Saturday, September 26, 2009


So, the Herald, published online as part of, is interested in my blog piece (previous entry). They asked if I wanted to publish an op-ed piece, no thanks, but they may be writing an article. I am not so interested in MY blog piece getting out as I am in people doing research and talking with key people and then publishing a critical piece. With state testing upcoming I hope they pull together an article that points out how messed up the state testing system is right now (in NH and it sounds like elsewhere, as well). I hope pressure is exerted on state and federal officials in such a way that things change sooner rather than later. At least I'm trying to make a difference by speaking up :) We'll see!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

NECAPs Insanity

So, I spent all day Friday in a long, New Hampshire State Department of Education sponsored meeting with a team from my school. The topic of the workshop was NECAP (New England Common Assessment) alternative portfolios. These are essentially books that school teams develop to evaluate how the most challenged students are progressing academically in school. They take an entire year to create and untold hours of teacher time to manage; time unrelated to teaching and learning. They are also about the state assessing the student's program, well that's what the state thinks they are doing (which is commendable) but in reality they tend to provide more information about how clever the portfolio manager is at creating the portfolio along state guidelines than the quality of the student's program. But, that's another topic.

Portfolios are for the 1% of the school population who are cognitively and socially limited to such a degree that they cannot take the typical NECAP assessment most students take each October. In our school there are 300 students so 3 students might be portfolio candidates. This process is not for the student who despite all accommodations (including one-on-one instructions with a special educator) will clearly bomb the state test. For this student, the 5th grader who is severely behaviorally disordered and learning disabled in math (still struggling with addition and subtraction), there is no appropriate state assessment! And the state has known about this for years. The first time I sat in one of these huge NECAP portfolio meetings and asked "So, where is the appropriate test for these students?" I was told, "The state is fully aware there is a need for an appropriate test for these "gap" students but it would cost $5,000,000 and that's too expensive." Yesterday I asked the same question, at the urging of my team, and we were told, "It's a problem across the country and we are working on it." Well, that might be fine and good except when students fail the NECAP, the state then punishes the school! My school is a school-in-need-of-improvement in the category of special education because a number of special education students didn't demonstrate academic progress on the NECAP. But, they CAN'T. A 4th grade severely learning disabled student, cannot access the 4th grade NECAP test. The way the test is designed, a student shows that he or she is either reading at 4th grade or not. A student cannot demonstrate that he or she has grown in their reading abilities from, say, grade 1 to grade 2. That NECAP only measures if a student is at 4th grade reading or not. So, what's measured, then, is that a student cannot read at 4th grade. Well, we know that! That's why such students are identified as special education students with IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans). State and federal law is clear, special education students are to be assessed, by law, along with all students but using appropriate tests. This is not happening, apparently, across the country and schools are punished because of it. If the state of New Hampshire knows they don't have the appropriate test for "gap" students, then the least they should do is not punish a school until they have the appropriate test or accept alternative measures of student learning (which we have!).

I wish those who demand that our special education students sit for the NECAP, would proctor one of those tests with a student they care about who is trying their best yet, despite all the accommodations, CANNOT take the test. I wish that administrator or state employee would sit there and comfort the little girl who is crying because she feels stupid and wonders why you expect her to read the 3rd grade test when you both know she CANNOT or chase after the 3rd grader who has run out of the room or check in with the nurse regarding the 4th grader who has become physically ill. I have sat with students during NECAP season and this has all happened. It's traumatic for many of our "gap" kids as the state calls them. An appropriate test for these students who are not eligible for the alternative portfolio and who cannot take the typical NECAP test with all the accommodations on earth, needs to be created. And until then, schools should not be punished. Our students, who work hard in school and struggle with learning deserve to be proud of their achievements by being assessed in a way that allows them to demonstrate all their learning. No child left behind? I think not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to School

Oy Vey....OY VEY Back to full-time work and it's...hard. I went from being my own boss, working hard but having the opportunity to be creative. And, everybody was pleased. I'm back in a system where people are stressed (already!), and I haven't worked with a child yet and it's been nearly 3 weeks. Yesterday I sat in the same chair in a windowless conference room from 8:00 until 3:30 with 20 minutes to walk around the building (and breathe). Friday I am in another all-day meeting in another town learning about assessment and the most challenged students. And we wonder what's wrong with education?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Open source website

Been a long summer.... Not sure what the future will be but,then, who knows what the future is? I am very excited that my step-son has helped get an open source website up and going. I just need to settle down and design the pages. I am excited as this will be a way for me to carry on cybercommunication with interested and like-minded souls. More on that to come...soon :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reviewing Materials

So, not sure how this will all turn out at this point. I wasn't able to present to the school board on that last Tuesday (friend died and I was caught up in that). I will be presenting in September. We have materials but not a lot of teacher interest at this point. We had made a plan to meet next Monday (teacher request) but now it looks like few will make it. Whatever is meant to happen will. I'm there if it all comes to pass. if has been very fun! On to other projects and activities and back to my regular job in 2 and 1/2 weeks. I may just blog on about that :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Spreading the Word

Today I went to the Central Office to organize and send off all the Project M3 materials that arrived....$7,000 worth! Complete sets will be in all 3 schools by the time school starts. I present, 10 minutes, to the school board next Tuesday. How will this all turn out...who knows! But, it is exciting and I'm grateful for whatever part I can play in our capable kids getting the attention they deserve!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two-Day Training

Yesterday I spent a wonderful morning with teachers interested in the AMPed program. They are mostly from one school but I spent a lot of time there and that likely made the difference. It was so fun to share with people who wanted to listen. Interestingly, from one school only two people will have attended after tomorrow. One person is actually on leave next year and the other is new to that school. And, from my home school, only my partner-in-crime came. Our assistant superintendent has also put his money where his mouth is in terms of support and purchased the entire program for all 3 schools! So exciting :) Not sure where this will all lead and that's OK, too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Training!

