Monthly Archives: August 2014

#MTBoSChallenge Week 3 – pics of my classroom

The MTBoS has a challenge out to blog weekly until the end of 2014.  I need this challenge to get me back into blogging.  This week I’m doing the Saturday challenge (a day late!), which is to post pictures of my classroom.


These first 3 shots are a close to 360 view from my classroom door.  You can see I’m really into baseball.  🙂

IMG_1200 IMG_1201 IMG_1202

These 2 shots are behind and next to my door.  This is the left front wall of my room. The Bloom’s chart is because that is how I level all assessments.  The fat lady from Gryffindor is a painting done by a student who also loves Harry Potter.  I have students put cell phones on that desk and I put lost and found there.  As you can see, there is already a lost calculator.

IMG_1203 IMG_1204

Close up of the plaque on the bottom left of my board. 🙂


Pic of a poster I had printed & I got the image from venspired.  To the right is our schedule.  It’s laminated with the project schedule on the back.  Our school has time periods where we are in a discipline focused schedule and we see our students 4 times per week.  Then we have weeks where we are on a project based schedule and we see our students 3 times per week to allow for project time.


My new bigscreen TV that has Apple TV hooked up.  All projectors were removed and replaced with this set up.  Science and Math teachers were given iPads.  Projected is the @Desmos app from my iPad.


I start the year with students doing sticky notes on various posters.  There are 4 colors are for my 4 classes.  This shows some of their learning goals for math class.  Many are stuck on grades as a learning goal.


My desk area.  I try to balance my warped sense of humor with nice quotes also. 🙂

IMG_1209 IMG_1210 IMG_1211 IMG_1213 IMG_1218 IMG_1219

More stickies of student responses

IMG_1212 IMG_1214 IMG_1215

Supply area & area next to door showing our school Mindsets poster.  I keep little golf pencils with cap erasers over there for students who have forgotten a pencil.  The colorful caddies on the shelves are sitting on whiteboards.  One person from a table group grabs a caddy and whiteboards for their group before class starts.

IMG_1216 IMG_1217

Finally, what I’m really supposed to be doing right now, my Grad School reading:



Reducing Learning Outcomes – Move Stats Content?

Yesterday I wrote a post about some of the changes going on at our school.  One of the things that needs to be done quickly is to reduce our Upper School Math Learning Outcomes.  I’ve gotten some feedback on Twitter in regards to Algebra 2 and will be meeting with the rest of the Math Team this week to collaborate.

In brainstorming these last few days, I have a thought in regards to our Data & Statistics Units.  We currently teach them in Geometry & Algebra 2.  What if we had Stats Bootcamp 1 & Stats Bootcamp 2 offered as sessions during (i)Project time in October? Bootcamp 1 would be for students in Alg 1 & Geometry.  Bootcamp 2 would be for students in Alg 2, PreCalc, and Calc.  I’m assuming the students in Statistics wouldn’t need this bootcamp!  (BTW, I stole the name Bootcamp from the Hedge.)  I spoke to Hedge about using some of the awesome resources she freely shares, and she kindly said that I could.  I was originally thinking in class, but since I don’t see how I’ll have time to teach Stats in class, maybe in this Bootcamp time.

Ok, back to my brainstorming.  Bootcamp 1 has the Stats & Data Learning Outcomes from Geometry, Bootcamp 2 has the Stats & Data Learning Outcomes for Algebra 2.  Students will have 1.5 hours of (i)Project time twice a week.  What if we offered these bootcamps for 45 minute sessions for 2 or 3 weeks? Students would learn the Stats they need to learn for their projects, life in general, and the SAT.  They wouldn’t be assessed on the Stats in the bootcamps, but that’s ok.  They would be in those bootcamps because they signed up for it and chose to be there. I think that’s more powerful than a grade.  This helps in reducing Learning Outcomes for content class time, but students still have the ability to learn the needed material.

Thoughts? Other suggestions? Push back?



The Struggle is Real – Content Time vs. Project Time

I work at an incredible private school in Atlanta.  Our mission (which includes college-readiness for all students) is bold and I love that our leadership is not only willing to step outside the box to improve education, but they are leading the way in completely breaking the box that holds traditional American education.  I was eager to come to this school because of the mission, vision, and mindsets. I knew this was a place that valued both research-based best practices as well as innovative teaching practices.  This is discussed in more detail in our (i)Plan 17.

