goal setting in the classroom...

Day 31 Prompt: What will you do to energize yourself for 2013?

For 2013 I commit to consider my circumstances through the filter of serving students.
Trials and frustrations will arise.
Instead of being drawn to the negative, I vow to find a positive spin by fixing my eyes solely on the needs of our students.
If students are my primary focus, I can't go wrong...no distraction will steal my energy when I am serving students.

Let's hold each other accountable for keeping the main thing the main thing!

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Happy Friday Eve to YOU!
Make it count!


teaching perseverance via math...

Day 30 Prompt: Benjamin Franklin said, "Energy and persistence conquer all things." Do you agree or disagree?
Persistence conquers all things.
And continued persistence requires energy.
In my algebra classroom, I strive to inspire persistence. I answer questions with questions. I provide reference points and resources rather than direct answers. I pose thought-provoking questions that add depth to the concept of focus. And I have no problem saying, "Well...let's see what new thoughts you have tomorrow that could inspire progress."
This mindset for any teacher requires energy. Much energy! An abundance of energy beyond the typical daily dosage. Why?!? Because it would be SO much easier to just provide students with a direct answer. For both of us! However, easy doesn't produce endurance...endurance stems from perseverance. And I want my students to be set for the long haul in future math endeavors.
Don't sell your students short. They are capable of thinking deeply and making connections. Always remember...the one thinking is the one learning! How do you integrate perseverance in your math classroom? Please share your tips by leaving a comment below...

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Happy Wednesday to YOU...make it count!


the iterations of teaching math...

Day 29 Prompt: What reoccurring thought uses up a lot of your mental energy?
Step 1.
Do my students have the necessary prior knowledge for this lesson?
Step 2.
Do my students already understand the new content outlined in this lesson? If so, how will I enrich these students while teaching the new content to the rest of the students?
Step 3.
How do I present new content in a way that is comprehensible by all students regardless of their prior knowledge? (i.e. How do I bridge the gaps while teaching new content?)
Step 4.
How do I know my students get it?
Step 5.
How will I enrich those who now understand the new content while actively remediating the students who don't get it?
Step 6.
Now...how do I know my students get it? And what will I do if they still don't get it?
Repeat Steps 1-6 for the next concept.
And this reiterative cycle occurs multiple times within one lesson. Yep. That's a reoccuring thought running through the mind of every teacher. It certainly uses up a lot of my mental energy. How about you?!?

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Happy Tuesday to YOU...make it count!


overcoming math anxiety...

Day 28 Prompt: What emotion do you think is the biggest waste of energy and why?
Waste of energy?
I believe anxiety can be a huge waste of energy because if unchecked it can spin out of control quickly and cause unnecessary obstacles. My classroom has been occupied by students with math anxiety or general anxiety. I have found structure, routine, and confidence building opportunities are the best remedy for anxiety. Success breeds success. And when success becomes the norm...anxiety decreases and/or coping mechanisms keep the anxiety in check. Either way the student finds success.

I could speak to anxiety at great length. Perhaps I should write a series of posts on the topic. Any interest? General interest? Math interest? Let me know...I could share specific examples and modifications that made a positive impact.
So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 
Matthew 6.34
This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Hope your week is off to a great start...make it count!


my latest pinspiration...

I could spend hours browsing on Pinterest.
And my latest pinspiration has been working wonders in my classroom!

I spied some excellent examples of "_____ of the Day" for elementary classrooms. So I decided to make a few changes for my middle school math classroom and voila! This is the newest piece of my MATHercise routine for Algebra 1.

Hope your week is amazing...make it count!


top of my checklist...

Happy Saturday to YOU!

What's on your "to do" list today?
  • finalize answer keys
  • create assessment documents
  • organize online calendar
  • type review activity
  • complete unit graphic organizer
  • update online gradebook
And the list continues...and I haven't even shared items other than school goodness. A sweet colleague once shared that teachers are only caught up on the last day of school...all other days provide an opportunity for more to be accomplished. Absolute truth has never been more clear!