So, it's looking like a summer training is shaping up. Who knows what life holds....but I'm glad this is happening. I can see AMPed sustained! At least teachers are considering using the program curriculum (Project M3) and hopefully maintaining the websites and supervising the high school tutors. I am happy to coordinate it all! What a fabulous turn of events :) I am...happy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Seek patience
and passion
in equal amounts.
Patience alone
will not build the temple.
Passion alone
will destroy its walls.
~ Maya Angelou ~
(Life Mosaic)

Patience is what I need as things unfold as they will :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Post Sabbatical

Well, I think that's it, I'm done, onto the book and then I get an e-mail. Who knows where this will all lead. A group of teachers over at a school want to meet and use the Project M3 materials! Woohoo! I'm up for that. I can imagine one of them supervising the high school tutor who plans to return (and there could be more tutors if they want). I need to get going on the open-source website (Ryan, Gabe let's meet!) where all the materials and websites will be stored...lots to do again!

Sustainability...that's what we're talking about. Honestly, it's so easy to spiral once the district has no money to support the programs I have so lovingly developed, but just maybe there are other ways to work this out that don't involve a lot of money at this point in time. Thinking, thinking.....and staying positive (well, mostly)!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reflections on the Final Morning

by Neobaily

The photo I took on the first day of my sabbatical, last January, was of a beautiful and inspiring sunrise right out my back door. This photo of a glorious and colorful sunset clearly captures how I feel this morning, the last morning on sabbatical, as I reflect back on my long and wonderful 5-months.

With less stress and more time than I usually have, this past winter and spring I have been afforded the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking about education vs. just doing it. I have come to believe several things to be true. I believe in excellence. I believe learning can and should be challenging but fun! I also believe every student deserves a proper, individualized education whether he is a challenged learner, a typical learner or clearly gifted. I believe that if we don't strive for excellence and teach all students, we embrace mediocrity. Without research-based, well-designed curriculum for our most capable, yes, gifted students, we leave them behind. Leaving bright, eager, talented youngsters (who are our next generation of lawyers, doctors, politicians) behind to learn on their own is, to my way of thinking, a shame. They are so much more deserving while still in elementary school, undeveloped, untrained, enthusiastic and thirsty for knowledge. I hope some of what I have developed during this long and happy sabbatical will continue, if only in my home school.

Good bye sabbatical! Woohoo!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AMPed's Future?

It is the eve of my last day on sabbatical. Tomorrow is the last day for the kids. What will come of all my work? The AMPed logo, above was designed by one of my creative, intelligent, inspired 4th grade AMPed students. Excellent job!

All Things Come to an End

One more day left. What a wonderful experience this has been. The school district tells me, sadly, that there is no money to carry on programs I developed tho we will continue to talk and see what can be pieced together. Interestingly, the school district required that I imagine sustainability of my programs but isn't willing to commit any money or much of my time. I do understand, tho, when schools are in-need (our sped kids are not able to take grade-level tests - duh - so we are in-need) the focus is on kids who are struggling. Capable kids are left on their own, as happens most of the time. I guess nobody feels like they deserve an individualized education - which is such a shame. To my way of thinking, these are the kids who are now left behind.

I will try to get the schools to continue on with the high school after school tutoring - it was so amazing on so many levels - but somebody other than me needs to get excited and put time, effort, and even money behind the excitement. And, I know, unfortunately, everybody is busy and stressed in schools these days. I would love for the websites to continue but, again, somebody needs to step up in the other schools if not just to supervise a high school computer student meeting with elementary kids and managing the websites.

There is talk of using the Project M3 curriculum in the schools and that would be very exciting. It's an excellent program, designed for these kids and could be the curriculum for them after they test out of the math program we use for all kids. I will continue to teach in the after school math enrichment program in some form or other. I have they say...blessed! I am ready to fall back into my old job....I have missed my students! I have come to realize, however, even more fully than I knew while I was drowning in it, how absolutely draining all the paperwork and constant. frequently emotional meetings are in special ed....there really should be another structure. Too much time is spent in a myriad of activities other than teaching! In any event, after a summer of writing, I'm back to my job :) All things come to an end and there are always new and wonderful, unexpected beginnings :) Life is.........exceptional!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Websites for all Three Elementary Schools!

Photo of our town by JEFF SCHLEGEL

Three websites were launched today! Hooray! I have to edit all of them (why do you immediately see all the problems with fonts and grammar and weird links once they are launched?) and get that edited version online tomorrow but they are launched. Thanks, Ryan and Alan :) Launching websites was one of the last things on my long list of things to do as my sabbatical comes to an end. I still have 3 newsletters to get out by the end of the week but I am almost done teaching. All the after school tutors and after school programs ended some time ago. I miss my daily visits with my high school tutors and look forward to their return next year :)

This has been a long and happy sabbatical. Somebody saw me yesterday at a school where I hadn't been in a couple of years. We spoke for a brief moment and then as she walked away she looked back at me and commented, "You look younger all the time." Haircut and highlights, I thought? Marriage? Maybe all the working out I have done? Nope, I finally realized and responded back at her, "It's what being on sabbatical does to you!"

Check out all our websites (which should be edited by the time you read them :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Money, Money, Money

To continue the programs I have developed during my sabbatical, I need money. I want to start the after school programs earlier, buy more materials, involve more high school tutors. The school district I work has been trying to work things around so that there is more money for me to carry on the programs I have designed and nurtured these past 5 months, but in this economy, money is hard to find. So, I am looking beyond the school department. The program I am using for much of the instruction, Project M3, was developed by a professor at the University of Connecticut. In a phone call with her, she told me that her program was underwritten by Traveler's Insurance. Hmmmm.....Liberty Mutual here I come :) Beyond the money, and maybe more importantly, I have a key person in both of the other elementary schools who are excited about the programs. I can see it all come to be :) The future is bright...where are those sunglasses!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Wow. Yesterday I worked with the very top math students in one of the elementary schools I teach in. The students I worked with yesterday were bright, quick-witted young scholars, perfectly behaved (they were all over the place the first time we met), totally attentive and completely engaged with what I was teaching them. When I taught them what a growing pattern was (12123123412345) they asked what a pattern like 543214321321 would be called. We laughed calling it a shrinking pattern or a reverse growing pattern. They made funny and perceptive jokes throughout the lesson, had a twinkle in their eyes, worked well with their was so much fun and so rewarding to see them happy and learning and stretching those wonderful minds of theirs.

