4.03.2014

Connecting the New Kid on the Block

A big THANKS to Theresa over at True Life: I'm a Teacher! for nominating me for a Liebster Award.


This is like a giant icebreaker in blogland! But before I get to the Q&A session, let's chat icebreakers. How do you get to know your students at the beginning of the year? How do you help your students get to know each other? And is that something you only do at the beginning of the year or does it continue throughout the year? What happens when you get a transfer student? Does the new student get the same opportunities that the rest of the class had at the beginning of the year? It is difficult to be the new kid in a classroom where everybody knows your name while you are overwhelmed by the social side of learning with strangers. I try to ease the transition by creating an environment that is filled with ongoing icebreakers. My classroom routine includes teambuilding activities twice a week throughout the entire year. These activities are fun and non-content related. But students also engage in classbuilding activities that include current content during all stages of our lessons. My secret weapon for teambuilding is Find the Fiction. Students are asked to write three statements about themselves...two facts and one fiction. Then students take turns sharing their statements and guessing the fiction statement shared by each teammate. This activity requires no advanced preparation and can be repeated as students create new statements to share tidbits of themselves that others may not know.
Okay.
Back to the Q&A.
Here are the questions from Theresa and my responses:
1. What grade do you teach? What grades have you taught? How long have you been teaching?
I taught high school math for 10 years and junior high math for 4 years. I started teaching 21 years ago and have been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years on three different occasions. What does that mean for me?!? I will be ancient when I have accumulated enough years to retire. Haha!

2. What book do you read to your class each year without fail?
Ummmm...this secondary girly usually doesn't read to my math classes. ;)

3. If you weren't a teacher, what would you be doing?
During my time away from the classroom I have been a full-time mom, math tutor, scrapbook business owner, and professional development facilitator. I would love to be a national Kagan trainer when I grow up!

4. What's one thing you're just dying to buy for your classroom?
Technology. I had a 1:1 laptop classroom last year. And I am not sure I can go back to the classroom without the integration of 1:1 devices...only time will tell.

5. What's your non-teaching guilty pleasure?
My favorite pleasure of all time is a Sunday afternoon nap.

6. Favorite book (non-teaching related)?
I love all books written by Karen Kingsbury, but it will be a while before her next new release. 

7. What's one thing on your bucket list?
Hawaii. My husband and I are thinking that just may be the perfect spot for our 20th anniversary. 

8. Favorite restaurant?
We generally eat every meal at home except Saturday night. And I honestly am thrilled with any restaurant because it means no prep work to be done or dirty dishes to be cleaned. 

9. Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Oh goodness...I have no idea! It would have to be someone who is short, can speak with a Southern accent, and portrays passion about most things especially cute hair and jewelry!

10. What's one thing you could eat everyday?
I basically eat the same lunch everyday. So I would have to say carrot sticks, snow peas, and pretzel chips with spinach & artichoke hummus. Yum!

11. What inspired you to begin blogging?
I originally started blogging about my scrapbooking hobby. But when I returned to the classroom and was hard-pressed to find a middle school math blog, I decided to contribute my thoughts to blogland. Teacher blogs have since exploded!

11 Random Facts about ME...
  • I'm the baby of four girls.
  • I would be a nervous wreck if I was a momma of boys!
  • I'm not a fan of naked toes...toes were created to be painted...the brighter the better!
  • I'm the worst at remembering titles and names of movies/actors or songs/artists.
  • I love California sunshine!
  • Yet I'm super sad to have missed lots of snow and ice this winter.
  • It's official. I'm totally addicted to iced tea. 
  • Flowers always make me smile. 
  • Cleaning and cooking are my least favorite household chores. ;) 
  • I could spend hours in the organizational supplies section of any store. 
  • Did I mention that I {heart} all things math?!?

And I would love for my nominees to answer the same questions that Theresa asked me and share 11 random facts! Drum roll please...

THECLASSYTEACHER

Smack Dab in the Middle

Teaching Math By Hart

Meatballs in the Middle
Dog Days of Math


Here are your rules of engagement:
1) Link back to my blog as the one who nominated you.
2) Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3) Answer the questions posted.
4) Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5) Contact your nominees to let them know they have been nominated.


So do tell. What is the most used icebreaker in your classroom? Name a random fact about you that most people don't know. Share your thoughts (or better yet...share a link to a blog post!) in the comments below.

Happy Friday Eve to YOU...make it count!

4.02.2014

Swirling Moment by Moment

April.
Already?!?
This school year has been a speedy one in the Tilmon house!

I know.
I have been a terrible blogger.
Let me be completely honest...this not being in the classroom thing can really mess with the blogger mindset. But I have so many things I want to document from my teaching experience last year and my staff development adventure this year. So this blog is about to become my outlet for organizing all of the math stuff that swirls around in my head moment by moment. Consider that your fair warning. ;) For now it is time to link up with Farley's "Currently" Party over at Oh Boy Fourth Grade. Come join the fun!



