Qualities of a Leader

A few weeks ago, my students asked me what I thought a good principal looked like. I’ve had my share of admin and I’ve observed others on social media. Here was my response.

Some leaders are very people oriented. If they asked, people would get in the car with them. But, they only drive circles in the parking lot because they have no direction. Other leaders have a well thought out plan to cross the country, but no one wants to get in the car with them. A great leader has a destination and people are willing to get in the car.

It’s one of those things that just came to me on the fly, much like my further explanations when a student isn’t understanding. I don’t always remember those nuggets of wisdom after the fact, but this one has stuck with me. As I reflect on my characteristics and my desire to become a building leader, I want this thought to be in the front of my mind. I think I lean towards the great plan and I need to make sure I have the people skills so others want to join my on the journey.

Here is an animation I drew to illustrate this thought. And that’s all this is, food for thought.

What do you think makes a great leader?


Education is Changing

I know I usually share resources and ideas, but every now and then I have a thought I want to share. Today is one such thought. Ok, it’s really some questions.

Someone posted on Twitter this week about how students don’t like school and asked the question, “What can be done to make it better?”. The suggestions ranged from student choice, less like prisons, to not requiring students to attend.

So how did we end up where we are?

History of Education

Compulsory education in the United States began in 1900 by 34 states, most in the north (Lingwall). By 1930, all states had a compulsory education law (Graham, 1974). The purpose of this compulsory education was not to learn to read, write, and do basic calculations but was deemed the best way to turn the nations unruly children into judicious, republican citizen (Groen, 2008). Horace Mann, in 1978, had already laid the foundation of grade level schools, having students progress through based on age regardless of skill level (Thomas, 2010).

In 1880, American high schools were primarily considered to be preparatory academies for students who were going to attend college. But by 1910 they had been transformed into core elements of the common school system and had broader goals of preparing many students for work after high school. The explosive growth brought the number of students from 200,000 in 1890 to 1,000,000 in 1910, to almost 2,000,000 by 1920; 7% of youths aged 14 to 17 were enrolled in 1890, rising to 32% in 1920. By 1940, 50% of the U.S. youth had earned a high school diploma (Church & Sedlak, 1976). Education in the United States: An Interpretive History) American post-elementary schooling was designed to be consistent with national needs. It stressed general and widely applicable skills not tied to particular occupations or geographic areas, in order that students would have flexible employment options. As the economy was dynamic, the emphasis was on portable skills that could be used in a variety of occupations, industries, and regions (“The History of Education in the United States: Secondary Schools”).

In the space of only a generation, public education had left behind a highly regimented and politicized system dedicated to training children in the basic skills of literacy and the special discipline required of urban citizens, and had replaced it with a largely apolitical, more highly organized and efficient structure specifically designed to teach students the many specialized skills demanded in a modern, industrial society. In terms of programs this entailed the introduction of vocational instruction, a doubling of the period of schooling, and a broader concern for the welfare of urban youth.

Selwyn K. Troen, The Public and the Schools: Shaping the St. Louis System 1838–1920 (1975) pp 151, 224–26, quoted in Ravitch, The Revisionists Revised, pp 55–56

Dewey, the father of the foundation for much of what we do in education today, believed that schools were not only a place for students to gain content knowledge, but also as a place for them to learn how to live. He said the purpose of education was to realize the student’s full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good. “Dewey insisted that education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. He noted that ‘education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction’.” (John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed (1897) PP. 6, 16).

The Great Depression set the precedent for moving funds away from education to other “necessary” areas of government.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education released a report titled A Nation at Risk. Soon afterward, conservatives were calling for an increase in academic rigor including an increase in the number of school days per year, longer school days and higher testing standards. 

“No Child Left Behind” was a major national law passed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress in 2002, marked a new direction. In exchange for more federal aid, the states were required to measure progress and punish schools that were not meeting the goals as measured by standardized state exams in math and language skills. We have had many reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but most have the same goals as No Child Left Behind.

Where do we go?

Is is time for education to change again? Do we still want students to learn content or do we want them to think and be able to solve problems based on the information available to them? Those require two very different approaches to education. Learning content requires rigorous testing to “prove” the content is being learned according to the government. And what content is needed? But on the flip side, how do we “show” students are solving problems based on information they find? Do we need “proof” that this is occurring?

