#DITLife: Monday, May 8th

You may have noticed that I didn’t write for April or about parent teacher conferences and that was an intentional choice – at that time I decided not to return to my school and most of what I would have had to say would have been raw and not appropriate to share in this forum. Bureaucracy has made me leave my school – and most likely the classroom.

Back to our regularly scheduled saga of what a day looks like.

We have less than 20 days left until the end of the year…and summer can’t come fast enough.

5:45 Wake up and get ready to roll time, by 6:40 I was out on the road and once at school I went to the copiers and made my worksheets for Algebra 1 and attempted to find my review packet for AP Calculus.

7:30 Today began teacher appreciation week and today we were treated with doughnuts and coffee. I shouldn’t have either (caffine makes me jittery) but I can’t resist free stuff :p

7:45: Precalculus begins. Students are working on projects researching the tax code, making piecewise functions and determining taxes for various incomes. Its a pretty intense project but I intentionally want them to dig into the IRS forms to show that they aren’t very scary and accessible (even though we don’t talk about taxes besides getting rid of the notion that moving up a bracket makes all your income taxed at the higher bracket). While most students were good to go on their own, one student was recently involved in a scooter accident and out of class for a week. I worked with him, caught him up and modified the assignment so he would be able to complete it in the time we had left to complete the task. Luckily, he’s a hard worker and was able to finish a majority of the modified task in the period.  Somewhere in class, I spilled my coffee and made the remark “That’s why I shouldn’t have coffee”…whoops.

8:51 My first algebra class began with working to review multiplying binomials to prepare on learning completing the square to solve quadratics. Since it was a review of one of the first skills we learned in August, I was monitoring student work and grading work as they finished. At the end of class, I gave an assessment to grade because so many students were rocking the task and I wanted to have something to put in the gradebook to reflect their knowledge from the day.

9:56 In AP Calculus I’ve had my class of 15 tiered into two groups for almost a month. The four students taking the AP Calculus Exam the next day worked on customized review questions based on what they wanted to review. I was able to give each personal feedback and get them some personal love before the test. This split class has been a great way to address individual misconceptions and prepare the few students taking the exam more adequately than working whole class with the time left. I ended with a confidence pep talk about how hard they’ve worked and that they’ll be fine.  While we haven’t had much success in the past, this group of students is the best prepared yet so I think we’ll have better scores than last year. Other students worked on their final projects – creating a children’s book that taught a Calculus.

Lunch time: I chatted with my lunch buddy in the work room about planning  a teacher camping trip in the coming weeks. Then, we moved our conversation to the 9th graders – we both have noticed an unparalleled measure of apathy and laziness that dramatically impacts our classes. We haven’t found anything all year to make students consistently produce work – and with just 3 weeks left both the students and teachers are tired.

Advisory: For each individual 10th grade boy, I made a “grade predictor” that showed what grades they have and what they need to score on their final to get the desired final grade in the course. Some conversations were awesome – you only need a 70% to get an A in 4 of your classes YAY YOU! Other conversations were more challenging – you cannot pass two of your classes no matter what….so what are we going to do? Those conversations were rough, but I think necessary to try to adjust focus where passing is still possible.

12:00 4th Hour: Algebra 1. This class has a large group of students with IEPs in it. My coteacher and I finally figured out their special sauce – split them up into two smaller groups as much as possible. After doing a quick review, my coteacher took 5 of our 18 kids to another room and I worked with the rest by walking around, playing jams and checking work as students finished. It was a really productive day since more people were able to be focused in class instead of being distracted by each other.

1:01  On my planning period, I worked to find a worksheet on an introduction to limits for Precalculus and I wrote a worksheet to introduce the first steps to competing the square since I couldn’t find anything scaffolded to help students like I wanted. After school today, I had an interview for a position as a Coach with the Arizona Charter School Association and had to present a 12 minute PD session in it. I miscalculated how much time I needed to practice for the interview and just wrapped up a few minutes before my last class began.

2:06 Algebra 1: This is my smallest class and today they were crazy squirrely. I had two students show up late (for no reason) and students kept talking and chatting with each other during our brief review. I gave out lots of consequences to students – which wasn’t ideal and clearly negative but I’ve gotta teach. Like my other algebra sections, I let students handle most of the work while I walked around with my dinosaur stamp and checked for accuracy. However, unlike in my other classes, I had a few students that were not making any progress by choice – even with reminders to get on task (reminding me of the conversation I had at lunch about apathy).

