#DITLife: First Teacher PD Day

This post is part of the “Day in the Life” project started by Tina Cardone.

7:23 am – Here I am at school, just under two hours before I actually need to be here. Meetings don’t start until 9 but I wanted to start to get myself into some kind of schedule. For school my alarm goes off at 5:52, I snooze it once, then get up and start my day. Keeping to this strict schedule helps keep me from freaking out that I’m going to miss something. My FitBit tells me I got 5 hours of sleep, so that’s a thing.

I left the apartment at about 6:30, which is earlier than I normally leave but I didn’t have to get all dressed up. Stopped at Dunkin Donuts to treat myself to a pumpkin coffee, get on the subway, and get to school by about 7:10. Got into my room and found out one of the lights isn’t working, which is annoying since it was working when I was here last week. But as my AP said we’ll call it mood lighting and go with it.

Faculty meetings will go from 9 until 12, then we have a department meeting for half an hour after that. I already set up my desk and room last week, so now I just have to knock out a ton of little things: Syllabus letters, last minute copies, updating websites, co-planning meetings, and a dozen other minutiae that I probably don’t have to worry about but will.

I’ve just had three custodians come into my room and push the switch for the light, to confirm that it’s not working. So far it appears I was right, it really isn’t working.

7:50 am – Two other math teachers showed up and we chatted. I’m sitting here looking busy while actually shopping on Amazon for Teacher’s Choice money.  The construction workers that are outside redoing the face of the building are talking really loudly and I’m having a hard time concentrating. There’s been scaffolding up on the building since I started working here ten years ago

8:45 am – $114 later I’ve made a rather sizable chunk in my Teacher’s Choice money. And I just completed the back to school note to give to my grade team. As a grade level leader I try to do as much teacher appreciation stuff as I can, and one of those things is notes to all the members of my team with a piece of candy taped to it. They work their butts off and I appreciate everything they do.  Now I’m off to the three hour meeting!

10:19 am – First hour or so of Faculty-Meeting-Palooza down. Bagels and summer vacation bingo, followed by some updates from leadership about goals for the year and an updated org chart. One of our APs left last year so we heard about how responsibilities are changing until we have a replacement. I’ll admit to being a little nervous but optimistic about it. Also this year we’re going from two grade level leaders per grade to just one, and I’m tackling seniors for the first time, so that’s a thing. Now back to finish off the meeting and hear about teacher responsibilities, then the department meeting around noon.

11:42 am – Faculty meetings are done. After the third year here the teacher expectations are all still the same so it’s kind of boring, but I know it’s necessary to establish everything once at the beginning of the year. Now it’s time for a math department meeting about our new grading policy. Woo meetings.

12:15 pm – Math department meeting over. Talked about schedules (even though they’re not entirely finalized) and our syllabi. Ate some cookies. Have another meeting with my Algebra 2 co-planners at 2:30. After listening to colleagues talking about certification I fell down the rabbit hole of checking my certification. The whole process is very confusing. Apparently I’m fine until August 2018, so at least I don’t have to worry about it, but I feel like it’s way too easy for that to lapse. I should go figure out lunch. But there’s more odds and ends for me to knock out at some point. The problem with nothing but small stuff on the to-do list is that nothing pressing seems to take priority.

1:47 pm – I’m not really sure where time goes anymore. I decided to get lunch but then sat down with the new work laptop I just got. Except the new work laptop I just got has the worst mousepad known to man so I can’t actually do a damned thing, which distracted me for 20 minutes. Finally got lunch and candy for the welcome back notes, and back to fight with the computer. I am not usually technologically impaired, so this is especially frustrating.

2:30 pm – Went on the hunt for a wireless mouse and found one, but ordered one on Amazon anyway. What’s an extra $14 after already spending $114 today? And the new mouse is purple. Then I got into a whole conversation in the hallway over some questionable online content. But I’m late for my Algebra 2 planning meeting…

4:00 pm – Well that Algebra 2 planning meeting went longer than anticipated. We discussed how we were doing homework (a combination of lagging homework and DeltaMath) and spent about half an hour on the syllabus. So many little tiny discussions before the year has even started.

5:02 pm – Waiting to get my New School Year haircut. I didn’t even have time to finish that post about the meeting. I love my coplanners because we’re all so thoughtful, but that also means everything takes a long time to get decided. Down to the word choice of every sentence. For example, does saying “grade may be rounded UP at teacher discretion on a case by case basis” give kids any space to start expecting generosity just by being polite? I’m glad we’re havin these conversations now while we have some time, but all these meetings meant I was overall far less productive today than I wanted to be. I made a to-do list at the start of the day and didn’t get to any of it. So tomorrow is going to be crazy. Set up new laptop and make copies of homework and finish syllabus and run through Day 1 and hang some posters and figure out how the laminator works. At least we had two days this year, last year this all had to happen  in one day. I don’t even have my final class lists yet.

Tonight I’m going to trivia with some friends and then trying to go to sleep at a decent hour.

Reflection:

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?

I’m really happy we decided to adjust our homework so that we’d have nightly, slightly lagged book assignments but also a unit-long DeltaMath assignment. I think this will help the kids to feel more prepared, and also not overwhelm them with too many assignments at once. I don’t think I would have put this much thought into homework my first year, just sort of going with the idea that “Kids should have X amount of homework each night.” But over the past couple years, while I still think the extra help is valuable, I’ve noticed that too much homework really overwhelms the kids and the point gets lost.

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?

I’m excited to be back at school and working with my colleagues again. I love planning lessons, and even over the summer I just want to be talking through lesson ideas. That said, no matter how much I prepared before, I’m still quietly panicking about Thursday. I think the broad strokes are done, but some of the smaller things (like posters, and class lists, etc) aren’t, and it’s stressful because I know if they don’t get done before I see kids, then they won’t get done at all. But then I also have to manage my own sanity. I can’t do everything, so how do I pick and choose what needs to get done with what can wait.

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.

It’s really great to see everyone on the first day back. While I find welcome-back-bingo to be kind of cheesy, it is nice just to catch up with all the people I hadn’t seen since June. Talking about weddings and impending babies and summer vacations just reminds me that I have some of the best coworkers in the city. I’m excited to be back.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  What is a goal you have for the year?  

I talked a bit about my goals here, but basically this year I want to really work on closing lessons. I think that’s a place where I’ve gotten really lazy, and it’s important to check in with students and try to synthesize what’s happened. Part of that is also checking in with kids about what they actually understand versus what I want them to understand.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

The school year hasn’t even started yet, so not much school related, but I can say I have had some great interactions with the incoming freshmen and incoming transfer sophomores at orientation. It’s always nice to see the school through their eyes, it reminds me why I like it here and also what we can do to improve in the future.

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