Do we need to only educate students through the 8th grade and then share career paths and opportunities, including college, vocational, technical, and work force? What would that look like? What if a student wants to change paths?

What about funding? How to we make funding for public schools more equitable without sending money to private and charter schools?

I haven’t answered any questions in this post. I have simply put information and questions on my blog for future consideration. Education is on the edge of another major change. As educators, we need to decide what we think needs to happen and then we need speak up and let those in power know what we think. Will they listen? Some, maybe. Will we make a difference? Maybe. Will we make a difference if we remain silent? No.

Education is changing. What do you want it to become?


Is Education Broken?

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years. I’ve seen education change, A LOT! But the pandemic has highlighted the parts of education that is not working. How much more will the system take before it implodes? I’ve been saying for at least 8 years now that we are headed for change. We are now at a point that if we don’t change we are going to fail.

I am all about building relationships with students. I write about it in my book, I model it in my classroom, and I talk to others about it. Do we still have some teachers on a power trip? Yes! Are there fewer teachers on a power trip? Yes! Do the teachers who want compliance of behavior over relationship still have the most issues? Usually. But what I have been seeing lately is a systemic issue of general lack of respect which makes relationship building more difficult. Students are pushing the societal boundaries of acceptable behavior. Maybe some of these boundaries need to change, like our view on dress code which is historically sexist. But what is acceptable? How much of the human body should be exposed in school? What does our society say is acceptable? What are some boundaries that shouldn’t be pushed?

Some behaviors disrupt what our government and court systems have told us is the pubic schools responsibility to deal with: students refusing to be in class, hiding in bathrooms, vandalizing, fighting (like a lot of fighting), and using illegal substances (not just vaping). I know some of you are thinking, relationships will fix this. In a theoretical world where we have unlimited time, yes, relationships and programs like Restorative Justice will fix the issues. We don’t have unlimited time. We don’t have ENOUGH time, period. Behavior issues keep increasing and the number of people able to build relationships and deal with the issues keep decreasing.

My husband is an administrator and I see the amount of time it takes to deal with issues. A minor infraction like a student saying “F#*K” in class takes about 40 minutes from talking with the student to writing up the report. He has 550 students he is responsible for each day. Now imagine in a day he has a fight, a report of bullying, 3 students sent to him for using inappropriate language, a student refusing to stay off their phone during class, 5 students vaping in the bathroom, and 4 parent emails or phone calls. A bullying report takes 2-3 days to investigate, fights take about 2 hours to complete the investigation, make calls, and complete paperwork, and phones and vaping taking 30-40 minutes. Also during the day he is responsible for bussing, all standardized testing (our school has A LOT of “required” testing throughout the year), lunch shifts, supervising and evaluating about 20 teachers, and IEP meetings for his own students. He is also supposed to look at the grades for all of his students and call in students who are not doing well. Now last I checked, we are in school from 7-3, not even close to the amount of time needed to deal with these issues. He supervises an athletic even 2-3 nights a week so he has to leave right after school. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME! The number of behavior issues is insane and administrators are being told to spend MORE TIME building relationships. Where? Where does this time come from? They want to, but they don’t have time. When they ask for more help, more administrators, counselors, and teachers, they are told we don’t have the money. They, just like teachers, are told to FIGURE IT OUT!

We are told, don’t suspend as many students. Ok, are we supposed to say, “Hey friend, next time you are angry, instead of taking someone to the ground and kicking them repeatedly in the kidney because they said your girlfriend is hot, maybe try a different approach. I’ll let you off with a warning this time.” Or “Next time someone calls you messy (this means a promiscuous person with STDs), don’t grab her by the hair and bash her head into the wall and pull her hair out, just say those words are hurtful. Now go back to class and do better.” If it was outside of school they would be arrested for assault and it should be the same in schools. You can’t harm another person and say it’s ok. Do we need to talk to them about their actions and help them make better choices? YES! Do they need to experience consequences for the actions? ABSOLUTELY!!!

On top of the behavioral issues that are getting worse, we have all of the non-academic things schools now have to deal with according to cases adjudicated by the courts and laws passed by the government. We have to teach students how to spot a sexual predator, teach about and deal with bullying, keep students in the school and know where they are at all times but give them more freedom, educate them on suicide, teach about sexual health without promoting an agenda, teach about history without promoting an agenda, and create an inclusive environment for all students without promoting an agenda.