And just in case you're wondering...I'm still hoping for a snow day. Put that at the top of my checklist! A surprise vacation day would certainly allow me to check several items off my list...hopefully before I created more items to add to said list. Haha!

Enjoy your weekend...make it count!



running the race...

Day 25 Prompt: How long do you think you could last in a power outage?

How long could I last in a power outage?
Not long.
I'm a total girly girl with that sort of thing.
Embassy Suites is my kind of camping! :)
But seriously.
What does it really take to withstand a trial?
To overcome a battle?
To experience the sweet taste of victory?

Math is a fairly unpopular subject.
It gets a bad rap...from current students and former students (aka parents).
But I am in absolute awe of the subject!
And even more importantly...I am passionate about sharing my feelings with others.
I strive to encourage perseverance.
It comes in small packages.
Disguised in colorful gift wrap.
And it unfolds the spark of desire...for math!
I'm intentional about providing opportunities for perseverance because perseverance leads to endurance. And any student (lover of math or not) is going to need an extra helping of endurance when it comes to making mathematical connnections.

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Happy Friday to YOU...make it count!


the woes of classroom laptops...

Day 24 Prompt: What is your favorite thing to do when you lose energy in your home and can't use electronics?
My family loves to play games! Word games. Card games. Board games. I can't think of a game we refuse! And our game of choice lately is the Dutch Blitz card game.
This is a card game that I started playing as a little girl. It's fast-paced game where energy abounds. We get a little loud. And laugh hysterically. But we still meet the objective of the game...to BLITZ!
Now...in my classroom?!? It's ironic that this prompt is posted on the day I'm attending my 21st Century classroom training. Since I will be out of the classroom today, my students will not have access to our classroom laptops. Something tells me the clock will move much slower today. Usually I leave math games for my students to play; however, today my students will be collaborating in their teams to compare linear and exponential functions.
What do your students do during the absence of technology? What type of plans do you leave for a substitute? With or without technology?
This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

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


conserving energy...

Day 23 Prompt: What is the most creative way you conserve energy in your home classroom?

Using a lamp instead of the classroom lights? Yes. 
Keeping the blinds closed? Yes. 
Keeping the room cool so the heat only turns on a few times a day? Definitely. 
Recycling papers that were part of the process. Sure. 

But do I really want to talk about that type of energy? Not so much. 
And to be honest, I can't say that conserving student energy has ever been one of my classroom goals. My middle school math students seem to have an endless supply of energy! So I just plan activity after activity to use my resources wisely. :) 

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.



fossil fuels in my classroom...

Day 22 Prompt: Come up with a creative plan (and no, it doesn't have to be realistic and scientifically-based -- toddler on a hamster wheel, anyone?) to create energy once we use up our fossil fuels.

Define fossil fuels:
Oil, coal, natural gas...all non-renewable sources of energy. Once depleted this energy source cannot be replaced. Besides that long-term problem, when fossil fuels are used to provide energy the process also causes damage to the atmosphere. 

What are these in my classroom?
Standardized testing. I believe in teaching with the end in mind. Aiming toward what my students should be able to do at the conclusion of our time together maintains focus for all parties involved. And standardized testing has unleashed a giant highlighter on measuring the extent to which the content has been learned. A source of energy that can be used to adjust the path for future learning. Meanwhile, this measure has been widely used to "rank" students, teachers, schools, districts, and states. And therein lies the damage to the classroom. Comparison vs. collaboration. 

What if they cease to exist? How do I make them renewable?
No more standardized testing? That's an immediate gain of time in my classroom; a definite plus. And that has to save all levels of institutions plenty of money that can be reassigned; technology infrastructure, please. However, I still need the data that shows individual student alignment to our learning goals, but that's an ongoing process in my classroom regardless of whatever testing is administered from above. 

