Adventures in #EduProtocols – Iron Chef

drinking from the hose

The benefit of being a connected teacher is that awesome stuff shows up in my TL daily. The downside of being a connected teacher is that awesome stuff shows up in my TL daily. Like, almost too much to use. My big challenge over the last eight years or so is to sort out what works for my classes and what doesn’t, even if it’s really, really cool.

There’s plenty of things I keep on the shelf for future reference. This week it was time  to walk our talk on an EduProtocol I’ve been dying to try. Took the dive into Iron Chef.

I’ll cede the floor to the authors of The EduProtocol Field Guide here and here for the details on implementing Iron Chef in the classroom.

The EduProtocol Field Guide by Marlena Hebern & Jon Corippo

I’ve been using The Fast And The Curious with my freshman Algebra Lab Class for the last month or so. We do the same Quizizz Monday through Thursday, see how far we can push the class accuracy number. Then Friday is activity day, where I build in a Desmos activity or Three-Act Math or something else. They’ve been factoring polynomials of different types in their regular Algebra I class. I wanted a way for them to collect and share their learning.

This sounds like a job for Iron Chef.

I’ll be the first to admit I fall in love with awesome ideas a little too quickly. I’ll also admit that I can’t always picture the implementation in my head. Sometimes I need to see it. That was the case with Iron Chef. Did a little digging. Found a template. Let’s go.

I had them use their existing notes for each type of polynomial, but the beauty of the Iron Chef template is teachers can insert links to resources to guide students who may struggle to find appropriate/helpful sources or who might be less motivated to search.

Then I asked them to include a set of steps on the slide for factoring that type of polynomial, and a photo or video of them working out a sample problem.

1st Hour – wow! They were so awesome I really didn’t want class to be over. I wanted to just sit in the moment. One of my teacher friends read my mind. Like, I was wondering if maybe she was there in the classroom, hiding somewhere, watching.

6th Hour, that’s a strong-willed class. They really don’t share my enthusiasm for a lot of the things we do. But still they did good work.

The hook to Iron Chef (just like the TV show) is a “secret ingredient” that is announced during the work time and that all students must incorporate into their slide. I was tempted to go with “basketball” since we were in the middle of March Madness, but I opted for “music” since that’s a little more universal, and I hoped it might hook some of my more reluctant students into participating. Hey, it’s their work, not mine, right?

The class period ends with each group presenting its slide deck so students get a look at multiple examples of each type of factoring, and each student gets to present his own work to an audience of his peers.

The beautiful thing about eduprotocols is that they are a shell. Like Jon Corippo likes to say, it’s like making nachos. You have a framework, add what you need, serve it up. In class it looks like: Introduce the format, insert your content, students do awesome stuff, rinse, repeat. I get students collaborating and creating, doing a “brain dump” as Matt Miller calls it, presenting, learning. It’s a win-win.

We can do Iron Chef as often as we need to. Definitely putting this one into the rotation.


Ready For Launch

“You know Mr. Dull, my mom finds it ironic that my math teacher’s name is ‘Dull’

— a very observant 4th period student

It’s Testing Season by me. English yesterday, Math today for juniors. Which meant my classes would be sparsely populated for most of the day. Like in: 7 kids in my 2nd Hour class. Way too few to do a traditional lesson that I’d have to repeat for tomorrow, or else leave my absent retesters to fend for themselves on Direct & Indirect Variation. Time for an on-the-the fly executive decision.

Yep. WCYDWT.  What is this, 2008? I’m gonna do a ripped-from-the-internet thing and then blog about it? Damn right I am.

So kids, I’ve got a little piece of video I’d like to share with you:

We keep the Silver Beach Web Cam up on my screen when we’re mathing most days, so my kids are pretty familiar with frozen lakes. I showed them this story on the current state of Lake Superior ice coverage. Currently 75% covered, above average for this time of year but not quite the 100% coverage in 1996.

