This post is part of the “Day in the Life” project by Tina Cardone.
7:19am – I feel a little guilty for writing this when I never wrote the reflection piece for Parent-Teacher conferences, but if I wait for me to write that I will definitely fall off track permanently. I was going to write the reflection last week, but then the election happened and everything became 10 times more of a struggle. Last Wednesday was awful. Kids were crying, adults were crying, I had a permanent pit in my stomach. Apparently all that needs to happen to get me to leave before 4 is for a racist, sexist, mercurial demagogue to get elected!
Anyway, just into work. It’s nice that it’s sunny out now again, that span of a couple weeks when it was dark in the mornings was really rough. I know it won’t last but the fall mornings are nice. I’ve had MfA PD meetings the last two nights so I’m feeling very behind on work. We’re giving a test today in Algebra 2 but I want to get plans ready for next week so that my co-planning partners can look them over, but I don’t know when that will happen today. I also have to put together an Excel packet for my IB Studies class that they’re starting tomorrow to prep for the Internal Assessment, which takes precedence, and then read three Extended Essays so that I can have a Viva Voce meeting with those students. That last sentence probably doesn’t make sense to the vast majority of people, since it’s all International Baccalaureate lingo. Translation: I have to set-up a packet to help with a senior project and then read some research papers done by seniors before I meet to talk with them about it after school.
AND the slides I rushed to finish before leaving yesterday are no longer in my drive. Time to go make those.
7:48am – Luckily the teacher that taught this course last year put a lot of work into making a packet and slides for kids, so I can borrow heavily from that, and the slides go pretty quickly. Mainly I just change the formatting a bit so it’s more mine. And working through the slides helps me to internalize the lesson. Which doesn’t always mean I actually understand the material well enough to teach it, but it’s a process. This year really reminds me that the first time teaching something is always rough, no matter how good at math I am.
10:18am – First period was a planning meeting for Algebra 2. Tomorrow we are doing operations with polynomials, and Friday we start polynomial division. I’m really enjoying our planning team this year, although building the plane in the air is exhausting. Mid unit we start to realize “Hey, we should have done this differently” and we have to course-correct. But I think we’re doing some really, really good things. Granted I just gave a test and I’m not sure how well it went, but overall the class feels good. It will be my first time teaching polynomial division. I know that other teachers have used synthetic division but I’m pushing hard to use the box method for division, just because I think it unifies everything together. But also I’ve never taught it that way so who knows.
My Studies class today was a mess, so I need to spend a few minutes re-working the lesson and moving some things to tomorrow. I tried to rush some parts of the assignment but it was just messy and I fell behind. I need to fix this for my sixth period. Also I need to spend some time working on the excel instructions for the project. I don’t know when I’ll get to reading the EEs that I have, but I’ll try to get to them before my next class.
12:45pm – During my planning period I worked on the IB Studies Excel instructions for next week and definitely didn’t get to the EEs. It sounds like 90 minutes is a lot of time but there are conversations happening in the room and it’s all distracting. Right now I have a meeting for Grade Level Leaders where we talk about plans for the school.
2:38pm – Time for Viva Voce meetings!
3:20pm – Of the three students that were supposed to show up for a meeting, only one did. Which was good because it means the meeting went quickly, but bad because that means I have to reschedule.
This year we made a change so that instead of pairs of Grade Level Leaders, we only have one per grade. But it’s so much work, and so much is falling through the cracks. Also one thing I’ve learned about myself is that when I’m stressed, my patience for other adults is one of the first things to go. It’s not making me a very effective leader which is stressful.
My second Studies class went much more smoothly than my first. I was stupid for rushing through the content, but I wanted to give them more time for their project. I just need to remember that they will still have plenty of time in class to work. I need to finish up the Excel instructions, but I’m putting it off because it’s a concept I’m not so comfortable with. Instead I think I’ll put together a set of possible data sources for their project.