As I walked away after our session I thought, sponges....these kids are so eager and thirsty for academics at their pace and level that they soak up every last drop of the math I teach them. They gain so much with so little on my part. Hopefully my program will continue to meet the needs of our most capable math students next year. These bright and bored kids deserve it. I know there is talk :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

All Good Things :)

All good things is not static! I am busy finishing up all the programs I have been involved with during my sabbatical. I have websites to publish, newsletters to get done and out, tutors to thank and finish up with, last AMPed classes to teach. This sabbatical has been a lot of work and a blast! What a gift this has all been. What will happen next year is a mystery.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


As the tutoring component of my AMPed program ends I have asked for feedback from my tutors. I am so happy to find how much they have enjoyed tutoring. One tutor has gone so far as to suggest that cross-age tutoring become a regular part of our math curriculum and expanded so that kids who struggle in math get extra help from high school tutors, as well. As I have written before, I have been amazed and touched by how much has come of the tutor-tutee relationships. It is something I look forward to being able to develop more next year.

Friday, May 22, 2009

School Number 3!

So, I am finally at our third elementary school in my school district. So far I have only worked in 2 schools. I had e-mailed the third school but never heard back so assumed they were busy. Turns out there was an e-mail glitch and the principal never got my e-mails! So, late tho it may be, I am in the third school and it is interesting for me. First, I have begun already in two schools so start-up is easier. Second, I am learning all the time how to train the high school tutors. What worked well today was for me to run the first session with the tutor. I think I need to be more hands-on so they can model after me. I am already looking forward to next year and wonder what will be. At the least I'd like to see the tutoring continue and be able to manage that somehow. Most of it is after school so that is a real possibility :) This sabbatical has been, not to sound trite and I hate trite but my sabbatical has really been! I have felt creative, inspired, I have had fun and have helped others learn and have fun. All the way around it's been a positive and extremely worthwhile experience. As it comes to an end I feel like things have just begun :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Out Sick Again!

Oh my. I just knew when I was kissing my drooling grand daughter at my step son's graduation that I was going to get sick. I seem to pick up every cold and flu that little girl gets! So....I am sick. Took my temperature hourly, not the swine flu...whew! It's not so bad, tho. Time to lay around and rest up. Next week lots to do to finish up.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Everything Begins and then it Ends

Wow, I cannot believe that I am coming to the end of some of my sabbatical activities. I had a nice conversation last week with the superintendent of our school district. I thanked him for being so supportive of my sabbatical. He was supportive all 3 times I applied! He commented that he was sure it had all gone by quickly but I told him it hadn't. Fortunately, I have kept this blog and tried to enjoy the whole process so it is a wonderful memory of a time in which I have been creative and pretty much my own boss. And the result has been a really great program! So, thanks to all of those who supported me along the way....and particularly to my colleague and friend, Celine who has taken on more than her share of our after school program :)

We have ended the after school program at NF. The kids were all sad, which is good! We look forward to starting up earlier next year. This week is the end of tutors at LH. I have photos I am giving them, in a big frame, with kids' signatures all around them. They will enjoy that, I'm sure. Next week my NF tutors have their last sessions. So, I will do my baking and get pictures of them ready for kids to sign, as well. I will miss my tall tutors! I have become very fond of all of them. I am thrilled they are wanting to return next year, all of them, except Morgan, who we will miss as she graduates and moves onto college.

I have a presentation to make to the school board in early June so am working on that. Part of that is looking at all the pre and post-tests I have done with the kids. I know they have all learned a lot in math, that have all grown in their ability to work well with others, and most of them have learned how to persist when math is hard. begins and it ends...what will the future hold? Who knows!

Friday, May 8, 2009

We're News!

Here's the link to the news article. Thank you Tara for the article and Scott for the photos! It's now all about how to carry the program on :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Story Runs!

This Friday, I have been told, the story about our AMPed program runs in the local paper. Hope it's positive! Today I had a great meeting with a 3rd grade teacher at one of the schools I work in. Starting next week both she and I will be teaching AMPed groups during the school day! What's exciting about this is that I now have another excited teacher and she will be using the M3 curriculum during the day! She will do her regular curriculum (Everyday Math) 3 days a week and teach the Project M3 program 2 days a week. We have thoughts of her continuing next year. I'd love to see grades 4 and 5 do the same thing. And, I'd love to see this at all our elementary schools. I have a meeting with a school board member and our assistant superintendent tomorrow. We're looking at how to carry on these programs next year. I think with a little teacher excitement, principal support, lots of parent volunteers, returning high school tutors, and somebody to manage the program (and a chunk of money....I'm starting to look for that!) we may have the beginnings of a really fine accelerated math program (well, at least at 2 elementary schools!). I say, in a district (and state) where there is no money to teach our most capable math students......a program can exist, anyway!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Well, interview done. I spoke on the phone with a Herald reporter for about a 1/2 hour yesterday. Very nice woman who seemed interested in the program and understood the need it fills. I was also able to get a few parents to call her and they were even willing to let their children speak with her. I am interested to see what comes of all of this! I am also sitting down this week with a friend and looking at ways to help sustain the program beyond the end of my sabbatical...big task to grapple with. It is clear to me that a key component is supervision of all aspects of the program. And, I believe the type of person doing that should be a teacher (to help appropriately guide the curriculum) but I think parent volunteers and high school tutors are doing and can do an excellent job of teaching the curriculum with that type of guidance :) I also think that the M3 program should be taught in grades 3-5 at least twice a week by a teacher. When I return to my current position, I can continue the after school program with my colleague, manage the high school tutors at my home school and the continue with the website/newsletter at my home school but my guess is that's about all I would have time for. I would love to see all the same programs in all the elementary schools in my district. What does the future hold....always a mystery...but exciting!