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Disclaimer: As with all opinions I share via my blog, these statements are my personal beliefs and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or practices of my employer. 

Happy Tuesday to YOU...make it count!


classroom concern...

Day 21 Prompt: What is your biggest concern about the future of the classroom environment?

How do I give my students the firm foundation they need for future learning while preparing them for a totally different classroom environment and instructional style?

That is my biggest concern. It overwhelms me at times. Why?!? Partly because of my 10 years of experience teaching at our highly ranked local high school. Partly because I am the mom of a high school student. I know the differences. Knowledge is power, right? But teaching foundational math at the middle school/junior high level is critical in content...while my concern lies in the practical skills of being an independent learner. How do I teach students to respectfully advocate for themselves? How do I help students realize how they learn best and then passionately take a stand when those conditions aren't readily available?

My apologies if you were hoping for a Go Green message today. Instead I twisted the prompt to my classroom and spilled my deepest fear. It would be awesome if I could list a 3-step solution to remedy my concern. Truth? I'm at a complete loss on this one. I do know that success in overcoming this concern will require me to be intentional in my efforts. As always, I will certainly keep you posted. 

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Hope you made this special day extraordinary...make it count!


my #1 cheerleader...

Behind every good teacher is a great cheerleader. I am so very thankful for my amazing husband! I simply couldn't minister to the students in my classroom without him. I often tease my students that our latest gadget is compliments of the Mr. Tilmon grant fund. Haha! But it's the moral support...the endless hours spent listening to school stories that make the biggest impact in my classroom. But not just listening...my hubby is a smarty with creative solutions to my problems. He also scours Twitter for educational articles that he knows I will want to read. He is a definite keeper!
So who is your #1 cheerleader?!? And how do they help you become an even better teacher? I can't wait to hear your stories!

Hope your Sunday was fabulous...make it count!


vacation: gotta get away...

One of my favorite Twitter peeps is Todd Bloch. He is a 7th grade science teacher who moderates the weekly #mschat on Thursday nights and inspires throughout the week. Today his wife asked if teachers every just take a day off. Haha! My husband often wonders the same thing; however, his mother taught kindergarten for 28 years...he gets it. A teacher's job never ends; there is always something else that can be done to impact a student.

But let me caution you to take time for YOU! This isn't my personal strength. Thank goodness for my amazing man! He turned this long weekend into a 4-day getaway.

Hope you find a way to turn part of your weekend into a vacation!
Happy Saturday to YOU...make it count!


the tilmonator...

Day 18 Prompt: What would be your superhero name and why?

The Tilmonator.
It sounds so powerful...almost like a high-functioning machine. Problem in...solution out!

It's true. I would love to be a master problem solver who eradicates all things that prevent our students from receiving the differentiation that they so richly deserve. I could get fired up as a superhero on a mission for learning.
But to be honest..."The Tilmonator" is actually a nickname my high school students gave me back in the day. Somehow they decided I ruled with an iron fist...not really...just a little early morning humor! My precalculus students once told me that they thought I was super scary until they spent a few weeks enrolled in my course...then they knew I was scary, but they liked me anyways. Gotta love kids...they shoot straight regardless of the casualties.

I am super short. I smile constantly. And I probably have the loudest laugh in the building. Yep. I'm the Tilmonator. Haha! So what are you known for in your building?!? Spill. We want to hear the scoop!

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Enjoy your long weekend...make it count!


being a difference maker...

Day 17 Prompt: How would you start saving the world if you woke up tomorrow with superhuman powers?

World peace! Isn't that always the answer?!?

