Note to Self (#DCSDblogs Week 3)

The theme for week 3 of the #DCSDblogs challenge is Oops! The goal is to talk about a mistake you made in your classroom recently and how you addressed it.

This year is the first year I’ve taught Algebra 2. Starting last summer and throughout the year, I’ve made sure to start my planning for this class a bit earlier than normal so I can process the content I need to teach and get my mind around the best way to present it. This is also the first class I’ve used Interactive Notebooks in, which has actually overall helped me with finding the core ideas of the content and finding the pieces that are going to resonate most with students.

The unit we just finished covered rational functions. I took a bit to re-acquaint myself with the process of finding asymptotes, adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing and solving these functions. However, this unit came right in the spring break / Iowa Assessments time of year, and so my planning all got a bit wonky.

I definitely didn’t leave myself enough time to do the planning of these lessons justice, and it showed. Here are my notes to myself for teaching this unit in the future:

We started with sketching graphs of rational functions. The very first thing I realized is that my students, while proficient at factoring quadratics, have not gotten very efficient at it. This meant that every single problem seemed more complex, because pretty much regardless of what you’re doing with a rational function, the first thing you need to do is factor the numerator and denominator.

*note to self: more practice factoring quadratics to enhance efficiency

I also realized that in my process of sketching a graph – finding x and y intercepts, vertical and horizontal asymptotes, holes, etc., I had them finding the intercepts first. This ended up not making sense, because if there’s a hole at one of the intercepts, that point isn’t actually an intercept, so the holes need to be the first thing you find. This one was a fairly easy fix because I just had them write on the inside of the foldable “move step 2 to after step 4” and explained why we needed to do it in a different order. Everyone was fine, and we moved on.

*note to self: use a few examples to make sure the order of your process makes sense

Then, we hit the exit slip problem I had included on their foldable. They were feeling okay about finding the characteristics of the graphs, not so great about actually sketching the final curves amongst the asymptotes, intercepts, and holes, but I figured we could give the exit slip a shot and then come back and discuss it the next day. Rookie mistake: I had taken the functions I used for the foldable from one of their textbook’s worksheets for the section, and I hadn’t graphed the exit slip one myself because I wanted to leave it blank in my teacher INB since the students were supposed to complete this one on their own.

Turns out, this particular rational function has no asymptotes, which we had not seen any examples of and so every student completely panicked. They correctly found that there were no vertical and no horizontal asymptotes, but then they all just stopped working because they were convinced that wasn’t possible for a rational function and they had done something wrong.

*note to self: check the exit slip problem. Also, don’t assign a unique case example for an exit slip!


Next, we covered simplifying, multiplying, and dividing rationals, along with complex fractions. This section actually went really well, and my students felt really good about themselves after having a freakout when they saw the complex fractions and then realizing that they had all the skills to deal with them already! The only thing I want to change here is…again…the order of the steps. It makes more sense to rearrange the problem into a multiplication problem before factoring. My students were the ones who figured this out, because they’re awesome.

*note to self: seriously, check to make sure the order of your process make sense.


Adding and subtracting rational expressions is probably the most complex process in our district’s Algebra 2 curriculum. Either that or factoring polynomials above degree 2. Regardless, I did not do a good job of presenting this, or practicing it, or anything. I kind of botched this one big time.

First, the foldable didn’t leave enough room for anything to happen.

*note to self: give students enough room to do math on the paper!

Then there’s the fact that I just…didn’t explain this well. There’s really no way around it. I did not teach this well. My students didn’t know when they were finished with a problem, what to do next, they kept getting lost in calculations.

*note to self: spend some time doing more problems with adding and subtracting rationals yourself, so you can break down the structure better

*note to self: search the #mtbos and other online resources to see how other people break this skill down

*note to self: really, just scrap this section and start over from scratch for next year

I can end this post on a good note, though, because I made sure to set aside extra time to plan for the last skill in this unit, solving rational equations, and I think that turned out pretty well. My students loved making the pockets for their INBs and getting to stick the practice problems in them, which we also did for simplifying rational expressions, and it was a good way to fit more practice problems into their INBs without taking up more pages.

They also showed me that they really had mastered solving quadratics earlier this year, because that’s what you end up having to solve when you’re solving a rational equation. I was really proud to see them pulling out the Quadratic Formula or factoring again and just going at it!

*note to self: good job on this one 🙂


I learned from this section that I need to be more intentional about planning, especially with content I haven’t worked with myself in a while. I have stellar students in my Algebra 2 class, so we were able to overcome my shortcomings in planning without too much trauma, but they did get lower quiz scores over this content than I’m used to from them.

