Be Intentional Not Perfect: What cancer taught me about my plans

This summer, I had big plans for my classroom. I spent the vast majority of my summer preparing for a new year with big new ideas. I was given the opportunity to attend a Desmos Fellowship as well as a robotics training at Carnegie Melon and with the new expertise and tools I acquired, I was gearing up for an amazing year.

I had plans to:

  1. fully incorporate standards based grading into my statistics class with the encouragement of @druinok
  2. apply a new procedure to consistently and effectively utilize warms ups based on some techniques from @lisabej_manitou.
  3. use @themathforum to give bi-weekly Problems of the Week in Geometry to begin to investigate how to instill a love for complex problem solving with students
  4. build and use more @desmos activities using activity builder and learn how to do it well

In addition, personally, I was planning to learn how to code with my new digital buddies at Desmos and I had big dreams for making both a Design Lab and a new VEX robotics team a reality at my school.

I had big plans and I was ready for action. But at the end of June, my doctor found a lump on my thyroid and the ultrasound for that lump told us that we needed to get it biopsied. And that biopsy showed cancer. My world suddenly went from learning about learning to learning about living. I had to let go of my big perfect plans, but I also wanted to do right by my students. They deserved to know about all of these awesome things I’d been learning about, they should have the opportunity to know how amazing math can be, and I didn’t want toss everything that I had worked on in the garbage. So I started to try to figure out how to implement these goals outside of my planned course of action. I had planned to get everything organized, to do all the research and to make it as perfect as possible, but I quickly realized that I just needed to do it. I only had 2 weeks of school before I had to leave for surgery and recovery for a whole month, and I realized that the culture of my classroom for the rest of this year will largely depend on those first two weeks of school. This culture would help ensure that all the other goals would come together smoothly. I needed to show what the culture of this classroom would be like with such boldness that no student had any doubt (even after a whole month of having a sub) that they are safe and that math might be a little different here.

So I put together a year-long plan for standards based grading for my students. I incorporated a warm-up combined with a new problem of the week procedure. We used Desmos from day 1 and have used it in sub plans to help me get immediate feedback from students (different than how I planned to use Desmos, but exactly what I need in this time). And (most importantly) I was very intentional about how I started my first week of school. My priorities had to shift from implementing these goals perfectly to implementing them intentionally and with consistency which may (I hope) actually work out better for my students. Over the next week, I plan to blog about SBG, warm-ups and PoW, Desmos and developing culture. I’d like to share and reflect on how these are going so far and how I plan to pick them back up when I return from surgery recovery.


Sidebar: After more than a week of being out of my classroom, I’d like to nominate my students for the best students of all time. They have kept up with their studies and given no excuses as they push on learning without me. They’ve also been so kind and supportive of me in this time. I’ve gotten daily texts and emails telling me that I’m being prayed for and that I’m missed and that goes a long way coming from a teenager and landing on a weak, couch-bound soul. I’ve had teachers tell me that groups of kids have asked to collectively pray for me in this time and even had some offer to bring my family dinner. I love my students and I know that when I return it’s going to be an amazing year. Then again, it already has been.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh Madison. I’m so glad I got to meet you at the Desmos Fellowship so now I can know you through this journey. You are AMAZING to share all of this and to have been so thoughtful about your classroom in the midst of a time with such an intense need to focus on yourself. I’m reading blogs at midnight as I can’t sleep and I am so thankful I stumbled on yours. I’ll be carrying thoughts of you with me every day.


    1. Thank you so much, Allison! Desmos was such an amazing experience! I can’t wait to get back into the thick of learning about all of it. Thank you for the encouragement and for stopping by to read! I hope to be posting more soon.


  2. approxnormal says:

    Okay – I am officially a fan. Hope to meet you in person one day. 🙂


    1. Well, consider me star-struck! Maybe a NCTM, TMC, Desmos, or other math circle will make our paths cross in the future. It would be a pleasure!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. approxnormal says:

        I’ll be at TMC18 for sure. Can’t wait!


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