A Dangerous Place: Old vs. New

I’m ready for students on Monday.

This year I’m teaching:

  • Three sections of algebra
  • One geometry
  • One IB math studies

Planning for the first week was awkward because I had fairly solid lesson plans from last year, which has never happened to me. During year two I had some ideas from the previous year, but because of a transition from Powerpoint to SMARTnotebook, I didn’t have anything prepared.

I feel like my slides from last year are dirty; I don’t wanna touch ’em, it feels weird not having to start from a blank SMARTnotebook slide.

I’ll be honest… When I came back to school early last week, turned on my computer, navigated to Algebra 1 -> Chapter 1 -> Week 1 -> Day 1 the thought of not even looking through the slides till students were in the room crossed my mind. “This year could be easy.” I told myself, “Last year was great, what do I really need to change?”.

That didn’t feel right though.

Last year, I invested hours into my lessons and slides each week, I was working through the content and planning a couple days ahead of the students. Even though I haven’t met my students this year, I already feel a disconnect when thinking about reusing every lesson and set of slides from last year. There isn’t any excitement on my end.

Yesterday, my school had its yearly kickoff staff meeting. One of the administrators spoke to me. They threw up a slide saying change 10% of what you do each year; I can do that. I’ve already gone through and mixed things up for the first week. I didn’t start from scratch, but did make some changes that felt right, my first week feels like it has a nice polished shine to it now.

Some of the motivation behind working so hard last year was to make my life easier during years three/four/five. It is ironic now because I want to keep growing and those slides feel they are impeding on my growth as a teacher.

I believe this year will be big in defining where I go next: Will I be a teacher that uses 20 year old lessons and resources? Or one that spends 6 hours at school on Saturday/Sunday planning? I don’t want to be either of those, but something in between the two.

Stay tuned.


Day 5: Pick A Point

In Algebra we picked up textbooks and had a short lesson on Order of Operations. I opened up the discussion with this problem:


Around 90% of the class answered correctly. Now that I think of it, there probably was not much need for students to further review Order of Operations. The only real issue students ran into was going from multiplication to subtract when division was still part of the expression.

Geometry also picked up textbooks, then we went though Dan Meyer’s Pick A Point. I really enjoyed hearing the different ways students described where a line was without any structure.


Explain to the class which line you are looking at.
Explain to the class which line you are looking at.


How about now?
How about now?
Messy... but easier.
Messy… but easier.