Edutopia Article

Saw this article on Twitter and loved the points it makes!

My favorite part is where it says all people have innate potential.  To me it rings true when you think about setting your expectations.  If all of my students have this potential then why not tap into it by setting your expectations high!  They can and most will strive for those expectations!

What do you think of the article?  What was your favorite part?

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July 19 – What holiday do you enjoy celebrating with students?:  Well – I am THAT teacher that wears too many holiday paraphernalia…haha!

My favorite holiday to celebrate with them is probably Halloween.  It is just so much fun and silly!  I love participating!

My second favorite is Ash Wednesday (not a ‘holiday’, but a Holy Day int he Catholic Church.  I say this because I always go to mass before school starts and then ALL day long I get comments about the dirt on my forehead.  I love giving my students some time so that I can explain what it is, but also weird that they did not know what it is.

SBG and HW

SBG and HW is one of those hot topics for those discussing SBG so, of course, I will throw out my two sense.  I heard one of my co-workers put it like this:  HW is intended to have students practice what they have learned.  They should want to do this since we all know the more you try something, the better you will get.  I am not talking about 20 problems for HW, more like 5 – 10 problems.  This is enough to know if they are getting the concept or are way off without feeling like they wasted their time.

I choose to keep track of HW in a completion check list.  If they did it – I would check it in.  If they did not do their HW I would still expect them to do it – but I will not hand hold them to my room after school.  If they want or need help, my middle school student should really proactive enough to come and see me!

For parents, having a record of what HW was done and what was not, I am able to have conversations with parents that tell the there child has a certain grade on a standard because they did not do their HW or see me for help.  My grades are based on standards.  Just because we gave a quiz each week, does not mean they was their grade.  Most of the quizzes had 2,3, or 4 standards being graded on it.  AND they would see a standard two weeks in a row.  That way they could improve their standard grade.

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July 18 – Teacher must have items for the beginning of the year:  I always have to get a nice new grade book and a calendar for basic planning/layout.  I must get a new desk calendar and usually some sort of organizer (for God knows what…) and probably something for my homeroom (pencils/erasers/etc).  Then I must buy a bunch of senseless stuff from the $1 section of Target or Dollar Tree that I will probably never use. :/

Math Talk

Math Talks are a great idea, but I wish I knew how to get my students to push themselves beyond their comfort level and beyond their current level of understanding.  Many of my students generally struggle with grade level math concepts and when posed a question and told to think about an answer – they don’t.  They do not have the resources to even begin thinking about the problems let alone coming up with a strategy to solve.

Questions I have:

1)  How do you ramp the problems without going to far or making the problem too long?

2)  How do you encourage students without leading them?  This has been a part of the training I have received through Profession Development (West Cook Math Initiative), but I still struggle with this since it is hard to let one math talk take an entire period or more if I don’t step in and say something…

3)  How do you really get students motivated to learn and learn from others?  This applies to all math, but in a math talk where they should be hearing their peers discuss the strategies they used and how they solved the problems, how do you get students invested in their own learning?

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July 17 – Share a great classroom management strategy:  I am not sure if I have one.  I guess I just start with a strong sense of what is expected and then I loosen up as the year goes by.  Once you know the few students to keep an eye on – it is easier.  I can make sure they are on task without spending all my time with them.  Part of it is seating arrangement and part of it is standing in a place that allows you a view of that student without standing next to them.  I also plan on using Class Dojo this year to help with behavior issues.

Once there is an issue – I prefer to talk with the student one on one to get to the bottom of why they are doing what they are doing.  If anything, it takes them to a place where they must confront what they did out of the way of other students and hopefully I get a real answer from my middle school students. :/


So, I always go back to the same question…What is the best way for my students to learn?  

I struggle with this because I feel like I am always trying something new to see if it will work and then I become frustrated and think it is not the best way for them.  For example, when I started flipping, I thought it was great.  Then I heard about mastery flipping, I thought that was great and then I feel like I need more time in each period to effectively get them to do the flipping and check in with them and have math talks/conversations.

Basically, I am thinking about the coming school year and wondering what I can do to better teach my students.  I want to continue flipping when I can, but I want to make sure they talk about math and get excited to learn about math.  Maybe that’s where I should really be directing my thoughts –

How do I get them excited?  