3:10 After school I clean up my room from nerves then hang out with the counselor and the Principal at the front desk to make sure everything is ready for AP testing tomorrow. They know their stuff so of course everything is ready. I made some final copies for my interview and then left for my interview at 3:45.

Traffic sucks and I’m spoiled by avoiding highways on the way to work.

4:30 My interview for the coaching positon begins with my PD session, followed by a feedback session for a lesson we saw. I think I did the best I could and left confident that there was nothing I could have done differently, so regardless of if I’m offered the job I’m satisified with my performance.

5:30 On the road, and happy with my work, I stopped by one of my favorite local places in Phoenix to eat – a fast-casual eatery like Chipotle but serves enchiladas instead. Once at home at 7, I chatted with some folks about my interview and how it went. I spent some time on the couch mindlessly watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.

8:50 I remember I planned on baking muffins for my Calculus kiddos for their test…so I begin baking banana muffins.

10:00 Muffins done. I’m done. Bed time.


Reflection Questions:

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?


My “best” teacher move of the day was working to modify the student’s work who was absent for a week from class. Chatting with him and not making the assignment an extra burden was the least I could do for his situation.

My worst teacher move was clearly how I handled my rowdy end of day class – it wasn’t what I want my classroom to be. But today…that’s what it was.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?


The greatest challenge has been working with my advisory and sharing amazing moments with them over the past weeks while knowing I’m leaving and they don’t yet. Its hard to bear that, but its probably best.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.


Since deciding to no longer work at my current school, my principal has been gracious and amazing as I figure out what my next steps are. I truly appreciate the kindness she’s had during this transition and know how much she values me as a person and as an employee.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. That first part I’m good with. Do a good job? I don’t think it is possible to do the best job given the resources I have and what I’m asked to do. And that’s a main reason I’m leaving – when I asked for help and explicit actions nothing was done to ease the burden and make sure next year was better than this one.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. This hasn’t happened in awhile…and I’ve started to notice that it is being detrimental to student learning. However, this does reaffirm the need for closing out lessons for students in my future classroom.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. Overall this year, I think it has professionally been a wash. While occasionally I made progress, I couldn’t personally sustain the energy to implement a new tool with fidelity long enough to make it a part of my practice. This career isn’t easy – and anyone who thinks so is sorely misinformed.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I wrote this at the end of my March 8th post:

I keep debating if I’m meant to be in this profession much longer. I keep waffling, but I have recently decided I’ll be back for year six. Much beyond that is about finding a way to make this career sustainable because right now it is not.

All the problems I had in this job were solvable and created by poor leadership decisions at a district level and a toxic political environment that has politicians believe that anyone can do this job and that we aren’t worth being paid a living wage. I wonder what would happen if we had well informed legislators making decisions…

Math in the Mountains: Twitter, Teaching & Growth – Session Resources

Hey y’all:
Below are links to information I talked about in the session Twitter, Teaching & Growth: The Math-Twitter-Blog-O-Sphere at the Math in the Mountains Conference in Flagstaff on May 6, 2017. If you’d like a copy of the slides let me know and I can post that as well. Easiest way to contact me with questions, shout-outs or ways to improve is on twitter (@JakeWinfield)

An Intro into the MTBoS:

ExploreMTBOS: Missions & Blog prompts to become acquainted with the MTBoS
Twitter Math Camp: The home page for the best math PD on the planet, Twitter Math Camp
Global Math Department: A group of teachers who meet weekly online to attend PD together and learn from one another

My favorite MTBoS Resources:

Estimation 180: Pictures of various estimations to build number sense.
Which one doesn’t belong: Groups of four images and students answer the seemingly simple question: Which one does not belong?
The MTBoS Search Engine: A quick way to dig in and find resources or ideas from the entire math blog’osphere.
Table Talk Math: A book about discussing math with your little ones that I mentioned in our session today.
3 Act Math: Spreadsheet of 3 act math lessons (Background & “facilitation guide” here)
Desmos: The online graphing calculator (Teacher site with activities)
Visual Patterns: Oodles of beautiful patterns for students to dive into and explore. (We didn’t talk about this in our session today)

Dive in, enjoy and everyone will be glad to help you out if you have questions. Just reach out with #MTBoS on twitter  🙂

#DITLife : March 8, 2017

Below is an account of a day in the life of me, a teacher, on March 8th as part of an exercise to reflect throughout the year with other teachers and share what teaching can be like for others.


Wednesday, March 8th was the day before the sophomore trip to New Mexico to visit universities. I was going on that trip and then spring break began, so this was the last day I saw my classes before spring break.

5:30 am: Wake up and do morning things (read articles, shower, eat breakfast, etc.)