Listening...
I do have the background noise of the dishwasher in the kitchen and the dryer in the laundry room. But Iris overpowers both of those soft noises. :) Our neighbor's dog only barks twice a day. Seriously. She loves to welcome each morning with a barking affair. And luckily she is not an early riser!

Loving...
California has introduced our family to "late start" Wednesdays. And we are huge fans! The teachers have faculty meetings, professional development, and tutoring on a rotating basis during those non-student hours each week. Creative scheduling is much easier with neighborhood schools and public transportation.

Thinking and Wanting...
Spring Break is next week! And that means only two more days of school until the festivities begin. Well...festivities may be a bit of an exaggeration...but we are definitely looking forward to a little Disneyland and a lazy day at the beach. However I still find myself dreaming of a surprise vacation...to somewhere...anywhere...that is an all-inclusive event that doesn't require me to do anything. Haha! A girl can dream, right?!?

Needing...
But reality is that I really need to tackle the bathrooms today. I would much rather dive into my "to do" list of math goodness. That's my joy! Bathrooms. Not so much!

Hours and Last Day...
My hours revolve around the moments in between taking the girls to school each day. Emma starts later and finishes earlier than Taylor...so her schedule creates my window of opportunity. Although I'm not in a classroom this year, I have been facilitating math professional development twice a week via Skype. For more details, check out my previous Genius Hour for Teachers post. Our last scheduled Skype session is May 7. But the Tilmon house will be in the school swing until June 6...that three-week break at Christmas makes for a late dismissal.


So what are you up to these days?!? Will you be chatting with me about math and curriculum as we march into summer?!? Whatever today brings...make it count!


2.27.2014

Three Million Strong TpT Sale (and 3 new bundles!)

Teachers Pay Teachers has reached THREE MILLION teacher members!

Image Credit: Lindsay Perro

In celebration of this milestone, my TpT store will be 20% off for THREE days February 27 through March 1. And I will reveal a new bundle of math goodness each day in this little nook...

#1

Solve Systems of Linear Equations

#2

Transformations

#3

Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences


Meanwhile...hop over to Blog Hoppin' to browse the linky party of sellers who are celebrating with me. Happy shopping to YOU!


30+ iPad Apps for the Math Classroom

Do you have an iPad or two (or maybe a class set of 30!) available to use with your math students?
Are you wondering where to begin?!?
Problem solved.

iPad Apps for the Middle School Math Classroom

Browse my list of 30+ iPad apps for the middle school math classroom. This list includes everything from student screencasting to project organization to teacher productivity. And each icon is linked directly to the App Store for your convenience. Be sure to check back often for updates!


2.11.2014

Thank Your Champion...

Every child deserves a champion...
an adult who will never give up on them,
who understands the power of connection,
and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.
-Rita Pierson



During an impromptu meeting, my mentor posed a question I had never pondered.

"Lisa, what was the turning point for you?"

We talked about professional growth and career goals often, but this question was focused on the distant past instead of the future. I had never shared the pivotal failure that occurred during my fifth year of teaching.

Envision the last day of school before break when teachers and students are putting the final touches on semester details. I was conferencing with students to review final grades...in this instance three boys had gathered at my desk because they were inseparable (or should I say competitive?!?). I informed one student that his final grade was an 88%.

He replied, "Not bad."
I rallied, "True. Not bad. But you could have done better."
And his gut-wrenching statement that I will never forget, "Why didn't you tell me that sooner? I would have worked harder!"

Seriously. What had I done? I was so focused on the challenging content and making it accessible to my students that I had completely lost never gained sight of my students. Please notice the difference. I had great rapport with my students. I was involved in their world. I never gave up on them. And I truly believed they were capable of great things. I just never told them. In that moment of realization, I vowed to be a champion for students.

When I watched Rita Pierson's TED Talk this past summer, I immediately thought back to this discussion. I wholeheartedly agree. Every child deserves a champion. Not just someone who silently believes in them from the sidelines, but an adult who is in the game for the sole purpose of ensuring they reach their fullest potential.

Do you have a champion?
Yes. YOU! The educator.
The one who works tirelessly for the students you serve.
Who never gives up on you?
Who is it that understands the legacy of relationships and insists you become the best you can possibly be?

Be sure to thank your champion for asking the hard questions!


2.08.2014

Genius Hour for Teachers

While sitting in a district Math Task Force subcommittee meeting last winter, the junior high principals asked me what teachers needed most to fully implement the Common Core State Standards. My response was immediate and simple. Time!


Modeled after 20% time projects at 3M, Google, and FedEx.