Honestly? I have no idea what plan of action I would follow to save the world. Is the most efficient way to make an immediate difference through influencing those in authority positions who are ultimately responsbile for action? Perhaps. Is the most beneficial way to make a long-term difference through placing neglected children in loving, secure homes? Maybe.
But my deepest desire is to be a difference maker yesterday, today, and tomorrow...without superhuman powers. Just me choosing to make an impact. Being intentional. Speaking to former students in the crowded halls between classes, encouraging my current students to persevere when confronting obstacles, digging deep to build a community within our classroom that will carry my students through high school...small choices...that I believe have significant impact.
"The true test of a person's character is how they treat the people in life they don't need."
This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

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


classroom enemy...

Day 16 Prompt: If you were a superhero, what would be your kryptonite, draining your energy?
What has the most potential to hinder progress in my classroom? Wasted time. I want every second to count...every moment to be productive...every inch of progress to promote learning! Whether that second is digging deep in the heart of math goodness, spinning in transition from one task to the next, or participating in a brain break to gain energy for upcoming focus and complexity...there is plenty of opportunity for wasted moments. We must not cave to the potential loss!

How often have you heard these words? "I don't have time for ______." Go ahead. Fill in the blank. No time for...teambuilding or classbuilding or hands-on activities or practice that requires movement or, or, OR...the list continues. The best prescription?!? I would argue engagement. A well planned lesson rooted in a community that longs for procedure and routine can remedy the classroom kryptonite of lost time.
This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Have an amazing Wednesday...make it count!


extreme strength...

Day 15 Prompt: As a superhero, would you rather have extreme strength or extreme speed?

Currently I'm teaching exponential functions to my Algebra 1 students. Extreme strength would get me through the unit successfully. However, extreme speed would spin into the world of quadratics. Oh my! That sounds absolutely dreamy at the moment. That being said, I probably shouldn't respond to this prompt in light of my circumstances. Instead I'll push myself to the bigger picture...

Well...considering that I wholeheartedly believe that teaching is my superpower...then I am automatically a superhero! Therefore, by the transitive property, this superhero has been asked to choose strength or speed. So in that case...I choose strength. Slow and steady wins the race, right?!? Strength would provide the endurance for me to face each new day as fully equipped as the day before. And the planner in me definitely needs a healthy batch of endurance. I'm not sure if you've put two and two together or not, but teaching is a profession that requires extreme planning; yet said plan is modified in the presentation so much that it is barely recognizable by the end of the day. And that, my friend, requires an even more significant batch of patience!

...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. Colossians 1.11
This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Hope your week is off to a great start...make it count!


my superpower...

Day 14 Prompt: If you were a superhero, what would be your hidden superpower?
I'm confused by this prompt. I'm pretty sure I already am a superhero. And my superpower is far from hidden! :)
I would love to purchase these adorable tumblers for every teacher at my school. They are available for purchase from the Lyla Bug Designs Etsy shop. The boys in the building may prefer the traditional red apple as opposed to the fashionable fuschia with lime green accents. Haha! :) And these tumblers can even be personalized.
Now...I realize you must think this is one giant advertisement. I actually don't know Colleen...the shop owner from Florida. This is just a Pinterest find I've been spying for a few months. But I feel certain Miss Colleen loves a teacher somewhere. The art of teaching is a daily challenge; therefore, teaching requires superpower...to smile instead of complaining...to reflect instead of assuming...to focus instead of going through the motions. Teaching is my passion, but I will be the first to tell you that it's a challenging job with little positive feedback. I'm okay with that...I have a superpower! But if you love a teacher somewhere, please send them a note letting them know all about their awesomeness.

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Happy Monday to YOU...make it count!


my favorites of 2012...

As I look forward to the adventures of 2013, I want to take a moment to reflect on some favorites from 2012 as determined by my followers. Several other middle school math teachers are posting favorites on their blogs today as well. Be sure to search the #mssunfun hashtag on Twitter!