Many of my kids have been to Mackinac Island, so we talked frozen Straits of Mackinac – in the winter snowmobilers can ride across the straits. Also, at this time of year there is a huge Outdoor Pond Hockey Tournament in St. Ignace. I told them I guess they shovel out the rectangles for the rinks, because what are you gonna do, drive a Zamboni out there?


But, could we Zamboni a whole lake? (“Oh God Mr. Dull, you’re gonna make us math this aren’t you?)

I mean, how long would that take? Give me a guess that’s too high. How about a guess that’s too low. Now a Game Show Guess….

WCYDWT Zamboni

They were totally into it. How do I know? The story has gone viral and it’s pretty hard to miss, and none of my kids (in the first two hours anyway) even googled for the answer. Later on when they did, I just said “I’ll come back to you on that” and by that time we were far enough along that I could say “let’s check this guy’s math”. Because juniors love proving somebody wrong.

So we went with “Jo’s Plan” (as it came to be known) – if we can find out how big the lake is, and how big a rink is, we can divide to figure out how many rinks it would take to cover the lake. Then all we need to know is how long to resurface a rink. ( One kid in 3rd Hour said “I’m gonna text my friend and ask. He drives the Zamboni at the rink downtown.” They are very resourceful.)

Let’s go.

We did all kinds of math. Converting square miles to square feet, minutes to hours to days to years, estimating time to resurface a rink (they googled that later too, which was cool).

And we were off by a factor of 10. Came up with 9884 hours or something ridiculous. That “1700 square feet” up there? That’s a problem. Especially since I gave it to them. Dammit.

But the biggest benefit of building a culture of curiosity is you get curious kids.

“Let’s find the error”. Woah.

Keanu Woah
Ted Theodore Logan says woah. (Source)

They didn’t but my next period class did. Which was so cool. The only other tweak was we guessed 10 minutes to do a rink, based on 15 minutes between periods of a Blackhawks game. Turns out it’s more like 7.

“Are three minutes gonna make that much difference you guys?” Times 52 million rinks they are, yeah.

We adjusted the time to do one rink and hit the number almost exactly on the head.

On the button
On the button, baby

So, a couple of things from today. It’s 2019. It’s hard to get their attention, let alone keep it. I hate being the Cell Phone Police, but I’ve had some long talks with my Lunch Bunch lately about the subject. It’s pervasive. They are close to changing my mind. In the midst of “too high/too low” in one class, my most cynical, blase student shouted out “almost 700 years“, tapped the google app closed and went back to scrolling her snapchat. I could almost see her huffing her bangs out of her eyes in an act of supreme boredom as she said it.

But 95 % of my kids were hooked. They were helping each other, checking each others’ calculations, and shouting out intermediate steps. I was just sitting back and watching the magic happen. It was awesome.

I capped the day with two things:

We talked about how an astronaut once addressed a group of middle school kids in NW Indiana and challenged them to solve the big problems they’ll face as adults. She talked about manned space flight to Mars and the challenges of keeping humans alive in a tin can at 17,000 mph for six months. Think water and bodily waste. Yep, she went there. They’re middle school kids. They ate it up.

And when I brought up space in class today, one of my kids’ eyes lit up. She told how she had written a paper recently about our current and future plans for space exploration. I totally ceded the floor to her – her enthusiasm lit up my entire room and did more to make the point than I ever could.

A google search isn’t gonna solve those problems. Thinking deeply about solving insanely crazy problems will.

And, then, a tweet back:

The guy who originally did this math and put it out there for the world to see was scared that his math was wrong. Just like high school kids everywhere.

But he did it anyway.

And then:

Three-Act Math continues to be awesome, and the Internet continues to deliver a steady stream of it right to us. WCYDWT is seemingly alive and well, too. Plus the added bonus of the owner of the UP Supply Company replying to your tweet is kind of cool.

“This kind of thing makes me happy.” A collective “Awwwww!”

And then:

“Mr Dull, can we solve crazy insane problems and make people happy every Thurdsay?”

Can’t promise anything kid, but it’s tempting.



