Pay Attention to Patterns of Participation

In 2012, as a new teacher, I still remember my first staff meeting.  I was one of many new staff members, including our new principal.  As a staff, we took a moment to think about the vision of our school.  What should a thriving high school look like? Feel like? Sound like?  I was unafraid and raised my hand.  “Every week should feel like Homecoming week with all the excitement and energy it brings”.  The principal was quick to reply with a smirk, saying “spoken like a true rookie.”

I bring up this story because I believe the way voice and participation patterns exist in adult spaces greatly affects a school and organization.  Creating equitable learning spaces in classrooms begins with an equitable learning space among adults.

Thinking back now about that first staff meeting, I wonder how I had the nerve to raise my hand in front of nearly ninety staff members.  Where did I get the nerve?  Part of it, I would argue, is the fact that I was truly clueless and didn’t know any better.  But more than that, I think a large part of that nerve was because of my identity.  As a white male, society had always told me that my voice carries weight and there would be less judgement toward me if I was wrong.  I did not feel afraid or fear being judged.

That was then, in a staff that was almost completely white.  Now, I find myself working at a school with about half of the staff being people of color.

Staff meetings, both large and small, are noticeably different.  Agendas are carefully crafted with a lens toward equity:

  • all staff members taking turns facilitating meetings
  • creating small groups
  • giving time for each person to write first before sharing with a partner
  • giving each person to a minute to share their thinking, not more
  • providing sentence frames to shape the conversation

Most importantly, each meeting is shaped by the norms of our school, one of them being “step up, step back” and another “pay attention to patterns of participation”.  As a staff, a department, or a working group, we consistently monitor our participation.  It is expected that those of us that could have more status – more experience, more expertise, male, or white – become aware of our participation and do what we can to allow more voices to contribute to conversation.

Second, we process-check each meeting in our closing moves.  We reflect on whether we met all of our norms and values including leaving space for everyone’s voice.  Did anyone talk too much?  Did any specific group talk too much or too little?

There is no perfect answer to creating equitable voice in adult spaces, but I am really proud of the work my school does to move toward more diverse participation.  Next time, you’re in a staff meeting or department meeting pay attention to the different people and groups that are talking.

  • men/ women
  • white/ non-white
  • new/ experienced
  • content area

Create a conversation, establish a set of norms, check yourselves every time.  The process is never done.

Substitute? No, I’m a visiting teacher.

Recently, a colleague was out from school, and I decided to check-in on the class during my prep period to make sure everything was running smoothly.  As I walked in I heard a student say, “no mister, when we have a sub our teacher let’s us have our phones out.”  The teacher quickly replied, “I see.  Well I’m not a sub, though, I’m actually visiting teacher today.”  This was one of the wittiest quips I’ve ever heard and loved it.  He had everything more than under control.

After returning the next day, my colleague emailed our team about her new strategy for when she was gone.

“On sub days I have been trying to track student work completion and hold students accountable. I ask that the sub sign their work packets only if students have been working the whole time and not copying from others. For obvious reasons I can’t be 100% sure kids weren’t copying, but overall the sub signature system seems to work. I then make a graph of student completion by class and show it as an opening the next day. I ask students to reflect on how they did; what was successful, what could they improve, how they felt in class, etc.”

Here’s the difference of work completion from the first time she was gone to the second.Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 8.11.57 PM Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 8.12.12 PM

I love how this strategy increases accountability as well as the opportunity for students to reflect on why working with a substitute can be valuable.  Whether we end up with an average substitute or a visiting teacher, I think this idea is exciting and worth trying!

What other ideas do you use to motivate students when you are absent?

A day in the life of a teacher

This is a story that answers the question – “How was your day?”  I often answer “it was fine” or “fun day with the kids!” because there a million different details, emotions, triumphs, and failures that occur each and every day.  This day, though, seemed like an extraordinarily normal day.

