Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Kicking my butt" - itslearning

This morning, I was asked in my teacher-based-team (which deals with Tech @ EHS) meeting:

"How is itslearning going?"  My remark . . . "It's kicking my butt!"

I have thought about that remark all day since.  At first one would think that the remark means itslearning has been some horrific experience for me and my classroom.

But, that's far from the truth.

"It's kicking my butt!"  Think about when someone is talking about a new workout they are doing and they say, "It's kicking my butt!"  What's that mean?  It was awesome!  It was a challenge!  It was going to make them better!  It was giving them ownership!

That's what itslearning is for me . . . students are engaged, students are asking me questions, students are working with one another, students are looking to see what they need to do next, students are learning.

Is it easy?  A quick fix?  No way!  And I love that . . . I was overwhelmed this past week with paper work as students were moving through the topics swiftly and smoothly, so I thought I'd go "traditional" for the last 3 days of the week.

And you know what?  I have disliked the past 2 days with a passion (1 more to go tomorrow!).  Why?  Students off task, students motivation noticeably dropped, student effort inconsistent, and my patience shortened!  And students who want to work ahead are frustrated, as am I.

"Kicking my butt!" - That's what I need to motivate me, to challenge me to create better lessons, better opportunities for my students to learn and be engaged in my classroom.  Does tough mean it's not worth it?  I think most who have busted their butts are happy in the end.  And, I too, will be happy in the end.

I hope itslearning keeps "kicking my butt" and I will continue to become a better teacher!

LRB365 Week 5


Squat:  5x80, 4x95, 3x110, 2x120, 1x130, 1x140, 1x145
Front Squat:  2x3 @ 110#

DL:  5x160, 4x190, 3x220, 2x250, 1x270, 1x280, 1x285, then 2x3 @ 235#

Leg Curls:  2x20 @ 100#

Felt good to finally get into the gym . . . always good to start the day off with a solid workout!


BP:  5x95, 4x110, 3x125, 2x140, 1x150, 1x160,1x170, AMAP x 150 (got 12!)

Incline:  3x10 @ 708#
Flat flye:  1x20@ 20#
Pushdowns:  2x20 @ 20#

Felt good today throughout the workout.  Really "feeling" strong with bench.  Really focusing on technique and staying solid through the entire lift.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

ItsLearning - Week 2/3 "Classroom Chaos"

Yep, that's my classroom the past two weeks . . . there are students watching video notes, completing feedback assignments, working through practice assessments, taking final lesson assessments, collaboration amongst students, students asking teachers for intervention, students asking if they can move on to the next lesson/activity.

It all can be overwhelming at times, but for the most part I absolutely enjoy the experience.  I sent out a google form survey to some students to get their take on ItsLearning so far.

I  hope to share those insights in a future blog post.  I selected students who have done well all year to see if they like itslearning more/less than what we were doing first semester.

The one thing that I am finding is that my set up on Itslearning and my entire classroom set up is continually changing . . . hopefully for the better.  I have had some days where we have worked on "whole class" activities to focus on one particular area of weakness that seems to keep creeping up in a lesson.  This is something I am going to look at incorporating more into my weekly lessons - whole class activities that allow the stronger student to "review", the ones who get the gist for the most part to "gain confidence", and those who are struggling to "fill some gaps."

This video by @math_johnson is a great visual summary of what I think I need my classroom to become.  Take a moment and watch it:

Things I need to get better at:  video - right now they are very boring and to the point.  I am trying to keep them simple and stress to the students that it's not the video, but the work that they complete that helps them learn the material/topic.  But, I think I could put a little more pizzazz into the videos but that means a better screencast program and that means $$$$.  Maybe my school district will . . .

On to week 4 of itslearning!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

LRB365 Week 4

Tuesday 1.22.13

Squat (ATG):  5x80, 4x90, 3x110, 2x120, 1x125, 1x130, 1x140

Pause Squat:  3x3 @ 105

DL:  5x135, 4x160, 3x190, 2x220, 1x250, 1x270, 1x280, then 2x3 @ 225#

Leg Curls:  2x20 @ 100#

Good workout overall!

Thursday 1.24.13

BP:  5x85, 5x95, 4x105, 3x125, 2x140, 1x145, 1x155, 1x160, AMAP x 140 (got 15!)

Incline: 3x10@ 65#

Flat flye:  1x20 @ 20#

Pushdowns:  2x20 @ 20#

Crazy morning . . . car got a flat tire, then battery died so spent all morning at Sears!  Workout was a great stress reliever for sure!  Felt strong on bench.  Building confidence each workout.

Saturday 1.26.13

4xAMAP chins (goal - 8 per set: got 8,8,8,5 = 29 reps)

2x10 @ 50# rows; 2x20 @ 60# shrugs; 2x20 @ 20# curls

Really focus on my warm up on this day - cuff work before/after workout.  Good overall workout.  This one is one I get through and then 2 days wonder why my back and shoulders are sore.  Good stuff.  On to Week 5.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

LRB365 Week 3

Day 1:  1.15.13

Squats:  5x85, 4x100, 3x115, 2x130, 1x150, 1x55, 1x160 (then did another 1x160)
*both @ 160# sucked - realization = leave my ego at the door & drop the goal weight

Front Squats - 2x3 @ 130# (tough, not pretty in any way)

DL:  5x145, 4x175, 3x200, 2x230, 1x255, 1x260, 1x270, then 2x3 @ 230
*felt strong throughout - feel like the wt is where I need to be at right now.