Then we have the issue of academics. We are still operating under an antiquated system from over 100 years ago. Standardized testing started with the first authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was an attempt to remedy inequity in education. I DOESN’T fit our society now and actually increases inequity. We are encouraged to differentiate education for our students but then we measure it with a standardized test. Then, we base the limited funding for our schools on these tests results. We know students are in different places, we know they don’t all learn at the same pace. We say it’s ok to learn at different paces, BUT WE TEST THEM ALL THE SAME!!!! And then we shame students, teachers, and schools because on this one measure we didn’t do well.

Most teachers give their heart and soul to help their students be successful. But just like administrators, they simply do not have enough time in the day to do all that is asked of us. The “programs” that are purchased to “fix” the issues actually create more issues and take more time away from students. We take teachers out of the classroom to learn about this new program, to discuss our findings for that new program, and we leave students in the classroom with a substitute and a lesson plan to learn on their own, which by the way, took that teacher more time to prepare than if they had stayed in the classroom with a better lesson. We tell teachers to not take work home and care for themselves and then we tell them to create better lessons, find better resources, spend more time evaluating data, spend more time remediating students, but make sure you teach all of the standards and make sure all of our students are successful. Oh, and that list of non-academic things from earlier, make sure you are addressing all of that too.

I call it the hamster wheel. We keep running and chasing the goals and we just don’t get anywhere.

Is education broken? We are at a point where the requirements and expectations of public schools are more than can be accomplished. We know teachers don’t get paid enough. Yes, administrators get paid more, but what they deal with is unbelievable and they don’t get paid for what they deal with. Educators are going to continue to leave the profession and fewer and fewer students are going to choose education as a career because they see the stress teachers are under and the bullshit they deal with daily.

It’s time to stop the hamster wheel and reevaluate what education looks like in the United States. If we don’t, the system is going to implode, it’s going to FAIL in a miserable way leaving the US wondering what happened.

How do we fix it? I don’t know. Since government dictates a lot of what we do and government is also broken, we may not be able to find a solution. We are so divided as a nation on EVERY ISSUE, why should education be different? I don’t have a solution but I’m the type of person that wants to find a solution. This is why I’m frustrated and standing on my soapbox today! You have to talk about the issues to start fixing the issues.

As I step off my soapbox I want to say to my fellow educators, thank you for showing up every day and giving more of yourself than you have to give. And don’t feel bad if it gets to the point that you can’t do it anymore. Encourage each other and keep doing what you are doing until you can’t do it anymore. I’m not going to tell teachers to stay because students need you. I want to fix the situation so you want to stay! You are making a difference, even if the system is broken. If your test scores aren’t what they should be, ask yourself, “Did my students leave as better people than when they entered?” That should be our goal!

At the end of the day, we teach students, not subject matter. Take care of yourself, take care of your students, and let’s find a way to make our education system better. If you have a solution, I’m ready to talk about it!

ramblings, SBL, thinking

Focus on Thinking

It’s been a while since I grabbed my soapbox and megaphone and shared some thoughts. I’ve had some time to think and reflect over this past year, and really all my years of teaching, and I have realized that we have created point-gobbling monsters instead of individuals wanting to gain knowledge to solve problems and be better humans. I also feel like these point-gobbling monsters get more hungry each passing year and their appetite for thinking and learning is decreasing at an even faster rate.

For those of you who have been around for a bit, you know I love standards-based learning. I have written about it on this blog here, here, and here, presented on it, and will talk to anyone about how much it changed my classroom and the willingness of students to learn.

I still LOVE the idea of standards based learning. But I realized a few years ago that it focuses on content, content that is readily available on the internet. See, I don’t just want students who memorize a process and try to meet a check box in a category or standard. I want students who can find information and use it to solve a problem. The problem with our current grade-gobbling situation is that students will memorize the process to regurgitate it on a test and then move on to the next topic. No thought process, just memorization.

