My Teaching Journey

through the intersection of math and middle school

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Giveaway at To the Square Inch

Kate, from To the Square Inch, is giving away a prize package filled with teaching goodies. Head over and enter! It’s got some girly things, as well as some gender-neutral items. If your a guy, enter and give away some of the items to your favorite lady teacher friend.

Items in the giveaway:

  • EOS lip sphere
  • 3 mini BBW hand sanitizers.
  • Scratch and Sniff fruity stickers
  • Pink “Ring Pop” bottle opener
  • R.S.V.P. Multicolor Pens
  • Cupcake shaped paperclips
  • Pink Patterned BINDER CLIPS (my absolute favorite school supply.ever)
  • Mini Note To Self
  • Vera Bradley Cube note pad
  • Strawberry shaped post-its
  • 2 packs of super cute fruity notecards
  • 1 pack of handmade notecards made by my amazing Mama
  • The Sourcebook for Teaching Science
  • Teach Like a Champion Field Guide
  • $5 Starbucks Gift Card

Happy summer! I’ll write more soon about the work I’ve been doing since school ended in May (curriculum writing, planning for a 1:1 classroom, and working on learning targets for next year).

A Change in Position for Next Year

Today our principal told us our teaching teams for next year. I’ll be teaching on a two-person team in seventh grade. Yippee!

I’ve taught math for the last three years–one year in sixth grade and the past two years in eighth grade–so being able to teach seventh grade math will round out my experience in all three grades (but only sort of since the Common Core changes lots of standards).

But wait! I’m on a two-person team, which means I get to teach TWO subjects. My other subject is social studies, and I’m getting more and more excited about it. I was a history major as an undergrad and social studies has always been my first love, although I truly love middle school math topics.

This is what I’m looking forward to next year…

  • My teammate is awesome in every sense of the word.
  • One of the other social studies teachers is as detail-oriented as I am, and we get along famously.
  • Collaborating with other math teachers to further my understanding of high-quality math instruction
  • Collaborating with other social studies teachers. I will have to chance to learn about teaching another subject! So stoked!
  • Collaborating with other content teachers to create awesome interdisciplinary IB units
  • Teaching the same students twice each day. This gives me more time to build relationships and the chance to have a huge positive impact on their learning.
  • I get to learn about the inner workings of seventh graders, who are truly unique animals.

Some of my concerns…

  • Learning new math standards. Since some of the standards will be new, everyone will be learning together, and I can help with standards that are coming down from the eighth grade and standards that are coming up from the sixth grade.
  • Learning social studies content. Is it s cruel joke that they got the guy whose last name is Hussain to teach about Africa and Asia? Just kidding! I’m excited to share my cultural experience with my students. I’m hoping my students can interview my dad about Pakistani culture, and maybe the wife’s sister (who is teaching elementary school in Israel) can be pen pals with my students.

I’ll be content with whomever I teach, on any grade level and in any subject, but I feel very blessed with the way that next year is beginning to take shape.

New Kids on the Block

Every year in April, there is one day to which I look forward. I look forward to it for weeks in advance. I can’t sleep the night before. I get nervous. It’s kinda like when you were a kid and your birthday never seemed to get any closer.

This is how I feel about facilitating a presentation for the UGA middle school education student teachers. I get to do that next Monday. I started working on the presentation a few weeks ago, incorporating a few ideas I had thought of in January. Last year I focused on techniques of effective teachers, using the blogosphere for your own professional development, and standards-based grading. For the techniques of effective teaching, I pulled from a running list that I keep in Google Docs, which I’ve collected from my preservice experience, teaching books, and the blogosphere; feel free to add your comments. I also shared some of my personal brainstorming ideas about teaching; again, feel free to add your comments. I tried to cover too much. Everyone was good until I got the standards-based grading, and then their eyes glazed over.

This year, I’m sticking to the first two topics–techniques of effective teachers and using the blogosphere for your own PD–with a heavy emphasis on the latter, as well as including resources from across the web (both blogs and non-blog resources). The six-panel meme at the top is how I’m going to segue into the section on needing to continue your own PD. Here are some of the ideas I’m including:

If you were presenting to 50 preservice teachers who had just finished their student teaching, what resources would you share with them?


