Sunday, August 5, 2018

Life Pass!

In my morning session, 'Talk Less, Smile More' at TMC18, Chris Luzniak, mentioned how he gives his students 'Life Happens' pass. I jotted that down among the long list of other great ideas that were shared during the conference. 

Last week was pre-planning for me. I was told one of my students just lost her mother 2 weeks earlier. That made me think of my husband who lost his mother the day before his freshman year. So life happens and sometimes it really sucks. At open house on Thursday, I met the student and her father. They told me the news and I almost lost it. 

All of this made me remember the pass that Chris talked about. I created a Life Pass to give to each of my students the first day of school. I know this in no way makes losing a loved one any better, but I want to be a more compassionate teacher this year. 

The idea is for them to simply place the pass on their desk as a signal to me that they don't want to be bothered that day. Maybe their parents were up arguing late last night, maybe they had a late game, maybe their pet died, maybe they overslept, maybe they were up late with a younger sibling because mom and dad both worked late. Life happens. At some point during class I will either initial inside one of the four boxes on the pass or hole punch it. This is my first time trying this, so my thought was the four boxes would be for a pass each quarter, but we'll see how it goes. Some students might use them all first semester and maybe I'll give them another second semester. If a student uses 2 boxes in a short amount of time, I'll have a chat with them to see what's going on. The pass can be found here.

The file has 4 to a page. When I went to make copies, I realized the passes would be quite large and might draw unnecessary attention from their peers. I ended up copying two sheets to a page, so one page gave me eight passes. I copied them on purple paper and laminated them. I'll give them to my students tomorrow when I see them. I'll keep you all updated on how it goes later in the year.  

Special shout out to Julie for suggesting I blog about this since my post on Twitter blew up yesterday. Thanks! So glad I can contribute!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Last week I attended my second TMC. If you follow me on Twitter (@jprice444) then you probably noticed my tweeting spiked last week. The reason was because TMC stands for Twitter Math Camp. Yep- it's as awesome as it sounds! I blogged about my first experience about a month ago. This year's experience was even better and here are some reasons why.

1. There were so many first time attendees I felt like a veteran there, although it was only my second year attending. In my morning session, "Talk Less, Smile More" there were 30+ people in there and I would say at least 2/3 of them were first time attendees. It was nice knowing what to expect and it was also nice being able to help newbies figure things out. The morning session choice confused me last year. I thought I could pick a session for Thursday and then pick another session Friday and Saturday. For Friday, the schedule says "same as Thursday" so I thought that just meant to go back and look at the choice offerings and go to a different session. Nope, you pick one and you are locked in for 3 days. I met a few first timers at the registration Wednesday night that were under the same impression. I felt bad telling them that wasn't the case and they had to pick one morning session for all 3 days. They were appreciative though so they could look over the options again that night.

2. I picked really good sessions to attend. Not that there are bad sessions, they all seemed great. The ones I went to were all applicable and I came away with so many ideas for myself and my peers. My favorites were my morning session (@stoodle & @cluzniak) , Chris Shore's (@mathpojects) session on Clothesline Math Grows Up and Kent Haines' (@KentHaines) flex session on Exploding Dots. I wrote down some many notes, took so many pictures and wrote many reminders to myself about how to incorporate these session into my next school year.

3. I was able to attend the Desmos pre-conference this year. Last year I was on the wait list for TMC and once I found out I was "in", the Desmos conference was already full. This year I was able to attend and it was really informative. I loved Julie's (@jreulbach) and Bob's (@rawrdimus) Assessmos session. The new Snapshots feature that was unveiled is also amazing! Also, I'm a sucker for free things, so hooray for Desmos pencils and stickers!

4. This year I felt like part of TMC. This could be because it was my second go around, but I think it has more to do with the fact that it was in another city so I stayed in hotel with most of the other attendees. We rode the shuttle to the conference together each morning, went to sessions together, ate lunch together, sometime rode the shuttle back together, sometimes walked back over that long bridge together. Each day these were all done with different people (sometimes there were overlaps, but mostly new people each day). Don't get me wrong, for an introvert it was exhausting to be "on" all the time and make conversations with new people. Constantly. I wasn't sure if I'd be tapped out by day two, but I powered through and I had fun! I went to Happy Hour, the non-first timers dinner (we are tweeting in the pic below), Trivia night and some of game night. Being able do attend all these things made it feel more "campy" to me. I loved it!

5. I made more friends this year! A few of the Atlanta people I met last year where there again so it was nice catching up with them. I also meet a few new Atlanta people (ATL crew pic is below, missing 2 people though) and we hope to organize more Tweet Ups or something similar to stay in touch and share ideas. I also met two more vegan math teachers! I think there were 5 of us total. By my calculations, that's 2.5% of TMC. Woohoo!