The day begins with me arriving to school at 7:20, already with a knot in my stomach because I am ten minutes behind my normal routine.  I need to put the final touches on my lessons and figure out what I’m going to do in my advisory class because, at the moment, I had nothing planned (not a good place to be in but something you become skilled at figuring out as a teacher).  


I walk into the school and before I even get to my classroom a coworker says, “Hey Casey, can you come take a look at this?”  He asks about my input on an awesome idea we’ve been developing since a district math PD from a few weeks back.  I give him the my two cents without giving away that I’m internally FREAKING OUT over the work I need to complete before the kids show up.  He doesn’t have a clue about my internal affairs but he’s awesome and the idea is awesome, so I stick around.  


I walk into my class to prepare for the day.  Quick – make the slides, write the objectives on board, and finish the opening question before the students…. “EYYY, MISTERRRRR” (first student enters at 7:39).  Do my best to have a conversation, help kids with homework, as well as finish planning before class starts.

1st Period

In my frantic rush before school, I made groups for the students to prepare for their upcoming test.  Of course, one student says “I’m not working with that group.”  I plead, I beg, I negotiate.  Nothing.  Okay, you win.  I change the groups slightly to make things work.  The groups work really well together!  Next thing I know, one student has ventured to my desk and finds a picture of me with my family.  “How old were you?”  “Is this your dad?” “Is this your brother?” “How old is your brother?” – you know, normal prepare-for-math-test questions.  After a moderately brief interview the students continue to work but decide my family should join them (see pic).  Class finishes up fairly well.  I feel good about the class.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 6.13.40 PM
My family joins group for the math review.

2nd Period

Shit.  I’ve got one period to figure out what I’m doing for advisory.  Growth mindset – it’s my thing.  Let’s go with that.  I tell myself that I can create a lesson that will have to suffice for today, and I can always build on it in the future.  The knot in my stomach is back.  I watch a video and create an activity for kids that speak every level of English.  Magic! (or crap, depending on who you ask).  I run downstairs to print for advisory and find that my planning partner has printed the documents I need for the next day (thank the Lord).  I run back to class, proud that I was able completely avoid a panic attack and produce something of value.

3rd Period

The bell rings.  The phone rings.  “Mr. Casey, I’m just calling to let you know class C (the class about to come to me) might be a little late because they all worked so hard I gave them all Huskies!” Huskies are little statements of accomplishments when kids are caught doing great things.  I’m super excited.  Let’s keep this positive day alive!



I don’t even have all of my kids in my class yet.  Why is the alarm going off between classes?  Did someone pull the alarm?  Is this like Parkland, Florida? Dumb thought.  Is it a dumb thought?  Let’s get all my kids to my room, then go outside.  COME ON KIDS!!!  Okay, everybody outside.  I don’t have my green paper (to hold up when I know all the kids are with me).  Who cares.  Let’s go.  Student crying in the stairwell.  “Are you okay?”  We still need to go outside.  “No, mister”.  “I want to hear you but we need to go outside”.  We go outside.

My students are all scattered at this point and I try my best to wrangle them in.  “Mister, do you think mutations are good for humans or bad?”  “What?”  The student asks again.  “This is not the time to ask me that question”.  Student 1 hits coca-cola out of student 2’s hand and laughs.  We get the go-ahead to head back into the school.

Class C – the class that was just previously ALL awarded Huskies – now resemble that of an unsupervised 3rd grade recess in my classroom.  I decide it’s time for meditation.  “We are going to try to refocus.  You can copy down the opening, you can put your heads down and sleep, but lets be quiet and try to focus.  Let’s take three minutes.”  We take 6 minutes because I’m putting out four different dumpster fires happening all at once.  (I’m actually quite proud of 6 minutes).

We finally start class, kids complain about groups but mostly work pretty well together!  Granted, they didn’t finish nearly as much because so much time was lost to the fire alarm.  Bell rings.  Success!  Then I notice a protractor glued to the table with whiteout. Great.  “Who did this?”