Apollo SHDH



So #ObserveMe has finally arrived at my school. I’m pretty psyched. Even got my first drop-in a couple of weeks ago, after having my sign up outside my classroom door since late 2016. That was exhilarating. Our tech coaches and department chairs all have their signs up now too. There’s even a GSheet we can add the class periods we are available to host visitors. Our department chair invited us all to join in at our meeting last week.

I should be on Cloud Nine right now.


I took my sign down as I left school last Wednesday. It sat on my desk for the rest of the week, through the weekend. At that point I was really wondering whether I actually want random people dropping in on my class anymore. Unrelated to #ObserveMe, I’m finding out I’m not exactly a teaching role model I guess. So down came the sign. Leave me alone and let me be miserable in peace.

Kemil In Winter
Mental Floss, Region Style. Winter at Kemil Road, shelf ice included.

(Important reminder: the purpose of #ObserveMe is not to set myself out there as some kind of teaching role model for the wannabes to come watch and wonder and adore. It’s so other folks can come in, see what’s going on in my class (good and bad), and give me feedback on how I can improve. And: I need improvement. I’m such a self-centered jerk sometimes I can’t stand it.)

“Conversion is the task of a moment; sanctification is the work of a lifetime.”

— St. Josemaria Escriva

One of my favorite Polish saints is Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who was martyred at Auschwitz when he volunteered to take the place of a husband and father who was part of a group sentenced to die of starvation in retaliation for a prisoner’s escape. Kolbe led his fellow doomed men in prayer and hymns, and died with a smile on his face when the Nazi guard injected him with carbolic acid to kill him after two weeks in a starvation bunker.

Photo taken at the National Shrine of St. Maximillian Kolbe, Libertyvile, IL.

That’s a dude who knows what he signed up for. Who was who he was until the end, knowing the cost. Sanctified the world in death. He’s kind of the patron of our family. We even named our youngest son after him.

So, it’s gonna kill me, and hurt the whole time I’m dying. But I’m putting that stupid sign back up. It was a childish, impulsive thing to take it down. Prideful too. Like, I can’t get better at what I do.

So bring it on. Let Adrian wince. Mickey can yell “stay down!” all he wants. Make Apollo shake his damn head (2:05 mark) at how resilient I am. Rip open the wounds. Bleed it out. Heal me. Make me better at teaching.

Adventures in EduProtocols: The Fast And The Curious

At my building we’re in Year Two of a 1:1 environment. There are a lot of things you can do with a device for every student. Some of those things are even better than pencil and paper tasks.

Some aren’t.

Not everything is gonna make fireworks explode.

Caesars Fireworks

Tasks like My Math Lab and Canvas quizzes leverage the technology for self-grading practice or assessment, and that’s cool. It’s got its place. Kids get plenty of reps and instant feedback. Saves teachers a ton of time grading so they can get down to the business of using what they learned from those formative assessments to adjust instruction. I’m not sure I want 25 kids staring at screens all day every day tho. I need some interaction, and in math, some pencil/paper practice as well.

I launched a flipped instruction model at semester last year to carve out more time in class for students to work together on problem sets and to get help from me when needed. That part has paid dividends. That classtime is pretty valuable real estate. Could I get even more out of it for my students? I mean, I see all of them every day, even if it’s only a quick two-minute check-in. The piece I could get better at is holding them accountable for taking the notes, and being more formal about checking for understanding.


There are a lot of ways to do that too. I’ve been enchanted by the prospect of introducing eduprotocols to my classes this year. We’ve done an Iron Chef-inspired student-created slide deck for the open house, and we’ve used Cyber Sandwich to great effect in Algebra Lab. Launched Worst Preso Ever in Lab last week and my kids had a blast.

But where Jon Corippo hooked me was The Fast And The Curious. I first saw him on Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook Virtual Summit. Jon’s a pretty good interview if you get the chance to catch him. (Quickie tutorial on TFATC from Matt Miller here). The game app Quizizz is what makes the whole thing run. It still takes time to create, probably about the same amount of time as a Canvas quiz, but has the added benefit of cutthroat competition. That leader board had them cheering and agonizing all through the first 15 minutes of class. Plus Quizizz offers a ton of data including overall class accuracy, student accuracy, and percent correct for each question.

