Friday, November 30, 2012

WSQ Webinar Archive from 11/29/12

If you missed my most recent webinar on Thursday, November 29th, check it out here!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Free Webinar on the WSQ Thurs 11/29

I'm hosting another #flipclass webinar through on Thursday, November 29th, 4pm PST.  I will be talking more specifically about my flipped class and how I use the WSQ as an organization, processing, accountability, and discussion tool.  Check it out if you are available!

Free registration here!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I am...

Sometimes we all need to be reminded who we are as teachers. Here is my reminder. I encourage you to write your own.

I am a teacher who cares, probably more than I honestly should.

I am a teacher who wants the best for her students, maybe even better than they believe themselves capable.

I am a teacher who wants to see her students who have had little success with math in their past realize that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

I am a teacher who strives for the best in everything I do, and expects the same from my students even if they don't believe it at first.

I am a teacher who faces struggles, as every educator does, and am willing to share them openly instead of keeping them inside because learning is messy and it’s important to involve other supportive teachers in our mess.

I am a teacher who is learning and wants to learn with her fellow educators with the goal of helping our students succeed.

I am a teacher who is willing to try new things, and continually tweak and refine them until I find what is working - and then keep working to make it better.

I am a teacher who is always looking for new ways to connect with, inspire, encourage, and motivate her students.

I am a teacher who believes that while every student can learn, they may just not have the skills to do so and must be taught, encouraged, cajoled, inspired, and otherwise lovingly "harassed" into building those skills.

I am a teacher who teaches more than math; I teach life.  And I probably teach life sometimes more than I teach math because those are the lessons that stick for a lifetime.

Long after my students have forgotten how to write the equation of a line, they come back to me either in person or online to chat and to tell me where life has taken them.  These are the things that I hear consistently:

  • "Your class was the first class I actually felt like I could succeed at math"
  • "Your class was the first math class I actually learned and understood the material"
  • “I didn’t like math when I came into your class.  Now, I really enjoy it!”
  • "You made me work harder than I ever would have worked on my own, and I'm so grateful for that"
  • "You made learning fun, even when I didn't feel like trying"
  • “You taught me that hard work pays off”
  • “You taught me that I am capable of succeeding at anything I put my mind to”
  • “I wish more teachers taught like you, you make math fun to learn”
And those are from A students, B students, C students, D students, and yes, even F students.  They all come back and tell me these things.

I know I am a great teacher.

I know that every year is a journey and that every group of students presents different challenges to overcome.  I have never given up on a group of students.  Ever.  Even though I truly believe my students struggle with knowing how to learn and succeed in an academic setting does not mean I don’t believe they are capable of growing, changing, learning how to learn tough material, learning how to succeed at things that aren’t easy.  Even if it takes all year.  

And that is why I have chosen to build my classroom around the flipped classroom mindset, not always to teach them the required math content in an efficient and effective way, but to teach them those life skills that they will take with them beyond my class and beyond my subject matter.  

To build relationships with them because I get to interact with every single student every single day, so they know there are adults they can turn to and trust even with non-academic matters.  
To teach them how to take responsibility for their learning and to become independent learners.  To prepare them for life, where they will have to think critically and build relationships with those around them in order to succeed.  
To continue to model and teach them the skills that will prepare them to be able to learn and succeed at anything they put their minds to.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My flipped classroom - in 3 minutes or less :)

Last May, I had the privilege of having Troy Stein from Techsmith come and record my flipped classes all day, interviewing some students, and just capturing the atmosphere and environment of the craziness that ensues on a daily basis!

Well, as he said, "Good things come to those who wait!"... Here it is!  Enjoy :)

Thanks Troy and team!  You guys are amazing!!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Free Webinar with the Flipped Learning Network!

Check out the Flipped Learning Network's webinar series! 

This Wednesday, 11/14, at 4pm EST (1pm PST) I will be co-leading a Flipped Class webinar focused on math with the amazing Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo;

Register for free here!

Update: You should also be able to access the archive of the webinar through the registration link.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My biggest struggle this year...

This is an original post from earlier this week.  I have decided to repost it after taking it down for a few days.  My purpose in writing this was to ask for help, and my audience was my PLN.  In the end, someone not familiar with me, my students, and my educational philosophy took it out of context as representative of me and my approach with students.  And instead of offering help and support, I became the subject of an intense attack about my choice of words, my ability as a teacher, and my attitude towards my students.  My purpose in writing this blog was and will continue to be to make my classroom transparent and to share both my successes and my failures, my good days and my struggles.  

I've hidden and disabled comments on this post.  That is not to censor anyone.  But rather, to protect me and my PLN from further scrutiny.  We welcome healthy debate, and we by no means always agree with one another. But we also believe in respectful dialogue and that does not seem possible on this post at this time.

In closing, I believe all students are capable of learning and of succeeding academically, even when they don't believe it themselves.  I am a hard-working teacher who strives to find ways to reach even the lowest students.  As they come into my life year after year, they present different challenges and struggles that must be overcome.  

This year, it seems to be the struggle of knowing how to truly learn and not just answer bubble tests like they have been asked to do their entire educational lives.  It is the struggle of getting past years of failure in math to believe they can succeed and begin to take the steps towards that success.  It is the struggle of learning that "It's better to try and fail than to not try at all".  

These are real struggles.  They are true struggles.  I acknowledge them with my online PLN, with my students in class as a group and individually, and with my colleagues and administration on campus.  We are not giving up on these students.  We still believe in them, and nothing will ever change that.  They are wonderful, talented, amazing teenagers.  However, we must continue to search for ways to reach them and challenge them academically.