I could write lots more, but I think I'll stop here. I loved everything about TMC18 and when it was over, I felt a little bummed.

Normally at this time of year I am sad my summer is almost over. Pre-planning starts next Monday. I can't wait to go back to work! Okay that's a lie. I will miss hanging out at the pool with my son. And not setting an alarm. Other that that though, I feel energized with ideas and I can't wait to start using them in my classroom. Thank you TMC18!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Summer Camp!

So in a previous post I mentioned how a 7th grade teacher decided to quit/retire a few months into the school year. The students in that class had more subs than I can remember. Needless to say, the parents of these students were not happy. I wouldn't have been either if my son was in that class.

If you don't remember, the students impacted by this craziness were actually some of the brightest students in the school. As seventh graders they were taking the same math my 8th graders were taking- Accelerated Algebra. So basically there were ninety 7th graders taking high school math. Since I was the lead teacher for that course, and the math coach for the school, I was the one that made sure those kids stayed on track.

As a way to ease parents' minds, my admin team decided to offer a week long summer camp for these kids to ensure they were in fact ready to move to the next course- Accelerated Geometry (2nd semester of geometry and all of Algebra II). They also decided to make this free for these students. The idea was for the ACC Geo teacher to hold this camp. Well, since it was free... 48 students signed up! That meant they needed backup and I was their person.

So last week I hit the pause button on my summer and taught these kids. To be honest, I wasn't real thrilled about doing this. I LOVE my summer off. However, the week was actually pretty great. My teammate and I got to pick what we wanted to teach for the whole week! When does that happen during the school year? Not often enough! Having taught ACC Geo this year, my teammate knew where the weaknesses were so that helped us determine topics. Once we had our list, we split them up. Another perk of the camp? It was only from 9am - noon each day. We each had a first period, then we took a snack break, then we switched classes. And other great thing about camp? Nothing was graded and the kids were engaged and wanted to do math during the summer. I know these are the top kids, but it makes we wonder, if something like this was offered for all students, how many would come? How many would take more risks if they weren't being graded? I think this is something that needs to be explored more.

One of the topics for the week were the different forms of quadratic functions. I almost love quadratics as much as I love summer. Okay, maybe not that much.  :  )

Here is one of my favorite activities for this topic. I sadly didn't have time to do this with my own classes this year. Having my camp kids do this task reminded me how good it is though and I'm going to make it a point to include it in my plans this year.

Basically students work with a partner to match graphs of quadratics with their equations. Some equations are all filled out, but most had students convert standard form to intercept form and/or vertex form. This is also a shameless plug for my session on FALs at TMC18. I'll give you more info then! (I'll try to post a better quality picture too.)

Friday, June 8, 2018


A little background on me...

When I was in high school I had two groups of friends. I had my friends that were in all of my classes with me- honors classes all the way. I guess they were the "preppies". I also had another group of friends that I knew through my older sister. They were the skaters and the punks. They had siblings who were younger like me. I didn't have very many classes with them, but would see them in between classes and at lunch. Several of these kids or their sibling were in bands. I'm talking hardcore, punk rock or ska bands. Since I shared a room with my sister I knew the music and once I was old enough, my parents finally let me go to shows with my sister.

Now, up to this point, the only concerts I had seen were New Kids on the Block (when I was in 5th grade... Hanging Tough... jealous? Ha!) and Oldies concerts with my mom. Oh, and my dad took the whole family to see Rolling Stones on the Voodoo Lounge Tour. So these were all big productions. Going to a punk rock show in a little club in Atlanta was SO much different. By my junior year I was going to shows very regularly and I loved it. Some were in clubs downtown, some were on college campuses, some were in the garages at houses. The smaller the show, the more exciting it was. These shows were generally all put on by the kids and for the kids. The clubs didn't book the shows, the kids did. Some shows were free, some were $3 or $5, depending on if all the bands were local or not. The bands showed up in their parent's mini-van with the band equipment. The band sold the merch in between their sets. Other kids set up tables of records and demo tapes to sell. Sometimes there were tables set up with info on vegetarianism. It was all DIY and it was awesome! 