This niggling thought in the back of my head smacked me square in the face this past year. Two different situations collided allowing me to see a clear picture of these point-gobbling monsters we had created. One, because of a shift of teachers at winter break, I took on a class from another teacher. I teach very conceptually, without formulas when possible. I allow students to use formulas, but I don’t when demonstrating and encourage them to think about what is happening and solve things using concepts they know. My new class DID NOT LIKE THIS! They wanted formulas. To be fair, my original class wanted formulas too, they just knew they weren’t going to get them from me. They at least played along with my explorations and conceptual understanding and then looked up the formulas to use later. The second was a students so obsessed with grades it frightened me. She would try to calculate her score on every assessment and freaked out if she score below an 94% (A in our book). She wasn’t as interested in learning, she just wanted an A. I get this sentiment from parents too. The last week of school, this particular student frantically asked to see another teacher because he had entered an assignment as a zero. I taught her early in the day and asked if she had already attended class with this teacher. No, she would see him in two class periods. I encouraged her to visit with him during her class time. She nearly broke down because she “couldn’t have a zero in the gradebook for that long.” Another student in the back of the room asked her if it lowered her grade and she said “yes, from a 98% to a 97%.” Her class let her have it. She still had an A but was so obsessed with grades that a zero in the gradebook was going to ruin the next two class periods until is was removed.

WE DID THIS! And be we, I mean the education system. WE created the point-gobbling monsters. We said GPA is more important than learning by creating scholarships based on this point system. We said GPA is more important than learning when we recognize the top 10 and valedictorian and realize those who challenged themselves with harder classes aren’t always represented. We said scoring well on a standardized test is more important than learning when we create awards for those who are proficient and advanced and give scholarships based on these tests. We have said point-gathering over thinking and learning is what school is about.

So… how do we change this?

I can list many, many things that need to happen to make our system better, but most of them are not in my control. I can’t get rid of standardized tests, as much as I want to. I can continue to ask boards of education to stop awarding based on grades but I can’t make that decision alone. I can ask universities to stop awarding scholarships based on a test score or GPA, but I can’t change their policies.

What I can do is shift the focus in my classroom. I attended #VirtualMath21 organized by Howie Hua and watched a session my Nolan Fossum (@NolanFossum). When I heard him speak about this same issue and his drive to change it I knew instantly, in the depths of my soul, this was the direction I needed to take also. Nolan uses a method he is developing called Pillars and Practices. The practices is part are the Standards for Mathematical Practice that I already use in my classroom. The Pillars part (see the image from Nolan below) is what I plan to add in my classroom. He was kind enough to Zoom with me and brainstorm ways to use this in my classroom.

copyright Nolan Fossum

This coming school year, I plan to implement Nolan’s Pillars along with self-reflection and conversation to assess students. There will be no points to chase but thinking and evidence of learning to show. I’m finishing up the book UnGrading by Susan D. Blum and also have Hacking Assessment by Star Sackstein to read. When I have a solid plan (right now I have small pieces of the puzzle put together), I will share how I implement it in hopes of helping others break the chains of the point-gobbling monsters.

I want a classroom, school, and nation of thinkers and problem solvers. I we don’t shift our focus, we, as an education system, will be harming our future. If we have a nation of people who can only follow a recipe, how will we ever have new and creative ideas to push us forward and make life better?

Stepping off my soap box and putting away the megaphone. Thanks for sticking with me!

ramblings, Reflection, Relationships

End of Year Reflection

This was my 20th year of teaching. It was the most challenging year of teaching. I was not my best! I tried to be my best but I wasn’t. I ended the year with all my students by giving them a positive message, telling them how much they had grown, because they had, and how much they had overcome, because they had, and how I hoped they were able to have me as a teacher again so they could truly see how I am. I hate that I wasn’t my best, but there are no do-overs! There is only reflection and growth. I want my students to see that, I want all of you to see that, and I want to remember that myself.

We can’t go back and erase past mistakes. Sometimes we want to and we try to, but even if you try to erase the mistake (apology, restoration,…), the indention of the pencil is still left after you wipe away the eraser bits. Is the paper still usable? Yes! Can we begin again and do better? Yes!

To model this process for students, I give them a reflection at the end of the year. Part of it is for them to reflect over their own learning and part of it is for me to reflect over my teaching. This requires you to be vulnerable. It requires you to put aside your pride. It requires you to be willing to grow. IT’S NOT EASY! Not every student likes you and not every student will say nice things about you.