I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for five days, and I’m still not sure exactly what to write. This post is perhaps more for me than for anyone else, but you’re invited to be part of my journey.

Rarely does someone you know pass away, and rarely does their death have as great an impact as the death of Chad Paxson. Chad was a 6th grade social studies teacher and greatly involved in athletics. We taught together my first year when I was on the 6th grade team. Before that he taught 7th grade social studies, and I had subbed for him once or twice before beginning to teach at my school. He was in his mid-30’s.

On Friday afternoon between classes, Chad collapsed in the hallway without a pulse. The teachers around him called 911 and performed CPR. The school was placed on a soft lockdown, meaning everyone was restricted to their classrooms to keep the hallways clear. Chad was rushed to the hospital, but died despite all attempts to save him.

Many of the 6th grade students knew sketchy details of what happened, but most of the rest of the school did not know anything, including many of the teachers. Of course, this didn’t last much beyond the last bell of the day. Our principal was at the hospital with Chad’s wife, so our AP called us to the media center to share the news. The faculty was overtaken by shock, disbelief, and profound sadness.

Despite the incredible amount of grief, this entire experience has made my extremely proud of my colleagues, my students, and my school district. Our administration worked closely with district support personnel (counselors, social workers, and psychologists) to get ready for school on Monday. Schools from all over the district loaned us their counselors to help support our students  this week. There was a care center set up in the media center for students and faculty to visit and grieve. The elementary and middle school counselors that handled student grief in the care center did a truly phenomenal job.

We spent the first hour of the day with our homerooms, sharing memories, crying, and supporting one another. I cried as I read a prepared statement to my students. More than a third of the 8th grade students had Chad as a teacher, many knew him as a coach, and almost every student in the school knew who he was. I was so proud of the way my students handed themselves. A few wanted to express their emotion by making cards to go in a Remembering Box for the family. Several others decided to use the whiteboard to express their feelings. We used part of the board for words and pictures to describe Chad, and another part for words to describe how we were feeling. One of my students, one who didn’t know Chad, had the idea to create a banner for everyone in the school to sign; we got the supplies and made it before leaving homeroom, and I made sure to have our principal pull her out of class to help hang it that afternoon.

My favorite story of the day came via our principal from Chad’s classroom. Our principal, AP (a truly gifted former teacher), and a counselor spent the day in his classroom with his students. The 6th grade schedule had the students in homeroom for an hour, then in their Connections class for an hour, and then back with their homeroom teacher for an academic class. When Chad’s homeroom students returned after Connection, the principal/AP/counselor asked them what they wanted to do in class, and they replied very definitively that they wanted to “Do social studies” because that is what Chad would have wanted them to be doing. So, our AP taught each of Chad’s classes social studies on Monday.

Students throughout the school improved as the day continued. Yesterday (Tuesday), we followed a normal schedule, and for the most part students rose to our expectations to continue school.

Today was Chad’s funeral. Our principal was extremely compassionate, and without hesitation told the faculty on Monday morning that whoever wanted to attend would be able regardless of the time. It was in the middle of the school day, but the district provided subs for the 40+ teachers who attended, as well as about a dozen district administrators to help out at school during the day. We had numerous students absent today to attend the funeral, and the service was packed.

Chad and I never talked deeply about faith, although I know his family attend the same church Hannah and I attend, and his children were in VBS there last summer. Our prayer during this ordeal has been for the Lord’s glory to shine through the darkness of this tragedy and for Him to reveal His presence to those who knew Chad. I’m confidant that Chad would be delighted knowing that, due to his death, others became believers in the message of Christ. The Gospel of John records these words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

We will continue to move forward because that is the way God would have us live our lives to show His love to the world.

Update: The Athens-Banner Herald has an article about Chad’s funeral.

Hello world

Hello world.

I teach middle school. Middle school math. I look forward to getting to know you.

Regards, Nick