I’m hoping to have a bit of time left at the end of the year to come back to this content before their final, but I don’t think it would be productive to keep pushing forward with it right now. They need a break from it after the train wreck I put them through.

Please let me know if you have any great lessons over rational expressions and functions – I would love the help in improving this unit for next year!

*note to self: word processing systems don’t think asymptote is a word and it’s incredibly frustrating.

You Won’t Do This Alone (#DCSDblogs Week 2)

Last night, I went to see one of my favorite bands, With Confidence (and also Don Broco and State Champs) in concert.

One of my favorite songs by them is called Voldemort – this is also one of the ways they originally caught my attention, because obviously I’m going to be intrigued by any band who titles their songs after a Harry Potter theme!


As I thought about what I would write for this week’s #DCSDblogs post (The theme this week is Teachers Learning from Teachers), I started to realize that this song encompasses a lot of the things I wanted to talk about.

I remember the first night that she said
“Oh maybe I can do this on my own”

I am an incredibly stubborn and independent person, which is sometimes a flaw and sometimes an asset. When I set out on my first year of teaching, I was convinced that I could do everything myself. If I didn’t know how to do it, I could figure it out. The song is from the perspective of a friend who insists on being there for the girl described, even when she says she can do it on her own.

And I will try to hold you up
Through those times when you are gone
Despite the weather, it gets better
You won’t do this alone

In case any of you out there didn’t know yet…teaching is hard. My first year, I was overwhelmed and barely keeping afloat at times, and yet I continuously refused to ask anyone for help. Most of it was a little voice in my head that went, “you don’t have a specific question to ask, so you’re fine. You’ll figure it out.”

Heather, one of the other amazing math teachers in our building, worked herself into the cracks in my stubbornness over the course of the year. At the start of the year, when I refused all of her offers of help, she left me alone for awhile. As the year wore on, she would drop in occasionally and ask how things were going. Her questions got more and more specific – “do you need help with anything?” started to become “Which class is your most difficult this quarter? Is there anything you wish you could do to work with that?” and she made it harder and harder for me to just brush her off and pretend like I had everything under control.

I won’t even pretend this is a finished process today, because I still tend to think I can do things for myself, but Heather has helped to convince me that it’s not weakness to reach out for help in your classroom. We’ve built a relationship of bouncing ideas off of each other that now often will start a conversation off with “Okay, so I’m going to tell you this idea and I want your honest opinion even if it’s bad.”

I remember the first night that she went
To find her little place inside this world

The other piece of advice I’ve gotten that has hugely impacted my teaching was from one of my cooperating teachers in student teaching. On my first day in his classroom, Brian told me “I never take any work home. Home is my family place. If I bring things home, it starts to bleed into my time with them and hurts my relationship with them.”

Over the time I spent with him, he expanded on this idea to say that it doesn’t work for every teacher to take nothing home – he preferred to stay a little bit later at school in order to keep his home a work-free zone, but that the main point was to build boundaries for yourself.

It’s far too easy as a teacher to occupy yourself with the goings on of your classroom and your students every waking moment (and as I’m sure you can all relate, sometimes they spill into the sleeping moments too!). Obviously, this can be harmful to our existence as humans outside the classroom – our relationships with friends and family, our outside interests, etc.

In my first few years of teaching, I firmly adhered to Brian’s model of taking no work home – I didn’t mind staying at school later if I knew that when I got home, I wouldn’t have any work responsibilities at all. It’s only in the last year that I’ve been able to reflect on and reshape the model a little bit to better fit my own mindset and lifestyle – I still usually stay at school to do most of my lesson planning and grading, but now I’ll throw in a spare hour here and there at home to blog, or read blogs, or get the ideas down for a new activity before I forget them. The point is that you need your “little place inside this world”, like the song says, that separates your work from your personal life. We’re in a weird profession where the work follows you everywhere, and for our mental health it’s important to create those boundaries – whether they are physical, mental, or both.

As of right now, my boundaries are pretty much that I complete all must do work at school, and then extra things like blogging or a new idea or possibly getting ahead of the game if I have spare time and really feel like it can be done at home. That’s what works for me!


There’s a lot of things I’ve learned from other teachers so far, but those are the main few.

