#DITLife: April 16, 2017

So it’s Easter Sunday, which is in the back-half of Spring Break. The only work-related thing I did today was grade two pages of the midterm exam my seniors took. It wasn’t the strongest problem on the test, which was a little discouraging, but overall the tests looked ok.

Other than that we got out of bed at noon, and I made some stuff in my brand new Sous Vide machine. It was a pretty good day.

Reflections
Sigh. This has been a rough month. I’m going to skip the reflections for now and just write them for May, but I’ll be extra reflective then.

#DITLife: March 16, 2017

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

7:39am – For having a snow day on Tuesday, this week has still been very crazy. I was later today than I like to be, and I had to finish my reflections for the last DITLife post. I love this project and detailing my day, but I’m bad about writing the reflections. Mainly because I feel like I say the same things every month. I also forgot my watch which isn’t a big thing but is annoying. But not as annoying as forgetting my coffee yesterday.

Today in Algebra 2 we’re introducing the Sine and Cosine function graphs, which is always exciting. My co-worker Kat made the slides and worksheet, plus we get to use Desmos! I think it’s going to be a really fun lesson. I still have to finish grading their quizzes from last week on Rational functions, and I have an independent problem solving project I haven’t graded in weeks. But I’m planning the lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday so those won’t get graded this weekend.

In IB Studies 2, we’re pretty much done with new content. Today kids are going to start preparing presentations on some example problems, and then we switch into full review mode until the IB exams during the first week in May. The seniors are increasingly checking out of class, so I can tell it’s going to be a rough month and a half.

I’m going to go stand at the door to greet kids as they come in for 15 minutes, and then I have a department meeting and teach second and third periods. So I’ll be back around 10.:30. Sidenote: WordPress isn’t moving along as fast as I type so I keep not being able to see the last sentence I typed. It’s annoying because of all the typos.

10:37am – Back at my desk. Today feels weird, partly because I’m very tired. But also there was the snow day on Tuesday, and I had to put out a fire in the bathroom yesterday. Like, a literal fire. The Studies class was just boring for me because they were all working on their presentations. Algebra 2 went ok, except we tried to do a Desmos activity and all of our laptops are crap. It’s so frustrating, because I LOVE Desmos so much and they get so much out of it. But the set-up and clean-up is such a pain in the neck. Plus we have two concurrent classes but only 28 laptops, so it’s tricky to manage power and availability of functioning laptops. Some of them work on laptops, but then that has other challenges. There are ways to deal with all of these things, but sometimes I get overwhelmed.

Then I also had to run around and have some conversations about GID seniors. That always takes so much time to find the people I need to talk to (both students and staff) and have conversations about it.

12:35 pm – I have a bad habit of walking away halfway through a blog post because I realize there are ten more things I have to do. After the last post I went and observed a few minutes of a history class and then walked through a “catch-up” plan for a senior who is struggling. Then I taught my second class of seniors, which is similar to the first except even less motivated to do work. It’s a hot mess.

Just ordered Thai for lunch, and now I have to track down my co-teachers to talk about Algebra 2. I feel like there’s something else I have to do during this period but I can’t remember what it is, so…

1:35 pm – Eating lunch quick while writing emails about seniors. Never a dull moment.

3:30 pm – Just finished a meeting with a history teacher and one of the seniors to set out a plan for graduation. Setting those up is difficult because it’s like “Let’s do everything by next week!” I think we have something set-up that’s going to be ok, though, as long as he can keep up with it. Right now I’m off to go see the movie “Gender Revolution” for our QSA.

5:00 pm – The movie was interesting, but there weren’t a lot of kids in attendance. In hindsight I wish I had talked about it in my classes. I hate all the little balls that get dropped in a day, because I feel so bad about it. Sidenote: Katie Couric asking Siri to define major gender identity terminology is a little awkward. Although not as awkward as asking the trans girl her birth name, and then asking her to define “Dead naming”, IN PRE-OP. But the intention was good and more people should watch it.

Two quick emails about the seniors, and now I’m off to get my taxes done. With my MfA money taxes are confusing sometimes, so I’ve always gone to H&R Block, but this year I think I may do TurboTax to save the fee. I’m not sure if that’s a good plan or not, but I will see. Running out now.

