Happy Anniversary, Power Posing, and New Beginnings

It’s been over one year since I started my blog.  In fact, I published my first post on 8/8/13.  I realize I haven’t posted anything lately.  I just haven’t found a topic I thought was interesting enough.  After school got out in June, I was busy packing up my classroom and moving into my new office space at a different school.  I wanted to be all moved in before I left for my vacation in July.  After my vacation, I went back to school.  It’s been busy.  Basically, after returning from my vacation in Hawaii, it was back to work.

Last week, I attended the last two days of a math institute given by my school district.  Math leaders from all over the district met over two days to plan the district-wide professional growth day which would focus on math practices.  I would have to present two sessions.  One was on math discourse and the other was a polygon investigation.  I was able to remain calm while others around me expressed their anxiety.  I think it had to do with having presented to a large audience last spring for the SDAWP Spring Conference.  I was not nervous at all, except for right before I was to present.  During the institute, one of the consultants shared a video about power posing.  All it takes is two minutes of power posing to raise your confidence and lower your stress.  Who knew??

Amy Cuddy talked about not belonging.  Boy, can I relate to this feeling.  I started my job as a district math coach this week.  I spent most of my time at my mentor site which just happens to be the largest elementary school in the district.  My first order of business is to build relationships with the people on staff.  It’s been difficult, and I find myself missing the people I had connections with at my previous school site.  I am thinking this is pretty normal.

I felt odd not prepping for the first day of school, which is tomorrow.  It ‘s the first time in 25 years where I wasn’t getting ready for students.  I felt like I needed to be doing something, a task of some sort.  Instead, I organized my office space.  I prepared for my next staff presentation by doing research in the many resource books I received.  I don’t know why I felt guilty.  Everyone in my building was “working”.  I was working, too, but in a different way.  It was strange.  I managed to take a picture of my office and the sign I created which I hung on the door.


I am excited.  I know I made the right choice in applying for this job.  All I have to remember is to stay positive and do my power poses.

A glimpse into my office


It’s Official

My room is packed up.  Lights are off and door is locked.  Keys are turned in to the office.  Today, I officially checked out of the school that I called my home for the last 16 years.  It was strange leaving, knowing that I would not be returning there to start the 2014-2015 school year.  I am going to be a Math TOSA (teacher on special assignment) for my district which means I will be going to a new school next year.  Packing up was difficult.  I got rid of a lot of things.  I needed to downsize tremendously because my new room is more like an office and not a classroom.  Files were sifted through.  Duplicates were tossed.  It was hard trying to figure out what to save and what to get rid of.  Teachers are notorious for hanging on to stuff.  I finally had to tell myself that if I hadn’t touched the item in the last 3 years or more, then I should get rid of it.  My dilemma is that I don’t know where I am going to go after my year as a TOSA is up.  So, I wanted to hang on to certain books and resources in case I am back in the classroom in two years.  I had a lot of boxes and thought I would need to rent a storage unit for a year.  For a small, closet-sized space it was going to cost me over $1,000 to store.  Fortunately, my friend, Nicole, came with me when I was ready to move out of my classroom.  She talked me out of bringing my shelves and my plastic bins/crates.  We combined boxes and downsized even further.  I am happy to say that I didn’t need to rent a storage unit after all.  Everything I packed is now at my new school.  🙂

I am reflecting on my 16 years at Shoal Creek Elementary-home of the Otters!  I was one of the original staff members who opened the school so many years ago.  I am going to miss the people I worked with.  Everyone there is an amazing teacher.  I have learned from each of them and have improved my teaching practices as a result of my interactions with them.  I have so many happy memories that I am taking with me.  It will be strange not seeing my friends (who I think of as family) next year.  I am also going to miss the students.  They are the main reason why I love going to work each day.  I am going to miss the smiles, hugs, and love notes that I often received from them.  I managed to save a few in my file box.  I know when I am feeling low, I can read those notes to remind me of why I am doing what I do.  I am truly going to miss the connections with teachers and students at Shoal Creek.