Friday, April 24, 2009

In the News?

So, I'm very excited that the local paper is running a story on the AMPed (Accelerated Math) program. I'm being interviewed next week as are some of my elementary AMPed students and a couple of our high school tutors. We have our website up and running for AMPed NF, a newsletter that's been published and 3 different AMPed components at one school, two at another. It's all very exciting. I have to admit, tho, that I am a bit trepidacious with these types of things. I know I need to be thoughtful in the interview. I tend to get so excited and ramble on! I mentioned that to my friend who is a producer, has a radio show and has been in the news. She's also one of my yoga buddies. She tells me, "You will be surprised at what they take from the interview and publish. You can't predict!" So I will just let it be what it will be. We have a new and creative school program for kids who are typically "left behind" (capable kids don't need instruction, do they???) despite the national mandate that no child is left behind anymore. If you are highly capable in math and at the elementary level, you are pretty much on your own in a number of states/cities. Teachers try to differentiate (make one math program work for all kids) but they are so busy and the focus tends to be on kids who are struggling given our current testing climate and scrutiny over test scores. With the AMPed program, we now have a lots of ways to teach these highly capable and very grateful kids. I have had many students say, "This is hard and I love it!" Kids and parents enjoy the new program, kids are learning at their level....who doesn't want to hear about all that? :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Out Sick

Sick leave today....hopefully I will be OK by afternoon to supervise tutors but will warn them I may not be in. Gratefully, my trusted colleague is there for tutors when I am not. This week I have to write a proposal to help sustain all my hard work into next year. I will be busy this week but for now.....laying low.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sustainability and Improvement

So, the program is up and running and I am thrilled to report, all is well. We have 6 high school tutors in two elementary schools teaching about 50 students in grades 3-5. We have our wonderful after school program where my colleague and I work with about 20 students over the course of two afternoons, grades 2-5. We have two websites, one launched and one in the making. We have published one newsletter. We have an excellent curriculum to use (Project M3). The administrative time for everything is way more than I anticipated but it takes that kind of attention to keep things running, I find. The tutors require significantly more time from me than I imagined they would. They work with a lot of students and are students themselves....that requires an investment of time, attention, and focus to make sure we have a happy, fun, educational math enrichment program.

Sustainability was a big component of my sabbatical. How can we keep the programs I have developed beyond my 4-month sabbatical? That is the question I face right now. I am also at the point where I want to go see other model programs to see how we can improve ours. So, as the weather warms up in New England, I will be traveling around Maine, New Hampshire and maybe even Massachusetts to see what kinds of programs are out there for elementary-aged students who are highly capable in math. And, I would like to see a bigger after school program at both schools I am already in. This is the time and place where we do projects and run studies and have a lot of math fun with teachers guiding and teaching. I would also like to see the programs I have developed in all of the elementary schools in my school district (there are 3 schools but only 2 are involved the the AMP program so far). And, importantly, I am developing, with my computer-expert step son, an open source website so all of my work can be posted on the web. And, I have thoughts of a summer program swimming around in the back of my mind as spring break nears!!! Whew........ with two months left, I have my work cut out for me!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Web site, finally!

Click on AMPed....A Math Adventure. Cool.......

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Feel Good, Na Na Na Na Na, I Feel Good......

I had the coolest experience this week. Wednesday afternoon I found myself tending the big after school math enrichment program held in my friend's class room. We had 14 students grades 1-5. One group was gathered around the computer designing a pie chart for the data the Tuesday group had collected on their Favorite Dessert study. Celine, my friend, colleague and partner in crime, was leading the group as they worked to design a computer-generated pie chart. They thought that was appropo...a pie chart for a dessert study..hahah. Another group was taking our robot, Franklin, apart so we could replace his batteries. Amazingly, one of my students could do it by removing one, yes, only one piece! Remarkable. Another smaller group, 1st and 5th grade girls (how sweet was that to see - big and little working together), was editing our AMPed website by writing about what they had learned about the Fibonacci Sequence (bet you don't know what that is...but they do :). Things settled there, I walked down the hall to check on one of my high school tutors who was discussing quartiles with his grade 4 group of 6 happy students. They had colored M&Ms layed out on the table (tutor's idea!). Further down the hall was another tutor with her group of 4 second graders. They were all engaged in drawing a line graph on the board that depicted the number of times they could jump in 1 minute. At 3:45 I hopped in the car and drove over to another school where two high school tutors were teaching algebra to a group of 8 some-what confused 4th graders. Instead of "I'm bored in math" I now hear, all the time, "Wow, this is hard!". It is so exciting to see how the AMped program has grown!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Enriching Tears

Yesterday I stopped in to see how my tutors were doing at a school where I am helping start up an after school math enrichment tutoring program. This is all part of my sabbatical, helping other schools get math enrichment going in their schools. The tutors in this school were teaching 4th graders algegra, how to solve for a variable. Tutors are learning how to teach; tutees are learning algebra. There was a lot of learning going on. One minute a very sensitive 4th grade student was standing at the board with a tutor, working through a difficlut algebra problem. The next minute the student excused himself to go to the bathroom. Just prior to that he had admonished two boys in the front row, "Stop laughing!" he snaped at his classmates with a tense voice. Now, to everybody else, it looked like this boy just needed to make a quick visit to the bathroom but I suspected otherwise. I tracked him down in the bathroom....he was in tears. Last week in my group of after school math enrichment students (grades 1-5) a 1st grader burst into tears for unknown reasons so I gave her a long hug and on we moved. I later received an e-mail from her mom. This little girl was upset because she thought she should know how to multiply. The 4th and 5th graders can, why can't I, she cried to her mother.