How do I introduce the concepts in an interesting way that will not take too long?  

Our first unit is geometry…is there a way to introduce this concept that is interesting and encompasses all the ideas we need to teach?  Kind of like the Dan Meyer activities, but every time I look at those I get confused as how to use them.

I am open to suggestions and ideas…

I just always want to do the best for my students that will help them remember what they have learned without getting too far from the standards or taking too much time introducing the concepts that they do not see the connection to the standards.

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July 16 – Favorite movies/tv shows:

Movies:  Of course, my favorite movies are the Harry Potter films 😉 I also love most of the Disney/Pixar films – Incredibles and Monsters Inc being among the favorites!  I also love the Muppets movie with Jason Segal.  Mostly – I am a kid at heart!  On the serious side, I loved Primal Fear.

TV Shows:  I may have a problem and watch too much tv…I love So You Think You Can Dance, Big Bang Theory, Blacklist, Bachelor/ette, Castle, Switched at Birth, Suits, Justified, Sing Off, and I think I am forgetting some – if I remember I will add them here…Some are guilty pleasure and some I really LOVE!

Recently ended series:  How I Met Your Mother and Psych

Rock your photos?

Today I was at PD in my district called, Rock Your Photos!  It was given by our Technology Director, Jim Kloss @jazzman1625 .  Not only is this useful in my personal life, but also when taking pictures of things I do in my classroom that I might end up using in social media, my blog, things within my district, or even my teaching portfolio.  He talked about the basic rules for taking photos on any kind of device and then went through the editing capabilities within iPhoto.  Now, I will admit that I knew some of the basics of taking photos since I have a TV/Radio degree.  Many of the same rules apply when shooting video.  He talked about the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Symmetry and Patterns, Viewpoint, Foreground/background, Authenticity, and Light.  Then we discussed all the cool editing option in iPhoto (under the Adjust tab) after we walked around and took some pictures.  Here are two photos and my edited version as well:

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I think I am getting the hang of this…at least at my VERY basic level! 😉

Lastly, Jim went over how best to save photos for different situations.  If you are sending it to print versus sending it to our district person for printing or publications.

Thanks Jim for all your help today!

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July 15 – Who are your memorable students?:  One of my most memorable students was a boy named Nick.  He was a smart and quick-witted.  He was a student that could be having a completely serious conversation with me and yet be swinging in between the tables.  I loved his personality and his ability to have a come back for anything anyone said.  I think the other students did not quite understand how smart he was, but I know they did not always get his comebacks!  He was my helper, but also a great conversationalist!  I just know he will do great things in his life!

In my last loop, I had a group of girls that were in my math club, my Battle of the Books, etc that I miss!  They were always themselves and never really apologized for it.  I love that they were comfortable with being who they were and doing what they wanted.  They never really got caught up in the other drama of middle school.  They were also some of the most hard-working students I have ever seen!

I think the most memorable students are the ones that inspire me and teach me something about being a better person or teacher!

Have a great day!

Other videos for Flipping?

Post from yesterday that I started and forgot to finish :(…

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So I am going to put my two sense in the ring about using other videos for flipping.  I am the first one to say when there is a time crunch, use what you can find.  I have used You Tube videos, Khan Academy videos, Learn Zillion videos, etc.  The best quality with the best content for Common Core Math, in my opinion, is Learn Zillion.  These videos are kept short, they look appealing, the information is Common Core.  The best part about Learn Zillion is that you have the option to download the slides yourself and then you can edit them for your students and make your own video!  Just some thoughts for you all if you are thinking about flipping, but hesitant about making your own videos! 🙂


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July 14 – Favorite books to teach with?:  Since I do not teach literature – I do not know.  I did teach it for a few years, and the only one I was excited about was Outsiders. However, now I know this was beyond most of my students reading level, which is why they struggled to pick up on all the symbolism and pull from the test to understand the bigger picture.

Sunday Funday

As today is Sunday and I guess we should not work every Sunday – I am just going to do the Daily Blog question…

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July 12 – Travel Adventures: Past or Future.

