Math = Love: 2012: A Year in Review

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: A Year in Review

2012 has been a most eventful year for me. 


In January, I started my student teaching at a urban high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Having been raised in a rural/suburban area, my first few days of student teaching left me in shock.  The class sizes were large.  I was appalled at the language used by the students.  My eyes were opened to what poverty looks like.

I asked lots of questions.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and taught algebra in Spanish.  And, I made my first foldable.  It was a life-changing experience.       

My First Foldable


In February, I experienced my first snow day as a teacher.  I became incredibly attached to the students I was working with.  I taught my students about scatter plots and correlation using M&M's.  I left my first student teaching experience without saying goodbye to my students.  That is something I will probably always regret.

M&M Scatter Plots


At the very end of February, I switched from an urban high school to an urban middle school.  The differences between the two were astounding.  During my second student teaching placement, I was given more freedom and responsibility than I could ever have imagined.  I was TERRIFIED.  I had 5 classes of 8th grade math students.  The 8th grade math test was fast approaching, and how these students did on this math test would determine how they spent their next four years of high school.

After two weeks of observing, my cooperating teacher handed over the reins to me and took a seat in the back of the classroom.  I'll be honest.  It was tough.  When a lesson wasn't going well, when the students wouldn't quit talking, when there were ten extra minutes at the end of the class period, it was entirely up to me to figure out what to do.  And, I didn't always make the right decision.  I almost always learned my lesson, though.  Lessons learned by experience will stick with you way more than advice from your professor or a book on teaching. 

I spent my Spring Break filling out job applications to almost every single school district within a one-hour radius.


In April, I had two job interviews.  The first interview was for a middle school math position.  My second job interview for a high school math position was a whirlwind of an experience that ended with me being offered a job on the spot.  After thinking it over for a day, I accepted the position.  I'm not quite sure I knew what I was getting myself into.  From my interview experience and from looking at the school's test scores, I felt like the school needed me.  And, that was enough to make me leave behind everything familiar and move to a town where I didn't know a single person, a town that I had never been to before the day of my job interview, a town without a stoplight.

I finished my student teaching at the middle school level.  I'm not even sure if it is possible to convey all that I learned from my middle school student teaching experience.  It was in that classroom that I started learning to put aside the educational theories I had been taught and focus on the students that I was standing in front of.  The students became my focus.  It didn't matter how long I had worked on creating a worksheet.  If that worksheet was doing a disservice to my students, I had to throw it out and create something new on the spot.  It didn't matter how much I disliked making decisions.  My students needed structure.  They needed a decision maker.  They needed me to create a productive learning environment.  

My 8th graders rocked their state math test.  And, this time I said a proper goodbye to the students that I had, again, grown so attached to.  My cooperating teacher had the students write me letters that I will always cherish.


In May, I donned my cap and gown and walked across the stage at graduation.  I moved out of my on-campus apartment, and moved back in with my parents for the summer.  I went to my first school board meeting where my hiring was officially approved.  I worked in the office of my family's business.

I also got to see my classroom for the first time.  When the school counselor told me it needed a little TLC, she wasn't joking.   

Classroom: Before


In June, I found me a house to rent in my new town.  My mother, sister, and I started brainstorming ways to fix up my classroom.  And, of course, I worked for my family's business.  


The majority of July was spent moving into the house I had rented, fixing up the house I had rented, and fixing up my classroom.  My parents and sister were amazing.  I definitely couldn't have done it without them.

Classroom: After
I sent out a tweet that would change my life.  And, I ended up connecting with an amazing group of math teachers from across the United States and even the world.  

Two days before the end of the month, I finally found out that I would be teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Math Analysis (or College Algebra.)  


In August, I put the finishing touches on my classroom.  I spent hours scouring twitter, google reader, the web, and pinterest for ideas for my interactive notebooks

Interactive Notebook Foldable
My entire town was evacuated due to wildfires.  The fires came within three tenths of a mile of my house.  It was definitely one of the scariest experiences of my life.  Some of my students and coworkers lost everything they owned in the fires.  

I lesson-planned like I never had before. I began my first year as a teacher.  It definitely had its challenges, but I knew that this was the job I loved and was meant to do. 


In September, I was asked to prepare a presentation for our next staff development session on hands-on teaching.  I was honored, but shocked that they had chosen a first-year teacher to present to the entire high school faculty.  Students had been talking about my teaching strategies, and the talk was good.


October brought with it my first experience with parent teacher conferences as a teacher.  I experienced my first Fall Break in what seemed like forever.  I truly loved my college experience, but I really missed having a few days off in October to rest, relax, and to get caught up on everything.  (They did give us a full week off for Thanksgiving to compensate, but it just wasn't the same.)  Of course, I ended up catching a cold that spanned my entire Fall Break.  My teacher self, though, would rather be sick on break than teach while I feel miserable.


In November, my students started working with slope and graphing linear equations.  I'm pretty sure that this is my favorite unit to teach.  Slope Dude was a bigger hit than I could have ever imagined.  Seriously, if you teach slope and haven't introduced your students to Slope Dude, you and your students are missing out.  Mrs. H even stopped by my blog and left a comment about how Slope Dude got started.  It will always be "Puff Puff Positive" to my students.  Some of my students even took it on themselves to show the youtube video to some students who have the other Algebra 1 teacher. 

I survived my first Student Council State Convention.  It was definitely an experience!  Having last been a part of student council in the fourth grade, I have a lot to learn.    


My students, convinced that the science teacher and I should be dating, started writing us both fake love letters from the other.  They were actually quite amusing, especially since everyone knew exactly who was writing them. 

Several of my students retook their Algebra 1 EOI in December.  In Oklahoma, students have to pass their Algebra 1 EOI or an equivalent test in order to graduate.  These students have been taking both Algebra 1 and Geometry this year.  I'm excited to report that all of my Algebra 1 students who retook the test passed!  And, quite a few of them scored advanced!  I'm so proud of them and all of the hard work they put in.  It was a great experience as a teacher to see the light bulbs finally go off. 

I gave my first semester tests.  And, we spent the last few days of the semester making hexaflexagons

I've spent my Christmas Break with family.  I helped complete inventory at my family's business.  I've been brainstorming lots of ideas for new foldables and activities for next semester.  I'm reading Making Thinking Visible, and I'm trying to figure out how to take these ideas and strategies and put them into place in my own classroom.  This book has shown me that I have been doing my students a disservice by not giving them opportunities to think.  Thinking is something that only happens when planned for.


  1. Wow! Congratulations on all that you have accomplished in 2012. Thanks for sharing how you've you've grown as a math teacher. If I can help in anyway with any ideas...please let me know. I have taught everything math, this year just Algebra 1, however. Cheers, Amy

  2. This is so encouraging. :) I also started teaching in the classroom in 2012… and definitely did not start the way you did. I had no idea (when I was riffing off your ideas) that you were a new teacher too.