4th period – Advisory

My already rushed, under-prepared advisory lesson began by the two culprits of the whiteout fiasco cleaning up one of the tables.  Although it was rather distracting to start class I felt this small ounce of pride in making students repair the damage they caused.  Advisory continues.  It goes fine.  Not the lesson of the year, but I’ve taught worse lessons.


12:05 I hold one student back because I notice that he has not been getting along with another student who is in his math class and in our advisory.  He gives his side of the story.  I listen and try to give him feedback.  We come up with some positive actions steps which includes me touching base with the other student.

12:12 I get 15 minutes of peace.  Pretty sure I just ate my PB&J quietly and stared at a wall.

12:27 A student walks in that NEVER comes in to lunch.  Actually he is usually absent a handful of times during the week.  He comes in and we chat about life for about 15 minutes.

12: 42  Another student comes in early to class (class starts in 8 minutes).  This student is newer to the school and has very limited English at the moment.  I introduce the students and start to clean up the room and get ready for the next class.  I overhear the first student telling the second how important it is to try hard and that if you want to learn, you will.  If you don’t try, then you’re not going to learn.  My heart swells just writing about it. SO AWESOME

5th period

Bell rings and students show up.  A student shows up and makes a game out of trying to throw oranges into a cardboard box.  Orangeball?  I give him a look, he makes the orange in the box and gives me an I-told-you-so look.  Another student comes running into class dripping sweat and grabs some napkins.  Students get to work quickly!

Another student – usually absent from my 1st period class – shows up in my 5th period class.  He’s kind of distracting but he is being quite respectful just trying to get to know other students.  “What class are you supposed to be in?”  “It doesn’t matter.”  I check the schedule and give his teacher a call.  “He’s supposed to be in the office.”  Ah.  That explains it.  I call the office to let them know.  I pull up a chair and have him work with a group until the AP shows up. “I wasn’t even distracting anyone!”  A part of me is sad because he was engaging well with students but I owe it to his teacher and whoever he was disrespecting that there was follow through.

Class is working so well I change my lesson plans and let them continue to work together and teach each other until the end of class.  I gave out a Huskie to the other teacher in the room and tell everyone to write a Huskie for someone in their group because they worked so hard!

6th Period

Class starts fairly quickly.  I note that when the bell rang there was only one opening out (showing they are ready to start class).  A student leader starts class, another randomly yells nonsense.  Take a minute break, dude.  The other teacher in the class tells me the teacher across the hall is also in the hallway taking a breather – that kind of day.

Mister, I want to take my test.  Mister, I want to check my grades.  Mister, is this right?  I pause the class and tell them how great they are at asking questions and being aware of what they need but terrible at timing.  I get the classes started.  Some work better than others but overall it felt, meh to good-meh.

End of the day

Take attendance, start looking at tomorrow, look at and respond to emails, clean up the classroom.  I try to get out of school early around 4:30 because I have tutoring at 7PM where near where I live, 45 minutes away, and a good chunk of papers to grade waiting for me at home.

How was my day?  It was fine.

Understanding the Importance of Fixed Mindset

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 4.57.57 PMNow that grad school has finished up, I have more time to reflect on the multitude of great experiences that took place over the last year.  One of the best fanboy moments came when I was able to meet with Carol Dweck.  I was working on a curriculum centered around growth mindset and my teammate and I were lucky enough to get 30 minutes to bounce ideas off of the celebrity known as Dweck.

My main take away from the meeting was that mindset is much more complex than many educators portray it to be.  For example, the talking points around growth mindset tend to be “growth mindset is good” and “fixed mindset is bad”.  As teachers, we emphasize the importance of developing a growth mindset and communicate they need to have the proper mindset in order to find success.

Walking away from my meeting with Dweck, I realize that fixed mindset gets a bad rap.  She explained that fixed mindset isn’t this awful thing that we need to get rid of at all costs; instead, she talked about how fixed mindset is your mind’s natural reaction to new and challenging situations.  It is your mind’s natural defense mechanism.  By asking students to get rid of a fixed mindset we are asking them to become inhuman and ignore their body’s natural reactions.