It has been insightful for me to work with my highly capable math students. They have a whole different psychology going on. All of these kids have sat in their math classes, bored much of the time. The repeated practice needed by most, is wasted time for them. Consequently,they have learned that things come easy. What they haven't learned, at least during their math classes is how to persist when working on a difficult problem and how it feels when you don't understand something right away and what to do when you feel like that. One of the principals I work with related a really interesting study to me as we discussed the 4th grader who ran out of the room. While in graduate school, she recalled running across a study comparing mathematics learning and type of math teacher. One group of students was taught math by your typcial mathematics professor. The other group learned math from a psychologist. The group who learned the most math, interestingly, were taught by the psychologist. Turns out, he encouraged students to move beyond what was comfortable, think originally, persist when a problem was difficult and to enjoy working through a challenging problem. As a psychologist by training (I am both a psychologist and special educator), I am also focusing on helping students hang in there when a math problem is difficult. My thinking, and I was unprepared for this but happy by it, my thinking is that along with learning advanced mathematical techniques in our AMPed program, students will also learn how to think, persist in their thinking and develop a love for the challenge of difficult math problems. Take on the challenge, be confident, take risks and let yourself be wrong.... Good things to learn for math and for life!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grading, grading, grading

A big element of teaching is grading. In some ways I dislike it as I look at a pile of papers to be reviewed and marked. In another way I enjoy it. I enjoy the window into how students think. I enjoy analyzing errors and developing plans to teach my students (both elementary school students and college students). Today I have a pile of pre-tests to grade. I have pre-tested students in grades 3, 4, and 5 and have their pile of tests. I have the pre-tests from 6 tutors in two schools now, as well. I'm thinking I have somewhere along the lines of 50 tests sitting on my kitchen counter. So my pile is.....huge. The M3 program we are using does not have a simple "mark a, b, or c" type test. Rather, tests require students to think and then write about their thinking so the grading is very time-consuming as you try to judge the quality of student thinking based on their writing. To me it's kind of like working out. I hate to get started but am happy and enjoy the process once I'm pumping weights or riding the elliptical machine. Speaking of that, I'd better get on that bike this morning since I'll be sitting a lot today!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amped Up at Another School

I am happy to report that AMPed activities have begun at another school! I have things well under way at my home school and now have initiated things at another local school. We have tutors coming after school and I am teaching during the day. I'm busy but it's fun. There are 3 elementary schools in my school district. One school's principal hasn't gotten back to me despite 2 e-mails but elementary schools are busy places. However, at least 2/3 of the elementary schools are now AMPed. We are extending the newsletter and the website to include them. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It All Came Crashing Down!

I don't know what happened today! None of the tutors showed up for their sessions so 5 kids were left sitting waiting for their parents to pick them up at school. 6 kids were in tears during the after school program for various reasons. My colleague got sick and had to go home so I was left with 25 students in one room and she had the lesson plans! One of our 1st grade students rode the late bus for 3 hours trying to get home. Don't know what happened there but when I called the bus company they said, "Well if the bus hasn't come it'll be there soon." No comfort to the screaming parent! My computer crashed and I lost our brand new website and newsletter. I knew I should have backed them up. So much work lost. And to top off the day, there was a little accident and my $500 worth of materials the PTO just reimbursed me for got soaked beyond usage. It must be April Fool's Day :) :) :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

So Much Done!

I am proud to write that a lot has been accomplished in my first 2 months on sabbatical. We just published our first newsletter, by next week the website will be launched. All my tutors are in place and seem to be enjoying tutoring tho sometimes they kind of do what they want despite my lessons. I guess I can live with that particularly since I told them they could do that! Next year I will tell them to follow the lesson plan closely. I am getting another school up and running. It's a lot of work but not as much work as it was getting myself up and running at my home school. I have started teaching and remember how time-consuming teaching is. You have to prep, teach, review and then prep again. It is fun, tho. Our second session of the after school program has begun, as well. We have tried to be too accommodating and have too many students in our Wednesday group....again changes for next year. We will limit the number of students and only have them come in grade-level groups. It's all a learning process. Now I will get the other school set up to function without me, go on some visits to see exemplary programs for kids who are highly capable in math, and look for money so we can start the after school program ealier next year and so that we have money for student journals for the program that we are using. All in all......excellent progress!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Full Swing!

Things are going very, very well with tutoring. Despite some scheduling changes, we are moving along very well. I had a wonderful conversation with the first author of the program we are using and will modify a number of things in the program based on her good advice. I am also helping another school get up and running with tutoring and during-the-day lessons. Plus, I just started teaching my first class during the day - too fun. We are also about ready to launch the website and I'm working on getting a newsletter out. My next steps are checking out other programs in the area and seeing if I can find some grant money. Seems like this was all meant to be given how well it has all worked least so far :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

And So, Tutoring Begins

When you start something new, there are always unexpected surprises. This week we started tutoring, finally. The very first day I gathered the first 2 tutors and their 4 tutees in the conference room. I was unprepared for how heart-warming that meeting would be. My male tutors are over 6 feet tall, quiet, smart high schoolers. The tutees are wide-eyed, innocent, smart 4th and 5th graders. When the tutors talked about why they were tutoring (they love math, love kids, they were these kids) there was the sweetest moment. Everybody just kind of sat there, smiling. And yesterday as one of my tallest tutors left the building, 2 of his tutees yelled out, "Bye John!." He grinned from ear-to-ear. I forgot how much the tutoring would mean to the tutors and tutees beyond learning math. What a wonderful, unexpected surprise.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tutoring Spaces, web Sites, Newsletters

Today is the day we start tutoring and I'm excited! No snow, no tutor absences. I think we are good. The elementary kids were all chatty about it yesterday at school. What has been of interest to me is trying to find spaces to have the kids tutor in. Now, in some cases it is one very bright high school student, maybe two quietly tutoring another bright student. All we need is a corner of the room. What a difficult task that has been! To my surprise, some teachers don't want the kids (their own kids) in their rooms, ever. Several other teachers have welcomed us with big, open arms. You learn so much when you do things like this.