Although driving out of the parking lot and away from the school was bittersweet, I know this new adventure is going to be a great experience for me.  I am excited by the possibilities of being a math coach for teachers.  I am still not sure what my new job entails.  It’s a work in progress.  There will be lots of opportunities for messing up.  But, I am learning that mistakes are necessary in order for growth to happen.  So, next year, I am going to embrace all my mistakes.  I am going to remember to persevere.  I am going to make the most of my opportunity.  All I can think is that my new job is going to be AWESOME! 🙂

A New Adventure

I am on my way down a new path in my teaching career.  Three weeks ago I made a last minute decision to apply for a Math TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) position.  I had heard about the position last month, but thought against applying.  I have so many things going on in my life, and I felt going for the TOSA job would be too much.  However, the day before the application was due, I decided to at least apply for it.  The process would be a good learning experience for me.  After reading the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  I am trying very hard to embrace the growth mindset.  The problem was that I made the decision to go forward with applying the night before I was to turn in all the paper work.  Fortunately, I was able to gather all the necessary papers and recommendations and turn my application in to the District Office by 4:00.  A few days later I received a phone call for an interview.

The interview went well, I felt.  I had prepared by thinking of possible questions I thought the interviewers would ask me the night before the interview.  I got to my interview a few minutes early so I could go over my notes and meditate before-hand.  I was calm, and I was ready when I was called into the little room.  There were four people on the interview panel.  It helped that I knew two of them.  It’s always nice to see a friendly, familiar face when you are in these stressful situations.  I was able to answer the questions thrown at me.  Then, I was asked to watch a short video clip and provide feedback.  I thought that was interesting.  I liked that there was a task involved instead of just answering questions.  The interview ended, and I was told that we would hear who was selected the next week.  I forgot to ask how many people had applied, but I knew they were going to select five to serve as math coaches for the district.

The waiting game is difficult. It was Tuesday afternoon when I decided to just go home early from work.  I was exhausted, and I wanted to spend some time with my three kids.  I am normally at work until about 4:30, but on this day I left work around 3:15.  I think I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t heard anything yet.  I arrived home, talked to my daughters and helped with homework.  The house phone rang at around 4:00 and my youngest daughter, Allison, picked it up.  I was thinking to myself, “Who is calling me at 4:00 on the house phone?”  Most friends and people I know call me on my cell phone.  My daughter handed me the phone and it was one of the interviewers calling to tell me I got the job.  🙂  However, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about making it just yet.  Things had to be completed on their end and a formal announcement would be made.  When?  I did not know.  So, I went to work the next day unable to tell my friends.  That was the most difficult thing to do.  I was so happy and wanted to share my news.  When they would ask me if I heard anything, I had to say no.  My friends were starting to get a little angry about them not letting me know anything.  Finally, an email was sent to the whole district announcing who the math coaches would be, and I could share my story.

Wow!  I still can’t believe it.  This means I will be spending next year out of the classroom.  Instead I will be coaching other teachers and supporting them with their math instruction.  Because our district is focusing on the Math CCSS, they are trying this new model of math coaches.  I don’t think it has ever been done in my district this way.  I explained at my interview that I did not profess to be a math whiz.  In fact, I was a bit of a math phobic as a kid.  I saw math as a set of rules and formulas that I had to memorize and remember.  I could never remember!  It was only as an adult, when I took my math methods courses in college for my teaching credential that I understood how important the conceptual foundation of teaching math was.  It began to make sense to me.  Even though I am not a math guru, I love teaching math.  I know. . . strange.  My husband joked with me when I told him I had applied for this job.  He said, “You do know this is for MATH.”  He knows math is not my strong suit.  However, I am thinking I won’t necessarily be teaching math concepts.  I will be coaching other teachers on best mathematical practices.  I am just guessing, because I don’t really know yet.

