This is a heartwarming story. We don't get to tell them often enough. 

I used Geoff Krall's (Author of Necessary Conditions) Where Does a Letter Occur in a Word matching activity as a soft open to our after mid-winter break first day back in my small 9th grade Math class. 

From Geoff: Think about the letter y:




I followed up this with his next question: Think about Q. List all the words you can think of that have the letter q: (perfect for a country where there is a mandatory 15 day quarantine for anyone arriving on island). 

Here is the student lists and distribution graphs:


During their thinking time, some whispering happened, Jose says "I don't think I can use that word." After some back and forth between the students, it is revealed that the q word is part of LGBTQ. I say sure it is legit! "Queer!"comes blurting out. Greta is right on it. "That is me Mon, " (yes, spelling is correct). "I am the B."
Greta gets a big hug from Elizabeth. We are all smiling and feeling good about our intersection of "mathing"and being safe.

Mind you this is a Caribbean Island that is very Christian. I am positively beaming from the courage, the opportunity, and the acceptance. This student feels safe in her little math community. 

Necessary Conditions: Heart open, math happening. 






 New School.

My year feels like it starts in August. That is the "new" year for me. After 24 years in the same huge comprehensive public high school, (with two odd years, one for a leave where I ended up starting this blog and teaching 4 sections of Algebra 1 in my daughters' local high school, and one for a year teaching in Ghana) I returned to my dream job of teaching overseas for good. Accepting a job for as long as they will have me. 

How to go back over 80 days of lessons to look for the highlights? How in the heck do you do that? My lesson plan book isn't detailed enough, and having three preps to look through each set of Google Slides is way too daunting. Oh so now a new idea is arising, at the end of the day/week, jot the best of, worst of. Do any of you already do that? Make notes to yourself? "Do that again!" "Meh." "Change for next year!" I never do the first two, and absolutely do the the last one.

What I kept up from remote learning even though we were face to face:

  • Google Slides. They got better and more useful. I was able to make copies from day to day and they kept ME organized. 












What I integrate more often that has made a huge difference:
  • Clothesline Math for my Foundations Class. These 9th graders can do complex thinking when a task is given to them in the structure of Clothesline Math. For example,  My students can do this easily when physically presented on a two long double clotheslines:
  • And if given sqrt(4x) = 21, they can do that too (I was just playing with them) 
    But on their test: 5(x-20) = 44 -x  had only a 50% solve rate. 
    So now how to move that to independent work moving the information systematically onto paper.  (I even invited my AP in to watch)
  • Visually Random Groups with Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces--thank you to the #MTBoS for the encouragement.
  • Visual Patterns--thanks Fawn and everyone
What I have been learning:
  • My students have PTSD from too much self-learning. I know how much we all love Desmos, and it works especially well when we build an AB that is specific to our students and they can see themselves as part of the class. I have been giving less tech stuff (even did a few constructions by hand) and more hands-on activities. I know some students groan and HATE interactive notebooks, AND since they only have one or two classes that use them (usually science is the other), I feel like they can handle it. I make sure they understand the why behind everything I hand them. (Funnily enough, they cry, "Miss, the trees, the trees." and I have to grouse back, if I hear one more cry over recycled paper and you went out on your boat or jet ski this weekend, we are going to have to have a chat--rich kid island life)
  • That I may not be new and shiny and know how to present in a new and shiny way, And, I am a seasoned professional. That doesn't mean I know it all, I learn so much from my newer colleagues. What it means is that I can recover very quickly from my mistakes and course correct on a dime. One grace in not being new and shiny.
What feels good:
  • My students are very open to trying new things, even the INBs, (They have never been invited to stand and write on the windows) As are my middle school colleagues. I am seen as resource, not a threat. I love this. While my IB colleagues are open to ME asking anything, they do not seek out the "thinking classroom" way. I don't know if that is the pressure of IB, or if it is an "if it ain't broke" attitude. (I did get them completely hooked on Delta Math) An example is Point-Slope form of a line. I teach all the 10th graders. This is not the most confident group and have been seen that way since middle school as I am told by those who have taught them before me. I watched them struggle with the point-slope form--they are not ready. My IB colleague told me he wouldn't "waste" one hour teaching that to his incoming 11th graders. I said, "you will do it." I will prepare them, They will be more confident and more willing to learn a year from now. Let's just know you will spend a productive hour they can grasp on Point-Slope form,  and I will keep building their thinking capacity. 
  • Going back to not being new and shiny, I find solace in knowing what I know, what WE know, that I learn from you all.
This is a great place to stop for now. Part of what makes it hard to blog is thinking you have little of value to add, and then you start typing. Thanks Carl Oliver, I hit send. 

Note, this was written On October 25, 2020. I will update for my new year's blog bc @druinok is the queen of inspiration. Hello Dear Friends! I don't know what will be the outcome of this post, will it be more math-y or more adventure? You will have to read on to see.

Being At A New School:

I highly recommend it. There is nothing to up one's game then being the new teacher. I haven't been the newest to a school in my-daughter-just graduated-from-college-and-I-had-her-after-working-at-the-same-school-for-two-years years. I am more gracious with myself and making a greater effort to observe without judgment. 

Benefits of being newest: None. JK. There are many:feeling like you were hired with a purpose, not leftovers. feeling that honor as a talent, as a professional, and that your Master's Degree means something and your self driven PD has not been for naught. Being re-inspired by observing new colleagues, learning new routines, and ways to engage and care for students. I could not have done this without the support, intelligence, and care of the MathTwitterBlogOsphere, I truly mean it. 