Reflection (Written on 4/6/2017)

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 didn’t plan the Algebra 2 lesson, but I’m glad that we used Desmos some. I think too often I blame technological difficulties for not using it more, but there are ways around that if you really try. About a week after I originally wrote this post I had an extra day with my first Algebra 2 class, so I did marbleslides with periodic functions, and it was freaking amazing. The kids were engaged and arguing.

The presentations we had in IB Studies, however, were not good. I keep being unsure of exactly what I want those to look like, so they wind up looking like nothing good. I need to just pick a point of view and stick with it.

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 am looking forward to break, because this six-week stretch has been killer. I’m on fumes at the moment, and  as soon as the last bell rings tomorrow I am out of here. I’m only bringing home the 29 senior midterms to grade, and everything else is getting left behind. It’s really nice that we’ll have eleven days off, I’m hoping I can recharge and hit the ground running when we get back. Seniors are reviewing for the IB exams, so I need to maintain momentum there while also working to plan what they’ll do after the exams are over. I like planning logistics like that, but it’s also stressful.

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.

 

Working with the graduation-in-doubt kids has been both exhausting and rewarding. Trying to find the kids and then figure out why they are struggling is a lot of work, and it’s stressful because if we don’t get it right then the kid won’t graduate on time. I think too much of this is probably left for the end of senior year when it should take place earlier. But in at least one case I’ve noticed a definite difference in how a student is doing. They still struggle, but I think I’ve been able to lift a weight off of their shoulders and that has been really good. I just want them to succeed, but sometimes they read my stress as frustration with them, and I’ve trying to get better about my messaging.

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 had to actually go back and look at what my goals were. I tweeted a few weeks ago that this is the point where I start to forget all the grand plans I had for the year.  I don’t think I’ve been as good about notes and organization as I want to be. There are some lessons that work better with a guided worksheet, but then that worksheet gets lost in the shuffle. But I HATE kids using binders for notes because the papers go EVERYWHERE. I haven’t found a good solution. I’ve also gotten sloppy about closing lessons. Even just a sentence of “Today we learned…” generated from the kids would make a huge difference.

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

I applied to be a Desmos fellow! And I’m working on planning the MfA NYC Summer conference. Now I just need to work on my MfA Master Teacher application over break.

#DITLife: February 16, 2017

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

7:31am – The downside to having a lazy Sunday with your boyfriend is that you don’t do the grocery shopping and then spend the rest of the week overpaying for coffee. And it’s not even that good, it’s just on the walk to school, and today is going to be crazy. In addition to my normal classes I have three meetings with parents to discuss why their student is at risk of not graduating on time. i will say that this year I feel much more prepared and comfortable in those meetings, but that’s also partially because I just don’t have time to be stressed out.

The rest of the day is fairly easy. My IB Studies class is doing a practice worksheet on finding the equations of tangent lines ahead of their quiz tomorrow, and my Algebra 2 class is taking a test on Exponential and Logarithmic functions. Tomorrow Algebra 2 is doing an independent problem solving thing on asymptotes that is probably too hard for them but we’ll see. And it’s a dress-down day, which is always appreciated. Tomorrow I get to decide how much work needs to come home with me over break and how much waits until I get back in March.

11:03am – The first time I’m sitting at my desk since I wrote that last post. The meeting during first period went well, but there’re lots of things we’re trying to coordinate.

In Studies, I’m glad I just forced the kids to work on practice problems for the day. The basic calculus they’re doing is not difficult, but it’s all so new that I don’t think the kids have realized that yet. I’m incredibly curious to see how the quiz goes tomorrow.

Algebra 2 I think the test is an appropriate level of difficulty. If anything it’s probably too short for the time period we’re giving the kids. It’s always really tricky trying to gauge difficulty of an exam.

11:41am – Trying to type up a plan for the student that missed half of the first semester and it’s really hard to focus. Partly because I have a huge iced coffee that is setting me on edge.

1:24pm – Rushed lunch before 9th period, then a phone meeting with a parent to discuss graduation plans for the spring. The student I was supposed to meet with 4th period wasn’t here, so I was able to talk to some other teachers in the building. Of course now I have to find time to meet with that student at some other time.

