I’m Baaaack!!

Phew what a school year it has been so far.  I am not ashamed to say that I took a 2 month hiatus from the MtBos to focus on my kids at home and the 120 kids at school.  This single working mom deal is no joke!  So many interesting things have been happening in 406 both good and bad and I am looking forward to taking some time over Thanksgiving break to share those with you all.  I am making a promise to myself to blog each day over break to share something that has been going on for the last two months.

We have a new after school Math and Reading Clinic I can’t wait to share about, some truly life changing words from my students after their daily motivation videos, reflections on some of my favorite Mathalicious lessons we have done, some awesome games we have done in class and some of the struggles we are having as a team.


Post 1 coming up Wednesday!

Additive Inverse Go Fish

I am sure someone somewhere has already come up with this idea but it came to me in class the other day and I wanted to share!


I needed a quick activity the other day to play to reinforce the topic of additive inverse.  I came up with the idea of Additive Inverse Go Fish and the kids loved it so here are the rules:

Just like in lots of our other integer card games we made the black cards positive and the red cards negative.  I also have a sign in my room that assigns numeric values to all of the “face cards”.  We do A = 1, J=11, Q=12, K=13.  Each player got 5 cards and was allowed to ask anyone at their table for a certain card.  The catch was that in order to lay down a matching pair, the 2 cards had to be each other’s additive inverse.  So instead of just asking for a 7 students had to ask for the additive inverse of 7 or if a student had a red 3 they would have to ask for the additive inverse of negative 3.  Just like in regular Go Fish if the person you asked didn’t have the card you were looking for you had to draw from the pile.  First student to run out of cards was the winner!  It was a great and quick way for students to practice up on their additive inverse skills while having fun.  I hope you will give it a try!

Bringing the Ron Clark Academy to Lexington ~ Week 1


It is no secret that i was really pumped after listening to Kim Bearden, cofounder of the Ron Clark Academy speak in Lexington in early August.  If it was possible to move my family to Atlanta I am telling you I would be on the first plane to join the excitement (if they would even have me)!

After reading Kim’s book as well as Ron Clark’s I knew that I needed to find a way to bring some of what they do into my own school.  I am not going to steal their thunder or tell you exactly what they do because I am sure i wouldn’t do it justice but I am going to try and describe weekly what my team is doing to bring a bit of RCA to us.  If you are interested in learning more I HIGHLY recommend any of Kim and Ron’s books

Friday Town Hall Meetings

We slightly altered our Friday afternoon schedule to include an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day to have a little team town hall get together before the weekend.  Our plan is to be flexible with this time to use it as needed to address issues on the team while also strengthening the core relationships on our team.  A few things that we are going to strive to do in this 30 minutes are:

  1. Introduce our “Essential 55” rule of the week.  These have been adapted from Ron’s book.  We are introducing a new one each week and then are using our team incentive system to reward the kids for adopting the rule.
  2. Team building activity to build camaraderie in heterogenous groups amongst kids that don’t usually have classes together.
  3. Honor a “Golden Equestrian” Award winner each week who exemplifies the qualities we are striving to impart.
  4. Help students develop the “soft skills” needed to be a citizen in today’s world
  5. Deal with any team issues that may arise as a whole group.

Week 1 

Our first experience with this took place last week with what I thought was a great deal of success.  Here is a quick run down of what we did!

The essential skill of the week was:

To always address staff and adults as sir and ma’am.  So far the kids have done great with this.  I have never heard so many sirs and ma’ams used in my life this week in my class.  We have randomly been rewarding students with our team “e-bucks” at our discretion.  (We did make sure to emphasize that rewarding for this was a teacher decisions and wouldn’t be done each time and would never be done if they asked!)

The team building activity was:

The Human Knot

We had the kids count off my 8’s to do this so they were mixed up amongst classes and groups.  We did a little competition to see who could get finished first.

The rest:

We went over a few team housekeeping things and stressed to the kids what a great first 3 days of school we had.  The 1st “Golden Equestrian” will be awarded this week and I can’t wait!

In the future:

I am interested to see how this grows and develops over the course of the next year.  I hope the kids will really buy into and get excited about our Equestrian Award.  I hope that we will be able to teach them skills such as hand shaking and making eye contact that we know they desperately need in order to participate in the “real world” one day.  In my head I see having community professionals coming in to help us, a large etiquette dinner to help them practice their skills, and a chance for them all to give a formal presentation or make a video resume of some sort.  I am sure it won’t be perfect.  I am sure I will get frustrated.  I am sure there will be times when the teachers on my team will want to kill me but in the end I think it will be worth it!  Thanks RCA for the ideas and inspiration and a huge thank you to Allyson, Zoey, and Adam for believing in me and going along with all the nonsense I come up with.  There are few people who would agree to do the crazy things I come up with (like spray painting plastic horses gold at 9 p.m. Allyson)!



