As we wrap up 2016, I’d like to humbly share these 20 things that I have done — or will/want to do — and suggest that you too may want to do some of these things as a human and as a teacher.

- Find a reason to make caramelized onions. You can add it to your favorite pasta sauce or mashed potatoes.
- Call a parent to let her know how much you appreciate having her kid in your class. Maybe the kid is struggling in your class, but nonetheless, he is kind and laughs at all your jokes.
- Listen to country music to realize that your pain ain’t so bad after all — not the country from Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw or any of them pretty boys — I mean
*outlaw*country music from David Allan Coe and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. - Lie to your students that they were always on your mind during winter break, then let them hear Willie Nelson’s
*Always on My Mind.* - Watch
*La Maison en Petits Cubes*by Kunio Katō. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2008. - Make hot chocolate for each kid in your favorite class. Seriously. (Point out to your non-favorite classes that they’d done a poor job in sucking up to you, hence going forward, they ought to try harder.)
- Stop consuming products with the label “lite” on it. Sure, it might mean 1/3 fewer calories and 1/2 less fat, but did you know it also means 1/10 of the taste?!
- Ask your students, “Did you know that diarrhea is genetic?” Let them ponder that for a few seconds, then say, “Yeah, it runs in your jeans.”
- Buy the latest book from #MTBoS: Tracy, Christopher, Mike, John and Matt, Edmund, Malke. (I’m sure I’m missing some people. Please help me out.)
- Treat the entire 180 days of school as flu season, spray bleach on everything in your classroom. Avoid the students’ eyeballs.
- Finish reading
*The Sound of Gravel*. (For God’s sake, make time to read a non-nerdy book!) - Lie —
*yes, again!*— to your students that you’d graded all their papers over winter break. Then know that you’re fucked and must skip dinner [and life] to grade papers like a squirrel on crack that evening. - Make something from scratch that you’ve never made before, like a baguette. If it comes out looking and tasting like shit, toss it immediately and buy frozen. (Ashli‘s number will be on speed dial as I attempt this.)
- Remind students that kindness trumps everything you do in your classroom.
- Be kind to yourself. Buy that item you didn’t get for Christmas from your favorite person who is now no longer your favorite. If you sleep next to this person, scream, “I hate you!” in the middle of the night like you are dreaming, except you aren’t.
- Connect with your students. Stand up for them. Speak up for them. Difficult decisions aren’t so difficult when we all put children first.
- Go to church, go to counseling, go to a friend. Reach out to someone because talking about stuff helps. Writing stuff down helps too. But it’s best to meet up with that person because a good hug is worth the drive.
- You are part of a team. Find the rest of your team and collaborate and share strategies and seek solutions. Leave the whiners and downers in the teachers’ lounge.
- Let’s not make a list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s like the goddamn pacing guide, sets us up for failure every time. Just repeat #15 above — minus the psycho screaming part, do that just once. Okay, twice. Definitely not more than three times.
- Critique the effectiveness of your lesson, not by what answers students give, but by what questions they ask.

If I drive 60 miles per hour, my journey will take 4 hours. How long will my journey take if I drive 80 miles per hour?

Paulina volunteered, “I did sixty divided by eighty, that equals point seven five, or three-fourths. So, it would take three hours.”

When I asked Paulina why she divided 60 by 80, or what the quotient 0.75 meant, she struggled to tell me her reason. Nor could she explain how she deduced that “three-fourths… so, it would take three hours.”

We have to keep asking why-why-why all the time. Our job is to help students ask better questions. One of my question quality metrics that gets high marks is if a student can ask a question that causes the class to say *Oh-shit-I-did-not-think-of-that! *

I have three reasons to write this book: Nicolai, Gabriel, Sabrina.

My sister, Kimzie, replied:

I never forget how I got here, but being reminded of how I survived makes me eternally grateful for my children.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

]]>There are a few slides from the webinar that I’d like to share here mainly because I’m still thinking about them and writing anything down helps me set the wobbly gelatin.