6:45 I finally left for work. I’ve been delaying my departure more and more throughout this semester, but still getting on time early enough to get anything done I need to in the morning.

7:05 Arrive at school and complete a litany of miscellaneous tasks. First, I had to write a calculus quiz on derivatives of trigonometric functions and create a key so I could check it faster. I also took out my sidewalk chalk to make targets for students in Algebra 1 to toss sticks at to gather data for their quarter project. As I chatted with teachers before the day in the work room we also looked up the etymology of the word “robot” – derived from the Czech word for “forced labor.”

7:40 First period began. My precalculus students were taking an end of quarter quiz on trigonometry so while they did that I worked on creating a key for their test and then making groups for the Algebra 1 projects students were doing later that day.  Lots of students didn’t finish their test in the allotted time and would have to finish by the end of the day since I’d be out the next two days of school.

8:46: Algebra 1. I introduced student projects where they tossed popsicle sticks towards a chalk mark outside and measured the distance from the mark to the stick. Then on Thursday they would give me statistics to convince me that their group was the most consistent at getting closest to the mark. We went outside because in Phoenix it is already almost 90 degrees out and there’s plenty of space. During this class, I had two boys who claimed they could not work with each other – although I had never heard of this before. Just in case, when we went outside, I popped into my principal’s office and asked if there was a problem she knew between those students. She didn’t know of one, so I kept them together. While I had stepped out, my co-teacher was working with a group that was struggling, but the group with the students who claimed they could not work together had spent time kicking a soccer ball and playing with a meter stick while their third partner was beginning to do the work. Eventually, I got them all back on task and working together by giving each person an explicit role to work on and hovering over them pretty frequently. As students collected their data, they should have begun working on calculating some statistics so they wouldn’t run out of time tomorrow. Very few did so they will have to figure it out without me tomorrow.

9:50: AP Calculus. We reviewed the derivatives of all 6 trigonometric functions using a Kahoot review game. I hadn’t played before because I don’t like how it requires and emphasizes how fast you get the correct answer, but this was the first time our content should be recalled quickly. My students however had played….and were a little too excited. About a third of the way through the review, the other math teacher popped in and said we were way too loud and that her class couldn’t focus with our yelling. I guess Calculus was a little bit too fun…

As we wrapped up our review, students took a quiz. I attempted to grade them, but misplaced the answer key I had made in the morning. Grading definitely didn’t go as fast as I wanted to but I kept making progress.

10:51 – 11:24 Lunch and announcements.

11:28-11:56 On Wednesdays in Advisory, we get to choose what we’d like to do. Since my advisory is the sophomore boys who always have too much energy, we always go outside to play soccer, basketball, capture the flag or just hang out outside with other students. Today, I was watching folks play soccer and for the second time in about two months someone kicked a ball in my direction and unintentionally hit my crotch. It takes a lot sometimes not to curse and yell around students, but I stayed strong put a smile on my face and kept going about my afternoon. As advisory ended, each student I saw that I knew was going on the trip tomorrow I asked them what time we were meeting in the morning (6:00) because I forgot to do that when we were in my room earlier in the period.

12:00 I had another Algebra class so I introduced the project and set groups up to go outside. No drama this time and a lot of students finished their data collection quicker. My co-teacher and I had to be a lot more strategic with who we were working with because a lot more students in this class need more constant support. I spent a lot of my time with all the groups keeping them on task while she focused on just one or two groups that struggled more. I also brought out my laptop for my struggling groups so that they could use a spreadsheet to organize their data to make finding their median a lot simpler. I wish I would have thought of that ahead of time for all the students so I could have had everyone use a laptop and spreadsheet so they could save time for more mathematically important things than organizing numbers. There’s always next year 🙂

1:01 5th period is my prep. I worked on grading any assignments that I could, including quizzes from 3rd period and make up work so I was all caught up before spring break.

2:06 6th period is my final section of Algebra 1. Once again, a lot of students finished collecting their data a lot quicker than my earlier sections of Algebra 1. Quite a few other classes were outside since the weather was nice including the psychology class that was working on an experiment near us. Since our data collection finished, I should have pulled students back inside so they wouldn’t be distracted by others. I was also interrupted by the Barcelona- PSG soccer game since it was ending during this class. Each goal scored was another interruption in effort to finish their project. And, then for the first time today, a student threw a meter stick towards another student. He was sent to the office.

3:10 After school, I had a lot of precalculus students pop in to finish their test. This is the first time I’ve had a lot of students choose to come in after a test to finish immediately after. It was a nice and pleasant surprise. While they were working on their tests, I made posters from butcher paper for my algebra 1 kids to work on tomorrow without me about their data.