5:20pm – I spent most of the afternoon finishing up the Excel directions. This last packet took some HEAVY liberties with specificity for the sake of “I just don’t have time.” But hopefully it provides enough guidance that I can hop in and course correct students that are completely lost. It also would have been done faster but some kids walked in to talk to me, and then a teacher came in asking for help with her projector. The building is basically falling apart around us. But the packet is done, which is the last big thing I had to do before letting them work on their projects. It’s not perfect, but I won’t find all the errors until I let kids come in and start playing with it. The biggest thing I’ve learned in my four years of teaching is that after a point you just need to field test things. Oh, which reminds me I also put together a list of sources and re-formatted a planning worksheet I found online to help the kids. Hopefully the sources are useful and not complete crap. But overall a productive afternoon.
Friends are coming over for a game-night tonight so no more work for the day. Anything to keep me relatively human.
Reflection (Written on 11/23/16)
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?
I really like the decision I made to teach Excel completely through a packet. Any time in the past I’ve tried to teach electronics by direct instruction it’s been a mess, with 34 kids in 34 different places. The packet was a ton of work but I think it will really pay off. I’m also glad I decided to slow things down a day in my Studies class. Trying to rush two topics wasn’t necessary and wasn’t useful.
I’m worried that my decision to plan for polynomial division with the box method will complicate things completely. I know kids are learning synthetic division next year in the Higher Level IB class, even though I really, really believe my way makes more sense. But I can’t convince anyone else of that fact, which makes me think I’m doing something horribly wrong.
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?
Last week was the election. Everything about that was a low, and continues to be. I went home over the weekend which, while I love my family, was also draining, as we have different political views. There are a hundred posts and articles about how kids, especially black and brown kids like I teach, are responding to the election, and I can’t add anything to those conversations that hasn’t already been said better. But the election has affected me deeply and I’m just exhausted.
I worry sometimes that all of my blog posts come off as “woe is me, teaching is so exhausting, this and this suck” and I feel like I need to put all of that tone in the context that one of my coping mechanisms is to complain. I bitch and moan, but then things don’t affect me too deeply. I do love this job, and I love the kids, and I love planning lessons. But it’s hard. I don’t do a good job of sharing the great things, just the hard things.
That said, this weekend is Math Prom with Math for America, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.
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.
The day after the election, I was listening to some podcasts on the subway platform trying to make sense of the despair I was feeling, and I saw a co-worker walking towards me, and we hugged and she just started crying. We spent the entire walk to school trying to understand what had happened and trying to support each other. Throughout the day all of the staff members I saw were trying to support each other in little ways. It certainly didn’t fix things but it made me proud of my community.
I started each class with a short comment about how upset I was, and how I knew many of them were upset. I said I would protect them and I loved them and that part of the way I could do both of those things was to teach them more math so they’re better equipped to be citizens. I didn’t word it that eloquently because I had gotten 4 hours of sleep, but that was the general idea. Later that night when I got home one of my seniors wrote me a long email thanking me for saying something and hoping to make me feel better. I teach some great young people.
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 am doing ok, I think. I’ve done more exit tickets this year than I think I did in the last three years combined, but I’m not great at doing synthesis type activities. The “I used to think…Now I think…” structure is so fantastic but I forget about it from time to time.
As for note-taking, there have been a couple times where kids are working and I consciously think “No, this slide should be different so that their notes make sense.” I’m getting better about that too.
I haven’t used Desmos in more than a minute, unfortunately. Partly because in my Algebra 2 classes I have 35 kids in the room and only about 19 working laptops, and then there are two Algebra 2 classes that meet simultaneously so we have to find a second laptop card, and 40 minutes is cutting it tight to get the laptops out, log on to Desmos, and do something meaningful. I want to find ways to incorporate it more, but it’s going to require some seriously thought.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
Honestly I’m sure things have happened that have been great, but the election is acting like a giant black hole obscuring lots of things. In general I think our Algebra 2 classes are doing some great things, but I’m sucking hard as a GLL this year. There are not enough hours in the day, and the hours I do have keep getting put somewhere else.