Two weeks ago I presented at an independent school that’s Preschool through Grade 8. Afterward, I was given a quick tour of the school — the 33-acre campus gleamed with pride in its thoughtful architecture, manicured grounds, state-of-the-art this and that, and a smorgasbord of elective offerings, including Mandarin and photography.

My school is Kindergarten through Grade 8, and the similarity between my school and this independent school pretty much ends there. I teach four classes, my smallest class has 23 8th graders, the other three, all 6th graders, have 32, 35, and 36 students.We’re a Title 1 public school.

I bring up the private school and my public school because, like apples and pomegranates, they are quite different. So, when we do PD and share whatever it is that we share about education and serving children, we need to be mindful about the space that each teacher occupies in her building and be mindful about the children who come into that space.

When someone shares something with me, one or more of these thoughts cross my mind: 1) I can see how that would work with my students, 2) I can see how I might adapt this to fit my kids, 3) This person is afraid of children or unaware that children are people, 4) Nobody cares.

Likewise, when I have the stage to share, I’m assuming you have similar thoughts of my work. But I beg you to think about the space that I share with my students.

Below is a quasi rating scale of “critical thinking demand” that I’d created to place the types of tasks that I regularly give to my students. And this scale is only possible because I’m mindful of the tasks’ contents and my own pedagogical content knowledge to facilitate these tasks.

**What are these six things?**

1 & 2. Assessment and Textbook

We’re using CPM.

3. Warm-up

Due to our new block schedule, we’ve only been doing number talks and visual patterns. I’ve used and would recommend any and all of the sites below for warm-up.

WODB.ca

estimation180

open middle

fraction talks

would you rather

math mistakes

math arguments

4. PoW

Problem of the Week, mostly from mathforum.org.

5. Task

My go-to resources:

MARS

3-Acts

Desmos

Illuminations

Illustrative Mathematics

Mathalicious

6. PS (Problem Solving)

I’m secretly working on starting a math circle for young students in my county, like the ones they have at Stanford. I just need funding, time, and people. Yes, one of those secret plans that will never happen.

I get the PS from:

Math Teachers’ Circle — (I use problems that I’ve actually experienced working through at the Circles.)

Joy of Creative Problem Solving

Numberplay

cut-the-knot

math workshops

a lifetime love of solving puzzles

**Do these 6 things align to the curriculum?**

The slide below shows the 4 types of tasks that are aligned to the curriculum, or that when I pick a PoW or Task, I make sure it correlates to the concepts and skills that we’re working on in the textbook. Therefore, it’s entirely intentional that the warm-up and PS are *not* aligned because critical thinking and creative thinking are not objects that we can place in a box or things that I can string along some prescribed continuum.

All 6 types of tasks are of course important to me. I try to implement them *consistently* with equal commitment and rigor to support and foster the 8 math practices.

**Which ones get graded?**

I don’t grade textbook exercises, i.e., homework, because I can’t think of a bigger waste of my time. I post the answers [in Google Classroom] the day after I assign them. I don’t grade PS because that’s when I ask students to take a risk, persevere, appreciate the struggle. I don’t grade warm-up because I don’t like cats.

I’m finally comfortable with this, something I’ve been fine-tuning each year (more like each grading period) for the last 5 years. I could be a passive aggressive perfectionist — or just an asshole when it comes to getting something right — so it’s no small admission to say that I’m comfortable with anything.

It’s about finding a balance, an ongoing juggling act between building concepts and practicing skills, between problem-posing and answer-getting, between teacher talk and student talk, between group work and individual work, between shredding the evidence and preserving it. Then ice cream wins everything.

Here’s the thing. We want to build a math curriculum that makes kids look forward to coming to class everyday. I trust that that’s true for more than half of my students — this could mean anywhere between 51% and 80%. I think we’re doing something wrong when kids look forward to just *Measurement Monday*, *Tetrahedron **Tuesday, *or* Function Friday*. Math should not be fun only when students get to play math “games”!