It’s always fascinating to me how kids deal with stress. Especially at our school, if you start to fall behind it’s offensively easy for that to snowball. We as a staff have to do more to curb that trend and help kids stay on track, but it’s all complicated by the fact that the natural inclination of some students is just to run from the problem. Which totally makes sense if you were never taught coping mechanisms or you have anxiety about confrontations, but so many of my meetings are “We can avoid ALL of this if you just tell us what is happening to you.” After two or three of these conversations I’m always so exhausted and defeated. Why didn’t we check in sooner? Why don’t we have better systems in place to help? Why are we so focused on our “high standards” if it’s hurting kids? I am very conflicted about the whole thing.

3:41pm – Back at my desk. I have to do some planning for when we get back from break, but I can see myself wandering the building some more. Or just randomly finding a bunch of other things to occupy my time. I’m terrible about being focused at the end of the day. I also kind of want to put together a staff appreciation thing for tomorrow but I don’t know if I have the mental energy at the moment.

5:04pm – I completed the “Graduation Plan” for the student I met with, and I made little Teacher Appreciation cards for the staff. I need to buy candy on my way to playing D&D tonight.

5:36pm – I reach a point in the night when I’m working on 3 different things at once, so none of them actually get done, but all of them make progress. Like this lesson I’ve been half-planning for an hour and a half now. But I have enough that I should easily be able to finish by tomorrow before I leave.

Tonight I’m playing D&D with some friends, so I have to get changed and head out. I will definitely not be doing more work later on this evening.

Reflection  (Written on 3/16/17 pretending it was 2/16/17)

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?

Whenever making  a plan with a student to graduate or to catch up or really to do anything, it’s always a process of “Is this the right choice?” Are we cutting the right thing so the student will feel motivation without losing hope? Are we setting realistic deadlines? Is the student overly optimistic/lying to me about what they can reasonably accomplish? Are we making it too easy? So all of those decisions are both things that I’m proud of and things I worry aren’t ideal.

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?

 

Same stuff, different month. I honestly don’t know how to make things calmer and more balanced for myself. On the plus side I have break starting on Friday and I plan on not bring home work so I can just sit and catch up.

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.

When making those graduation plans with students, you can see that they really do appreciate someone stopping, listening, and taking the time to help. In the grand scheme I always worry that it’s not enough, or more that it’s too little too late. But in the short term I think students do appreciate it.

I also think giving candy to the staff is a little thing I can do to show that I care. I know some staff members roll their eyes, but I hope it does some small thing to improve morale.

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?

Honestly I’ve just been so focused on being a Grade Level Leader and helping these kids to graduate, while also just trying to get something up on the board for Algebra 2, that I haven’t had a chance to act on many of my goals. Writing a new curriculum is so time-consuming and stressful, especially when we’re not sure what’s on the test. I will acknowledge that my teaching is far more thoughtful than it was a few years ago, and I do give so many more exit slips than I used to. Still not enough checks for understanding I think, though.

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

I’m making a conscious choice to not bring work home over break, but I worry that’s going to come back to bite me when I get back in a week. It was ok over Christmas though. We’ll see.

#DITLife: January 16, 2017

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

Today was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so we didn’t have school. I was in LA for a friend’s wedding, so I spent the day at Universal Studios. I didn’t really do any work all day, so I don’t have much to talk about. On to the reflection!

Reflection (Written on 1/23/17)

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 think I’ve mentioned this concern before, but we’re writing a new curriculum for Algebra 2 this year that is more common core aligned. Through the process, we’re constantly trying to find ways to cover as much material as possible while also doing justice to each topic. There have been many days where we have 8 slides planned, but I choose to focus so much on slide 2 that we don’t get past slide 5. On the one hand, I’m proud that I’m focusing on depth of knowledge for kids. Yes, we’re not covering every topic, but I want them to really understand what we are covering, and to try to look for interconnections in the different topics we’re learning. But maybe this will really hurt the kids later on, and we’ve made a horrible mistake. I don’t know.

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?

It feels awkward to complain about lows when I was at Harry Potter world on Monday, but this year has been rough.The job is always a lot of work and stress, trying to make sure kids learn not just content but also how to be good people, and any teacher can detail those challenges. This year is different though, after the election. There’s an undercurrent of stress about the state of things that is just exhausting.