  • you need help, and other teachers can give it to you (admitting it is not weakness)
  • create some boundaries between work and your personal life
  • having a teacher you can trust to bounce ideas off of that will respond with honesty and without judgement is golden

And I know that you’re holding out for better weather
And I can’t promise you that I’ll be round forever
If there’s one thing I know it’s that we’re good together

We’re good together. The people around you have a lot to offer you, I promise 🙂

Book Recommendations (Vol. 01)

Reading is my favorite hobby.

At the end of 2016, I posted a wrap up of the year and when I wrote it, I wanted to include a top 5 books list. Two things stopped me – first, it didn’t seem like it fit with the theme of “professional top fives”, I just really wanted to make book recommendations to people. Second, I had read too many books to choose five from the whole year.

So this year, I’m going to try making these book recommendations posts every 3 months (a quarter of a year). They say “everyone is a teacher of literacy”, so here’s math teacher me, trying to convince you to read more for fun. Amazingly, the first three months of 2017 have already passed?!

As a disclaimer, the summaries are probably going to be pretty vague because I don’t like to go into books knowing too much about them, but I’ll give you the gist!


I’ve already read 15 books this year – here are my 5 favorites:


The Problem with Forever – Jennifer L. Armentrout

Mallory is starting her senior year, returning to public school for the first time in several years after being homeschooled following a trauma she endured while living with a previous foster family.  She encounters a face from that time that she never expected to see again, who was a light in the darkness of that home.

This book hit me really hard emotionally and I ended up crying through much of the last third or so. It is a very realistic portrayal of many of the hardships that our underprivileged, at risk, and traumatized students face on a daily basis. It is very painful to read at times, but it is also full of hope and the path of rebuilding trust and connection after it has been lost.

We Are Okay – Nina LaCour

Marin left her entire old life behind when she left California for college in New York. It’s now winter break and she finds herself alone in the dorms, the only one who didn’t go home or on a vacation. Her best friend from California, Mabel, shows up to visit and forces her to confront everything she left.

This book is such a short read, and is a really raw examination of everything that comes with grief and change. It’s another one that’s about broken connections and how to rebuild them, and how to re-imagine your life when you discover that things aren’t exactly as you thought they were. It’s written so that you feel all of the emotions along with Marin, and go on the journey with her of confronting what happened.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

This book was inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement and starts out with high schooler Starr witnessing one of her good friends be shot and killed by a police officer. The rest of the story follows the unrest in Starr’s neighborhood, her struggles to reconcile the world of her mostly white and privileged school with her friends and family in her mostly black and lower class neighborhood.

This one is really powerful – I read the whole thing in pretty much one sitting. “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” It really calls into question how you can sit in your privilege and not address something that really matters, and shows you the people who don’t have that choice. This is one I think everyone, but especially every teacher, should read.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing begins with the stories of Effia and Esi, half sisters who have never met and don’t know of each other’s existence, at the start of the slave trade in what is now Ghana. It follows the trail of their descendants to present day.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and I keep raving about it to everyone who will listen to me. Every chapter gives you a brief glimpse into the next descendant down the line and in every chapter I found myself wanting to read a whole book about that character. In the end, it’s not a spoiler to say the two lines find a way to intertwine again and it is lovely and wonderful. It also gives a very interesting glimpse into different perspectives on the slave trade and the history of some of the ancient (and modern) Ghanaian people. But wow, is this book lovely to read.

The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life – Alex Bellos

It’s basically various stories about the histories of different math concepts – including how Kepler and Galileo used to send each other anagrammed riddles of their new discoveries, a giant survey to discover the world’s favorite number, and more!

It was just a really fun read. I had previously read and loved Bellos’ Here’s Looking at Euclid and also loved it. As is evident from those titles, he’s great at puns, and I also think he’s pretty great at explaining the math from a layperson’s perspective – so if you find math fascinating, but don’t feel super confident in your skills, this one’s for you! It’s just really interesting and will make you think about things you never considered. I know a lot of people don’t love nonfiction, but this is a pretty easy read for nonfiction.


So there it is – my top 5 books of the first quarter of 2017. Please, if you’ve read anything great, leave me a comment and hype it up for me – I love recommendations! Also, if you end up checking any of these out, report back and tell me if you loved it as much as I did!

The Pride Bubble (#DCSDBlogs Week 1)

!!! It’s the first week of the district wide blogging challenge that I created !!!

I’m really excited for this blogging challenge – to see teachers in our district who have wanted to blog have a reason to finally get started.

Anyways, the theme for week one is One Good Thing – to share something good that happened in your classroom in the past week and explain how it was celebrated.