That’s the real benefit. After the quiz is done, we look for areas where we can give some instant feedback and remediate problem areas. Then we take the quiz again. There is pretty much guaranteed to be improvement, and for my Algebra Lab students that is huge. They feel (accurately) that they’ve learned something and that they are now primed to work on their regular Algebra teacher’s daily assignment.

That sounds like a win to me. Wait til tomorrow when we do it all again and push their accuracy rate through the roof. I told them we were shooting for 95% at the end of the week. From their response at the beginning of class, I might as well have told them we were gonna fly to the moon.

By the end of class tho… I think they believe they can do it.

Come Fly With Me
Yeah, totally had the COB playing while they mathed this morning. So chill.

Getting Gruntled

Gruntle Definition
OK, so there’s a little more to it than that.

If it’s possible to be disgruntled, you should be able to get yourself “gruntled” again, right? (Turns out, originally, no, but….)

I was at an event this week when one of my students’ moms leaned across the table and asked me, “So, are you ready for the school year to be over?”

Kind of an odd question, considering it was mid-February. Although, ’tis the season. My backyard neighbor (a junior at my school) pointed out Thursday we have about 14 weeks of school left. So there’s definitely counting going on. I answered the question in the spirit in which it was intended, but in the back of my mind I was thinking:

Actually, yes. Yes I am.

It was pretty much the day before yesterday, sitting on the back porch in shirtsleeves on a January Saturday afternoon, when we were wondering if winter was gonna skip us altogether.

Not so fast my friend

The first two weeks back from Christmas break went off without a hitch. After that tho? Since mid-January: MLK Day -> early release due to Ice Storm -> Ice Day -> two days of school -> Snow Day – Three Days of Polar Vortex -> then 7 whole days of school in a row before another Ice Storm Day. I mean, that’s winter in the Region. Should be used to it by now. But still.

I’ll be pretty honest. The last three weeks of weather, combined with some other things, have kind of broke me. I feel a little bit like a hockey referee after a brawl near the end of a period. I just want to send both teams to their locker rooms and tack the additional time onto the next period.

Clearly it’s time to Find Your Happy Place. Saturday we scooted up to St. Joseph, Michigan for a late Valentine’s Day celebration. We ended up at Schu’s (with the other 30 humans within a 50 mile radius who weren’t at Silver Beach Pizza) where we had a fantastic Valentine’s weekend dinner.


At one point I kinda caught myself staring out the window at the shelf ice and the twinkling of the North Pier Lighthouse beacon and realized I was sitting there smiling like a fool. The company, the atmosphere, the Round Barn Kolsch, all of it: perfect.

Tuesday morning seemed very far away.

It Will Hurt the Whole Time
It feels like this sometimes, doesn’t it? (Source)

Not every year can be duckies and bunnies and unicorns and rainbows. Some are definitely better than others. This might be one of those years I just suck it up and put on my teacher face and give myself a pep talk every morning and keep showing up. Even if it kills me a little bit every single day.

As my freshman son wisely pointed out Saturday night, “three months from now we’ll be sitting in this same spot at the same time of night watching a sunset.” I needed to hear that. The Mid-Winter Blues have taken hold. It’s a passing thing, I’m sure. Unless it’s not.

But really, teaching is what I do. Especially if these are the options.

Time to find my happy place. Even if it’s a beach in winter. Maybe especially if it’s a beach in winter. I mean, if “gruntled” and “disgruntled” can mean the same thing except by matter of degree, then by all means, get me by the water. That’s not any weirder. Especially if it keeps my head in the game for three more months.

Hehehe. “Keep Off”.  Such rebels. A mild winter day, 2017. Weko Beach, Bridgman, MI. Photo cred: me.

Adventures in E-Learning: Polar Vortex Edition

We’ve had plenty of false alarms (Mrs. Dull refers to them as “fake news™”) regarding winter weather this year. But the meteorologists nailed an onslaught of Hoth-level cold right on the button. Polar Vortex arrived, just as predicted.