While I have lots of favorite materials, I am mostly limiting myself to my comfort routines: opener that lends itself to "how does this make sense and now-I-am-less-anxious to learn something new," our everything notebooks, (oh Miss Amy, the trees, the trees), and the "Welcome Mat." I have three preps, Gr 9 Math Foundations (grade 8 standards), Integrated Math 1 (10th graders that had Foundations last year) and Integrated Math 2 (10th grade). I am trying to look through everything with a new lens. (Though relying on last years resource pages for Math 1 and 2). 

The Ss are keenly aware that I have a lot of energy, that I truly care about their welfare and am passionate about math education. They are however, not sure that their nonlinear, non-my-way-or-the-highway, teaching is the sure thing to fill them full of the handy knowledge that will make them successful IB students. As in "Keep, Change, Flip." I am like, WTF? (I didn't say that, but I wanted to!) What are you talking about? 'We know how to divide fractions Miss." But do you know why? Are you supposed to have more or less pieces? Can you draw a picture? There is so MUCH I want to share with them, working with the less confident students forces me to slow down, and take apart the learning step by step.

Having to be your best self everyday is refreshing. (tiring too, sleep 9.5 to 10 hours on weekend nights!) Not making any assumptions about your students, where they come from, how they think, what they think is refreshing too. 

Public vs. Private School:

If you are still reading this, I want to share a little about the IB (International Baccalaureate) and the school. I am at a private 2-3 yrs old to grade 12 international school with 820 students on Cayman Island. To say it is different from the 1750 Students at the comprehensive public high school school I taught at in Northern California for all those years is an understatement. I have gone from 140 students for .83FTE, to 45 for 1.0 FTE. I work longer hours, have more preps and more meetings, homeroom, and houses, and I am not  nearly as exhausted. We are face to face, what a blessing! 


Hello Friends! I hope you and yours are healthy and taking care of each other.

Yesterday we conducted teaching interviews online. From years of experience both on interview panels and being a successful interviewee, I thought I would share some pointers with you. Please share and please let me know when you get the job!

PS These are all real examples, I did not make any of them up!

Please do NOT:

1) assume teaching is causal and show up in jeans or wrinkled clothing. (Many re-entry programs offer free professional clothing)


2) start every sentence with Me, My, I

as in "My students love me or when I took the SAT..." or when asked how you will contribute to a team say, "I don't know..."

3) assume all students are created equal or have access to the same resources.











4) ask "Where are you located?" or "How many students are in your school?" or "What physical safety measures are in place in the classroom?"

5) answer tech questions generically as in "I love computers," and "Computers are very useful."
and finally, oh friend, when conducting an online interview, please don't show the shelves in your frat house living room.

Please Do these things instead:


  •  Do your research! All districts and schools have websites. Many have WASC reports or, in California, we have the The California School Dashboard. Check out a local newspaper for the school sports pages or what how the Oddessy of the Mind team did in their last competition. What was the last play, musical, or band performance of the school? Find a friend of a friend of a friend whose kid goes to the school. Know what curriculum they use in advance.


  • Show that you are committed to healthy, positive relationships with students. Be specific. Mention a student by name, a colleague by name, or talk about how you connected with a student's family. 


  • Have a good failure story. Make sure you talk about how you corrected course and who you reached out to help you.
  • Show how you are a team player. Mention common assessment, mention a time when you collaborated with another teacher or team of teachers. Be willing to contribute and learn.
  • Have some specific strategies for working with special populations (I mean they are all special, right?) Include awareness of limited English speakers, students with IEPs or 504s. 
  • Make sure you know the standards in your area of learning and especially the social/emotional curriculum that matches. 
  • Don't be afraid to be new to teaching. Your experience is important, whether it is coaching, military, or retail. Your work history shows your work habits, your ability to work with people, and take direction. 
  • Don't be afraid to show your years, and years, and years of experience. This is your moment! 
  • Remember that you are more than being interviewed, you are also making sure the organization is a fit for you. Have FUN! Smile! Know that even if you don't get the job, you will learn something valuable. 

Good Luck!!! 
Image result for reefer and smokeToday, K came to class after lunch reeking like weed. (Yeah, I live in California, I know what it smells like). I call the campus supervisors and ask that they come get him, his smell is that distracting. I am about to text that he left his phone (Why would he leave his phone? How many kids would forget a phone, unless the consequences of what is on his phone is worse than it getting stolen or him having to live without it for 24 hours?) when I get this text from the supervisors, "He admitted smoking. We gave him something to eat so he wouldn't smell, can he come back to class?" What! No he can't come back to class! The students would all want to know what happened, who said what, blah, blah, blah...Talk about distracting. And yet...he wanted to come back to class. What is the more thoughtful moment? As a parent, what do you want for your son or daughter? Done the road, in one year, two years, as a young adult, will K think, "Zimmer is cool, she let me smoke weed and come back to class." or will he stop and say, "I could have gone through school stoned, but it wasn't worth it?"

Things like this used to be clear cut. Not so much anymore. Where is a student safest? (K spent the rest of the period in the student adviser's office.) Could K have benefited more from my math help or my insistence that he doesn't come to school stoned? I think I know the answer to that. Thanks for letting me rant.

When K returns, I will make sure he knows that I love him, that I won't let this incident define him for me, and let him know I want the best for him.