It feels like on a daily basis, I’m carrying around my pride in my students within this bubble. I’m always proud of them – I teach a population of students who are in a daily fight with the low expectations the world has placed upon them, and every day that they show up in my classroom gives me pride that they haven’t given up yet. So the bubble always exists.

Sometimes it’s very fragile and small, and sometimes it inflates more and more.

And then sometimes it bursts, because it’s just too full of pride to be contained anymore.

My pride bubble burst on Friday.


My Algebra 1 students came into my class at the start of the year with little to no mathematical success in their histories. The challenge at the start of the year was to get them to even try. Throughout the year, we’ve slowly started doing some explorations/investigations at the start of new material in an attempt to expose them to the ‘real mathematical world’ where you aren’t just told a rule or formula; you discover it. When we first started doing these, most of what I would get were complaints like “how are we supposed to do this, we haven’t learned it?” and the like.

On Thursday, we began an algebra tile exploration on solving quadratics by completing the square. We’d already learned to solve quadratics by factoring and using inverse operations, and I’d alerted them to the fact that by the end of the year, we would have FIVE different methods for solving quadratics. I even warned them that this particular method would possibly be the least favorite for many of them, because that’s been my experience in the past with students.


We began looking at some problems together as a class – I explained that our goal was to make one side of the equation into a perfect square of algebra tiles, and we reminded ourselves that if we add extra tiles to one side, we must add those same extra tiles to the other side to keep the equation balanced. My pride bubble started swelling when we reached the point where we wrote the factored form of our first example as (x+2)(x+2) and one of my students offered, with no prompting, “couldn’t we write that as (x+2) squared?”


Then another student noticed that the problem suddenly looked like the ones we had been solving the previous week using inverse operations, and asked if we could solve it like those.


The next day, they were off, using their algebra tiles to complete the square and solve quadratics, on their own or in pairs. As I circulated, I kept hearing things that made my pride bubble swell more and more.

“No, remember, you have to split the x tiles evenly because we’re making a square”

“Wait, in this one the ones tiles are with the other tiles to start. Don’t we want them separate? Can we just subtract them to move them to the other side?”

“We’re always going to add positive ones tiles, right? It’s either negative times negative or positive times positive.”

“I don’t think we even need to use the tiles for this one. I know what’s going on.”


And these kids, who fought so hard against these investigations when we first started doing them in first quarter of this year, started asking me and each other extra questions that weren’t even part of the written instructions.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a set of algebra tiles with an x cubed tile? What would that look like? It would have to be 3D, but how would you decide which side should be red and which side would be the other color, because there would be more than two sides but only two colors.”


“Hey, all of these have an even number of x’s.”

Me: “Would it be harder if there were an odd number?”

“Yeah, because you have to split them evenly”

Me: “We’re going to talk about that on Monday”

“Oh, man, that’ll be cool!”

(This was a student who just last quarter frequently sat in class mumbling under his breath about how pointless the class was and how much he wished it were lunchtime and failed over half his assignments)


“Are there problems that you can’t do like this? What would those look like?”


At this point, I was sitting at a table grading the previous class’ investigations because they were moving along so well without any prompting from me. The pride bubble was pretty huge at this point, and I was just sort of smiling to myself in the corner.

They started to get to the last two questions of the investigation, which asked them to look over all the problems they’d completed and try to find the relationship between the number of x tiles in the original problem and the number of extra tiles they’d had to add to complete the square. These types of questions have always defeated them in the past – I don’t think they’ve ever been asked to generalize before they got to me, and so they just fight against having to do it. They also hate to actually read instructions, so I was expecting all sorts of questions just because they didn’t want to read the fairly large block of text of the question.

Instead, they started to read the instructions aloud to each other. They started flipping through their packets to look at examples. They read the instructions line by line and paused to consider each piece.

All of them at least found the pattern that we were splitting the x tiles in half.

Many of them found the whole pattern and were able to use it to correctly solve one last problem without using the tiles.

One student, considering all his examples, asked, “Miss Mastalio, what’s the word for the answer to a division problem?”

This was his final answer:


This was when my pride bubble burst. I wanted to cry so many happy tears. These kids have fought and fought and fought thinking about how math works this year. Somehow, the dam has broken and they’ve worn down.

For some reason, this investigation wasn’t a fight. It was a triumph.

It was a great reminder to just keep trying. That they need practice grappling with new ideas, with finding patterns, with expecting math to have logical conclusions. That it will eventually pay off.

