Tuesday, October 9, 2012

iThink i'M lOsing mY mInd...and the iPad is getting it!

It's ridiculous that it's been over a year since my last post.  Last year was, let's just say, NOT the best year ever, mainly because I ended up teaching a class of Ancient History (seriously) and it's not my favorite subject.  It really and truly stressed me OUT!  But last year ended and I enjoyed some time with friends at the pool, and decided to get back into my room before the summer got away from me.  I did some updating (like hanging fabric on the cork panels in the back of my room to make it homier) and some sweating (because the air wasn't on and it was somewhere around the temperature of HELL).  And thought I was ready for school to begin again. 

I had already agreed to help coach 7th grade volleyball this year which I knew meant late days for practice. A couple of weeks before school started I received a letter stating that I would be mentoring a new teacher (which I am excited about) and then about that same time my principal asked if I would like to be on the team to pilot an iPad program in our school.  Well, you know me...OF COURSE I would like to pilot this program!  Of course I'm willing to do all the training necessary!  Of course I am comfortable enough with myself as a teacher to allow my students to teach me (because, let's face it, kids these days know WAY more about technology than us digital immigrants)!  Of course I am not already over-committed! :) 

So here we are...several weeks into school, me teaching 103 kids, all of whom have been issued iPads by my school district.  Most days I am really on top of things and I teach the kids something.  However, I really am learning a lot from these children!  I love it!  It's exciting!  It's the future!  It's EXHAUSTING!  The facilitator for this program assures me that once I figure it out and can stay ahead of the kids more than a couple of days, I will never want to go back to my old method of instruction.  I hope so because I have very little brain power left at the end of each day.  iThink i'M lOsing mY mInd...and the iPad is getting it!

If you have any ideas for using iPads in instruction or any awesome, must-have apps, please leave me a comment. I'd greatly appreciate it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's that time of year again...

Well folks, here we are again...only about a week away from getting back into the swing of school. I spent the last day and a half planning a curriculum for my sixth grade GT students. I have to say that the ladies I worked with were very resourceful and extremely helpful and I really feel as though our curriculum is going to be SO MUCH BETTER this year! Not to mention that our Executive Director of Secondary Education Gifted and Talented (Grades 6-12), Mrs. M was very open and accepting of suggestions we made as the "experts" who have been teaching this for the last two years.

Most years I am very ready to go back to school...I get excited about meeting a new group of students and look forward to seeing my friends (teachers) who I don't get to see during the summer. I enjoy working with all these professionals and really love getting ideas from others. In years when I'm not so excited about going back to school, attending meetings like the ones I just did get me in the mood. I begin reconnecting with old friends, and often make new ones. And we have collegial conversations that are priceless. So, although I intend to thoroughly enjoy my last week (lots of time at the pool with my kiddos) I am ready to get back in the grind! :)

Happy back to school, everyone!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Does anyone have any ideas on where I could find a really good Problem Based Learning curriculum for my gifted 6th grade math students? The GT curriculum we have right now is difficult to work with and I am getting frustrated, as are my students! HELP!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm teaching them how...

The students in my GT Academy don't know it but the units of instruction I have been given for them just aren't really cutting the mustard. SO, the Media Specialist at my school made some recommendations for what we could do rather than me pulling my hair out and the kids hating me before the end of school. I'm not telling all of her ideas, because that would give it all away, but one of them was to teach the kids to create a blog or wiki, so I'm showing them on my Promethean Board how to do all this. They're sitting in the room, reading out loud, sounding quite ridiculous, but that is the life of a middle schooler, right? So I typed the first paragraph (above), then saved and showed them how to edit. TA DAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is what my classroom door looks like now.

My friend Kim hasn't yet explained to me how to make an image so that you can click on it and enlarge it (not that I've asked her...), so here's a close up of the Stop Sign.

And in case you still can't read the sign (because I'm not great at taking photos) it says this:


Do not even consider

stepping in this door

without your materials!!!

Thank you,

The Management

In the last week I have issued 24, YES, TWENTY FOUR...and if you're having trouble comprehending that number, count all your fingers, both thumbs, all your toes and four more fingers...After School Detentions for students coming to my class unprepared. What that means is that T-W-E-N-T-Y F-O-U-R times during the last week a student has interrupted my teaching to say they left something in their locker, at home, or just can't find it.

Do you think the sign will help?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This is really HARD!

It's 9:09 on a Wednesday night. I have just gotten off the phone with one of my favorite students' mother. I had to call because *Melissa left her calculator in her locker for my class and had to ask if she could go get it. Of course she was allowed to get it, because she had to have it for class...but she also was given an After School Detention for having to go get it. Now, this is where it gets crazy...the fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, delightful child TOLD me that she left it in her locker, asked if she could go get it without a detention and even said "Mrs. Madden, it was on my mind...I told *Heath to bring his, but I just completely forgot to get it out of my locker!" I should have let her go get it without giving her a detention, right? I thought so too...