Obviously this summer is spent learning how to be parents, but we did a sort of Babymoon and went to Las Vegas in March!  I had never been to Vegas over 21 so I was really excited to go!  I like gambling – my grandfather taught us grandkids how to play many card games and he loved craps.  My grandparents would go to Vegas many times each year and they brought me with 2 different times – both when I was way to young to gamble.  So I was really excited to get a chance to play blackjack.  It was just such a fun trip with my husband.  We really love traveling together!  We saw some shows: Beatles – Love and Absinthe, and we got to walk around and gamble.  Although my feet were tired, I was relaxed!

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Previous amazing trips:

Hawaii with my husband in 2012 – I would move there!  We were in Oahu, Kauai, and Maui.

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Mediterranean Cruise (Honeymoon):  Barcelona, Cannes, Pisa/Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Corfu (Greece).  This was the most amazing trip! We met some wonderful people and still keep in touch with them.  We got to see so many places we never thought we would see!

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New Orleans (3 different times):  This is where we got engaged on NYE 2008-2009.  We love this city and all it has to offer.  Only thing – don’t go in the summer (you will melt).

Orlando Florida – Universal Studios: I got to see Harry Potter, Hogwarts and Hogsmead!  I went with my mom and husbands aunt and we had a great time!  I will always remember that his aunt asked me to go with her, knowing I was such a huge fan!

Enjoy a great start to your week everyone!

Common Core NCTM


Short one today.  I am a member of NCTM and in the most recent email, the president did an extremely nice job of promoting Common Core and addressing the concerns that so many (especially those not in teaching) have expressed.  I appreciate that this organization is supporting Common Core! 🙂

Here is a link to the article: Click Here

Follow her here: @dbriars

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July 12 – Share about my most important friendships:  I feel like there are so many different parts of me and my different groups of friends reflect those sides.

I have one friend that I have had since birth – Leslie and I started as friends because our mom’s are friends since grade school.  Leslie and I never went to the same school, but have remained friends and we both know we will be there for each other no matter what.


I have a small group of friends from HS (Colleen, Tracey, Christine) that still talk and spend time together.  We may each be very different, but we are there for each other and have great memories doing even the smallest of things together!  These are my more serious friends and laid back.  The most important friend I made in HS is also my best friend – my husband Steve!

Meagan & Steve's Wedding


In college, I joined a sorority (Delta Gamma) and there are 8 of us that remain friends(Alison, Connie, Martha, Erika, Sarah, Darla, Katie).  Sadly – we are all spread out over the country (and at times…world).  We may not see each other often or talk nearly as much as we would want, but when we do talk (Google Hangout or our trips), it is like no time has passed.  We pick up right where we left off and have a great time together!  I also have another friend from college, no in the sorority, but nonetheless a great friend!

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I have a few past and current co-workers who I consider friends…i.e. we see each other outside of work and talk about things other than work.  They are people who inspire me with their teaching and also are easy to talk to.  They understand the frustrations and celebrate with me in the successes.

Some of them…

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Friends are how we get through life.  Family is always there for you, but friends choose to be there for you.


Photos for learning?!

I was browsing on Twitter and found a link to iPadU, it must be a PD that was taking place and the link takes you to the list of sessions and links to the resources.  One of the ideas mentioned was by Jonathan Wylie, @jonathanwylie.  The main idea is a photo scavenger hunt.  After my previous post about student blogging, I think this goes hand in hand with that idea!  The students could do this by day or week or standard and take pictures of the different things they learned.  This could be stuff they did or screen shots from their iPad.  At the end of each standard they could then use another app to make a picture collage of sorts with text and/or voice to explain what we are looking at.  In order to grade or check these, they would have to post it to their blog!

Okay – so now I am getting excited for this idea of student blogs. Someone please help me figure out the best way to do this and monitor them at the same time! HELP!  Our students have google accounts so they can use and create in Blogger I think.  Hmmmmm….my mind is racing!