Read them.

Learn from them.

Be better!

Page one is the student reflection and page two is their opportunity to give me feedback. Why do I ask kids about learning vs. grades? This is a huge focus of mine throughout the year. I want students to learn how to learn and focus less on what grade they have. This is hard for students, especially the top students who are grade driven! I had a Freshman this year that FREAKED OUT because a teacher entered an assignment as missing and it dropped her from a 96% to a 95% (Ok, this was not her only freak-out about grades, SHE HAD MANY!!!). Now, she was going to be in this teacher’s class later in the day and could address the missing assignment but she was having trouble concentrating on my class because her grade dropped a percent. It was still an A, and it would be remedied in an hours time! UGH! Needless to say her reflection this year said she focused on grades and she said there was nothing I could do to make her focus on learning because she wanted to be Valedictorian and her grades were more important. Our system has failed her and so many others with the same focus. I will keep doing what I do, and try to make students see the value in knowledge. It’s an uphill battle!

Now to my reflection.

Students liked: how quickly I entered grades, that I gave chances to improve, that they could choose during the unit when to complete tasks because it allowed them to work around their schedule, class time to work on skills so they could get help, whiteboard reviews, exit tickets, and a few students LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure (maybe because it was fresh in their mind.) Some told me I was funny and some told me they knew I cared. Some liked that I would dance or sing with them and told them about my life and asked about theirs.

Areas to improve: I was grouchy sometimes and could have angry eyes, it wasn’t fair that students could retake tests because “I worked hard and got it the first time” (Umm… focus on grade student perhaps?). One student told me I played favorites but gave no examples of me doing this so I will need to reflect over that one to see I was unaware of an action. One student was angry that they didn’t pass and blamed me and another was upset with me because I told them to get off their phone every day and they didn’t want to get off their phone. A few students asked that I stop emailing their parents about missing work and redo opportunities.

Things I know I want to do better next year is parent contact, positive and negative. I’m thinking of some kind of newsletter and more positive calls home. We started in remote, then 2 weeks in person, then hybrid, and my usual positive calls home didn’t happen because my calls were more about getting technology situated and seeing why students weren’t joining Zoom.

There are many things I want to continue: flexibility with completion dates, ability to correct or retake, and focus on learning not grades.

I wish I could undo some of the grouchy days (students weren’t wrong about that) but those pencil marks are forever on the paper. I will try to do better next year, which is all I ever ask of my students. Learn from the mistake and do better!

Here is the reflection sheet that I created. Feel free to use (change to your name on the second page) or modify as needed.

No matter what, I loved my students and tried my best to be what they needed. This year was hard and I’m hoping next year will be better!


You should know that!

I was listening to episode #14 of Making Math Moments that Matter. This episode’s guest was Sunil Singh. One, I know I’m super behind on episodes and two, I’m very excited to order Sunil’s book Math Recess.  This post has nothing to do with Sunil, although I’m sure another post will be needed after I read his book.

Either Kyle or Jon (I was using the elliptical so I didn’t back it up to make a note) said they used to tell students “you should know that from previous years.” He went on to say they usually didn’t remember it. I think we can all relate. I know I’ve said that before, or at least thought it. I agree with Kyle and Jon that we shouldn’t use that phrase.

This brought up a thought from my lesson during the last few days, and I think it might be a better way to handle these situations. We introduce the radian circle in Geometry. We don’t assess over it, but we derive it, talking about the components we’ve learned throughout the year. My students always ask WHY are we doing this if it’s not part of our curriculum. I explain to my students about brain research and I tell them about how connections are made in the brain when you encounter new material. While they may not remember everything about the radian circle in the future, the next time they see it, the information they are exposed to can connect to the pathways we have created. Every time we encounter this topic, we strengthen the pathway.

Instead of saying, “you should know this from previous years,” we could say, you have already created pathways in your brain from previous years. Let’s talk about this again and strengthen those pathways. This verbiage empowers students to access previous information without making them feel stupid because they can’t remember it.


Bullied to Bully

This isn’t a story about technology. It’s also a long post, but if you stick with me until the end, maybe it will help you see a few of your students in a different light.

