Thursday, April 28, 2016


As a student, teacher, or user of math a person can either love it or tolerate it.

I loved it when I was in school, because I was good at memorizing algorithms and spitting that back out on a test.

But then in college it got more real life and I had to solve problems and this thing called a Venn Diagram nearly gave me a panic attack. Thank goodness for a friend who taught me about those circles and what they meant, and how to figure interest (compounded, because that is apparently what interest can do).

As a teacher I tolerated math. Tried to figure out how to get kids to memorize those math facts and spit them out quickly again. Tried to teach how to solve kid sized problems (that might have seemed like interest to them). And tried. 

But it could be going better.

I've had the good fortune to attend some PD this year related to math.

Clearly I am part of a "shift" generation. We are teaching for understanding, not algorithms. But how? Why? With what?

It sort of seems that I need to go back. I need to understand how and why of the most basic concepts.

Today I sat in on four math PD sessions. The first two were all about number sense. Right up a primary teacher's alley.

My favorite quote of the day: "What teachers know impacts what they teach."

Here are a few more ideas that I want to remember from today:

1. 80% of math class is "getting to the answer." Even at first grade, I have to make this happen.

2. Ask how/why all the time. Get the kids used to defending their answer, so that they do not think the question means they are wrong.

3. A spiral curriculum means that it builds on what was previously taught. Not that the kids have another time to master. Must master first, then we will move deeper into the understanding.

4. As a homework or warm up activity, provide two problems. Have the kids work the first until I say move to the next. For each problem, solve in as many ways as possible. Probably after I have taught several. LOVE THIS SO MUCH and it will sooooooo work in first grade.

This year my good friend has taught me a phrase. She says it all the time, especially when I get down on myself for not doing something "right."

"When I knew better, I did better." (The credit for this saying is from a local administrator, next time I see her I will tell her thank you.)

So, for the last of this year I will do better and I am pumped to do better next year!

Coming up: more math PD tomorrow, and a good, long look at the 8 mathematical practices during the summer. 

Looks like I'm gonna need a new notebook.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I've never doubted that consistency is important.

For me.

For my students.

Our class schedule hangs prominently on the wall. Updated daily and referred to frequently.

But today I was given a gentle reminder of how important consistency really is...

I, like many teachers do not like to be absent from school. Not just because of the sub planning and laying out of materials, but also--I LOVE my job and the students and want to be with them. Every day.

Sometimes meetings happen and I have to be gone. That was today. I needed to leave in the middle of the day. About 15 minutes before I left I started to prepare the children for this transition. (In my head not a big deal--the sub is a regular worker in our room, she knows them and they know her. And I know she will do great, the kids will do great.)

Pretty quick I had a friend standing next to me. For ten minutes he was holing onto my jacket, moving as I moved. Then he left. wrote something on a paper and brought it back to me.

It was a picture of him.

He really filled my bucket by letting me know that I am important to him.

I hope he also knows how important he is to me.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Things They Say

Not sure of the context, or what lead up to it. But it sure made me smile on a Monday morning.

Student to grown up who was working with the student: "Maybe next time you could go with me, if the Great Bartel approves."

So, even grown ups (me) will live into the words they hear.

Today I want to be Great for my students. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Spring break started on Friday at 4 pm. And I stayed away from "teaching stuff" until about 30 minutes ago.

The first three days were awesome. Full of sleep and family.

But today I became bored. Until NOW.

At 7:20 pm I opened up my notebook (full of notes since last June) and another notebook, and looked at Amazon and Lakeshore.

I'm home.

If you need me, I will be looking, planning, reading, and thinking all things first grade for the next five days.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Scoop

As my school enters into our final quarter of the year, I am eager to make this a great week. 

Here is my plan for the day. 

Thanks to Teaching Trio for a Sunday Scoop party.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Special Days

Oh, the Special Days.

I super love my quiet, peaceful mornings at school before everyone arrives. It allows me to get centered and breathe.

But knowing that our school would be filled with Dads and their kids for the special breakfast 45 minutes before school started left me a little frustrated.

And then I heard them in the hall (through my closed door), disturbing my peace. And then, some came into my room (before the bell rang).

Next came something beautiful.

Smiling dads. Smiling children.

All I could do was sit back and open myself to the experience.

The dads just wanted to see where their children spend 7 hours a day. The children just wanted to let the dads look around (too shy to show them anything). The tender way the dads started helping the children pass out Valentines (I did not tell them to do that, but what a great idea!!!). The way the dads wanted to see inside the desks. To explore the room. Visit with other dads. Smiling.

My heart grew ten times in those 40 minutes.

I guess that "centering" can happen in unexpected ways. If I am open to it.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

In the Quiet of the Weekend...

I find myself reflecting on a quote I saw on Instagram last night.

No matter how many years we have been teaching, we should feel like a ROOKIE every year by trying something new and not being afraid to fail. --Heidi Pauer, educator

Dreaming about the classroom I want to create.

Sipping a chai tea.

Pinteresting--finding tools and ideas that would be awesome in my dream classroom.

Pulling that all together...

I often feel like I am trying something new that I saw on IG, FB, or a blog. I love to incorporate someone's great idea or teacher trick. These have helped my classroom be fun and exciting for me (and hopefully the students). 

And I often wonder--when will it be good enough? Will my classroom, my instruction ever meet my expectations?

Probably not. 

That used to stress me out, but not any more. Because each change, each idea is adding to the instruction and hopefully the success of the students who pass through my classroom. 

So--off to incorporate the something new for next week!

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