Thus was the purpose of sharing my frustrations and my challenges.  I want to help my students succeed in the public education system that I work in.  Some things I am trying are working, some are not.  Some things I try are reaching some students but not others.  So I continue to work. I continue to build relationships. I continue to try new strategies.  I continue to share ideas with other educators who have the same goal as me.

As you read, hear my passion for these students.  Hear my desire to find ways to overcome these barriers. Hear my struggle and how I am willing to share it on a blog that anyone can read instead of hiding and only presenting the successes.

Don’t just listen to what I have to say.

Hear me.

Thank you for reading.


My Algebra 1 classes are a piece of work this year.

From Day 1, I did notice some differences - and these are good ones!  The kids are great kids.  They are nice kids.  I feel like I know them a lot better, a lot earlier (thanks to the flipped classroom).  I feel like the classroom environment is generally positive, and even though I have to "get on them" often, it is done in a positive way.  For the most part, even though there are struggles, I don't dread these classes at all - which I can't say about some periods in prior years.

They struggle a lot with maturity issues (wait your turn in line, clean up after yourself, be patient, stop talking when you are asked to, etc).  Things I don't think I should have to deal with when they are 14 or 15, but sadly, it is one of the hardest parts of this year.  I am losing patience daily because I feel that at this point of the year (1/3 of the way done!), they should have come along in those areas.  But, the more I think about it, the more I am realizing I have to UNDO years of training and years of entitlement and years of being able to act however they want.

It's hard.

However, this is not even my biggest struggle.

Here it is:

My students don't know how to learn.  They don't know how to succeed.  And, it doesn't seem like they care to change any of that. 

And, (which is the hardest part), they do not seem to be trying any of the learning strategies, success strategies, and tips that I teach and model for them.  I have spent SO MUCH time this year talking about how to be successful, how to learn, etc... and it seems like it is all a waste.

Every single day, students have the opportunity to get help, to ask questions, and to re-learn material.  I try to do small group teaching a few times a week depending on the content.  I walk around constantly and check their work, ask how they are doing, etc.

But the majority of my students will sit there, work out every problem wrong, and then come call me over just to get my signature on their chart that their work is "done" even though their work is wrong.  While they are working on it, they tell me "I don't need any help, I am getting it", so I go and work with the students who need help or who are asking questions.  I ask them if they checked their answers and if they need help on any of them, and they say "oh yeah I checked them and they are all right".  So, (hopefully, if I have the time), I will spot check a few problems and notice total errors, so I ask them to look at the answer key for "#12".  They tell me the answer, and it is completely different from the one they have written down.  They say, "oh, I must have forgotten to check that one."


I don't know how to deal with this... everything I have tried has failed.  They just aren't getting it.  I can't help students who just don't want to learn.

With 39 low-level freshmen and sophomores who are used to failing are all stuffed into one class, it's overwhelming.  Even with the flipped classroom, I feel drained trying to get around to every student and making sure their questions get answered.  Their group members are more than capable of helping them, but it doesn't happen when:

(1) students don't ask for help (and when I ask them if they asked their group, they will flat out lie and say "they said they wouldn't help me" and when I ask the group members, of course, they were never asked...) and when

(2) students sit there and are oblivious to the fact they  need help because they refuse to check their answers.

#flipclass in my afternoon Math Analysis Honors classes?  Amazing. Wonderful. Inspiring. Awesome.  

#flipclass in my morning Algebra 1 CP classes?  I'm drained. I'm exhausted. I just want to help them learn. I just want them to ask questions when they need to. I just want them to understand. I just want them to want to learn. I just want them to care.

Progress. Soon. Please.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two encouraging bits of feedback

On Thursday I had to leave early for an appointment and had one of my teacher friends cover my 5th period class.  She teaches English and I wasn't really expecting much, although my kids are generally pretty good in that class.  I saw her on Friday and asked how it went.  And basically, here's what she said:

"Crystal, what you are doing with your students is amazing.  I mean, I was walking around monitoring, but they were on task, working, having high-level mathematical conversations, helping each other, questioning each other's work, and focused on their work without their 'real' teacher there."
  • Students taking responsibility for their learning
  • Focus of class time on the students and their needs
  • Focus of class time on higher-order thinking skills instead of rote memorization

Isn't that my definition of the flipped class?

And I wasn't even there to guide it, structure it, monitor it, and make sure it happens.


Last week I had my formal observation by my administrator.  Since I only get observed once every two years, nobody has formally seen a whole class period of my "flipped class", just bits and pieces in walk throughs.  I was nervous because he wanted to see my freshmen class and I still think they are a little crazy.

When class was over, I chatted with him real quick before my next class started coming in, and simply asked, "What did you think?"

His response?

"That was amazing."

I chatted with him a few days later for our follow-up and the main things that he noticed were that I had fourteen year olds on task, self-directing their own work, and making decisions about what they needed to do... and that doesn't happen with normal "fourteen year old classrooms".   He was impressed that although I was walking around the whole period, did a small group re-teaching, and some other stuff, it didn't seem like the students needed that constant monitoring.  He noticed that I got to interact with every student and all students had the opportunity to ask questions of each other (student talk) and of me when needed.

My perspective?  I still think my freshmen classes are crazy.  Maybe it's because compared to my Math Analysis Honors classes, they are.  I still feel like they need constant monitoring and I still feel like they waste  A LOT of time in class and have VERY POOR time management skills.  I honestly don't know if that is something that can be taught or if it just something to be emphasized and the students have to figure it out and value it on their own.

Only time will tell...
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