I was visiting with my son a few nights ago about social interactions. I decided to share a story with him. It’s not a story I’m proud of, but it explained a point I was making. After sharing the story with him, I realized that maybe others would benefit from the story too.

When I was in elementary school I was the youngest in my class and the smallest child by far. I was also considered gifted. Now, I’m not certain how that label was given to me, but in reflection, I did learn faster and thought differently than others in my class. I am from a small community and my class probably had a total of 15 students. Some years we combined grades in one classroom. When you have that few children in a classroom, a gifted student sometimes sticks out like a sore thumb. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, without other children, so I interacted with other students more like an adult would. We also didn’t have a lot of money.

So to summarize, I was the small, smart, poor, articulate kid who was an easy target for most students. I was bullied a lot! When I say bullied, I don’t just mean verbally, because that did happen often, but also physically. Once in elementary school, a group of boys took me by the arms and threw me into a concrete wall. I ended up in the emergency room with a concussion. I couldn’t even tell you why it happened. Another time, a student threw a pencil at my head and the lead broke off. I still have the mark under my skin. Another time a student put pins in clay and made clay balls. He would throw them under my seat (and others, he bullied indiscriminately) when I was in the act of sitting down so I would sit on pins. The event that changed everything for me though, happened during my 8th grade year (our school was K-8).

Our teacher left us alone in the room often. One day I had said or done something to upset some boys in my class. I don’t remember what I said or did, but I had angered these boys. When the teacher left the room, 4 boys held me down and set my hair on fire with a lighter. Thankfully only about an inch was singed off, but the event was terrifying for me. To make matter worse, the teacher tried to support these boys instead of me. He would bring up the event often and make fun of me. On the day of our elementary graduation, that teacher made some snarky comment to me about the incident. I decided, at that exact moment, that I would never be bullied again.

Since our building was K-8, we chose which high school to attend. I walked into that high school with a chip on my shoulder and determination. I became the bully! I chose weak people to make fun of because it took the spotlight off of me. I stood up to people, sometimes for good, but sometimes for show. By my sophomore year, people were afraid of me and many didn’t like me. I had a small group of friends, whom I protected with my words as well. I was not bullied in high school. That was my goal. I was also not a nice person in high school. I made others feel like I had felt. That last part wasn’t a conscious outcome; I didn’t set out to hurt others. My goal was to protect myself.

I don’t hold ill feelings against those who bullied me. That hurt has long passed. I hope, for those that I bullied, the hurt has also passed. What I did realize through my experience is that many who bully are trying to protect themselves. What they are doing is wrong, but they need help! Punishment empowers them, builds their image of a badass. I decided in college to be a better person and I was. I found a balance between being stepped on and being a horrible person.

What do I want to you take away from this? Look at the bully. Why are they hurting others? Consequences need to happen for poor actions, but until you know the root of the problem, the bully won’t stop. There are truly cruel and broken people out there who hurt for the pleasure of it. But, I’m convinced that many of our bullies are hurt people protecting themselves and they need someone to help them.

Google EI, ramblings

My year with #GoogleEI

I can’t believe that a year has passed. It seems like yesterday when I was sitting at my computer, waiting to see if I had been selected. I was more than excited when I was selected and the fast and furious adventure began.


What a wonderful group of educators you are surrounded by in the Innovator program. I am amazed at our ideas and desire to make education better. If you follow the #GoogleEI hashtag on Twitter you will see the amazing group of people I have been honored to join.

Copy of Copy of #TOR16 logo.png

I miss my #TOR16 group and wish we could see each other more! I hear other cohorts talk about their group members and now I completely understand the awe and respect they have for each other. This group is amazing!


My innovator project started as an idea to use Google Expeditions in the math classroom. With encouragement from my coaches, it morphed into an online repository of activities to Make Math Not Suck. The name, logo, and website design have gone through many iterations but I am so happy with the results. I love when other teachers send me a message telling me that the projects or questioning activities I’ve shared have helped them. This is what #GoogleEI is all about. Sharing your ideas with the world to make the world a better place. I’ve had the opportunity to share this information at Google Summits, conferences, and with schools. #GoogleEI opens so many doors so you can share more. I want to give a huge shout-out to Shaelynn Farnsworth, my amazing mentor. She has encouraged and challenged me and helped make my project better. I hope I can measure up to her when I become a mentor.