Tomorrow over 100 of you will step into room 406. Some of you will be excited to be here, others will be nervous, some of you will wish you could be anywhere else. What you may not know is I am just as nervous and excited as you are. I have spent my summer nights planning for you, imagining ways to get you to grow to love math, and trying to make myself better than I was last year. And tomorrow I will get to meet you for the first time. I will get to see the faces that I have spent the last 8 weeks looking forward to meeting for the first time.

Seventh grade can be tough. You are trying to find out who you are while slowly turning into an adult. You are learning to navigate parents that you feel don’t always understand you, peer relationships that seem to change as quickly as the weather, and plenty of feelings and emotions that you are not always ready to process. I cannot fix any of those things for you over the course of the next year. I cannot promise that every day will be perfect in my classroom, that I will always be as patient or kind as you need me to be, or honestly that you will even like me every day. What I can do is promise that I will TRY. I will do my best to spend the next 177 days giving you a chance to experience math in ways that you may never have before. I will try and be fair. I will try and care for you when you are having a bad day or are frustrated with me. And I promise that no matter what happened yesterday I will treat you each day like the only you I know is the absolute best version possible.

Tomorrow we will introduce ourselves, make paper airplanes, solve a cool math problem and maybe a few other surprises but most importantly tomorrow we will start building our classroom family. The family we will turn into within my 4 walls will support each other, cheer at each other’s successes, sympathize with each other’s mistakes, laugh together, have fun, and sometimes maybe even be upset with each other. However all of those things, good and bad, will lead us to achieve our most important goal…growing together.

I can’t wait to meet you tomorrow.

Mrs. Powers

Becoming Enlightened

I had the opportunity to hear Kim Bearden co-founder of the Ron Clark academy speak today. It was an amazing presentation filled with ideas and creativity for my classroom. However, the line that stuck out to me most was not a classroom game, or song, or story but a simple quote, “Broken teachers can’t fix broken kids”. Wow. Drop the mic. That one statement had an impact on me perhaps more profound than any other advice I have gotten.


By a lot of measures last year my life fell apart. This was eye opening for me in a lot of ways. First of all I learned that there are people you come across everyday who seem to have it all that are barely holding it together. I focused too much on what I didn’t have. I focused on my shortcomings. I focused on everything that was going wrong and not on what was going right. Don’t get me wrong by all accounts I was still a “good teacher, mom, and friend” but in my heart I know I was only going through the motions. I was surviving day by day. I became increasingly negative. I didn’t share that negativity much but it was inside me eating away like a cancer. People saw the always outgoing and fun Brooke but I only saw myself withering away internally.


I was determined to straighten myself out over the summer. You know “find myself”, “seize the day”, “carpe diem”, blah, blah, blah. It was a great intention but I had no idea how to do it, and then when I thought I was changed and had bottomed out more changed. My hardest change by far was saying goodbye to my co-teacher Joe as he moved on to follow his own dreams. I was happy for him but inside, to be honest, I was bitter. I saw all that we had built and developed and imagined it slipping away as I worked to find myself with a new collaborating teacher. I saw myself doing the same things I said I wasn’t going to anymore. Those old negative thoughts started taking over again and I didn’t know how to reclaim control of all those dreams I had of changing the world.


Then came today and I heard that quote; “Broken teachers can’t fix broken kids”. I can’t tell you how monumental that was for me. My goal is to change the world for these kids but how am I going to do that if I can’t even change it for myself?   The next words out of Kim’s mouth were the missing piece to my puzzle, “It’s not what happens to you but what happens through you”. That statement right there is magic. I have to leverage all that energy that is inside. I have to take those negative thoughts, the bitterness, the angst, and turn it into an energy that does nothing but raise these kids up. That is where my magic is. We can all fill pages and pages listing our shortcomings, failures, and defects but that does us no good. However, if we can take all those things, all that yucky stuff that we hate and put that energy into these kids we become more enlightened and empowered than we’ve never been before. I look at all the good I was able to do last year when I was just trying to survive and am honestly excited about the mountains we will be able to move this year when just the motions stop and the lifting up begins. I am telling you something amazing is getting ready to happen.

Your turn

My question for you is this. What is holding you back from truly raising up the kids in your classroom this year? I challenge you to reflect seriously on that and figure it out and then figure out how you can channel what is holding you back into enlightenment in your classroom. Thank you Kim for doing that for me.

