do this on a regular basis, LOL).


8) #flipclass FlashBlog On Parents, Support, and Homework - I'm always thankful for the support I get from parents and my administration.


7) My Top Ten Posts of 2015 - Here's your opportunity to see older posts, if you're new to the blog. ;)

6) Improving the "Unit with Room for Improvement" - EVERY unit is a work in progress.


5) Trying to Find my Groove - The start of this school year was a bit challenging.


4) That's a Wrap...(but Always Planning) - A brain dump at the end of the school year.


3) End of Year Student Reflections and Evaluation - I love, love, love student refl…

A Matter of Trust

Let me start by saying it's been a GREAT week!
It's been a challenging school year to this point, and the weeks before Thanksgiving Break were a struggle. I've ended more days than I can count feeling ineffective. I admit I expected this week, as students returned from Thanksgiving and looked ahead to Christmas, to be just as challenging.
My students have put forth great effort this week, and it's been one of those weeks where things have seemed a little smoother and easier.
I'm thankful for the positive week. And making a "note to self" to remember this week when the next rough patch hits.
What I really want to talk about, though, is trust. Trust in my students.

I was talking with a colleague this week, and I theorized that every teacher is somewhat of a control freak. It's MY classroom and MY students, and I want things to go (and be done) MY way.

Flipping my Algebra 1 classes two years ago was the beginning of me giving up some control. Of me trus…

"It's so HAAAARRRRRDDD!!!" and What I'm Learning

(Please read the first part of the blog post title in your best whiny voice.)


Sometimes I feel like this baby. I feel like I become one big whine. Like my friends should ask if I want some cheese with that.

It's that time of year again. The time of year that produced this post last year and this post two years ago.

I'm beginning to notice a pattern. I don't understand the pattern, but it obviously exists.

Yes, things are hard. I have a challenging group of students. Students who are pushing and stretching me and wondering if I mean what I say when I say I care about them and am committed to their learning. I am still creating and changing lessons and doing things differently than I have done them before. I am still at school way too late each day. I am still out of my box and in an uncomfortable space where I wonder if I'm doing things correctly. I end many days feeling like a failure. I am still challenging kids to go deeper and think harder; they don't always li…

What are Students Saying? - First Grading Period Reflections

As I've often said, I like giving students regular opportunities to reflect. I've had a goal for some time to gather student reflections at the end of each unit. That has not become a reality, yet, but there are few points of the school year in which I make sure I ask some reflection questions: the end of the first grading period, the end of the first semester, and the end of the year.

Believe it or not, it's the end of the first grading period.

I love Google Forms for student reflections. I can ask multiple choice questions and short answer questions and easily see responses and trends. I also save lots of paper. :)

I used a survey I used at the end of the first grading period last year that I called "The Goldilocks Survey." There were five multiple choice questions addressing such areas as how the class has been going, course difficulty, class structure, student-teacher interaction, and (self-perceived) student effort in which the answers were some variation of…