Now the hard part really begins.  I have to pack my classroom up.  I have 25 years of stuff to go through.  The good news is a few years ago, I moved from one classroom to another and got rid of a lot of things.  But, now I have to dwindle it down even more.  I have already been told by my husband that I cannot bring my boxes home.  There is just no room at the inn!  🙂  I don’t know what I am going to do.  I may have to think about renting a storage unit.  The other thing I am wondering is how this is going to affect my work with the San Diego Area Writing Project.  Since I am no longer in the classroom, I will not have a chance to practice writing strategies with students.  In my interview, I explained to the panel that writing was another passion of mine.  I am hoping I can incorporate what I have learned about writing instruction and merge it with math instruction.  I am going to work hard to accomplish that.  I think it will be just as beneficial for the teachers as it will be for students.

The position is only for a year.  After that, I will have to return to the classroom.  But, who knows?  I will be done with my administrative credential work (I hope!).  Then, I may be on an altogether different path in my teaching career.  For now, I am just so happy to be on the path I am at the moment.  I can’t wait for all the growth and learning that is waiting for me.  It will be hard work, but I am also hoping it will be fun and fulfilling.  We shall see.  🙂

Subtraction Rap

This morning I was able to sleep in until 8:00.  That felt good since I usually get up at 4:15.  Plus, my leg is still sore from my splits fiasco, that it was just nice not to have to rush anywhere.  My body was relaxed, but my brain was on the go.  I began thinking of my 2nd grade class and how we are learning double-digit subtraction with ungrouping.  We have spent a good bit of time with the conceptual idea of ungrouping tens, or breaking them apart.  At the beginning of the year, we were excited when we could make tens.  Now, I want them to break tens apart.  Next week, we are going to take on two different algorithms to help us with double digit subtraction.  The first algorithm uses Expanded Notation.  For example:  42 – 26 = _____.  The Expanded Method looks like this.

Expanded Notation

The second algorithm is the Ungroup First method.  This is the traditional algorithm that most of us learned when we were in school.  The Ungroup First method looks like this.

Ungroup First

In any case, I wondered how I could get my students to remember these algorithms.  So, I made up a rap.  Now that I have written it, it’s kind of cheesy, but I think it will help my kids remember these two algorithms.  Plus, it will be a lot of fun to recite the rap altogether.  Here is my subtraction rap.  You have to keep the drumbeat in your mind.  Maybe you can get a friend to be a human beatbox for you as you rap the words!  🙂

Subtraction Rap
This is the story of the kids in D-9
Who learned subtraction double-digits, so fine.

 Learning two algorithms saved the day.
Now they’re experts, what can we say?

 The first method learned was Expanded Notation.
They learned it so quick they had a celebration.

 First, you expand the numbers in the problem.
You have to do this step if you want to solve them.

 If you can subtract the numbers in each place,
Go right ahead you gotta keep the pace.

 If you can’t subtract, you must ungroup the numbers.
You have to do this step to prevent any blunders.

 After you ungroup, then subtract away.
You better hurry up, we don’t have all day.

 Ungroup First is the second method learned.
With lightning fast speed, papers almost got burned.

 To start this method, take a look at the ones.
If you can subtract, then your work is done.

 If you can’t subtract, you must ungroup the numbers.
You have to do this step to prevent any blunders.

 After you ungroup, then subtract away.
You better hurry up, we don’t have all day.

 This is the end of our subtraction tale.
We have to learn these methods so we don’t fail.

 Yo, we out!

See, I told you it’s cheesy.  I told you my brain was moving this morning.  I can’t wait to share this with my students next week.  I will let you know how it was received.

Professional Growth Day

Today, my district had Professional Growth Day.  It is a non-student day, so teachers could meet to talk and grow professionally.  Students got to stay home.  All teachers in the district from K-12th grade met to discuss math common core standards.  All the 2nd grade teachers in the district met at one school.  The best thing was that the school was only 5 minutes from my house.