I continued with specific descriptions. Not time before or after school...that conflicts with tutoring, conferences, meetings, and assigned duties. Not time away from the classroom...that hinders overall long-term progress with students. But time during the school day with no responsibility for anything other than a focus on researching, thinking, collaborating, and creating whatever necessary to build stronger students.

One principal was convinced she could make that happen if the math teachers would be willing to increase their class size from a maximum of 25 students to a maximum of 30 students. The teachers were willing and the principal worked her magic with the master schedule so that every math teacher has 5 classes, 2 preparation periods, and one math department period for Genius Hour. The design allows teachers 80 minutes per week to collaborate via a scheduled session with an additional 120 minutes per week to create their own supplemental path.

The Mission:
Every Fulbright math teacher has genius in them. It's true. And it takes time to discover, develop, and unleash that genius. Given the shift of instructional practices in the Common Core math classroom, FJHS math teachers have been gifted with time to investigate the genius that will build better math students.

The Process:
First, the teachers generate pedagogy-related questions based on student needs. Then the facilitator creates coordinating prompts to jumpstart a team session. And the team collaboration evolves from there. 
Considering my relocation to a state in which I'm not certified to teach, the principal asked if I would facilitate the scheduled Genius Hour sessions via Skype. It was a privilege to brainstorm this program into existence with her. We launched the first sessions in September 2013. And it has been an honor to work with her teachers; they are committed to excellence in all they do to serve students well.

For additional resources on Genius Hour ventures in education read The Best Resources for Applying "Fed Ex Days" to School blog post by Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA. Follow @JoyKirr and #geniushour on Twitter. Read Joy's My Own Genius Hour blog to see this idea in action with her ELA Grade 7 classes. (The mission statement above is fashioned from her thoughtful posts.) Or view the Inside Look #3 video highlighting @KristiLevy and the Oshkosh Area School District in Wisconsin.




This post is written in loving memory of Kathy Murry.
The former principal and creative genius who established the home of the Timberwolves.
May her legacy howl forevermore.

  


1.24.2014

dusting off my blogger mic...

It's time to dust off my blogger mic and return to chatting about math, curriculum design, and so much more! My little nook at "Mrs. Tilmon Says..." has been dormant for nearly a year. Where has the time gone?!? And what exactly would have me so distracted from my treasured reflection spot?

I must confess. Implementing 1:1 laptops and the Common Core State Standards in my Algebra 1 classes for the 2012-13 school year definitely monopolized my time. But my personal life encountered quite a roller coaster as well. Let's take a quick peek at my 2013...

January

A retreat for two to Big Cedar allowed us to share hopes and dreams as we planned for the possibility of my husband receiving a transfer with his job.

February

The majority of spare moments this month were focused on applying to become a school trainer with Kagan.

March

Chuck accepted a new position located in Southern California. Spring Break was filled with planning for the transition.

April

We spent a long weekend in California for hunting a house, school, and church for our family. Chuck started his new job, while the girls and I returned to Northwest Arkansas to finish the school year.

May

Chuck returned to Northwest Arkansas for the end-of-school and moving festivities...such as putting the final touches on the poolhouse.

June

The big move! We had an awesome team who battled the rain to get our house boxed and loaded for the four-day journey to the west coast.

July

After a few weeks of hotel life, we moved into our house at the beginning of July. And we were blessed with another amazing team who unloaded the truck in the extreme heat. We had just enough time to unpack boxes before we left for Disney World. I completed my certification for Kagan School Trainer and the family hit the parks for a heavy dose of magic.

August

Our summer calendar ended with a drive to the beach and Taylor finishing an online trig course. The girls started school and quickly found a groove with all things California.

September

Don't get me wrong...we love California weather (especially in January!)...but triple digits in September isn't at the top of our list. Also I launched Genius Hour sessions with the Fulbright Junior High School math department via Skype.

October

Photo Credit: Nexstar Broadcasting
We traveled to Northwest Arkansas on an extended Fall Break for me to teach a few professional development sessions for Fulbright Junior High School. I squeezed in two LIVE Genius Hour sessions, a few refresher modules of Kagan Cooperative Learning, and the Kagan Cooperative Learning Day 3 workshop.

November

After decorating our house for Christmas, we traveled to spend Thanksgiving with family. We love every second we can sneak with Chuck's sister and family...which always seems to include Black Friday shopping.

December

We launched the week of semester finals with a drive to Malibu. And one of our favorite things about California is the three-week winter break! We stayed in sunny SoCal for Christmas.

January

We started a new tradition by going to the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. Chuck and the girls headed to the mountains for the first ski trip in the Tilmon family.


How's that for a longer than expected status update?!? Thanks for reading today! The talented Alicia over at Dreamlike Magic is helping me give my blog a face lift. Please pardon my mess during the construction phase! I look forward to sharing my thoughts as an educational enthusiast. Stay tuned...