We have also been working steadily on our website and I think it's going to be fantastic. One teacher, a former computer teacher, has been very helpful, meeting almost every Tuesday for consultation/help. Having the kids involved is definitely the way to go. We are also making a companion newsletter to hand out to everybody in school. Things are looking good!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


So, this has been THE winter for snow! I was all excited to start the after school math tutoring. The kids were excited, the teachers were notified, the parents were ready....and then it snowed! Such is life in New England, particularly this winter. So, we will start Wednesday and all will be well :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Teenage Tutors

So, having high school tutors tutor elementary kids is a great idea, all would agree. I have all the hopes in the world that they will become excellent role models and help their tutees learn a lot. We are all working together as a big school team....three cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

All Things Pass

So, I am done with the flu. Whew. The schedule is coming together for tutoring! It's all falling into place. I have the tutors, the tutees, the program and the excitement. I can't wait to see it come together in such a way it will be self-sustaining next year, something we do year after year. The website is shaping up with student involvement. They have great ideas and I love handing it over to them. I'd love to see a newsletter come out of the website. I am excited for this to carry on next year, as well. The after school program is changing which is interesting. I love using Project M3 materials some of the time and engaging in other activities the rest of the time. All in all.....fantastic progress :) On reflection I see that I started out with such a bang that I exhausted myself and got sick so pacing is the key from now on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Out Sick

Oh my...first I had a sinus infection and now I have the flu. Sabbatical is at a standstill. This too shall pass, I keep thinking :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tall Tutors

Day 18: At 2:50 today a group of very tall young bright, high school students arrived at the elementary school I am based out of. I had to laugh at their height - they looked like giants in our little elementary school. They came as one group, quietly floating down the hall. I spend about 40 minutes orienting them to tutoring and they said barely 10 words each tho they were staring at me so intently it made me blink a lot (haha). "What's going on in their heads", I thought, as I jabbered away? One young tutor told me she had spoken to all of them ahead of time and they were all very excited. Could have fooled me but I'm going with that :) Right after February vacation we will start tutoring. I have no idea how it will go but will just imagine it goes well - good place to start :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What you Look for You may Find

Day 17: I am really thrilled that things are falling into place so nicely with my sabbatical projects. I will be training tutors Monday afternoon and the manual is done for that. I have poured over NECAP data (our state testing data) looking for appropriate students to include; I think I have a nice group. Scheduling this will be a challenge, I'm sure. I will tackle that next week. Since I am so grateful for tutors I have allowed them to tell me when they are available and I'll try to fit tutees in the time slots they gave me (mostly after school). It will be a challenge but nothing I am not used to - scheduling is truly nightmarish in the schools these days. It's really wonderful to have so many services for kids (OTs, PTs, speech therapists, counselors, adapted PE teachers, ESL teachers, reading specialists, special educators, etc.) but a long and frustrating process to schedule it all in. I'm hoping that because most of the tutoring is after school, the schedule will be a challenge but not too difficult to put together.

We are going to start using the M3 materials next week and I previewed the lessons Friday. They look really excellent. My colleague worries that we will wander away from all the fun we have had making up the after school program. I think that's a good worry and I will keep that in mind as we delve into the M3 curriculum. One of the drawbacks of any curriculum is that the teacher may no longer feel that he or she is being creative and having fun teaching. So, the M3 materials will be guide not a bible.

I also finally remembered my camera during the after school program last week so we have excellent pictures to go on our website. Here is a picture of math and art. Students learned how to make a shape that reflects on itself. Then they tesselated it (made it into a repeating pattern). Looks like a budding Escher, don't you think?

I am still looking for a test that would help us identify the grades 1-2 students. But, that will come, I'm sure.

The process and experiences of this sabbatical, thus far, have reminded of how much life has to offer if you just start looking for it :) Imagine it and it will come :) Seems to be some truth in that!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day 15: M Cubed Descends

I am so excited! Yesterday my M3 materials arrived at school and at home! They look fantastic. I was sitting in the conference room of my home school in the early afternoon, stealing a little table to work at, when I overheard the math consultant tell the grade 1 teachers that she knew of an excellent program for working with kids who are advanced in math....Project M3! Woohoo. We had a nice discussion about how great the materials are. I am very excited to be using a research-based program, specifically designed for the students I am developing programing for.

I also had an excellent meeting with a principal in another school who wants an after school program, a couple of one-on-one high school tutors, and wants me to come over and try out the M3 program with a group of 2nd and 5th graders once a week. We discussed over and over how one of the goals of my sabbatical is to make the program sustainable...that is, to exist beyond my constant nurturing. Her idea was to get a group of parent volunteers to work with accelerated kids during the school day. Excellent idea. I'll see how it shapes up at that school and then may try it at the school I spend most of my time at. I think you could have a parent in charge of the in-school tutoring, a teacher in charge of the after school program and tutoring. I mentioned to that principal that my PTO funds me at my school.

The website, which I am also very excited about, is looking fantastic with the photos I took of yesterday's bubble gum study. We were measuring the size of bubbles. We have photos of students and teachers blowing bubbles, measuring bubbles, taking data, and charting their findings. Can't wait to get kids involved in this and to put it all up on the web.

All in all......every thing is rockin!