Why am I rambling on about all this? Well, a few years ago I came across #MTBoS on Twitter. Then I learned about TMC. Then last year I went to my first TMC in my own state. Not only was it better than I thought it would be, but it made me think of the punk rock shows from high school. All of TMC is put on by teachers for teachers. No silly sponsorships, no sales pitches, no $300 registration fees. Everyone was friendly and they all shared common values. And it was all math focused. It was amazing! How amazing? Well, TMC took place the last 4 days of my summer vacation. I'm going to be honest now. Once I found out I made the wait list cut, I figured I would go for a day. It was only $20, so I thought I would definitely get my $20 worth. So I went on Thursday and I then I quickly realized it was by FAR the best professional development I had ever attended (in 14 years of teaching). Day one was so great, I decided to go back on Friday. I told myself I wanted my weekend to spend relaxing before pre-planning on Monday. Well, Friday came and went and I even ventured out of my comfort zone and went to dinner with some fellow TMCers. As an introvert, this was crazy. It didn't scare me off though because I went back for day three. 

This year I am attending TMC18 and I'm excited and nervous. I'm excited to go to a new city and see people I met last year and see people I've been following on Twitter. I'm also excited because this year I'm staying in the TMC hotel so I'm hoping to get more of the camp experience! I'm nervous though because I'm presenting on Thursday. Eeek! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

And the results are in...

I know there is way more to teaching than big tests. I wish there were no big tests. In 8th grade this year my students had pre- and post-tests both semesters, interims, PSAT, CoGat and EOCs. Many of my students take an extra Biology class before school so they also had a Biology EOC. Way too many tests.

However, I am proud that my students knocked the socks off their Algebra 1 EOC test this year. All of my students (except 1) made an A or a B! The only student that didn't make a B or higher scored a 75. Sadly, he tapped out after Spring Break. He is a smart kid so it is frustrating he didn't try harder. Either way, 98% of my students did amazing and I couldn't be prouder!

Today is the last day of school and I have mixed emotions. Sad to see some of these students go, but happy to turn off the alarm! I love my summers off with my son. Today is the end of 2nd grade for him and he can't wait to be upstairs with the "big kids" next year. This year had it's challenges (see last post) but all in all, it was a good one! I even had perfect attendance! What?! Clearly, I need to take some mental health days next year!

Happy Summer!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hello summer... I am almost in you!

I teach in Georgia and we start pre-planning the last week in July most years. This means students come back the first week of August. It always seems so early. However, we get out before Memorial Day, so that is quite nice! It is May 11th and there are only 8 full days of school left. I teach 8th grade and our finals are next Thursday and Friday. The last 3 days of school are a wash for us- two days are for awards- yes TWO days, and the last day of school is almost like babysitting 30 kids each period. That being said... I can practically SMELL the chloride of my pool that isn't even open yet. But it will be soon and I can't wait.

If you aren't a teacher, you probably don't understand. Teaching has a beginning and an end and that is one of the many reasons why I love the career I chose. If you have a terrible year (too many preps, weird schedule, or rough/annoying students) you can always start fresh the next year. It is awesome!

This school year was a bit different for me. Last year, my whole 8th grade math department was new. Some were new to the county, some new to the content, all were new to the school. I was the department chair and I constantly had teachers in my room asking for help. I was more than happy to help, but that meant I was taking WAY too much work home. Grading papers and writing lesson plans. Oh, I also had two preps last year (algebra 1 and ACC Algebra 1). So when the time come to turn in our preference form for the 2017-18 school year, I wrote in the comment section that I would like to be a math coach. I really felt like I was doing that already, but without the time chiseled out. I was surprised when my AP said he loved the idea. So this year I taught 3 classes of Accelerated Algebra (all of algebra 1 and the first semester of geometry) and I had one "off" period to be a math coach. Our school has never had one before, so I had flexibility in making it what I wanted it to be.

Everything was great for the first few months of school. Then October happened. A math colleague of mine decided that she was going to retire... in the middle of the school year. The kids were just too much for her this year and her memory wasn't the sharpest anymore. This ended up making the rest of first semester super busy for me. I quickly lost track of how many subs were in her room. Each day I would check in on the sub and ask them how they felt about math. Most were honest and said it wasn't their favorite (insert tears). Then I would run back downstairs to my room and try to embed videos into the lessons for the sub so students wouldn't fall behind. Oh- did I mention this happened at the beginning of the quadratic unit? Worst timing ever. The struggle was real for those students and their parents. And me. After interviewing several candidates, we realized it was going to be impossible to find a replacement in the middle of the year. The best solution? Moving a part-time teacher that had been displaced into that classroom T, W, Th each week and having a retired math teacher be there every Monday and Friday. Was this ideal? Nope. But the kids needs some sort of consistency and this was the answer.

Each week during my coaching period I had to teach the main teacher the math. She had never taught high school level math before! If I didn't have that time with the teacher, it would've been a train wreck! We folded patty paper together and she learned her triangle centers, I refreshed her on geometry proofs and trig. They were definitely productive sessions! 

I just found out my admin team wants to keep me in the same role next year. Hooray! I'm just hoping no one decides to retire before May of 2019!