For real. Like, it’s so cold we postponed basketball tournament games. In Indiana.

Coupled with an overnight/early morning snow on Monday it meant we faced the prospect of 4 days off of school this week. Been there. It wasn’t super-fun. Did I tell you about the year my old district expanded the school day by an hour a day for a month to avoid extra make-up days, and my current district had to create a Saturday make-up day (which happened to be my son’s 18th birthday)?

i survived
We did get a cool travel mug out of the deal tho, which is nice.

We’ve exhausted all our built-in snow makeups. Adding days at the end of the year is a no-go due to the start date for summer school.

That can only mean one thing:

E-Learning Days. Right here, right now, ahead of schedule.

My district is a bit of a late adopter of this trend, but in keeping with our approach to many things, we take our time, research, go to school on other districts’ experiences, then roll out a new initiative.

The plan was to pilot eDays this year with a scheduled trial on Election Day, then make up our snow days on the scheduled makeup days as eDays, then roll them out live next school year.

We make plans, God laughs. You know how that goes. So facing a no-win on adding more make-up days, we jumped right in this week.

Our administrators gave us a heads-up early in the week so no one would be caught scrambling to make eDay plans. Not to worry tho: a quick survey revealed that teachers felt well-prepared to roll out plans for two days this week.

we ready
High school teachers on the ball, y’all.

I split the difference on my two assignments, giving the in-class practice set that I had planned to assign on Monday for Day One, then taking inspiration from the world around me, making a Polar Vortex-themed Desmos activity for Day Two. Set them up in Canvas, scheduled reminder announcements thru Canvas for 7:30 am both days, double-checked my posts, and went to bed.

Dawn broke (pretty much literally; it was -20F and we kept hearing these weird cracking sounds coming from outside the house) with me ready to go.

But according to a source familiar with the sleep patterns of high-school-aged boys on a snow day, I should not have expected my students to jump right out of bed and start working.

waiting for responses
10:55 am. They’ll get around to expanding and condensing logs eventually.

Which is fine. The best feedback I got from students on our pilot eDay back in November was “I love that I could do my work in whatever order I wanted, at whatever time of day I wanted. I wasn’t locked into a schedule”. They’ll get there. I’m confident.

So meanwhile I’ve got my coffee and I’ve got sun streaming thru my frontroom window and I’ve got twitter open on a tab and a summertime playlist running on Spotify.

I’m passing the time making an answer key for my assignment and enjoying videos of folks conducting science experiments.

I’m good.  I’ve been preparing for this day for over a year. But I’ll be pretty honest – I’ll be happy to be back in my classroom and see my kids face to face on Friday.

E-Learning Days are kind of tiring.

It’s Their World

“Mr. Dull, why don’t you play our music?”


I didn’t really have a good answer for him. At that time in my career I was already a big fan of the strategic use of music in the classroom, either as a backdrop for study/classwork/test-taking, or as a way to set a mood in passing time or at the outset of class. Pandora was my go-to: Jack Johnson or Dinner Soul in the morning, Chili Peppers or Anberlin in the afternoon. Great stuff for me and say, half the kids in the room. But I was definitely missing a connection with my young black men. And one day, one guy leveraged our relationship to call me out on it.

Motown & LL Cool J & Run-DMC & the Beasties (the stuff that was part of my mix in high school and college and as a young adult) might as well been stuff his grandpa listens to. So I knew that was out.

The best I could do was Today’s Hits.

I don’t think that’s what he meant.

friday meme

I’ve had a Friday Playlist for years, as a string of youtube videos. Just silliness: Never Gonna Give You Up, Party In The USA, Can’t Touch This, that kind of thing. We went all in this year with a Spotify playlist and everything.

A lot of that stuff was on there ironically, which is fine. I have kind of a reputation as That Playful Teacher, so I’ll own it. Here, have some Taylor Swift and Fresh Prince while we’re at it. We set a mood, but I also caught the occasional cringe as Rebecca Black did her thing.

But every good thing comes to an end. At least they were gentle about it.

make more playlists

So, what do you do with that? A few years ago my answer would have been “nothing”.