BUT, (you knew there would be a but, didn't you?) I have been working really hard at being a more consistent teacher. I have been known to overlook something because I considered the student who committed the grievous error (and said something like "Oh...it won't ever happen again"). Well, I've been called on it. Too many times to be comfortable. I don't like being accused of showing favoritism or being racist, because my job is hard enough without having to worry about that. For instance, when another one of my favorite students left her notebook in her locker (something that they need EVERY DAY!) and I gave her an ASD for leaving class to go get it, she was unaware that some other students had suffered the same consequences for the same or a similar behavior. When I called the home of *Brandy (who just happens to be African American) I was accused of being racist. Mind you, I LOVE *Brandy! She's smart, beautiful, flipping hilarious, respectful, kind...all the things you want your own children to be.

Another perfect example is *Stacy. She is a voracious reader. That is a great quality to have, especially in middle school. However, Stacy loves to read so much that if she's not taking notes from the board and should be listening to instruction or watching her MATH teacher do a "think aloud", she's reading...under her desk...with her book inside the pages of her notebook...or acting like she's tired with her head down and book in her lap reading. Then she wonders why she doesn't do her very best on tests and quizzes...too distracted by her reading. So in Stacy's class I made a rule...Ahem (in a very loud teacher voice) "Ladies and Gentlemen...from this day forward, if I see you with a book out reading...a book unrelated to math, and I have not expressly given you permission to read, like I might after a test or quiz, then you will receive and After School Detention!" Cut to the next day. *Jennifer, a fantastic, beautiful, sweet, smart student who makes straight A's in my class is reading her novel after she finishes her warm up. Rather than issue her an ASD I walk over and quietly whisper "put the book away...remember?" Now I want to make it clear that I do not remember ever having to ask Jennifer to stop reading and pay attention in class, AND she has not made a grade lower than an A all year. Anyway, now I'm unfair because I didn't give Jennifer an ASD. And to make it worse, Stacy is still reading under her desk top and I can't catch her, so the whole reason I made the rule just out-smarts me again!

See, here's the thing...I might give someone an after school detention that no one else knows about. So should I really make a spectacle out of it every time I give one, so that everyone is aware? Would that solve the problem? When I let *Kevin borrow my calculator, I didn't SAY "but you have an ASD" but maybe I gave one anyway. I had to call home and let his mom know, but Melissa, Jennifer, Brandy and Stacy didn't know that I did that...so they think I didn't. They now think I'm inconsistent and/or unfair.

This is REALLY hard! Being consistent. If they'd just remember their junk it wouldn't be so hard. If I didn't have to repeat the same thing 80 bobobbagazillion times, then I wouldn't have to make rules that seem so unfair. I wouldn't have to worry about being accused of being racist, or unfair, or weird, or WHATEVER! It wouldn't be so hard. By the way...Melissa's mom was the 14th mom I spoke to tonight. Does that make me unfair? I have 94-ish students...I issued over 10% of them an ASD. All I wanna do is have some fun...and teach some math while I'm doing that. HUMPH!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What does the word rigor mean to you?

I've always been a decent student...rarely made all A's but worked hard and got mostly A's and B's. I made a few C's along the way and those are the grades that, when brought home, elicited a reaction from my parents, such that I didn't want to earn C's any more. In fact, the one that sticks out in my memory the most is the C earned in conduct the first grading period of first grade. I will never forget going into my mother's classroom at the high school, handing her my report card and WAITING for her to realize I had a C in conduct. Her face LIT up...she was so proud of me...I had earned A's in everything else! Then her eyes scanned over to the conduct column and all the joy just left her face immediately. She was devastated!

The point of this story is not to tell you that I was a talkative first grader and got a paddling every day during that school year...no, it's to explain that school was not easy for me. I had to work at it. It was rigorous...and satisfying for me to work hard at something and earn decent grades!

Since I've been teaching I've struggled with working hard to teach, and expecting my students to master what I've taught, but not feeling like I had a way to gauge that mastery. As fate would have it, the Superintendent in our district has set a goal for herself of seeing a common grading system in place in our district between middle and high schools. This goal led to the formation of a task-force of about 40 teachers from all the secondary schools in our district, who were charged with reviewing the current grading policy (which is very broad and open for interpretation) and fleshing it out so that it can be used by all teachers in order to be more fair when grading our students.

We worked for about a year, meeting approximately ten times to hash out items...it was not easy nor was it always fun, but it was always rigorous and led to lots and lots of communication and compromise from committee members. We were able to have good, solid collegial conversations about what we value for our students...and it turns out, we all value rigor for our students!

On Monday, December 13, I joined five other colleagues in making a presentation to our school board about our meetings and suggested changes we came up with. It was a very interesting meeting that you can read about right here.

I have read several books on rigor and have definitions that I like, but the one we used Monday night in our presentation is posted below...read this and tell me what you think. What does the word rigor (as it pertains to education) mean to you?

What is rigor?
•An environment where EACH student is expected to learn at high levels
•Complex, ambiguous, personally challenging
•Content mastery
•Applied skills and critical thinking
What is NOT rigor?
•Special program for select students
•Severity, inflexibility, or hardship
•A measure of quantity of content
•A measure of adherence to rules