This post is part of the “Day in the Life” project by Tina Cardone.
7:24 am – Just got into work. Getting up this morning was a struggle. I was so excited to finally reach Friday, and was giving myself a pat on the back for surviving my first full week back. Then I realized we had Monday off and it’s only been four days, and started to become concerned that I won’t survive the year. It’s currently somewhere in the low 70s but I still get to work sweaty. But it finally feels like autumn which makes me so happy. I may treat myself to a pumpkin coffee later today. Treat yo self.
This morning before class I want to set up Plickers for my Studies kids. I also need to tweak some slides for Algebra 2. Other to-dos for the day are to make sure everything is ready for Monday and I have to call home for a few students. After school we have an Extracurricular fair instead of any meetings, but I’m not advising any clubs because there’s just too much else going on. But I feel super guilty about it, especially when every kid that’s asked has been so understanding and nice. My hat’s off to anyone that runs some extracurricular, I haven’t figured out how to balance my time that well yet. I see other teachers with the same level of experience I have, with the same number of new preps, and they make it work. But as it is I’m here until 6 most nights. I know it would be rewarding, I just haven’t figured it out yet. I’m feeling super guilty just writing this so on to other things.
This first week back has been very stressful. I find myself getting more annoyed at things than I have in the past. Not at the students, but at other things happening, especially things that to me shouldn’t have been as bumpy as they were. This is vague, I know. But hopefully things are smoothing out and I can get back to just focusing on the 1000 things I have to do.
We’re covering cumulative frequency graphs in Studies. I’ve really struggled with the order for this course. It made sense to me to do Measures of Central Tendency early in the unit, but the textbook puts it somewhere in the middle, which normally I wouldn’t care about except all the practice problems for that section mention stuff they haven’t learned otherwise. In a perfect world I’d make my own practice questions but A) The teacher that taught this before me used the book religiously, and B) we have a serious paper shortage at our school so I can’t print out worksheets every night. It’s not a huge deal in the end, but it threw off my planning. Mainly because I wanted to use a quiz that was already created but now I think I have to change it slightly.
In Algebra 2 we’re doing sequences and series. I’m giving an exit slip today (which is something I haven’t done in years) to check in ahead of the exam next week. I think the classes are going ok but co-planning with two other people has presented some interesting challenges. Least of all is finding time for all three of us to meet. But each of us has slightly different styles so we wind up with three versions of the slides.
8:37 am – Managed to knock out all my to-dos. Just remembered I have to go set-up the book check-out survey on an extra laptop, so running to do that. Classes are short on Friday.
10:07 am – Today does not feel successful. Right as my first class was starting I got an email that we were having a Fire Drill in 15 minutes, so the lesson that I had planned for my already limited 40 minute class got cut down by about 10 minutes. And I say 40 minutes, but really that includes a 3-5 minute passing time. I use a range because there’s only one bell to mark the end of a period, not a second passing bell to mark the beginning, so class length is sort of decided by how long it takes students to mosey to my room.
I think the Studies lesson went well, but I keep going back to the pacing and wondering if I’ve put things in the wrong order. Since we started talking about frequency tables, it made sense to just extend that to cumulative frequency and graphs, but it still feels not ideal. I spend so much time stressing about little things like this that the kids probably don’t even think about. All we really lost after the fire drill was the last slide, which might have been too hard anyway, so I’m not too broken up about it.
The problem is a little thing like a practically unannounced Fire Drill has ripple effects for the rest of the day. I already felt flustered after 2nd period so 3rd period didn’t start very smoothly. It doesn’t help that I keep getting new students added and removed to my roster every day so I have to make the same announcements over and over again. Especially when the other teachers and I have different requirements for materials. Another thing that keeps happening in that class is, even though I’ve looked through the notes and thought about what I want to say, and I’ve taught the class before, the first time I teach from slides I didn’t personally create is always a little awkward. My transitions aren’t as smooth, my language isn’t as eloquent. I think next week I’m going to start actually writing out a quasi-script for myself for each slide so I can be really prepared.
Because of those tiny little delays, and because classes are so short, I decided to let kids work for an extra 3 minutes on the practice instead of doing the exit slip. I think it was the right decision based on time, but I hate that I can’t check in with them. I wanted to give it today so I had time over the weekend to look at the results and think about things I have to mention on Monday, but that’s not going to happen. If I can tighten up transitions a bit before my second Algebra 2 class then maybe I’ll give them the exit slips today, and use that as a predictive sample of my other class.
I still don’t know as many names in Algebra 2 as I’d like. Only a select few raise their hands, and I haven’t done things like popsicle sticks yet because my roster has changed 5 times in as many days. Also the last two days the app I use to take attendance has crashed so I haven’t even been able to check that. It’s incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m not connecting with my students at all. And what’s more rough is that as a teacher leader, there’s some expectation that I remain calm and try to support other teachers. But it’s so frustrating because seating charts need to change and rooms are already packed so it’s not always easy to find a seat, especially when the only notice I get is a child showing up at my door with a piece of paper that has my name on it. So I get cranky, but I don’t want the kids to think I’m mad at them, but I have no poker face, and it winds up just being a mess. There are a bunch of reasons why this whole scheduling thing has been messy this year, and I think it’s almost sorted now, but it’s been stressing me out a lot this last week, and has contributed to my frustration with other things that are happening.
So I have two periods off, which is maybe 75 minutes to myself. I think I may go get a coffee just so I’m out of the building and can take a breather, then it’s back to send some emails about the IB Extended Essay drafts due next week and maybe to tweak some lessons. I should also probably adjust the Studies quiz since I’m giving it on a short day and I worry it’s a little long currently. I guess I should figure out what needs to get done before I leave the building and what can wait until later.