“We should make a playlist”. Huh. Just the day before, the topic came up in a twitter chat I participate in every Thursday. OK, I’ll bite. I can take a hint. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

So they gave me a mountain of suggestions and I spent a Saturday morning vetting lyrics and videos for class-appropriateness (sorry, Travis Scott and Sheck Wes…) and built a playlist. Two, actually. One for Friday Mood, and one to run while they work.

I’m not sure I’ve got the sequence quite right, but that’s not really up to me. The order isn’t really what matters, the content is.

Can’t let them down now, right? I’m in. And just in case I was tempted to push the project back, already they were asking me yesterday if the new playlist was ready. I had to fess up – my Thursdays are a little overscheduled and I had not made the playlist. Yet. But I also did not play the Rebecca Black mix. It was, shall we say, conspicuous by its absence. Gonna roll the new playlist out this week and see what happens.

I have no idea how it will be received. If nothing else, It will be “their music”. And all these years later, my student in that Intro to Engineering class will get his answer. It took me a minute, and it turns out all I really had to do was ask. It would have been better if I had figured this out back then, tho.

Because as the late, great Stuart Scott used to say, “It’s their world, we’re just living in it.”


Scarred for Life

indiana 105 cancellations snip
This has got to be Indiana 105‘s most popular page. Especially at this time of year.

It started at 9:30 am.

“Do you think they’ll let us out early today?”

“I mean, for real, Mr. Dull, come look at the radar. Look at the timing on this freezing rain.” (The kids are realizing benefits of a 1:1 environment they had never previously anticipated. What can I say, they are curious and smart. Which are good qualities in a high school student, right?)

The longing built throughout the day, from a “late bus” cancellation announcement, then no PM Vocational classes, and finally the news they had all been waiting for:

School closing at 12:30.

It was totally the right call, BTW. The roads were a mess.

Firefighters in southwest Michigan (on I-94 not far from our favorite summer weekend spot) displayed how dangerous the roads were there:

No one was happier about the closing than my athletes, who got a one-day reprieve from after-school workouts and practices. Which I get. They put in more than their time, daily.

Then last night, sitting with my freshman as he stared at notes on exponential growth and decay for an algebra lesson:

“Do you think they’ll close school tomorrow? Because then I wouldn’t have to do this tonight.”

You’re in luck, kid:

I like a surprise day off as much as the next guy, but man, I wonder how we made teenagers so miserable about school. And I wonder how to fix that.

I mean, we are all trying. Check out the #INeLearn tag from last week’s chat (moderated by the great Matt Miller). One of the best-attended chats of the school year focused on ways to marry engaging content with rigorous instruction:

(Archive here).

My district hosted an unconference earlier this month to share and learn:

There is a lot of cool stuff happening in my building. Not everybody shouts it from the rooftops, but I hear about it in casual conversations with my colleagues. I think because I have a reputation as “that connected teacher” they feel a little more open in sharing their adventures with me, which I think is really cool. Risk-taking is definitely contagious. The feedback loop is powerful. Makes me want to keep looking for new hooks too. I may take part of my day today to play around with this a little bit:

But still I get reports from students who are underwhelmed, with me and with their other teachers. And maybe that is just the natural state of a 16-year-old. Maybe they wouldn’t tell us if they enjoyed our classes even if it was true. Maybe we wrung the joy of learning out of them a long time ago. Maybe they are scarred for life by school.

But: what if they’re not? And what if we as teachers keep taking chances, keep trying to do more than hand out worksheets?

I bet you we’d set the whole damn world on fire. And how I’d love to see it burn.

Round And Round

We were on a convocation schedule today.

(Which was pretty epic, BTW. Four-time Special Olympics gold medalist and Boston Marathon qualifier Andrew Peterson addressed our student body as part of the Champions Together program.)

The result was we had 37 minute classes today.

When I dropped the news on my students last week, one of my kids said, ”We should play a game, Mr. Dull! Like Musical Chairs!”

OK, I’ll bite. That actually sounds like a pretty good idea.