Instead, she proposes teaching students to become aware of the moments in which fixed mindset presents itself.  “Give a name to your fixed mindset”, she said.  Recognize that it is a part of you and when it shows up, acknowledge it by name and thank it for trying to protect you.  Tell it that you need to push past that uncomfortable feeling for the moment because there is an opportunity to grow.

As an example, I named my fixed mindset Jeremiah.  I was at IKEA earlier this week.  My first time there. Guys.  It’s super overwhelming.  I’m a small town boy and this building was bigger than my town.  I wandered my way around and finally got to the nightstand/ dresser section, which is what I was looking for.  I was finally there, and I didn’t know how I was supposed to buy the items I really wanted.  I snapped my friends, telling them how dumb IKEA was and seriously considered just leaving and going to Target.  I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do.  I was sweating.

I didn’t know it in the moment, but these are the feelings that arise when fixed mindset is afoot:  stress, being overwhelmed, anxiety, frustration.  I didn’t know my way around the store and rather than asking an employee and risking looking stupid I kept to myself for WAY too long.  Finally, I went up to an employee and asked “I’m so confused.  How do I buy a dresser?”.  I hadn’t formally acknowledged Jeremiah, but I did finally decide that to figure this out I needed to risk looking stupid to learn how to buy the furniture I needed.  In the end, they explained it to me and, sure enough, now I know how to buy furniture from IKEA (yay me!)

So next time you talk to students about growth and fixed mindset, don’t hate on fixed mindset.  Instead, have students give their fixed mindset a name and help them become more aware of the moments fixed mindset arises in their life.  You can always start with yourself.  When do you find yourself getting defensive or upset?  Is your body just trying to protect you from failure and/ or looking stupid?  Once you become aware of the moments your mindset is fixed, it’s easier to consciously alter them into moments of growth.

Learning is Hard

One dark evening a man was on his hands and knees under a street light looking through the grass.
A pedestrian asked what he was looking for.
“The keys to my car.” replied the man.
Having some time and feeling helpful, the pedestrian joined the man in his search.
After a while, with no success, the pedestrian asked: “Where were you when you lost your keys?”
“Over there by my car.” the man gestured.
The pedestrian was puzzled. “Why are you looking for them here?”
The man without keys explained: “The light’s better!”

Why is it in education that we continually look for answers in the wrong place?

We give homework, tests, and assignments then grade students on their work.  When they don’t measure up to our expectations we encourage them to develop better habits and we talk to parents, then we move on to the next unit.  We decide the trouble lies somewhere in the work ethic of the student, the lack of support from home, or the general difficulty the student has “doing school”.

We shine the light on their ability to follow our rules and search for remedies that will allow the student to get “back on track”, neglecting the complexity that is human life.  Rather than meaningfully understanding the needs of students and responding to them, we focus on the limited time we have with students in class and expect them to figure out what they need to improve on their own.  

We seldom look for ways to deeply understand and connect with students and the ways in which they learn.  Once they are beyond the door of our classroom, it’s on them to do the learning, and if they can’t handle it, it’s their own fault.  Why is this the case?

Learning is hard.

True learning is hard and messy and takes a lot of time.  Honestly, thinking about a hypothetical classroom in which my most struggling students receive A’s gives me a panic attack because of the chaos, coordination, and deep focus it would take for me to help them find success.  The same can be true about searching for keys in the dark: it can seem impossible, but if that’s where you need to focus your attention, it appears to be a waste looking anywhere else.

I’m not arguing that it is the job of the teacher to do everything for students.  I’m simply arguing that giving them a C on a paper with comments is not enough for a student to do better on the next paper.  Earning a D on a math test and saying “you need to study harder next time” doesn’t help a student prepare for the next test.