Favorite Blog Posts:
This blog post hit the most views in 2012. It reminds me that teachers are looking for ideas. Whether they plan to steal shamelessly (which I definitely encourage!) or they plan to spin-off and create something similar but different, our creativity is often inspired by others.
Classroom Bulletin Board Ideas

And this blog post generated the most comments. I'm definitely not in the All-Star blogger category. So comments are few and far between on my sweet little home in blog land...but this summary post generated some replies.
Middle School Math Classroom Tour
It's always nice to know that others appreciate a decorated middle school classroom! :)

Favorite Activity:
My followers have selected these two activities as the most popular in 2012.

Math Centers: Order of Operations Activity Bundle

Inequalities Go Fish Game

I'm honored by my TpT followers and especially appreciate their feedback. I've grown as a teacher by reading about their use of my activities in their classrooms.

Favorite Lesson:
My favorite review lesson is the Find Someone Who cooperative learning structure from Kagan. You can read more details in this "My Students Move to Learn" blog post. Be sure to visit my freebies tab above to download a free 7th grade math measurement review document.

Favorite Professional Development:
I've attended hours upon hours of professional development sessions during 2012. My favorite source of PD is Twitter! I can "attend" educational chats from any location with my iPhone. And better yet...it's FREE! No travel. No registration. And no professional attire required. :) If I was forced to choose just one favorite chat, the #21stedchat facilitated by @Edu_Thompson and @dprindle would be at the top of my list. Join in every Sunday night at 8:00 EST US. This week's topic is "How to Change the Culture of Sharing." Hope to see you there!

This post is included in the Middle School Math Sunday Funday collaboration of posts from middle school math teachers!

Hope your weekend was beyond amazing!
Have a great week...make it count!


a successful week...

The first week back after Winter Break is always challenging.
First there's the alarm clock. And then the lesson plans. Oh...and the students...who want to be at school, but equally want to still be on break. (Much like their teacher!) All the while we as teachers try to revive the procedures and routines that have been followed since August...plus throw in some new twists to accommodate for all we've learned. There's something about a new semester...an empty grade sheet...and transfer students galore...a fresh start can be quite motivating for all involved parties. And then we realize by Wednesday that our calendar deemed a full week upon return instead of a three-day week...and the last two days required challenges to not let our students feel like it was the longest week ever lived. I think we accomplished these goals. But my Saturday has been consumed with recovery, lesson planning, and snow day dreaming!

What have you been up to today?!? I know several of my Twitter buddies attended EdCampLA. Hope they all have a great first day back wih students on Monday!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend...make it count!


motivation vs. mood...

Day 11 Prompt: How do you find the energy to write when you're not in the mood?
Blogging about the experiences in my middle school math classroom is a tool of reflection for me. Reflection allows me to remember things I may otherwise forget over time. And it also offers me an opportunity to share insight that may save another teacher precious time and energy. Or perhaps it will spark a new idea or alternative solution...for me or my readers. Reflection is my motivation. And this motivation far outweighs the occasional mood of not wanting to write. I actually enjoy writing; it's the time investment that causes hesitation.
Although I do realize not everyone loves writing, I find the reflection required for responding to prompts opens doors to learning. My middle school math students are required to journal on a regular basis. As a 1:1 laptop classroom, we use Penzu for online journaling. Here are sample prompts from my algebra classes:
  • Compare and contrast solving equations and solving inequalities. Discuss at least three similarities and three differences.
  • Discuss the characteristics and behaviors of an absolute value function. Provide an example(s) to support your discussion.
  • Describe the environment in which you complete algebra homework. What do you like about the setting? Why? What would you most prefer to change? Why?
I encourage my students to start writing and keep writing until the set time expires. Even though it may not be the exact response they want to provide at the moment, they can always return to the prompt and their response the next day to edit. Goodness knows I rarely publish the original draft of any blog post!

Do students journal in your classroom? If so, is it open writing or prompt-response writing? Do your students maintain a blog for your course? If so, what parameters have you set to prompt learning?

This post is part of the BlogHer #NaBloPoMo challenge.

Have a fabulous weekend...make it count!