I put out a call for advice:

Then did a little googling around (clearly not the first person to think of this, thankfully), and we were ready to roll.

Also you guys, it’s good to have that one person who will give you a little nudge to follow thru on a crazy idea that you inadvertently say out loud:

No turning back now, right?

Materials here:

musical chairs #3

musical chairs #2

musical chairs #1

musical chairs #0

math musical chairs exponentials key

Basic design was four problem sets at each table, with a decreasing number of problems. Everybody is in for the first two rounds, after that there is one less problem at the table for each successive round.

I ran the activity in four classes back to back today. I had a pretty solid idea of how it would all play out but I’ll admit, I made up some things as I went.

Like: how to keep students engaged throughout the class period. I knew the “once you’re out, you’re out” model of the actual musical chairs game would not work – too many people standing around watching, too much incentive to not participate. That will never do.

Solution: floaters. Anyone who is “eliminated” becomes the go-to person for help at their table. And, everybody starts over every round. So nobody is knocked out in the first five minutes and is never heard from again.

So that was the upside.

The downside: some problems were a little too challenging (I used Kuta to generate the problems, trading speed for control over content) so I spent a lot of time circulating the room jump starting students who were blown away (not necessarily bad, just I wanted the activity to be a little more self-run), and the corollary:  a lot of evaporation happens over the weekend.

But in a couple of classes the culture of collaboration kicked in and students started helping each other, which was pretty sweet.




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My #Teacherlife #2019Playlist made its in-class debut, which was cool.


(“Play 8TEEN, Mr. Dull! Play 8TEEN!”). Extra added bonus was the cred which comes from knowing when to ride the volume control to mute class-questionable content.

My super-Type-A students wanted more reps than they got, which is an occupational hazard around here. I’ll get them covered on the actual review day Wednesday (alg ii 8.1 – 8.4 review packet).

So the activity can use a little tweaking, but overall it’s a keeper. The kid who suggested it tried to deflect credit but I was sure to thank him for his contribution. Students gave it a “we’d play that again” at the end of class, so I’ll take that as an endorsement. On a short day I got what I wanted, plus I think I have another game to add to my review toolkit.




My oldest son has some certifications to complete before he starts patrolling as an MP at his new base. He’ll work dispatch for about six months, but before all that gets underway he’s assisting at the tax preparation center on the post. Probably not how he thought he’d be spending his days right now, but as he says, he serves at the pleasure of Uncle Sam.

Bumped into my son’s Algebra II Teacher after school the other day. Hilarity ensued.

Yeah, we do silly stuff in my algebra classes. Like sing the quadratic formula.


I don’t know if it helps them remember math but it seems like more than a few remember their math class fondly because of it. Which is OK.

Last year we moved the assignment to Flipgrid. That made it easier for students who are a bit reluctant to stand in front of a class to participate. Plus they can all watch each other’s vids and it made for a fun playful day. My Varsity Singers camped it up and knocked it out of the park.

In one class last year, two girls from Chicago became quick friends with a new student. She had moved from place to place often, and it turns out, she’d leave my school also before the year was out. She was not super interested in math but her group made her comfortable in class.

I thought of her not that long ago when I was looking at some old #teach180 posts and saw a photo of her group working on an activity. I smiled, thinking about her sense of humor about her struggles with math.

Two students came to me today in the hallway between classes, within a couple minutes of one another. Both had the same news. The girl they befriended in my class last year was shot dead last night. None of us really knew what to say.

One of the girls asked me if I remembered a day when they made a video of a math song last year in class. Of course I did. She asked me if I’d send her the video. Of course I did.

The whole thing is heartbreaking. Eighteen is ridiculously young to die. At my former school we had a year and a half stretch in which six current or recently graduated students died. It sucked every time then, and it never gets easier. I’m thankful for the teacher long ago who turned me on to singing the formula. Not because we did something memorable in class, but because we did something that one of my students could use to remember her friend by.

Folks keep saying ” building relationships” is the most important thing teachers can do. I’m not sure it’s ever been more important for me and some of my kids than it was today.

Requiescat in pace.