I don’t have an answer to this dilemma, but I think it is important to admit just how difficult learning actually is and take one step toward embracing the messiness that is teaching.  It is time to stop looking at test scores and expecting students will change on their own.  It is time to stop looking under the street light and expecting we will find our keys.


Choosing Whichever Comes Last

We’ve all heard the commercial.  Buy a new vehicle and get some kind of 10 year/ 100,000 mile warranty.  When I was younger, I remember being curious about how it can be both 10 years and 100,000 miles under warranty only to find out that the warranty is covered until whichever happens first.  This makes sense for a business model, but I find this idea of “whichever comes first” creeps into our daily decision making and causes many of us to stop short of our true potential.

These thoughts came to me during a run.  I was out for a quick run and I told myself I was going to run for three songs then turn back around.  As the third song ended, I looked ahead and saw a side road about a quarter mile ahead.  I had the option to reach my goal of running for three songs or to push on for just a bit more.  I chose the latter.

The first issue many people face in reaching their potential is not setting a goal.  It is very unlikely to grow or even feel accomplished if you don’t have a goal in mind.  The second issue is that often people are satisfied with reaching their goal and, once they reach it, stay stagnant.

When given the option of 10 years or 100,000 miles I challenge you to choose whichever comes last.  Run to the next street, then one hill more, then finish that song.  Get your degree, get the job that you’ve dreamed of, but don’t ever stop striving for the next step.  You are bound to fail or come up short sometimes, but its the only way you know you gave it your all.  Learn from it, and get after it again.  Goals are great motivators, but they are just the beginning.  Greatness in school, in work, in relationships, and in life happen when you’re given two options and you choose whichever comes last and whichever takes the most work, reflecting on your journey and constantly preparing for the next challenge.

Starting the School Year with Struggle and Collaboration


You know that feeling – the summer is quickly winding down; the peaceful time with family and friends is replaced with the anxiety and uneasiness of a new school year.  Perhaps you’re not worrying because you have a routine; you have a go-to plan that has worked for years. Perhaps you do not worry because the start of the school year is as simple as assigning seats, a quick welcome, and going over the syllabus.

Being the fourth year of my teaching career, I have not really developed any tried and true methods, and I am not a big fan of imposing rules and expectations on the kids right off the bat.  Instead, my planning stemmed from something Dan Meyer said to me when I asked him how to get a group of kids so engaged and thinking critically:

The way your students think and talk about math on the first day of school doesn’t imply they will need to think and talk about it the same way in April or May.

Just like the growth mindset for individuals, a classroom and a group of students as an entity can be developed over time.  Recognizing the ideal class will never be handed to me on the first day of school I decided to ask the question – how do I help students take the first step?

ACTIVITY ONE –  How do I get students to collaborate about math in a meaningful way?

  1. Make sure you have students sitting in groups.  If you want students to collaborate you need a environment conducive to doing so.


2. Hand out a piece of paper to each student and tell them:

Today we are going to practice being artists!  How many of you feel like you are decent artists?” (take a show of hands)

How many of you feel like you’re definitely not artists?” (again a show of hands)

I need you to get out a pencil.  In a second I am going to put up the picture that I need you to draw” (don’t start with the picture on the screen because their reaction is hilarious when you show them).

You will spend three minutes drawing an image to the best of your ability.  It does not need to be perfect, but I want you to do your very best

This is a perfect activity for the first day because they will still do almost anything you ask!  Mostly they’re confused why we are drawing in math class.


3. Throw this image on your screen and tell them “Ready, go!”

  • Here’s a link to the larger image: Train Pictrain
  • There most likely will be an uproar because many of the students are having a panic attack.  Just remind them “I won’t let you fail.  I  just want you to do your best”


4. Give students students about a minute to draw, circling the room saying “I’m seeing some awesome works!  Keep it up!”  After a minute tell the kids to put down their pencils.I want you to grab your paper with your left hand [pause and demonstrate it for the kids] and pass it to the person on your left.  You should now have a new image in front of you.  I want you to keep going where the last person left off. Go!”