1:49 pm – My second two classes of the day went better. I thought the Studies class would end early but there was enough house-keeping stuff with Plickers and Edmodo that I was able to fill the time. I need to start over-planning that class I think. The irony is our Algebra 2 lessons have too much stuff in them. Again I didn’t get to the exit slips in favor of more practice time. It’s really quite remarkable how much smoother a class goes the second time through. Even just taking 10 minutes to reorganize a slide makes a huge difference in how things feel to me.
After class I went and had lunch with our department in an empty room, then tried to run some errands around the building. Tried to make a phone call home but got voicemail. Tried to speak with some students about their IB Extended Essays but couldn’t find them (although admittedly I didn’t look very hard). Got into a conversation with a student asking for advice about the level of math they should be in. Always a hundred little things. I just went and got a soda, which I know is terrible for me, but I tried to get a pumpkin coffee from Dunkin Donuts earlier and they were out of the pumpkin so I’ll just treat myself in some other horribly unhealthy way (that doesn’t include happy hour).
2:37 pm – The extracurricular fair is in full swing. It’s really cool to watch kids get so excited about the things they’re doing. I’m back at my desk because I became the asshole teacher that yells at kids about their hats in the building, and decided rather than stop being an asshole I’d sit down for a bit. I realized when a student asked me a question about my office hours for the year that my office hours are my version of an extracurricular. Kids just come and hang out in my room, even if I haven’t taught them in two years, to do homework and just hang out. I’m glad I’ve helped create a reputation for having a cool room to hang out in. And just seeing where the seniors are now after teaching them the last two years is fascinating. They went from being lowly sophomores to actually in charge of all of these clubs.
I have a meeting for Algebra 2 planning now. I’m not sure Friday at 3pm is the best time to start planning but it’s the time we have for now.
5:04 pm – Our meeting didn’t start until slightly after 3, but then everyone was a bit punchy so we got goofy. People were coming in and talking and we were tired. But we got the unit plan done for the next unit, and planning assignments done. I’m making a Demsos activity for next Wednesday on transformations that I’m pretty excited about. We also had some time to talk about the lesson on Monday so I have a good sense of what needs to get done this weekend.
I have to make some copies for my Studies class and then maybe I’ll try to go to happy hour. My friend is having birthday drinks in Manhattan tonight but I’m so exhausted. And there’s an EdCamp tomorrow but I’m exhausted for that too (plus I have plans on Sunday and so much work to do this weekend). Who knows. But it’s Friday night so after the copies are done I’m heading out and not thinking for a bit.
Reflection (Written on 9/20/16)
1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?
While I really wanted to do an exit slip, I think I made the right decision to skip it. We just learned a new concept, and kids needed some time to just practice it. Even then I don’t think they got enough practice time, but balancing everything is so tricky. If I had forced the exit slip it would have just been rushed and messy, so I think it was the right decision. I’ll push the exit slip to Monday so I can still check in but plan around it a little better.
I still think we’re rushing through material in Algebra 2. We’re so focused on the scope of what needs to get covered that we’re not going as in-depth on as many things as I’d like. Trying to find that balance is so tough. Most of the other teachers in my department are more traditional “Teach the formula, then do practice”, which makes sense when there’s just so much to cover. But it kills me because I don’t think we’re building deep mathematical understanding. I’d rather take a few days, especially at the beginning of the year, to do 3-acts and build both math curiosity and community. Right now I think we’re doing some weird hybrid and I’m not sure it’s working.
2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?
Learning names is a serious problem. Some very, very bad part of my brain is like “Why rush to learn names of kids I won’t see after tomorrow?” which is TERRIBLE culture building. This new week I’m trying harder, but it’s still so bad. It affects how smoothly my class runs and how comfortable kids feel. I’m stressed out because my class sizes keep changing, and I’m stressed out because I feel like I don’t know any of the kids. But I think the big changes are over for now so hopefully things can settle out and I can get to know my kids. Office Hours will also start in earnest which will help. I grab some snacks and encourage kids to come hang out while they do math. they’re not always productive, but I do enjoy the time a great deal. A lot of my kids from last year have already asked if we’re doing it again which makes me happy.
3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
During Advisory students share out a rose and a thorn, and apparently one of my Algebra 2 students shared out having my class as a rose.
Lately, I feel like I’ve been rubbing other people the wrong way. All of the schedule instability has made me annoyed, and I think sometimes that comes out in front of others, but they’re always surprised by my vehemence. I think I need to work really hard to seem more calm. Especially because for the most part I’m not as upset as I sound, just…loud? I don’t know.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What have you been doing to work toward your goal? How do you feel you are doing?
I’ve been pretty consistent about closing lessons, especially in Studies. I try very hard not to work until the bell, and even managed to do an exit slip. I also think I’ve done an OK job with the note-taking scaffolding, although I still forget sometimes. When I was a student teacher, I saw a teacher specifically model note-taking on a sheet of chart paper and I think I might revisit that as the year goes on.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
Over the weekend I made my first Desmos AB activity! It took me a couple hours but I really enjoyed figuring out what I can and can’t do with the system. It’s not an especially rigorous activity, but it does have students independently exploring transformations, and I’m excited about it.
Also, tonight I’m c0-leading my first ever MfA session, and it’s on the MTBoS. I’m leading it with Sahar, but I’m still nervous. The community has done so much for me, and I just hope that I can help other people to discover how awesome it is.