Monday, February 9, 2009


Day 13: Isn't that a funny word, "tutee"? What else would you call the student a tutor tutors? I just finished writing up my AMP Tutoring Training Manual! I am psyched. Things are moving along very nicely. I have 6 tutors for sure and one more, maybe. It was wonderful today to put a face to the "maybes" and make plans for our first training session. It's turning into one big after school program and, well,that's just the way it is. I have committed to being open to how this will all play out so there you big AMPed after school program. Fine by me. My next step is to get the tutor notebooks ready, do some tutoring myself so I get the feel of it, test kids, review the M3 materials, get parent permissions and do all the administrative paperwork stuff (yuck) so we run smoothly. All the while I want to restructure the after school group sessions so they are more in line with specifically what the students need to learn.

It is really enjoyable to have an idea, get support and then watch as it takes shape. Traditional sabbaticals are periods of time when people are physically away. I think, can't believe I'm writing this, I think I like this better, at least for me, because I'm creating something and that IS who I am if I'm anything. And that this will be a good thing for kids is all the better.

Today when I met with a group of high school prospective tutors, I asked them why they wanted to tutor. One said, honestly, "It will look great in my portfolio for college." He speaks 4 languages and is headed to a military school and wants to stand out. Another said that she loved kids and math. Another student, looked right in my eye and said, "Because I was one of those kids." That's what it's all about!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

AMPed Up!

So,the excitement continues with all my plans. Today I received a couple of e-mails and it now looks like I will have at least 6 high school tutors in my AMP program, possibly more! I am very grateful to the teachers who have taken the time out their very, very busy days to help set all of this up. It renews my faith in teachers :) But, not everybody has been so supportive. About a week ago I mentioned the AMP project to a high school staff member who basically made me feel defensive and on the spot. She questioned the worthiness of my plans and wondered why anybody would want to be involved. She told me she was sure high school students would have neither the time nor the interest in tutoring elementary students. Had I stopped there I would have been done for, through, depressed, hand me the razor blades! Interesting, at the end of our conversation (during which I remained focused and calm...well, at least I looked calm and focused), anyway it turns out this woman gave me the name of a high school teacher who has become very excited about the opportunities for both elementary and high school students via this tutoring program and has sent me 4 students. It's all good, right?

So now the task is to contact parents to get their permission and then to further test my top students so I can create an AMP plan that the high school tutors will follow. I am also going to create a training manual for the tutors and we'll have a training session in the next week or so. And I eagerly await some Project M3 materials I have bought. On a 60 day review I am also receiving additional Project M3 materials. It's all coming together and I am thrilled.

Final note...I just spoke with my step son and we are planning on developing an open-source website to share the information about programming for gifted math students, particularly in states, districts, towns, where there is no money! Yep, I am AMPed up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tutors and Programs!

I am extremely excited that the tutoring component of my sabbatical seems to be taking shape! I have contacted 105 people at the high school by e-mail. No, not really but I have sent a lot of e-mails to any contact anybody gave me. And, I have been waiting impatiently for their responses. I forget, they have busy, busy, full time jobs and I am on...sabbatical :) But, finally and happily, over the past couple of days, some names of high school students who may want to tutor are trickling in and I am AMPed! I have a lot of work to do to get ready for the descent of the tutors, but I am really, really excited.

I also just purchased some of the Project M3 (Mentoring Mathematical Minds) materials that fit with the needs of the most capable of the most capable (not supposed to say GIFTED) math kids. I am thrilled that Project M3 is a research-based program from the University of Connecticut, new, and developed expressely for working with talented math students in grades 3-5. And, most recently, it has been used for after school enrichment! What could be more perfect? I can't wait for my March visit to see how they pull it all together.

The AMP website is also shaping up nicely, thank you very much. Soon students will start writing about our math club activities, posting articles the new website. And, today I am bringing my camera to class so we can start to chronicling our sessions with photographs. Day 9 is shaping up!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 8

So, this is the beginning of the 8th day of my sabbatical. One thing I enjoy about blogging about my sabbatical is that is helps me reflect on each and every day. My friend who is on a long-term sabbatical to write a book tells me that the time, and it's been a year and a half for her, has flown by. I think I need to remember the goals: create a better after school program, start up the tutoring program, assist teachers if they are wanting cosultation, develop a website. I have made headway on every one of those goals.

I had another school indicate some interest in having me work with their gifted math students. Before I get the tutors in place, I will do that to get to know the students and to develop their AMP plan. I need to look at their current testing, maybe test them with something like KEY math and then develop a plan. I'll call her today and make an appointment.

Day 8 off and running :)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Passing of the 7th Day

So, things are coming along. I have a visit planned to the M3 project in March. I wish it was sooner, but March is better than not at all. I have a contact at the high school who wrote that he was excited about the project and about the tutoring aspect, in particular. He said he would get me the tutors I need. That was on Thursday and I haven't heard from him since. I also heard back from a principal and she wants me to come over to look at a couple of their highly capable math students. I think the first thing to do is to test them to see where they are at and then to develop a plan based on the Everyday Math program and state standards. And then, either I or a tutor will work with them. I have also made headway on the website so am psyched about that. The afterschool program has not met as frequently as it should because of the nasty New England winter. We did have one online project, a bit chaotic having all 16 kids on the computer at once, even had one in tears! Hard to address all the needs and work with a computer set up that kept turning all the words I was projecting onto the screen into computer symbols! But, 7 days passing and all is moving along very well, thank you very much.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day Six - New and Old Roles

I went into school yesterday after not having been there for a week and it was......strange. I have been in the same capacity in the same elementary school for a good 10 years. During all that time, I knew my role, I had my own work space (a great little office this year), and I had my own case load of students. I have always disliked the paperwork and the multitude of meetings, but forever loved my students. Yesterday as I walked into school, I was in a completely different role and that was...very strange. My former students just smiled and said, "Hi" as they met me in the hall. No longer am I involved in their daily triumphs and trials hearing about such things as Freddy who might be having a particularly bad day. One trusted staff member told me that one of my favorite students who has always had a difficult home life (father died recently, mother in jail) and school life (frequently in the time-out room) was very sad with my departure and hasn't been able to engage in much work with my replacement. I miss my old job, I miss my colleagues, I miss the connection with my special education students, but I am excited about the challenge my sabbatical presents.