  • An interesting thing happens at this point.  The students have met their first struggle of the year.  They are forced to deal with someone else’s work – maybe good, maybe bad.  Either way, they are forced to look at a situation in sometimes a very different way than they approached it.  Doesn’t this sound exactly like what we want from students in a classroom?
  • After the initial struggle of trying to figure out someone else’s drawing you see students…collaborating!  They are asking the person before them how they started or sometimes what they were looking at.  One student grabbed their partner’s paper and started drawing but after a few seconds the partner reached over and rotated the paper 180 degrees saying “you should probably look at it this way”.  


5. Repeat this process giving students 45 – 60 seconds to draw before switching again.

  • I had groups of four so I gave students about 60 seconds, then 45, 45, and 45.  Not only do you end up with collaboration; students are able to flex their creativity as well!

Example Train DrawingExample TrainExample Student Train 2         

6. After the activity take the time to reflect on the important lessons.

A.  Did you notice…

  •    Point out the use of collaboration to make sense of the first person’s drawing.
  •    Tell them about other observations you made while they were working.

B. Why did that happen?

  • Ask the students why they felt the need to collaborate.

C. Does it happen in life or does it happen at home?

  • Ask students to tie the drawing activity to life.  Make sure you give them time to think, and let them come up with the answers.

D. How can we use this?

  • What does this look like in a classroom?  What is the value of collaboration?



  1. Have students flip the page over and assign partners.  Students need to choose who is person A and who is person B.


2. Explain to them they will only need one pencil and one piece of paper.  Person A will be in charge of the pencil and person B will be in charge of the paper.

  • Tell the students:

Person A, your task is easy; all you are allowed to do is put the pencil to the page or lift it up.  Person B, you will be in charge of the telling them when to lift the pencil up and when to put it down.  Person B, you are also in charge of the paper.  You will be drawing an image by moving the paper below the pencil.  In a second, I am going to tell person B what you will be drawing; person A, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes.

  • Like anytime you give directions, you probably want to go through these directions two more times so everyone is on the same page.  If you have the time to model it for the students, that usually helps too.


3. Tell person A to cover their eyes, then on the board write the word – CAR – then immediately erase it.  Give students 2 or 3 minutes to complete the task.

Drawing of poorly sketched car
If you’re lucky you’ll get some sweet pics that look something like this.
  • Some students struggle with the idea that they are completely in charge (person B) and some students are frustrated by not having any idea of what the end result will be (person A).  What happens though, is a cooperation between the two partners to overcome a challenge.  By keeping the image simple and fairly vague it impossible for students to fail.  Use this activity to talk with students about overcoming challenges and developing strategies.  In fact, laugh will the students about their struggles.


4. After the activity take the time to reflect on the important lessons.

A.  Did you notice…
B. Why did that happen?
C. Does it happen in life or does it happen at home?
D. How can we use this?


These activities did more to set up a positive and collaborative environment than I could have hoped.  My honors classes use each other as resources to the point where I feel like I’m not needed!  It allows me to rethink how I am utilized in the classroom and focus more time on students that need more one on one help.  My regular classes for the first time are actually talking!  I’ve always preached collaboration with little to no success, but now I have students comparing answers and going to each other for help.  By no means is it the perfect environment, but like Dan Meyer said, the students in October still have six months to get there.

These ideas are not completely my own.  Each of them were developed from the Link Crew mentality – one that encourages learning through activities, then having discussion about how the activity ties to real life.  This is the book that contained these ideas.  I encourage you to buy it if you’re looking for ways to spice up your classroom.

Where is our advertising?

The other day I was watching TV (which is a rarity these days) and this commercial came on: I Knew One Day. Watching it gives you a sense of pride, a sense of being part of something special and bigger than yourself.  You can have your opinions about politics and the military, but at that moment I was a little let down that I didn’t make the choice to be part of the amazing Air Force team.  Whoever’s job it was to make that pitch sold me.  Well done.

