#DITLife: First Day of School

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

It’s currently 1:18 pm and this is literally the first spare moment I’ve had all day. First day is insane.

My alarm went off at 5:52 am but it wasn’t so jarring because A) the boyfriend had to get up at 3:30 am to go to work and B) even with the A/C the room is just too warm. The first thing I saw when I woke up is a Heat Advisory email from the Weather Channel. Anyone that knows me knows that I do not handle high temperatures well. 93 degrees on the first day of school is my nightmare because I just lose all composure. Then the new shirt I bought over the summer was too tight and scratchy on a day this humid and hot. Not a stellar beginning to the day. But I have my Desmos socks on so that’s something.

Got to school around 7:15, and I’ve already sweated through my shirt. There are three or four odds and ends I just didn’t get to yesterday before I left. I made the mistake of making social plans last night so I had to leave before everything was finalized. Also we didn’t get our class lists until just before 3 pm yesterday, so seating charts need to get done. The roster has 38 kids for a room with 32 chairs, so I had to first hunt down some chairs, then finish a question-starter poster I meant to make last week. We’re supposed to greet kids at 7:45, so I really didn’t have a ton of time to do anything, and I was so warm that my brain wasn’t keeping up with my to-do list. I had meant to write the syllabus a month ago for my IB class but I kept putting it off, so that needed to get done at some point during the day.

From 8 to 9 was our start-of-year advisory session. We started playing a simple Summer Plans edition of “All of my friends have…” game. But the game relies on moving about the room, which was too much. I know it sounds like I’m complaining a lot about the heat but it’s really all I can think about. The fact that tomorrow is going to be worse is freaking me out. But it was good to see our advisees again. I’ve been their advisor for two years now and I can’t believe they’re already juniors. Where the hell does the time go? We also passed out the new grading policy for the school and gave them their schedules.

We then have a normal schedule. I have first period off so I finished the question-starter posters. I wanted them done before class so I could reference them, even though it may not come up on the first day. With only 35 minute periods that’s really all I have time for before I have to teach.

My first class of the day is a senior IB Studies Year 2 class. There are only 13 kids in the room, which is great, but also kind of surreal. I can check in with everyone and get a feel for who they are and what they’re thinking. We did one and a half three-act lessons just so the first day wasn’t only “Here’s the syllabus” nonsense. The questions weren’t too hard, so a lot of kids could participate. This was also the third year in a row I’ve taught some of these kids so I really know them pretty well by now I think.

My second class was Algebra 2, with sophomores. Courses are still getting balanced so today there were about 36 in the room designed for 32. Between the volume of people and the heat I was flummoxed and I don’t think it was the smoothest start to the year, but the lesson was designed for students to be working on multiple representations of visual patterns in their groups. I heard some terrific group work and saw some kids helping each other, which makes me really excited for this year.

I had two periods off (which amounted to about an hour) so I wrote some emails and tweaked my lessons slightly. Then I ran to the market next door to grab a bottle of water and some caffeine, but I spent half my time stressing out that I had misread the schedule and missed a class. When I got back into the building I helped to deliver all of the planners to the rooms where they would be handed out to students at the end of the day. As grade level leader I had to coordinate that process so I had a vested interest in making sure everything got where it needed to go.

For sixth period (which we call R6) I had my second IB Studies class. The class is a little bit bigger, but still less than 20 students and I knew them all really well. It’s just really nice to be comfortable with the kids and have them be comfortable with me. I think there’s going to come some points this year where we’re all really stressed out, and it will be good to have that to fall back on.

I had another period or so off, but it was too hot to do much else than sit in the room and try not to move. I did find some A/C for part of it, but then a class came in. That’s about the time I started this post, but I wasn’t able to finish it before my 9th period Algebra 2 class. This was again 36 kids, but the room is just much bigger. 9 tables of 4 is a lot of kids, but at least manageable. This class worked less well in groups than R3 did, and I’m trying to figure out how to better encourage that. Kids weren’t being rude to each other, but it was just a lot more obvious who was working at different paces. I think we’re going to take some time tomorrow to discuss how to work in a group even if you’re working at different paces. I really want kids to feel comfortable asking questions of other members of their table, I’m just struggling with figuring out the best way to facilitate that.

We then saw our advisories again for like ten minutes to check in. We did a Rose and Thorn activity and the kids all seemed excited about their new IB courses but really put-off by the heat (and as already established, I can’t blame them in the least).

Then we had MetroCard and planner distribution after school. I helped organize it for the seniors, but my awesome grade team really came through and the whole process went as smoothly as can be expected. I was so impressed with them and it makes me excited to start this year.

After distribution finally wound down around 3 pm, I sort of putzed around. Talked a little bit with my Algebra 2 co-planners, cleaned my desk a little bit. I changed into shorts so I could feel more comfortable, and then finally ate “lunch” around 4:30. In the last hour, I’ve updated slides for tomorrow, and I’ve had some conversations about some weird SNAFUs that have come up this year. The first day is just so crazy.

It’s 6pm. I need to leave this building. The goal for tonight is to sit on the couch and not think. I still have to make two posters for class, plus I did poor man’s name tent activity with my seniors that I need to respond to, but that can happen tomorrow before school. Right now I need to just relax.


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, really happy that we just jumped right in to doing math. There’s always the worry that if you don’t tell kids what you expect of them that they’ll start being crazy, but by having an open-ended enough task we were able to get kids thinking mathematically from the get-go.

I think my speaking in front of classes felt a little scatterbrained though. Partly because it was just so damn hot, especially later in the day I had a really hard time keeping my thoughts organized. And with only 30 minute periods everything feels so rushed. I think in the long run it will work out but right now I just feel like I made a terrible first impression on some of the sophomores. There’s so much pressure built in to the first couple days that it can be overwhelming sometimes.

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 really looking forward to teaching Algebra 2 this year. I have two co-planners who have similar outlooks as me and I think we’re going to do some really, really awesome stuff in that class. I think it’ll be a lot of work on the front end but we’ll have a really awesome curriculum at the end of the year.

Getting in the right head space for the year has been a challenge though. Not co-planning my Studies class is really fun in some ways because I can do my own thing, but it’s also weird to not have to answer to anyone. Overall the year just feels weird, and I sometimes feel very over-prepared and very under-prepared simultaneously. Again, I know everything will work out fine in the long run but I don’t feel very centered currently.

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.

Right before my R9 class I was running down the hall to get more notecards, and a student I taught last year stopped me to say hi. Not only that, he had bought me candy while he was on vacation! It was so touching and awesome. Teachers always say we do this for the kids, but really interacting with them is the best part of every day.

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?

My goal is to close lessons, but today’s lessons weren’t about new material, and the periods were so short, that it didn’t really happen. In Studies we were just practicing and in Algebra 2 it was designed as a two-day activity. Tomorrow we have plans to do a more specific close for the Algebra 2 course, and during our planning meeting I’m going to keep that in mind for the rest of next week.

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

I just wrote one of these posts two days ago, so not much has happened since then 🙂



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