3:45 Students had finished their tests. Today after school is an after school showcase and as the robotics sponsor I planned on attending to support my kiddos as they presented their hard and amazing work in their first season. However, spending 3.5 hours outside was a little much and I didn’t drink enough water. I wasn’t feeling well so I just checked in with a few people on the team and left to go home at 4:00

4:30 At home I cooked and packed for the trip to New Mexico that I left the next day.

7:00 I remembered that my principal asked me to give her assignments for students that were failing Algebra 1 that they could work on Friday during sessions. I went through the grade book and made custom assignments for each student for two or three of the most recent things they were missing or did not do well on (although students themselves should have done this throughout the entire quarter, but I’m a team player).

8:30 I finished printing out make up work for students and was packed for my upcoming trip. I went to bed because the next day was a super early start.

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?


Since today was mostly a test day, there weren’t a ton of teacher moves I had to make today. My biggest move was probably adapting in my afternoon classes to give a little more support to struggling learners by using a spreadsheet to speed up the process of organizing data.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

Spring break essentially started today. I’ve been looking forward to vacation for a few weeks now 🙂


3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

It isn’t every day that a group of 15 seniors start yelling about derivatives in class incredibly loudly. Our not so calm demeanour hopefully built onto the relationships we have together in Calculus.


4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  
Subsequent posts: What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. Since this quarter has come to an end I actually feel like I’m making progress and doing a better job more consistently. Three preps with zero resources is a doable task – 4 was insane.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. I’ve gotten slightly more consistent in closing out lessons, but haven’t made much progress on doing it daily.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. There’s a huge apathy problem in our 9th grade students. Even after an exciting beginning to a lesson, they are not willing to continue working through a task and try new things. It is definitely concerning. I’ve also taken to differentiating my classes as a priority instead of explicitly focusing on engagement. My precalculus class has started to run as two independent courses – one for students taking calculus next year and a larger group for students that are not on the Calculus track. This has allowed me to challenge more students where they are and prepare them for what their future holds. It is a logistical nightmare occasionally, but we are making progress and I’m proud of what the class is beginning to look like.


5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I keep debating if I’m meant to be in this profession much longer. I keep waffling, but I have recently decided I’ll be back for year six. Much beyond that is about finding a way to make this career sustainable because right now it is not.



What’s Next?

Today, as usual on a Sunday, I went to a coffee shop to do work and plan for the week ahead. Three hours later and I have 0 out of 15 lessons planned for this week.
Instead, I’ve been reading about the president’s most recent actions to create a ban on Muslims entering the USA. I decided that I will not go down on the wrong side of history and I must act – it is what is right. Instead of planning lessons, I’ve reached out to volunteer my time to support undocumented youth with a local organization, like some of those I’ll teach tomorrow morning. I have made a list of talking points to talk to my Senator tomorrow morning and will challenge him to do more. (Want to make a call? Here’s a list of contact information). If that call goes into class time, so be it – I will be heard. My students will then clearly know where I stand, if they didn’t already. 
I teach more than math. I work so that every child can have an excellent education and future in the USA. Everyone is welcome in my classroom, regardless of gender, race, religion or immigration status. There is no hate allowed though, only love for each other. If only the people in the Oval Office had the same philosophy…

#DITLife: January 8, 2017

Today is Sunday and the last day of winter break, and I got sick Friday (thanks Dad :P). Since today was both a vacation day and I stayed in bed sick, this will be brief. Also, today was boring, but necessary because teaching while sick is horrible.

Wake up: 7 am (no alarm…story of my life)
Read Station Eleven
Binge watch Vikings Season 4 on Hulu
Eat Lunch at 1:30
Continue being sick
Bing watch some more, while doing a few chores around the house.
Watch NFL Playoffs (Sadly, the Packers beat the Giants…)
Make dinner ~7
Make cookie dough for an advisee’s birthday that was over break. We’ll celebrate on Tuesday, our first day back with students.
Scroll through twitter and watch Meryl Streep tell us what’s up.
Write this post at about 9 and go to bed so I’m ready for the first day of Semester two, and hopefully not sick.

Reflection Questions:

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?


Not really applicable since today is Sunday. My biggest decision was do I stay in today and hope I get better or risk getting worse when I have to work. I erred on the side of caution – here’s hoping to I don’t get crazy sick anyway.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?



Unrelated to today, but the last few weeks were incredibly exhausting and little felt worth it. I spent a lot of break sitting in a chair watching football and didn’t do work – a first for weeks. I need more of that not working or this will be my last year in the classroom. 