These kids are getting a school wide shoutout on Monday – these are read over our announcements and I individually named each student in the one I wrote after class ended. They were my #teach180 tweet for Friday and I’m so excited to do our formal notes on completing the square tomorrow and be able to say, “I know several of you already found this pattern; what was it?”


I love fourth quarter, when everything starts coming together.




(Here is the investigation I used, which is adapted from the exploration from section 9.4 of the Big Ideas Math Algebra 1 curriculum)

Math in New Orleans

Over our spring break last week, I traveled to New Orleans with two of my best friends from college.

I think at least once every day the whole trip I ended up saying, “well, you see, this is math.”

Because they love me, they were (or at least acted) interested instead of annoyed, and humored me in taking pictures and explaining things.

We found this beautiful Holocaust Memorial sculpture on the river walk along the Mississippi. The sculpture can be viewed from 9 different locations around its edge, which offer different perspectives on the Holocaust. I failed to take pictures of all 9 because I was too busy explaining the angles to Cat and Ali, but the 3 shown are the Star of David, a Menorah/rainbow, and a black background with colored squares to represent each of the groups that were persecuted and put to death during the Holocaust. You can look at the other views and their interpretations by the artist here. I loved that they had each of the viewing locations marked on the concrete ellipse around the sculpture, along with a sign that described how it worked.



We always find the most economical way to get around when we travel and the NOLA RTA system was pretty awesome. (5 day unlimited ride pass for their whole public transport network, streetcars and buses, for $15!)

The only thing we struggled with was figuring out when the next bus/streetcar was coming. The app had schedules for each route that you could look up, but it only listed times for the major stops, not every single one. Math teacher me started finding weighted averages between the two major stops we were closest to in order to estimate how long we would have to wait. (This problem became less once we figured out there was a number on the sign for the stop you could text to find out when the next bus would arrive, but a few stops had broken or missing signs so I still felt helpful.)


We went to the National WWII Museum. As far as history goes, it’s not usually my favorite thing to learn more about in my free time (Cat and Ali really wanted to go), but this museum was really well put together. I loved that they gave you a dog tag card at the beginning and you could scan it at various points throughout the exhibits to learn more about a specific soldier. I was very excited that my soldier was one of the first graduates of the Tuskegee Airmen program and pioneered a lot of things for African American soldiers!

I did find these flight maps really interesting though. They had to measure all the wind speeds and angles and chart everything by hand. I spent a lot of time looking at these and figuring out how they would have been created.


I got to attend my first NBA game while we were there, the New Orleans Pelicans vs the Memphis Grizzlies! Cat and I went down to the gift shop after the first quarter and I discovered this mini exhibit about Kepler’s sphere stacking, complete with an example using basketballs! I was nerding out pretty hard over it, and when we got back to our seats, Cat just said to Ali, “Liz found math while we were gone.” Of course I did. It’s everywhere!

Later in the game, the ad banner by the court changed to this image that just read MATHLETES and I…kind of got excited. In fact, I think the exact exchange was:


Friends: “What are you talking about.”


Further investigation has unveiled the Pelicans’ Mathlete’s program and I’m OBSESSED. You go, Pelicans!



I was also very excited to see some more complex metrics on the stats board during the game. I read one of Dean Oliver’s books last year and really enjoyed it, and am generally fascinated with the process of major sports leagues gradually adopting the casual use of these analysis based metrics in their fans and coaching. The Four Factors aren’t super advanced, but to see them integrated into a mainstream enjoyment of a game was cool.

Finally, I loved being able to compare yourself in size to an NBA player at the game. Conclusion: Anthony Davis is a large human and I am a small one. Also, as my students said when I showed them these pictures yesterday, “Dude, a Point Guard is the smallest one and your hands are TINY!” Yup. Pretty much. I also loved that my students remarked that your arm span is supposed to be approximately your height, and we then had a discussion of how Anthony Davis’ arm span is EIGHT AND A HALF INCHES LONGER than his height.


Basically, math is everywhere. New Orleans was a great city, full of color and music and lots of cool things to do. And a lot of math. 🙂

EdCamp Iowa 2017

Attending EdCamps always fires me up and gets me excited about things again. I love the unique setup where teachers are directing the discussion, deciding what topics they want to be addressed, deciding which conversations they want to be a part of. I love how most of the sessions aren’t lectures, they’re discussions. Conversations. Multiple perspectives and not just one teacher who is “dispensing knowledge”.

Love my DCSD coworkers!

Several Davenport Schools teachers hung out at Eldridge’s EdCamp this weekend and it was awesome. The things I’ve found myself thinking about the most since Saturday are the words of other teachers in the sessions I attended…


“No matter how good you are, everyone can get better.”