That said, I start teaching Calculus in IB Studies, and I’m excited to teach my Studies class again and to be teaching the topic. I feel like there’s some sort of level of accomplishment as  a math teacher to be teaching Calculus. So that’s pretty cool.

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.

As a Grade Team Leader I’ve been working hard to visit other teachers during their lessons. As part of that I also write a follow-up “shout out” email to the team talking about all the great things I saw. I think it’s been really good, although I wish I had more time for it. Our teachers are doing awesome things and deserve recognition.

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?

Kind of the same as all year. I think I’m better about note-taking than I used to be but there’s still room for improvement. Specifically on giving them time to organize their notebooks. Kids are just SO SLOW. Lesson closing is going much better than in the past though. I’m becoming more comfortable making a few minutes to synthesize everything. I just need to talk less at other points.

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

Between winter break and Regents week is always kind of a flurry of activity to get end of semester stuff done, so I’ve mainly just been working my butt off. I’m excited to get to the new semester.

#DITLife: January 3, 2017 – Back from Break

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

10:39am – I remembered last night I was supposed to write this but then forgot until just now. The first day back has been ok so far. I didn’t get in quite as early as I wanted, but I didn’t have a lot to do. I printed a midterm reflection document for my seniors to complete, and then took care of some emails before school started. In Algebra 2 we did a Participation Quiz, so I had to tweak some of the slides to be more specific about what we’re doing. I also wanted to include a slide that reviews basic expectations for class. Not that I have a ton, but the reminder to be decent people I think is always valuable. We’re also changing our office hours to give more support to students in subjects (so instead of “Mr. B has office hours this day” it will be “Algebra 2 office hours are always in this room”).

I made a special effort to do as little work as possible over the break by leaving the Algebra 2 midterms at school. And it was good that I got to relax a little bit. But now this stack is staring me in the face and I’m not sure when it’s going to get done. Also I’m trying to balance a ton of other Grade Level Leader responsibilities.

Speaking of the midterm, I just had to have a conversation with a student that I think cheated on the exam. Those conversations are awful because you want to believe the student when they say it’s their own work, but also you know that it’s not. And I haven’t found a good way to say “I still like you as a person, even though I think you made a bad choice” and “I understand making this bad choice, but there are still consequences” and “I will respect you more if you admit that you screwed up”. And unless you actually witness the kid looking at another paper there’s always a chance you’re wrong. I don’t think I am, but I acknowledge a level of fallibility to the whole process. I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve taught longer, but I still don’t enjoy it.

I have two planning periods in a row off, so I think I’m going to spend the next one grading some exams. Good times.

1:28pm – Definitely didn’t do grading, instead visited a Latin class and talked with some other teachers I ran into about Senior stuff. I think inter-visitations are so, so important and I just don’t do them enough. And almost no one comes into my classroom anymore. The staff is stretched really thin this year and that’s one of the places it manifests. I just like seeing how other teachers have set things up and stealing ideas from them. It’s also rewarding to find things to shout out at meetings and to the staff.  Now that we’re back from break I’m going to post an #ObserveMe sign this week and try to get more staff to visit.

In my IB Studies classes, the rough draft of their internal is due this Friday (which I’ll probably extend to Monday). I’ve tried to give them PLENTY of time to work on it but I just found a student that didn’t even have data yet. If they don’t submit the internal they can’t get the IB certificate for math, plus I’ve set it up so I don’t think they can pass the semester, so I have to figure out how much effort I should put in. On one hand I really want to make sure they get the certificate, but on the other there has to be some degree of personal responsibility. I have to decide what I’m going to do before tomorrow.

Today’s Algebra 2 lesson is going well, at least. They’re not getting as far as we’d like, but it’s always good to over-plan rather than under-plan. And I think we’re set for the rest of the week as far as practice goes.

7:00pm – I’ve been terrible about keeping this up today, partly because I’m so scatterbrained on the first day back. After my Algebra 2 class we had Advisory, where we tried (in fits and starts) to plan a service project. Then I was going around the school checking little things off the to-do list, looking for seniors and other teachers. After sending some emails, I started grading around 5 and did that until now. I have a few more emails to send and then I’m out. The next two days I can’t stay so late so I wanted to get as much accomplished as possible. Which only sort of happened, but that’s ok. Late night, so signing off.