A few days after watching that commercial I was having a conversation with a student and, being a high school teacher, the inevitable question “what’s your plan for after high school?” came up.  She smiled and said, “Well, I was thinking about being a teacher, but my mom told me that it would be a bad idea”.  Dagger – to – my – heart.

I can make the argument that the mom is right.  Going into teaching is a bad idea.

  •  If you are someone who wants to teach the same way it has always been taught, teaching is not for you
  • If you are someone who thinks teaching is a simple way to work with kids and get paid, teaching is not for you
  • If you are someone who enjoys working 40 hour weeks, teaching is not for you
  • If you are someone who thinks teaching would be great because you get summers off, teaching is not for you
  • If you are someone who thinks working most jobs is too taxing and you were always good at school so why not, teaching is not for you.

I can also make the argument that mom is wrong. Going into teaching is an amazing idea.

  • If you are creative, teaching is for you.
  • If you are passionate about – quite literally – changing the world, teaching is for you.
  • If you are someone that loves chasing dreams with endless potential, teaching is for you.
  • If you are someone that embraces failure and the growth that comes from it, teaching is for you.
  • If you are someone that loves to learn from others, be challenged by others, be stressed by others, all for the sake of becoming a better human being, teaching is for you.
  • If you are someone who loves ever changing technology, teaching is for you.
  • If you are a leader, teaching is for you.

Thinking about the Air Force commercial, I am upset that education doesn’t have an advertising department – no budget to spread the word.  I can envision a similar commercial where we talk about education and all the different parts that make it up.  Teaching is just a sliver of the slow moving mammoth that is education.

-Teaching       – Psychology      – Social Work      – Technology      – Architecture     – Programming        -Advertising    – Business Management           -Administration       – Advocating      -Policy Making
– Custodians   – Cooks              – Media               – Coaching          – Students          -Innovators

My dream is for young people to be excited about joining education.  If we turn off all the best and brightest we will only be left with those that have no where else to go.  Let’s work together to get the top young minds to work in education or at least see it as the important building block to society that it is.  The question that needs answering is, how do we communicate this message to others and shift the growing paradigm that going into teaching is a “bad idea” to one that is “an amazing idea”?

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

What A Teacher Doesn’t Teach – Guest Blog by Paul Franzowiak

The conversation that I have had over the past several days with students has been nothing short of amazing.  The Every 15 Minutes program that was presented and done mostly by students, for students, showed me just what amazing talent and people MFHS has to offer. Many students talents were show cased the in the video shot, produced, edited, and practically done all by students, but also with the conversations that I’ve had recently.

As some of you may know, I truly enjoy math, teaching, and learning. However, I don’t always love learning about math. One thing that truly fires me up about being at the high school is the development of being overall quality individuals. I’ve been able to sit down with several individuals and share my thoughts and feelings with them, only for them to do the same with me. They trust me enough to tell me things that I’m sure most students wouldn’t tell their mom or dad. I feel so grateful that students are willing to do this for me and see that I actually don’t just care about math and their grades, but care about them as HUMANS, YES HUMAN BEINGS, who have grown up and shown me that I am doing something right other than teaching math. The comments and statements that some of them have made to me just gets me fired up and want to learn more about them as those weird things we all are… HUMANS.

I will honestly admit that I have never been more excited to be at school and wanting to go to a school function more than the Prom Grand March that I attended this last weekend. So many of my students were there, dressed to impress, and they ALL did. I was absolutely AMAZED, seriously AMAZED, by how well some of my students looked all dressed up. Seeing students who I could never imagine in a suit or dress or heels came and amazed me with what a little time, effort, and hair gel can do!

Thank you to all of those who have shared something personal with me. I know it’s not easy trusting a stranger who you have only known a few months, but these conversations (not their grades) are what I will remember most about these amazing humans.

Paul Franzowiak is a math teacher at Menomonee Falls High School committed to helping students being successful in school and in life.  Follow him @MathwithFranzo or check out more of his posts at