I committed all 7 sins at one time or another, but there’s no shame involved — says a recovering Catholic — instead, it is a reflection of sorts.

**Giving extra credit**. I don’t care where you teach, how old your students are, what your zodiac sign is, you’re going to have at least one kid who’ll ask for extra-credit “work” at the eleventh hour of the grading period. Don’t do it. Say no and walk away because the tears might come streaming down his/her face and you have to ration the use of Kleenex. And you should be ashamed of yourself for giving students extra-credit points for bringing in copy papers, sticky notes, dry-erase markers, tissue boxes, doughnuts. Yes, you should send me some.

**Giving timed multiplication drills**. Maybe there’s a well-documented success story behind this madness that I’m not aware of, but to me, it perpetuates the myth of faster-is-smarter. This practice raises self-doubt and affirms the why-should-I-even-bother mindset.

**Giving out the equation**. That’s like giving away life’s secrets to someone who flies to Paris to have lunch. Meaning, they don’t need it, nor did they ask for it. Your students’ conversations, their conjectures, their models — are all at the heart of a math class. To give away the equation is to passively (and aggressively!) dismiss our students’ abilities to think for themselves. It’s okay to *eventually* give them the equation in due time, just don’t start with the equation. Imagine if I just gave my students the equations for slope and area of a circle.

**Teaching from one source**. No one source is that good. The creators of that source would be fools to not concede that point. It’s like eating out at the same restaurant or boasting that you can make chicken 50 different ways. No you can’t, and nobody cares. Let one or two sources be your structural outline, your mainstay, then supplement it with your favorite lessons or other teachers’ favorite lessons. Remember, any well-crafted lesson outside of the textbook that you can bring in is your *gift* to your students. Tell them that. And with our prolific #MTBoS, you cannot afford not to supplement.

**Talking, talking, you’re still talking**. I pretty much end every workshop with this reminder: The more you talk, the less your kids learn. I plan each lesson using this as my go-to guiding principle. Math is a highly social endeavor, so for the love of Ramanujan and Lovelace, please stop talking so much so your kids may talk! Every question you pose is an opportunity for your kiddos to ponder [quietly by oneself first] and share their thoughts with peers. Every question! If you fret that your kids don’t talk in class, then I wonder about two things, 1) Do students feel *safe* enough to talk in your class? and 2) Is the question you’re asking interesting/worthwhile/challenging to even bother? (I must have asked hundreds of lame, boring, worthless questions, but I’m not giving up. I practice and get better.)

**Keeping up with the Joneses**. That colleague whose hair and complexion are always perfect is just not as funny as you are. That teacher whose students all adore her probably owns a cat that wants to kill her. And that “amazing” teacher whom everyone talks about probably sucks at everything else in life! *And* he might be a compulsive hoarder of all things creepy! So, don’t mind them. We’re not here to compete with one another. We’re here to make mathematics rock for our kids. There is one you and 24 hours in a day. Make time for yourself, make time for your family. We all have shitty days that rob us of our wits and sensibilities, but recognizing that and committing to having a better day tomorrow are worthy endeavors. Our students need us more than they care to admit.

**Being an asshole**. I already stated from the beginning that I’m guilty. No one wants to learn from someone who’s mean and angry and bossy. When we try to establish authority in the classroom, we may inadvertently end up being perceived as this person. The meaner we get, the less students want to have anything to do with us, so the angrier we get. It’s a vicious cycle, and everyone is losing. We’re the adult in the room, charged with a magnificent duty to establish a learning culture, which will not happen if we don’t *behave* like an adult. Children are said to be resilient, but they are also impressionable, and their impressionable minds are vulnerable — vulnerable to criticism, to shame, to false praises.

Let’s pray for more patience, more kindness, more badass. Here’s to us — and to a great school year!

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