#DITLife: December 23, 2016 – Winter Break

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

11:32am – I completely forgot to start this this morning so I’ll just recap it from here.

I got up at normal time, but since I’m catching a bus right after school I had to haul a suitcase and presents to school with me. So even though it’s chilly outside I was sweating by the time I got to the building. Went out to grab breakfast because we didn’t have anything at home and then made some copies.

During our first period meeting we talked about our plan for the first few days back from break. When I was a student teacher, Chris told me the smartest thing you can do is make sure you have the first day back after break already planned before you go on break. It really does save so much stress. And because of some changes in pacing we’re making, we’re actually planned for at least the first three, probably the first four days back. So when we do get back from vacation we can be ahead of the game and I can focus on the grading that I’m not taking home over break. Which is basically the 70 Algebra 2 midterms that we gave last week and I just haven’t had the time or energy to look at.

My IB Studies class was mainly just reminding them to turn in their introductions today and then giving them time to work, so the class was really simple. And then in Algebra 2 they had an independent problem solving activity so overall it’s a really light teaching day.

In my two planning periods I made some changes to the lessons that we talked about during our morning meeting, and also watched them install the new projector in my room. I’ll finally have a smartboard again! Or at the very least a wall-mounted projector. We’ve had a box projector on a projector cart in my room for two and a half years now and it’s in the say and annoying. So when we get back it should be good to go!

Right now I’m in my second IB Studies class while they work. I have to check to see who has already submitted their introductions and give any feedback necessary. I thought I might get to some grading today but after this class I have Algebra 2 again, and then I have to pack-up real quick so I can leave right when the day ends. We have off January 2nd, which is nice I guess, but I’d really, really rather have gotten today off so the commute home wouldn’t take 5 hours.

1:34pm – Scarfing down lunch so I can get out of here on time. My afternoon classes went the same as my first two classes, but I spent this last period

2:13pm – So as I was typing the last bit, my co-worker came in in a panic because she forgot to book her bus ticket. So I checked my own bus tickets and found out I booked them for the wrong direction. They’re fixed now but that was insanely stressful for a about ten minutes. Just made copies for Algebra 2 when we get back, and I’m just sitting here waiting for happy hour to start (since I now have an extra two hours before I get on a bus).

3:15pm – I straightened up my room a little bit but that’s it. I’m so ready for break that my brain isn’t functioning enough to grade or plan. Off to a week of not doing much work at all.

#DITLife: December 16, 2016

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

8:36am – Today is the day of the math interim assessment for the fall semester, so I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to make sure all the tests are distributed appropriately and calculators are squared away. It’s overall a very stressful process, but it’s good that we’re checking in with the students to see where they are. Luckily until these exams are done I’m completely up-to-date with grading, which never happens. So that means I can devote all my time to the 99 12-page exams I’m collecting in two hours. Yay!

It’s also the day of the staff holiday party so I had to bring in a cake for that. It’s wicked cold out which sucks, but it’s nice to celebrate with everyone. I’m also helping to MC the game we’re playing this year, which should be fun.

9:36am – I made the slides for the faculty party game. We’re playing a version of the newlywed game, but with departments guessing. It should be fun. Also I have to keep running about to help teachers administer the exam, which means I’ve gotten very little productive done.

12:10pm – Collected and sorted exams, and made a key for Algebra 2. We also talked through the lesson we’re doing on Monday. I’m not sure exactly why all of that took so much time. I’m also not sure what I need to get done by next week. So I’m going to think about it on my way to get lunch. It was so nice not having a mountain of grading. Oh well.

1:16pm – Back with lunch and watching this video on teaching Binomial Theorem. We’re doing a self-guided worksheet the last day before break to introduce kids to binomial expansion since we just did operations with polynomials, and even though they won’t use the probability applications anytime soon it feels like a nice self-contained activity. I love going to bit.ly/MTBOSS because I get to find Kate’s post about the Binomial Theorem that I’ve learned so much about just now.

Right now I’m torn between wanting to power through some grading just so it’s done and wanting to do some planning because I hate grading. I also have 5 more letters of recommendation to write and I feel like I should just get those over with.