I love days like this.  It is so beneficial to be able to talk to teachers at your grade level.  I also got the chance to see teachers that I have worked with before, and touch base with teachers I have met at other inservices throughout the district.  It was like a reunion.

Even though the information shared was something that I had heard before, it is still great to hear it again.  It reminds me of what I need to be concentrating on when I am teaching math.  Math was never my favorite subject in school.  However, I love teaching math to my 2nd graders.  I wish I had been taught math in the way I am teaching math to them right now.  I think I would have a better understanding of it.

After the inservice, I went out to lunch with my 2nd grade team.  We went to a sit-down restaurant.  That’s something we hardly get to do during the school day.  When we finished lunch, we returned to our school site to get ready for next week.  I appreciate getting the time to do this.  Now, I am ready to start my 3 day weekend.

Math Tasks

My district has rolled out the math common core standards this year.  On Monday, we had a non-student day so teachers could have a Professional Growth Day.  Our morning was devoted to math instruction and how this looks now that we are trying to implement the common core standards.

We watched several videos of teachers giving their students math tasks.  These are real-world problems that students have to solve.  After our morning of discussion and debate, I met with my grade-level team to see how we could create math tasks for an upcoming math unit.  Interestingly enough, the math unit was on solving story problems.  I am not quite there yet. I am still trying to finish up a mini-unit on geometry.  I feel great knowing that my team has prepared a few math tasks that I can use when I get to that unit.

In the meantime, I was getting ready to tackle the idea of perimeter with my 2nd graders on Tuesday.  I realized that I could develop a math task for this.  My task was decorating gift boxes.  I wanted to wrap a piece of ribbon around the edge of the box lid.  I gave my students the dimensions of the lid and asked them to help me figure out how much ribbon I would need to decorate the boxes.  I wasn’t sure how this task would go or if students would understand the task.  But, I was pleasantly surprised by the math work and math talk that was generated as I walked around the classroom.  I spent my time asking students about their discoveries and asking them to explain their thinking.  I was also able to touch base with the students who were having difficulty.

Math is at the end of my day.  All I know is that by the end of math, I was exhausted from all that activity.  However, I think the students had fun while they learned about perimeter (They didn’t know this at the time.).  I also know that I don’t necessarily need to make everything into a math task.  I think I need to be mindful of what concepts actually need to be a math task.  I also believe that students will become comfortable with this process the more I do them.  Finally, when I did my lesson on perimeter today, the students were able to connect our math task from Tuesday to the problems we had to complete today.  I know that when students can make these kinds of connections, math will make much more sense to them.  That’s the reason why I am going to keep pushing myself to give more math tasks in my classroom.  Sure it is a  lot more work, but it is totally worth it.

Assessments Here We Come!

It hasn’t even been a full month of school yet, and we are already gearing up for assessments. At the beginning of the year my school conducts a series of informal and formal assessments to show where the kids are. Part of me feels like this is a good thing in that I can get an idea where my students are academically. However, the other part of me wants to know why we do this to kids so early on. It doesn’t seem fair that I have to give my students an assessment where they won’t know what to do. I can see where kids would get frustrated. I question myself and wonder do I really need a pre-test to tell me that many of my second grade students will not know how to multiply or divide. They may not even know how to add or subtract with regrouping. I already know this. So, I don’t know why I need to give the assessment. What is frustrating to me is that these assessments do not align with what I am actually teaching in the classroom. The assessments for me are not authentic. However, I continue to give the assessments because I don’t want to be the only teacher who doesn’t give them.

Some teachers may argue that we need a baseline, some number, at the beginning so we can determine if a student grew academically at the end of the year. At times I just feel like I am collecting numbers. I also know that these numbers are what I am being judged on. It lets others know how efficiently and effectively I have done my job. So, even though I hate collecting the numbers, I also know it is neccesary.

So, in the next few weeks, I will be giving my students a math assessment, a writing assessment, and a computer-assisted assessment (MAP test). Then I can get on with my job of teaching, and students can get on with their learning.