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July 11 – How would my students describe me?:  Hmmmm….I think they would say I am a little crazy and expect the best from them.  I use a lot of minor sarcasm with my middle schoolers to show them that I expect more (i.e.: “Yes, please sit there and do nothing.” or “No, you don’t need to try that problem.  I put it in the notes for me.”)  That is my way of getting them to see what should be doing without getting upset that they are not doing what they should.  Some of my students would say I am passionate about math.  When I am trying to get them to make a connection or see something in math – I get a little into it!  It looks like I am putting on a song and dance show.  I don’t know what else they would say, but I hope they see I love teaching them! 🙂

Plan for 2014-2015

My brain is starting to itch its way toward planning for the coming school year.  This is probably the reality of staying home and starting to get stir crazy, but with only 36 days until Institute Day – I am feeling the crunch and I will not even be back right away for maternity leave.  EEK!

Here are my thoughts going into 8th grade math this year.

Regular math:  We did not finish all the CC Standards for 7th grade last year so we will be starting with the one standard we really did not cover, Geometry.  Luckily we already planned a self-paced unit at the end of the year for our Advanced Math class on these standards.  We will then follow up with the 8th grade Geometry Standards.

Here is how we will probably break them down:

Congruent and Similar Figures (also in relation to transformations)

Parallel lines cut by transversal (include triangle angle sum and exterior angle sum)

**Pythagorean Theorem (prove and use)

Volume of cylinders, cones, spheres

My advanced math class would start with one concept we never got to in 7th grade and that is Similar figures and proportionality then we would go into the 8th grade Geometry described above.  We will cover the information in the same order, but with more complex problems and more in depth than the regular math class.

**This is the only area I am still uncertain about because they would really need an understanding of radicals and that is part of the Number System Standards.  We could introduce that concept there and then continue Number System later OR we could keep Pythagorean Theorem for part of Number System and when we get to radicals go back to Pythagorean Theorem.

After this we would go into Number System, then Expressions/Equations, and Functions.  The Bivariate Unit is back for us and in the past there have been many scatter plot questions on the big tests.  Now that the tests are changing – who knows.

Standardized Tests

My theory has always been that I can’t cover everything before the standardized tests.  There is no possible way if I want my students to actually understand what I teach that they will be able to learn all of it.  After the first few years teaching, I came to the conclusion that I will do what I can to cover most of the material, but I will not jeopardize student learning.  By learning – I mean actual learning and understanding.

I hope that makes sense.  Trust me.  I know that my teaching could be held to those tests and I know that in an ideal world I would be able to cover all the topics.  But, in an ideal world, my students would not have so many learning gaps and misunderstandings of math.  I still have students who NEED a calculator to do basic facts.  They never fully understood their addition facts and how to group, which led to not fully understanding any of the other operations.  Because the Illinois State Tests (ISAT) in the past, allowed a calculator from 3rd grade on – they never had a need to truly learn them and understand their facts.  I hope that with the changes being made that things will improve.  I would be definitely a proponent of a four function calculator only for certain problems.  It is not that I hate calculators, but I feel students do not know when they actually need them and when they should use their common sense or knowledge of facts.

Ok – done with my random rant/ramble.  Thanks for listening!

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July 10 – Teaching idols:  Well, I have had a couple amazing teachers in my past.

First – you should all know I went to St. Patricia School in Hickory Hills, IL.  I would say the first one that stood out to me was my 2nd grade teacher.  I remember feeling completely safe and pushed to achieve in her class.  But, mostly I remember being in 7th and 8th grade and helping her in her classroom everyday after school.  I was able to appreciate all that she did when I saw it from that perspective!

I also loved one of my 5th/6th grade teachers – Mrs. Casper – who taught us science and was great at giving us hands on experiences!  We got to dissect an owl pellet, touch a cows tongue, touch and see pig intestines, etc.

In 7th/8th grade we had a great SS teacher – Mrs. Califfe (now the principal at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Chicago.  Mostly I remember her expectations and her care for us outside of the classroom as the NJHS moderator.  She would expect the best from us in the classroom (constitution tests) and outside as she made sure we did all we could as a NJHS and behaved while doing so (oops on the annual car wash – haha)

Second – I went to Nazareth Academy HS in La Grange Park, IL.  Over the years I had many great teachers!  I would say the teacher that stood out the most and has impacted my teaching the most was Mr. Mike.  He taught Humanities History Honors and that was the first time I ever understood the history I was learning.  He taught about all the kings and queens and aspects as a story!  His tests would be paragraphs with blanks in them and he expected you to remember the story and fill int he missing words.  Sadly, he passed away 2 years ago.

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