2:05pm – Finally made the popsicle sticks I’ve been meaning to make all year. It’s a little thing but super overdue. Some of my old students came in to hang out/avoid the auditorium “study hall” they had so we chatted. I’m really close to a lot of seniors now and it’s going to be very weird when they leave. I’m going to finish creating the markscheme for the IB Studies test before heading to the holiday party.

Overall today was not a bad day. I have a mountain of crap to do that I hopefully can get done before I leave for Winter Break, but we’ll see. I’ll probably go straight to happy hour after the party, and then home for games with some friends, so I imagine this is it for the day.

Reflection (Written on 12/22/16)

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’m glad that we’re introducing the Binomial theorem through an independent discovery activity. I think it will be good for kids to notice the patterns that exist on their own, knowing that there is a pattern to be found. I’m also glad I made the popsicle sticks because it will force me to hear from more students in class. I just have to remember to give them turn-and-talk time, and to normalize the idea that it’s OK to say “I don’t know.”

Whenever we give an exam I spend the whole time worrying that the decisions we made were not ideal. It’s really difficult to choose questions that are the right level of difficulty. After flipping through the exams, the wrong answers always jump out. But I ran the scantrons and those were actually pretty good overall, so I’m hopeful.

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 looking forward to break. I’m exhausted. In an attempt to have more of a work-life balance, I’ve been making more plans after school and on the weekends. The problem is, the workload isn’t lower, just the amount of time I’m devoting to it. So I wind up being behind and stressed all the time. And the few days I don’t have plans I wind up staying late to catch up. And the fact that I’m behind means I’m not doing as good a job as I could be, so I just start feeling terrible about everything. A few days of no work and no students will help me to recharge. I’ve already decided I’m not taking the Algebra 2 exams home, which will force me to relax because I can’t possibly do anything about it.

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 holiday party is a really important time for us as a staff to come together and be people instead of just educators. I think the game we played went really well, and even though I was really nervous I think everyone had a good time. Then happy hour afterward was also really nice because far more people go than at a normal happy hour, and it was a really great chance to talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I’m really glad it’s a tradition we’ve stuck with, and I wish I didn’t leave as early as I did.

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?

This week, as I work on exit slips, I’ve been trying to think of ways to synthesize everything. It’s really difficult to teach a new concept, give them time to practice, and then also give them time to synthesize, all in 45 minutes. It works better on discovery lessons than it does with direct instruction, I just need to keep that in mind.

 

Also this week I’ve cracked down on students not having lesson numbers, dates, and the essential question written down. I want their notes to be far more organized than they have been, and to me the easiest way is to at least have a date and lesson number. I think I need to do a better job of coming back to the EQ at the end of the lesson so we can reflect on the answer.

The Social Justice Professional Learning Team at MfA that I took this semester just ended last week. I sort of feel like I didn’t get a ton out of it, but then I also look at the stack of resources I have. I guess I don’t know what I wanted out of it. I guess I want to sit down with a curriculum map and figure out what SJ topics match with which lessons. The whole “What are you teaching next week? Let’s plan for that!” doesn’t work because making time for those lessons isn’t super easy. Depending on the course selections I may do it again next semester, but we’ll have to see.

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

Since Thanksgiving break we got a new couch and I’ve seen three shows on Broadway, so there’s been a lot happening. Overall I really like how Algebra 2 is coming along, even if a lot of kids still struggle. And I can’t wait for the IB Studies internal project to be over because I’m bored just watching the kids type (while also being stressed that they’re not actually being productive).

#DITLife: November 23, 2016 – Thanksgiving Break

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

7:33am – Got to work about 20 minutes ago and decided to finally complete my reflection from my last Day in the Life Post from last week. The blogging throughout the day isn’t so bad but the reflections require thought that I am struggling to find time for. Or I guess struggling to find time to actually type out. But it was good, and gave me a chance to reflect on some things from the last month.

For the rest of this morning I have to try to read some Extended Essays since my projected scores are due today. I also have to go through and approve topics for my IB Studies class, and create an answer key for an Algebra 2 test I gave last week so that we can norm the grading during first period. Right now I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed because I have 10 letters of recommendation to write by next Tuesday. So basically this weekend isn’t going to be as relaxing as I need it to be.