Make Math Not Suck Logo (4) (1)

So… this is the end of my first year as a Google Innovator. I can’t say thank you enough for the experience, the opportunity, the challenge, the collaboration, the support, and most of all the family. I look forward to representing the #GoogleEI group with new ideas.

To my #TOR16 family… I wish we were all closer.  Our academy time together was amazing, and I love running into cohort members at different events.  I love to see everyone’s accomplishments and look forward to seeing how we continue to make education better.


If you are considering applying to be a Google for Education Innovator, GO FOR IT! This has been one of the best decisions of my life!

ISTE17, ramblings, sketchnotes

Reflection from #ISTE17

ISTE17 logo

I was so lucky to attend ISTE again this year. I had even more to look forward to than last year because I knew what to expect. The keynotes were amazing. I was able to sketchnote 2 of them. So powerful and inspiring. Jeb Abumrad was funny and gave us tips about finding our voice and using the Gut Churn feeling to accomplish what we set out to do. Jennie Mageira (a fellow Google Innovator) inspired us to change the story that we tell and embrace who we are and what we have to offer.



Is was able to see 2 of the 3 ignite sessions. These might be my favorite part. I didn’t have my iPad to sketch the first one but the second one I was ready. It was amazing! My friend Tara Martin presented on #booksnaps and she rocked it and my Google Innovator coach Sylvia Duckwork presented #sketchnotes. Sylvia is ALWAYS amazing! Christine Pinto presented on #GAFE4Littles, another amazing person to follow on Twitter.


I also attended some very interesting sessions. I loved the poster sessions and learned more about Minecraft EDU and visited with another educator that also uses Comics in her classroom. I especially like the sessions that present more than one idea, like Matt Miller and Kasey Bell’s Google Classroom session. My favorite had to be Alice Keeler and Jo Boaler (who joined us via video chat). They both have amazing ideas and to have them share together was more than you could ask for.


The “unscheduled” sessions are also amazing. Tara Martin and Tisha Richmond held a #booksnaps session. I sat in and helped teach people how to use Snapchat to create them. My favorite was Wanda Terrel’s 7:45 AM session about Sketchnotes. I loved being with other educators who sketchnote and I learned a few tricks with Procreate that I didn’t know before. I got to sit by Marie-Andre, a friend and Google Innovator from my cohort. So much fun!


CoffeeEDU with Alice at 6 A.M. (yes, you have to be dedicated to go to that one, but it’s worth it) was fun as usual. I met some great educators and got to share my passion for learning.

It was also like a family reunion for my #DitchBook family and my #GoogleEI #TOR16 family. I was able to visit with both groups extensively and meet some other Google Innovators from my state and around the world. It’s alaways hard to leave like minded educators once you are in there presence.


Google Family

Since we were in San Antonio we visited the Alamo and took a boat through the canals. But nothing compares to the energy, knowledge, and collaboration that happens inside that convention center.

Until Chicago next year – So long ISTE17

Google EI, ramblings

Google for Education Innovator #TOR16

I was chosen as a Google Innovator. I’m still in shock, super excited, and a little crazy getting plane tickets, hotel & expediting a passport (don’t let those suckers expire!)


I shared my vision video in a previous post. I’m so excited to be working on a project that will make math suck less (I was more eloquent in my project proposal!) I hope Twitter and blog readers are ready because I plan to take you along for the ride.

I’ll be in Toronto Oct 5-7 to meet our cohort. I can’t wait to collaborate with this amazing group of educators!

I need to give a huge shout out to some folks:

  • my husband Jason (@jasontolen), who encourages me to go after my dreams and supports me every step of the journey.
  • Matt Miller (@jmattmiller) who read my whole application and gave me wonderful feedback.
  • Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) who told me to scrap my first idea and go with my true passion. She was right, the first draft was crap!
  • Shaelynn Farnsworth (@sfarnsworth) who told me this summer that my ideas were good enough and cheered me on along the way.
  • My Algebra 1 team at school who listens to my crazy enthusiasm for Twitter PLNs, project ideas, and edu-heroes & always tries my new ideas.

I just had visions of the Academy Awards: “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

To say I’m excited would be a gross misrepresentation of my enthusiasm level. I can’t believe I get to do this and I know I will come out on the other end a better teacher.