Rebuilding the Wall

On the first day of school, I was delighted to hear from multiple students in multiple classes, “Mrs. Schmidt, where did the dog wall go?!”  I moved into a new classroom this year.  At the end of last school year, I had my wonderful student aid carefully dismantle the dog wall and carefully box up all of the pictures so that they could be placed in their new location.

And today, a student aid began to put the pictures back up.  And immediately the atmosphere in the room changed.  Students pulled out their phones and were so eager for me to see their furry ball of joy that provides them with that unconditional love.  I saw videos and pictures, and heard memories and felt that powerful bond between my students and their pets.  Is there anything else that students are willing to share with so much happiness and passion?  Perhaps you have examples, but in my experience, nothing has collectively drawn out a students’ willingness to take a vulnerable, emotional risk than sharing a picture or story about their pets.

There is a love that a dog can give you that humans are just not capable of. Whether it’s that tail-wagging excitement when you get home for the day, or the head-on-your-chest affection when you need it the most.   Here are my two beagles, Herbie and Stella, and they’ve saved my life more times than I can count, especially on the days where the pain seems to overtake my life.   The slow deep breath and soft love of that creature beside me is often enough to calm the raging anxiety and clear the irrationality from my head.


And here is the progress thus far on the dog wall.  I’m looking forward to some cute new additions this year.


Math on a Stick – Encore Edition

First, thank you from the bottom of my math-loving heart to Christopher Danielson for allowing me the privilege to be one of Math on a Stick’s visiting mathematicians and spend the day talking math with all of the kids.  It never ceases to amaze me that when you bring in something mathematically simple and open ended how much creativity and wonder kids will bring to it.  I mentioned this last year and the year before, and it is worth repeating today:  We need to get out of the kids’ way.

The school year is about to start, and the standards will dominate our conversations as teachers.  I don’t want to dismiss the importance of common national standards as a foundation to ensure that each and every student has access to important mathematical concepts.  But, we secondary math teachers have a reputation as self-proclaimed masters of content knowledge which can be important.   Still, I notice, we spend an awful lot of time making sure kids can expand a fourth degree binomial and not nearly enough time listening to the children make sense of ideas and letting them create and explore mathematically.  Kids who can manipulate algebraic expressions fluently can do just that.  (Perhaps they could use it to manipulate other algebraic expressions. Such joy.) On the other hand, students given opportunities to play with math have a chance to develop a deep understanding and love for mathematics.  For my own child, I’d rather have an ounce of the former and seven tons of the latter.

Thank you Desmos for sponsoring the day (and the awesome shirt).  Thanks to the Math Forum, Annie Fetter, Sara Vanderwerf, Ellen Delaney, the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, and all of the amazing people that have helped create this special corner of the fair where math isn’t scary or anxiety-inducing.  There are no tests on math facts or multiplication charts to memorize.  There are no lectures, nothing to practice.  And it’s the highlight of the Minnesota State Fair for me every year.