But today is a dress down day!! Normally we have to wear a shirt and tie to work, so jeans and a hoodie make things easier.

8:56am – The norming meeting went well. I think everyone is exhausted at the moment so we’re all low energy. Right now I’m sitting in my IB Studies class while they look for a topic and data for their internal assessment. I’ve encouraged all of the kids to do a statistical investigation because the process is very straightforward for them. While they work I’m looking at topics that have already been submitted and approving/commenting on what they have. The deadline for a topic is today, and I want to make sure I get approvals out quickly so kids can start working (not that I expect them to over the long weekend).

10:27am – Planning period time. I was able to approve several of the topics in my second period, which was good. And I think my Algebra 2 lesson on quadratic forms and sum/difference of cubes went pretty well. I’m really proud of how well kids are doing with polynomial division. I gave them an exit slip today and the large majority of kids really get it and had the right answer. And the most common mistake I saw was figuring out the remainder. All my stress about if I was doing the right thing has been alleviated.

Now I really have to read the EEs and get those graded. I’ve been putting it off forever because I hate grading essays, but my grades are due today. So off I go.

11:38am – So I gave feedback for more internal assessment topics, looked at Twitter a bit, and ordered lunch. I did not finish reading these EEs. My ability to procrastinate on things is reaching quite remarkable levels. Off to class for sixth period and then a meeting during seventh and eighth. We have a fire drill during ninth period even though it’s freezing out, so the kids are just going to love that.

12:38pm – Time for a Grade Level Leader meeting. Studies class went well, with kids having some idea of what their project will be. They’re struggling a bit to find good data sets, but we’re having productive conversations about it. Now I just worry about what will happen in December when they have a thousand other things to do.

2:59pm – Nothing throws off a lesson quite like a Fire Drill. But I still managed to get through most of my lesson, they just didn’t have a lot of practice time.

The meeting during lunch was frustrating, mainly because I had a hard time keeping my temper. I teach at an amazing school, and I get super defensive when people take issues with certain things. But I think that’s more a sign that I’m not good in a leadership position right now.

5:01pm – Finally, FINALLY finished grading the EEs. It took about an hour and a half of half unfocused time. It’s really, really difficult to focus on essays, I don’t know how english teachers do it.

I’m playing trivia with some co-workers tonight but I’m going to head home and see the cat and the boy first.

Reflection 

I just wrote a reflection last Wednesday, not much has changed since then.

 

#DITLife: November 16, 2016

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.

 

#DITLife: November 3, 2016 – Parent Teacher Conferences

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

7:22am – Been in the building for about 10 minutes and have been looking over the materials my coworker made for today’s Algebra 2 class. It’s still dark out because we’re reached the point of the year where it’s dark when I wake up, dark when I get to school, and usually dark when I leave school. It’s frankly depressing.

We have parent teacher conferences this evening. At our school we try to focus on having the students lead the conferences, talking about what’s going well and what they want to improve. The goal is to have students be reflective about class and about their performance. It’s nice  because it’s less talking from us, but it’s still draining to have to be “on” for another three hours every night. I like meeting the parents though. Meeting parents/families/guardians always puts so much stuff into focus. You can start to see where kids get their personalities from. It’s also fascinating to see how parents respond to hearing about their kids. Sometimes fascinating good, sometimes fascinating bad, but always enlightening. Unfortunately, more often than not the parents you see are not the parents you need to see, but we’ve made calls home to try and fix that. I’m still really, really bad about reaching out though.

Students are supposed to see me to schedule a time to meet ahead of time, but for some reason I haven’t had many kids sign up yet. It’s pretty typical that juniors and seniors don’t sign up, but I expected many more sophomores to sign up. Somehow I have a 50 minute window in the middle of the evening tonight. Which actually means I’ll have a bunch of parents just dropping in. It’s good that the parents have come in and are looking to meet teachers, but it’s frustrating to not be able to predict which conversations I’ll have to have.

In between writing this I’ve been tweaking the prompt sheet I have on the table for kids to read from. It helps guide the conversation and is less work for me. I also give the parents a little contact sheet with pertinent info to get in touch with me. I don’t think they ever use it (and I usually see it on the floor in the hallway later) but hey, due diligence.