177 Days

The last 177 days have more than changed my life. I started this year with an idea that I could help make math better for students that have never enjoyed it before. I started the year with a belief that all students could learn math at a high level and a dream that I could use this year to prove that to the doubters. Most of all I started the year with hope. Hope that I could dedicate each day, each moment to making a difference in kid’s lives.   Since that start 177 days have passed. Some days were nearly perfect while others nothing went right. Some days I had abundant patience and others I regret being too sharp with my words or not understanding enough of a student’s situation. Some days I felt like a master teacher and others it didn’t seem I was any better than a first year teacher on their first day of school. In the end though no matter how each individual moment, lesson, or day went as a whole these 177 days have been life changing for me. I will never again be the same teacher I was 177 days ago.   I will push myself harder next year and keep going. After these 177 days I can never turn back. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to thank those that made the last 177 days possible.

 To my students,

I will never forget the look on your faces as you sat through my first class making paper airplanes and listening to my crazy stories. You looked half excited and half afraid that you ended up in room 406. I can never thank you enough for going along with me for the last 177days. Thank you for sticking with me when the lesson was boring or when I changed my mind about what we were going to do 5 minutes in because I had an idea. Thank you for always making every day special. I hope I told you enough that I believed in you because I do more than you will ever know. Even more than that I need to say thank you to you for believing in me. Being your teacher has been the greatest honor of my life. There are so many things I want you to remember about our class and none of it involves 7th grade math content. These are the things I want you to remember the most:

Math isn’t hard

No one is born good at math

When things get tough watch a Kid President video

The key to success is….(I’ll keep that our little secret)

You are special

When in doubt eat a corn dog

No one likes banana onion yogurt OR Kim Kardashian math

And the number one thing I want you to remember is that hard work beats just being smart EVERY TIME. You all have proven that to be true again and again. Never let anyone convince you otherwise.

Remember that no matter where life takes you once you are one of my students you are one of my kids for life. There is always a place for you in 406. Thank you for the chance to be your teacher. I will forever be grateful.

To the Parents,

I am not sure I ever understood the trust you place in me until I had kids of my own in school. Although there were times when I am sure you were frustrated with me I hope you know that I tried my hardest every day to be exactly the kind of teacher I would want my own kids to have. Sometimes I shudder when I think about the things your child probably came home and told you. Things like we watched family guy in class (I promise it was 15 seconds and was a great lesson!), that we were gambling and playing the lottery, or that they didn’t have math homework again. Thank you for the kind e-mails thanking me for being a teacher, they always seemed to come at just the right time when I needed the encouragement the most.   I am afraid I do need one more favor from you though. Please help me keep up their positive spirit about learning math. I know math may have been hard for you in school but please don’t tell them it is okay to be bad at math. They like you may have had bad math experiences in the past but that doesn’t define their (or your) future! Remind them every chance you get that hard work always beats just being smart. They have proven that to be true every day.

I know I am not telling you anything new when I tell you how special your children are. It has been an absolute honor to teach them. Thank you for sharing 177 days of their lives with me.

To my administrators and co-workers

Thank you for always pushing me to be better. Thank you for the encouragement on the bad days and becoming more than co-workers but a family to me. To my teammates, thank you for going along with my crazy ideas, for agreeing to an unorthodox schedule to help me realize my own goals, for being my sounding board, and for being my safe place. To the co-workers who have become friends thank you for laughing with me, for keeping me grounded and reminding me that to be a good teacher you have to make time for fun.

 To Joe,

You took such a big chance when you decided to leave your comfort zone in 6th grade and come work with me in 7th and for that I will always be thankful. You have made me a better teacher than I could have ever been on my own. Thank you for listening to my ideas and sharing yours. Thank you for making me slow down when you knew I was getting in over my head. Thank you for having a good day when I was having a bad one. Thank you for picking up the slack when I lacked. I have had the chance to work with a good number of collaborating teachers and am sure there will be more of them in my future but I can without a doubt say that you are the most inspiring and dedicated special education teacher I will ever have the privilege of working with. Thank you for taking a chance on me.

 To Jackson and Embry,

Thank you for sharing your mom with 120 other kids who needed me too.   I have no doubt that it isn’t always easy having a teacher for a mom but you both handle it like champions. No matter what I am able to do in my life, the two of you will always be my greatest accomplishment.

In the end

I realize this probably seems like overkill to some. It isn’t like I am retiring, changing schools, or leaving the profession but I am coming to the end of a life changing year and to me that is profound in its own right. Here’s to the next 177 days and the next 120 kids.