I knew in coming to this school, I would not only be encouraged to move away from traditional math instruction – teacher lectures all class, students sit silently in rows and take notes, homework is 30 drill & kill exercises – it would be the expectation that my class rarely, if ever, looked traditional.  This energized me as I had already moved away from traditional teaching in my previous school.

My first year we did the “Poverty Project.”  It was 2-3 weeks (I forget which) where students were given time to work on addressing a real world issue in connection with a local organization.  The normal schedule was modified to include time for this project.  There were definite positives in this project, but also a lot of struggle as we went through this process as a school for the first time.  I saw many students quite engaged in the organization we were working with, but I heard that wasn’t the case in many of the other organizations and student groups.  This type of group work was difficult for our students, but that’s ok.  We often have to struggle at first to truly learn something new, and these are skills our students need to learn.

The next year (last year) we did a more extensive year long Capstone Project, which we shortened internally to TDed for Transdisciplinary Education.  9th & 10th graders had the topic of GMOs while 11th & 12th graders had the topic of Land & Water issues. We used a Design Thinking framework as our guideline for progressing through the year.  In November, all teachers included the appropriate topic in their classroom teaching.  For example, I taught my data units in November and taught them through the lens of GMO research and articles.  In addition, we had various schedules throughout the year that gave students time during the school day to work on these projects.  Students were instructed to come up with projects that would “make a dent” in their assigned topic area.  We had a week of “unschool” where students grouped up and pitched their projects for approval, a la “Shark Tank.”  We ended with year with an Expo where all student groups presented their projects on tri-fold boards set up throughout the school.

For the upcoming year, we are doing something similar, but not identical to last year.  It’s being called the (i)Project because we are a school of Innovation, Inquiry, and Impact. Projects will need to be categorized, for the most part, by one of those “I”s. Students will get to choose their topic, so it’s a passion project, and can be in groups of 1-5, meaning they can work individually.  I had the privilege of being on the summer team working to plan this year’s project, and I truly love how we have changed the project.

Here’s where conflict & struggle come in for me – Why? Why are we doing this? How do we know this will work? And what does “work” even mean? With the various schedule changes, I will see my students for 51 days in the Fall Semester (not quarter, semester) and 48 days in the Spring Semester.  I didn’t count the first 1/2 week of school or Final Exams to get those number of days.  And we aren’t on a block schedule that gives us long class times.  Some of those classes will be 55 minutes, some 60 minutes.  Those few extra minutes aren’t enough to get into new material.  I would prefer to meet more often for a 45 or 50 minute class.  How on earth will I address my Learning Outcomes when seeing my students on such few occasions? How can I use inquiry in my teaching when I know inquiry takes longer? How will our AP students be successful on their AP tests?  How can I do cross disciplinary learning with other content teachers when that takes longer? Where is the research that this works? Hattie’s work has PBL at 0.15 effect size.  I know that PBL can have a larger effect size when it’s used not for initial learning, but for deepening learning.  That’s all good.  But does good PBL have to reduce content time to this degree?

I feel pressured to have to go to a more traditional style of teaching just so I can do my job of math instruction.  This isn’t why I came here! 

In addition, I’m a new co-chair of our school’s Pre-12 Math R&D Team.  I’ve spent the last week pouring over our Alg1-PreCalc Learning Outcomes, comparing to each other and the new SAT topics.  How can we reduce our Learning Outcomes so that we still meet the math educational needs of our students & they are prepared for the SAT/ACT, which is part of them being college-ready?  Am I qualified to do this?

I just don’t think we have to reduce class time so much to increase engagement or have students involved in projects or to meet our mission.  We can do interdisciplinary & cross-disciplinary work just by allowing teachers to do it on their own.  I’m so freaked out by this loss of content days that I have no desire to work on lessons with other teachers this year.

To be clear, I want this to all work out phenomenally.  I want our students to learn both the content they need and the real world skills of doing projects.  They will be reaching out to professionals, collaborating with teachers & other students, presenting their findings – the MV Mind at work!

And so, this is the long-winded reason of why I was asking on Twitter about reducing Algebra 2 Learning Outcomes! The struggle is real people, the struggle is real.