7:53am – And so it begins. A kid just came in to sign up.

8:10am – Our department meeting was cancelled today so I have some time, but I’m not sure what to do. Updating some slides, looking through the classwork for today. Nothing super exciting.

10:24am – Two classes down. During the morning meeting time I didn’t do as much as I probably should have, but I’ve been feeling kind of unmotivated. It’s not that I don’t have a ton of things to do, it’s just that none of them feel especially pressing.

In IB Studies we’re finishing up the Statistical Analysis unit by doing some practice with the Chi Squared test. This has been the first time I’ve ever even done the Chi-Squared test, much less taught it, and it’s been really interesting. I have a much, much stronger understanding of the underlying math than I did before and it’s been really interesting.

In Algebra 2 we’re teaching the Quadratic Formula, so we get to sing the song. We showed kids the derivation, but honestly that level of algebra is a stretch for a lot of kids. We’ve been flying through the Quadratics unit because it’s presumed prior knowledge. Except we don’t offer Algebra 1 at our school. So some kids saw all of this in middle school, while others never really mastered linear equations. The range of skills is crazy, and we’re trying to give them as much guidance as possible. I think we’re doing alright, but overall they are struggling on assessments. It was nice that today we weren’t trying to fly through material.

11:13am – During my planning period I had a quick meeting with the department chair who taught IB Math Studies last year. We’re starting the Internal Assessment and I don’t really have a grasp for what I need to do. The meeting was helpful, but really just reinforced the idea that I really have to sit down and read through all the materials. Not really sure when that has time to happen. I’m off to go try to complete some grading before my next class.

11:43am – Well, grading didn’t happen, but I fixed a worksheet from earlier this year on completing the square with algebra tiles. Anything to avoid grading, I guess.

2:37pm – My R6 class went similarly to my R2 class, with not quite enough practice for the amount of time. But the problem is we’ve been going so slowly through this unit, and all the problems are exactly the same structure. So once they’ve seen 4-5 examples it doesn’t feel like the best use of time. But I also want to make sure they’re adequately prepared. Finding that line when practice goes from meaningful to perfunctory isn’t easy.

Because of parent teacher conferences I didn’t bring lunch, instead planning on ordering an early dinner. But I was starving so I went to the market next door to get some chips and a juice and a soda. I’m already very tired and the fact that I still have 3 hours of parent conversations ahead of me is even more tiring, so I needed some caffeine. After I got back I was able to get some grading knocked out so that was good. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish the grading before conferences start so that won’t be on my list.

Kids are still coming in to sign up for conferences which start in 2 and a half hours.

4:07pm – Finished my grading! It was only 30 short quizzes but still I hate grading. Now I’m trying to scarf down dinner ahead of conferences tonight. I don’t know if I’ll manage to print stuff out for the bulletin board or not, but I’ll try.

5:29pm – Two conferences so far, and I have a 10 minute break. That said I have 8 in a row next, which basically comes out to an hour and a half of just talking to different families. It’s not that the conversations are hard, and it’s nice to see the families, but also socially draining. Luckily I don’t think I have any super stressful conversations tonight.

7:06pm – The problem with how we do conferences is that every conference is supposed to last 10 minutes, but then they’re also supposed to start one right after the other. So if I start at 5, talk for 10 minutes, I’m done at 5:10. But then that family has to be somewhere to start at 5:10. So the second one of the night is a minute late. After 6 in a row, you’re almost ten minutes behind, so conversations are rushed, and everything falls apart. And it’s shitty because you don’t want to rush important conversations, or make any parent feel like you’re tapping your foot to get them out the door, but then you also don’t want to waste a parent’s time that is waiting. It’s stressful and messy. And what’s silly is that now I have only one conference over the next 50 minutes, so it was RUSH RUSH RUSH and now nothing.

7:56pm – Well, the family that was supposed to show up at 7:40 didn’t show up, so I guess I’m done for the night. I was able to make a key for the quadratics practice we’re doing in Algebra 2. But I just realized I never made copies of the quiz I’m giving tomorrow so I’m off to do that real quick.

8:06pm – Copies made, so I’m out of here. Home to sit on the couch and not think about school for a few hours.