Leg Curls - 4x20 @ 100#

Day 2:  1.17.13

BP:  5x85, 4x100, 3x115, 2x130, 1x140, 1x150, 1x160, 135xAMAP (got 15 reps!)
*felt really solid on bench today - busted the weight up smooth and strong

Incline - 5x10 @ 65#

Flat flye - 2x20 @ 20#
Pushdowns - 4x20 @ 20#
*assistance work felt strong and seems to fill the gaps in and sap my last bits of energy!

chins 5xAMAP (10,10,5,4,4 = 33 total reps) - stamina/endurance on this sucks!
rows 4x10 @ 50#
shrugs 4x20 @ 60#
curls 4x20 @ 20#
solid workout - I don't know if it's cuz there isn't a true "main lift" but this workout was less than what I was hoping overall for the 2nd week in a row.  might be the timing of it - end of the week / body/mind tired.  ready to attack phase 2!
Really need to take a good look at the weights I am using . . . especially with squats.  And this blog post that I read (click here) just makes me realize that I need to let my ego go and program smarter for better, bigger, sustainable gains.
Also, just got Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 book in the mail - jacked up to read it!  And, right there on page 8 in bold its says, "Train light"!

Thanks to Paul Carter and Jim Wendler - worth your time and effort to read and learn from . . . not only for lifting, but life.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

itslearning - Week 1

Well I made the plunge - itslearning learning management system ( - in all 4 of my Algebra I classes.

I have been spending the past 6+ months reading, researching and checking out flipclass teaching and teachers . . . and finally I took the leap!

I was really hesitant about making the leap.  I was worried about student apathy, lack of motivation, poor effort, poor comprehension & retention, etc. . . . but the opposite has occurred.

Students are collaborating, revisiting the video notes, asking lots of good questions, and overall have been motivated and consistent with their level of effort.  My stronger students are ripping through the material, and have the freedom to continue moving on . . . it's differentiated learning!

In one week, though, I have changed the layout, looking to streamline things and make each lesson more user-friendly.  And I think it helped a lot.  And I am finding myself continually tweaking and changing things daily.

Things I have learned:

1.  It's nice to have all the videos out there already made by teachers, but I have found that my students miss those "details" and special "explanations" that I use that help fill in gaps of understanding.  Moving ahead - I will make my own videos.  Will probably be a little rough at first but I think this will help the students a lot at the front end of the lessons.

2.  Your bottom 10% who struggle in class now - lack of effort, apathetic, low ability, behavior issue - they are still a "headache"!  Looking for an alternative option to use with these students . . . I have roughly 100 students in Algebra I and approx. 12 students who just haven't gotten on board.  Each has shown signs at times in the past of doing work, but it is a hard balance for me as I have so many students working and progressing and asking questions and doing great things that I find my time with the bottom 10% is even more annoying when I see the success of the other students.

3.  It is going to take time.  But, blended learning will work.  itslearning will work in my classroom.  Is this true for all classrooms?  I don't know.  But, I do know that the leap was well-worth it!

4.  Freedom for me!  I am able to create my material and post it on itslearning and then it's there.  I can edit as I need.  Whereas I always felt like I was creating new lessons and worksheets and activities every single day for my classes . . . I was burning out from all the planning.  Now, I can put the time in at the front (prior to the students seeing the material) and then allows me to be a teacher - giving feedback and direction!  Yes!

****On to week 2!

Special thanks to @math_johnson (Graham Johnson) for all his insight/input this past week - he was great answering all my questions about blended learning!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

LRB 365 W2

Week 2 - time to keep crushing it!


Squat (ATG):  5x85, 4x100, 3x115, 2x130, 1x135, 1x150, 1x155

Pause Squat:  2x5 @ 120# (these were brutal! loved it!)

DL:  5x145, 4x175, 3x200, 2x230, 1x245, 1x255, 1x260 then 3x3 @ 225#

Leg curls (seated):  2x20 @ 100# (realized later I should have done 4 sets)

Really not worried about weight, but more about technique, full reps and really feeling the movement.  Today was a solid workout overall.


BP:  5x85, 4x100, 3x115, 2x120, 1x135, 1x145, 1x155, AMAPx120 (got 21!)

Incline:  5x10@65#

Flat flye:  2x20 @ 20#

Pushdown:  4x20@40#/30#

Felt solid throughout.  Really focusing on full range of motion and feeling each rep.


Chins:  5xAMAP - got 10, 8, 5, 4, 5 = 32 total

rows 4x10@60#/50#

shrugs 4x20@60#

curls 4x20@20#

Didn't have a great dinner the night before and I felt it today - sluggish.  Got through the workout.  Looking forward to week 3.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

LRB365 W1

LRB 365 Week One

Day 1

Squat:  85x5, 100x4, 115x3, 130x2, 135x1, 140x1, 150x1

Front Squat:  2x5 @ 110#

DL:  115x5, 145x4, 175x3, 200x2, 230x2, 245x1, 255x1 then 3x3 @ 200#

Leg Curls (seated):  4x20 @ 80, 90, 100, 100

Day 2

BP - 85x5, 100x4, 115x3, 120x2, 135x1, 140x1, 150x1, 120# x AMAP (got 20!)

Incline - 5x10 @ 65#

Pushdowns - 4x20 @ 60# then 15#x60+10#x40 = 100 total reps

Day 3

chins - 5x10,9,8,7,10 = 44 total

rows- 4x10 @ 60#

shrugs - 4x20 @ 60#

curls - 4x20 @ 25#

Overall - one word . . . AWESOME!  Loved the exercises, the challenge of the reps and volume, and really focused on technique throughout - now working on ATG squats so really hoping for my legs to get stronger!  Great start!  Time for eating, sleeping, recovery, before week 2.