This came out of a session on teacher leadership structures. We were discussing the different models we all have at our schools and talking about how if you have the right teachers in the leadership roles, the structure doesn’t really matter. This comment kind of summed up everything.

For the teachers in official leadership roles, you can still get better. You can collaborate with other teachers in or out of the leadership structure, you can observe other teachers and seek out feedback.

For new teachers, the teacher leadership structure seems to work very well and they take advantage of the designated teachers in leadership roles to get insight on their teaching naturally. They want the knowledge others have to share.

For veteran teachers, some of whom react negatively to being asked to observe or get coaching from coworkers, it’s good to acknowledge that teaching should not be an isolated endeavor. We all have things to share with each other. We all have something we’re really good at and something we could work on, and it’s time to admit that. It’s time to admit that we’re better together.


“The most important thing about you as the teacher is not the grade you give them at the end.”

The session was about preventing teacher burnout, and how sometimes you have to let go of grading every single student project in great detail. The idea, though, came up again and again throughout the day.

What’s important about us as teachers? Why are we there?

We aren’t grading machines. We aren’t there to put a percentage value on our students.

We’re there to help them build a set of skills that will help them to successfully interact with their world. To show them strategies and expose them to information. Not to give a grade.


“Change is like moving a cemetery, you have to move one body at a time.”

We all laughed at this, but it’s incredibly true, especially in the transition many of us are making to standards based grading practices. We talked a lot throughout the day about pushback from parents and students. Parents who get upset about not having class rank, or valedictorian, or perfect 4.0 GPAs. How do we explain to them that we’re trying to reorient the entire system to be about understanding and learning instead of about points? How do we explain to them that we’re removing all of the goals and achievements that students have worked towards for literal decades and replacing them with descriptors of proficiency in content?

It’s tough to break traditions of 100 years.

How do we explain to students that assignments are practice, that they aren’t “getting credit” for them but are building towards understanding of the content that they can show on an assessment? How do we build the intrinsic motivation to get students to complete tasks and assignments if we aren’t giving points for them? How do we reorient their thinking to help them understand that they should do these things because they will help them get where they want to be at the end?

You have to move one body at a time.

Change one thing about your grading at a time.

Reorient their thinking one tiny piece at a time.

Maybe you’ll get a few students on board one year. Their parents the next year.

Half your students the year after.

We will get there eventually, and it’s tempting to rush because we know that it’s a better practice for learning and understanding. But if we move too fast towards something new and totally different…everyone gets left behind.


“Struggling students are everyone’s students”

Simple as that. Students who are struggling (with mental health issues, learning disabilities/IEPs/504 plans, attendance, outside of school things, motivation…) do not “belong” to the special ed department, or the counselor, or the BD teachers, an interventionist.

They. Belong. To. Us.

Every school should be working to educate every student. Not just the ones who want to learn. Not just the ones who stay in your classroom all day and never get pulled out for interventions or counseling sessions or supports. Every. Student. In your building.

If you can do something to help any student in your building learn…why aren’t you?


It’s been…a week. I think it’s been a week for a lot of teachers across the country, but it was just, you know, one of those weeks at Mid City. A ton of our teachers sick, students restless, we’re in the bottom of the winter attendance pit, etc. Next week is going to be a rough one for some of our students and our staff as well, as it’s the birthday of our student who was killed this summer.

I need some positivity.


Katie Cotugno is a YA author whose works I have never read. (They’re on my infinite to-read list…) My friend Tedi however, who is a 6th grade Language Arts teacher on the other side of the state, is very into her. She often shares with me Cotugno’s comments on twitter, and participates in what has become one of my favorite twitter things – #5goodthings.

It’s pretty much what it sounds like – on Fridays or on whatever day you’re feeling down about things, post 5 good things in your life at the moment, to remind yourself of the ups when it feels like you’re drowning in the downs.

I’m making it my Friday opener for the students today, and so I thought I’d blog about mine to participate as well. Plus, like I said, I need it today.


  1. 2nd place at trivia 3 out of the last 4 weeks
  2. My Algebra 2 class and their penchant for calling each other “sweet dolphins” and their genuine love and care for each other
  3. A student coming in first thing this morning to show me pictures of another student’s newborn baby, born yesterday
  4. Snapchats, instagram posts, and tweets from 5 Seconds of Summer being back in the studio working on their third album
  5. Coworkers who will go out with you after school and just have an hour long vent session with no judgement