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.


I wrote a letter of recommendation on my flight back home that made me cry for an amazing young man. I kept him in the loop about my progress, and he kept me in the loop if he needed me to send it out to more schools.  I hope that the time I invested letting him know I was there and working with him over break leads to me knowing him a little bit more. He’s a great person, and I hope the admissions counselors get that from my letter.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  

Goals: As mentioned, I’ve not made much progress because it’s been such a rough fall semester, but I have reflected on what it means for a goal to be reasonable. I realized that I was seeking change too quickly for some pretty BIG changes within my practice. That has made me more motivated to make smaller changes in the coming months – like those I planned on improving since the beginning of this DITL project.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I’ve never felt that this graphic has more vividly described my academic year as it does right now. My lows were so low its hard to describe. Here’s to hoping we keep moving on up, and out of that bad place I was in a few weeks ago.


My question

A few weeks ago I couldn’t sleep because I had a cup of coffee the day before, so I watched the CMCNorth Keynote from Dan Meyer, Shira Helft, Juana de Anda and Fawn Nguyen. Their main call to action was: What is your question that keeps you working in education? What are you striving to be an expert at?

At 4 am, I didn’t have a great answer or immediate answer, but later it wasn’t just in the early hours of the morning – I didn’t have a guiding question for my growth this year. My first years in the classroom, most of my questions were about the day to day functionality of the work, but now I’ve passed that as a measurement of growth. I’ve selected goals that seem important (increasing engagement and closure in lessons) but I couldn’t tell you why those fit into a bigger picture of my work. I flipped my classroom with a purpose of having more time in class…but what would that time be used for? I didn’t have a clear answer.

In part, I’ve been looking for quick success like I’ve had before, but these goals don’t yield quick changes in my classroom – and I hadn’t realized that until after a conversation with our CEO/superintendent. Flipping my class is a long term solution and shift  – but I need something more immediate to push myself forward.

Still, even after I realized what I was working on was more ambitious than a 6 to 12 month time frame, I hadn’t figured out my question. I thought about listing all of the ones in my head, but that didn’t happen during finals week. This week on my time off I met up with an old friend and through our conversation about student performance I saw on exams I realized the question I’ve been unconsciously thinking of and working towards:

How do students best communicate their knowledge with others?

In the past, I’ve focused on this a little and I feel like it is important to me – I keep coming back to variations of it every year but don’t make great gains. It is also something I don’t see a simple MTBoS search finding strong solutions to. I don’t see represented in student work I ask for or receive when I clearly ask for it. A piece of paper with an equation solved and answer boxed isn’t useful outside of my room, but I get it all too often. I had my seniors write short essays as part of their final…and most showed a lack of understanding of non-fiction writing. I ask students what they are thinking or why and they cannot share that with me – out loud or in writing. The crux of my question is based in Math Practice 3 (Critiquing the reasoning of others), but it goes beyond that to not only arguments but thinking and knowledge as well.

I think this encompasses all my “baby goals” of the past. I flip my classroom to give students more time with me – so I need to use that time to work on these skills. I want to use closure activities that share what they know with me and others – and have the benefit of improving student learning. I want a cognitive busy classroom that includes creating arguments – in a variety of ways so all students are show the progress they have made. (I think this question also dabbles into adapting work for students with disabilities – how would be best for those students to communicate what they know with me and others?)

I want the answer to the infamous “When am I going to use this?” to not necessarily be answered by an application of math content, but instead by the importance of communication skills that are clearly transferable without doing mental gymnastics.

Polynomial Division: An #OpenMiddle Problem

In Precalculus, we’ve just wrapped up our work with polynomials – including long division. I was definitely not looking forward to this topic – I haven’t taught it before (or been taught it formally) and the #mtbos had me a little bit.

On our practice set, at the bottom I added this problem as an extension for students who completed the traditional practice set:


I got some interesting responses that made me pretty pleased- but I didn’t (and haven’t) check these for accuracy.

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What I didn’t want to do verify all of them….so instead I had students do it! I typed up the questions onto a worksheet and passed them out to class the next day. Their assignment: Yesterday students created these problems and claimed there was not a remainder. Choose four problems and determine if the students are correct. This was a solid move – I didn’t have to check all the work and students got more practice.


Next time I need to wrap our work back together before assessment. Most students did really well on the assessment but closure could have brought this activity to the next level. We also could have given feedback on how to improve their work (One thing you did wrong was… etc.). I will also include more time for all students to create a problem to feel more invested in the work we did on the second day of instruction.