For many reasons, I have always been there for the underdog. For me, for years, that has meant advocating for, working with and teaching the more learning-challenged and/or unique students. But in the last few years I have also become connected to and started to care deeply about gifted students. They truly are the students being left behind now,at least in New Hampshire and in other states that don't fund (even though they might legislate for) gifted education. There is legislation, money, staff, parent organizations, and journals full of research to ensure that students with learning challenges get the education they deserve - they are clearly no longer left behind. But gifted students, our potential future scholars, physicians and leaders, are left behind and on their own in New Hampshire and in a number of other states. It is the reason I am on sabbatical, hoping to develop a program that at least starts to meet the needs of elementary-aged students,in a small New Hampshire town, who are gifted in math.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Day Three - Possibilities of Project M3

Well, another productive day! I found a program that will probably work very well in the after school program and should work equally as well for the mentoring/tutoring sessions. I have a call in to the author of the Project M3 (Mentoring Mathematical Minds) math program at the University of Connecticut. Project M3 was program designed for students who are gifted in mathematics and in grades 3-5. I spoke with Kathy in the author's office for sometime - she was very knowledgable and encouraging. I It seems...perfect! I may go visit how they use the program after school, something they have just started (the program was designed as a curriculum for gifted kids during the school day). I am very excited.

And, tomorrow I get some of my own tutoring on how to build a website. That's exciting,too. And, I have sent an e-mail to the high school about working with the math department to get the tutors. All in all, a great day! And, I found time to workout this morning!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Week 1 Summary - AMPed

Franklin the Robot is AMPed

So, week one, short as it was, is over, done. I feel like I was a little scattered (created 3 new blogs) and didn't work out at all but I was, nonetheless, productive and wrote a lot. I seem to be on the computer frequently (long days, working into the night) but producing a lot, as well. Most importantly, I made a huge outline of what I need to do. This is my guidepost.

I am awaiting e-mails from people across the state and from within my own school district. Next Tuesday I have an appointment to work on a website I'm designing for the accelerated math program (the reason I have my sabbatical).It's with a 5th grade teacher who used to be a computer teacher. In preparation for that meeting, I hopped on my Mac and looked around. Finding a web template, I started creating the "welcome" page. It was much easier that I thought it would be. Click on this, move this there, and voila....a Welcome page. Last year in the after school enrichment program I help run, we built a Lego robot and named him, Franklin. I am including pictures of Franklin on the website. I imagine the website will eventually be run by students, under my supervision. Students will be responsible for articles, photographs and unique/intriguing math activities, facts and wonders. I'm thinking we will publish on a regular basis. I would like to have a hard copy newsletter if that works into the overall plan.

I also came up with a name for all of this madness...AMPed.... Accelerated Math Program. Kind of a clever little acronym, don't you think? Each AMPed student will have an AMPup......Accelerated Math Program unique plan (kind of like and IEP, indiidualized educational program, we create for special education kids). It's catchy. My husband imagines kids wearing t-shirts with AMPed spelled out across the front. I like it. What ever will week 2 bring? Hopefully a plan to get the mentors in place and a form to help profile prospective students. And, at the risk or sounding like a corn dog, I do feel pretty amped up at this point!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day Two

Day Two! I had dinner with my friend last night. She is in an intensive writing course and has been on sabbatical for some time. She gave me some good advice. One thing she told me was that this will all go by quickly. I know that and am trying to enjoy every moment, be open and present (and all that yoga stuff) each and every day which is why I publish this blog. I know it will keep me in the moment. My husband's ex-sister-in-law has also given me good advice about working at home. She tells me to remember to exercise and wear my tight jeans so I'm not prone to nibbling all day long on chips or cookies :) Got it! And she advises that I be careful of surfing. I get that, too. I actually have some rules for myself. I get up at 6:00 and shower. I can blog for a bit after that but then I get down to work. I am supposed to stop at lunch time for a break (and can blog then or answer e-mails). Then I work again until 3:00 or so. We have a friend who goes to Bequai every winter but continues to work. His strategy is to work all morning and be free from noon on. I want to work more than that but the point is, to be productive, you have to have a plan. I think I do at this point.

Here are the books I've laid out and leafed through. A copy of my sabbatical proposal, articles on gifted education, addendum to the New Hampshire Curriculum Framework. I sent a bunch of e-mails yesterday to people about meeting with me so I can see what kinds of programs are out there. Next week I will contact the other schools in my district and set up appointments to see if they want me to help them out. If not, that's fine, too. I got on the NAGC website (the national gifed association) for guidelines in developing solid programs for kids who are highly capable (gifted - but my district doesn't want me using that term - that's a whole other topic). Turns out Nashua has an exemplary program and I hope to visit!

Off to another day. Exciting, a little overwhelming, full of a lot of sitting. I will make sure and exercise today, wear those tight jeans and work, work, work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Frist Day!

Dawn, breaking just outside my back door on the first day of my sabbatical! Here I am, at home, at 7:39am. How strange.....On a typical Thursday morning I am either in a meeting, talking with a colleague, planning my day or working on paperwork. Yikes, I think as I sit at my kitchen table staring at my blank computer screen! I have 7 months, including summer, to work on my program for kids who excel in math at the elementary level. How will I construct my time? How can I make this time worthwhile? How can I look back and say, "Great job, Joy!"

My job today is to start the big plan and sketch out the next 5 school months. I am excited and ready to go. I am grateful to my brother for all his support, always, and to my husband who suggested I take the sabbatical in the first place. It took 3 tries but now, here I am. My husband is always there for me, encouraging me, supporting me. I thank both of these men for their faith in me, it inspires me!. " Get up at 6:00am tomorrow morning," my husband told me as we went to bed last night. And I did! Thanks also, to my girlfriends who have been so supportive (especially MIss Celine my teaching buddy)......and, here I go!