Belated #TMC17 reflections and my #1TMCThing(s)

So, this is a weird year for my blog. Normally I write a reflection post for every single day I’m at Twitter Math Camp. This year, the first day of TMC was also the day that hashtag-gate started. This is where I should probably link to Dan’s original post, but I think it’s gotten enough attention, and the whole thing still makes me angry. Other people have done a far better job of describing my feelings than I can (here, here, and most especially here), and I’ve gone back and forth with people on twitter about it. At this point I recognize that A) I’m not going to say something new to change people’s minds and B) everyone seems to be moving on. I’ve been less successful at moving on, ironically because of all the work I see being done to address concerns raised in that post. But at this point anything I type here will not improve the general state of things. So instead I’m going to try to focus on bigger things I got out of TMC.

The most notable thing, which I talked about with everyone, was Chris Shore’s clothesline math explanation. I had been to the Clothesline Math website before, and watched the various videos, but I kept getting hung-up on the idea that it was amazing for number sense in lower grades but not so useful for me in high school. Then Chris showed one example with vertical angles and *BOOM* everyone’s head exploded. Suddenly we were thinking about equality in a completely different way and it was CRAZY. I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to use it this year, but I definitely want to. It’s sort of my #2TMCthing this year.

I also went to the Breakout EDU session, which was so much fun. We managed to solve the puzzle down to the wire. I do think if I ever did it in my classes I’d want more mathematical puzzles that the kids had to solve, but I can also see it as a great vehicle to discuss softer skills like problem solving and collaboration and honoring each other’s voices.

All three of the keynotes this year were fantastic in my opinion. Grace’s speech managed to call us out on our social-justice issues while also giving a path forward, which is exactly what that kind of speech should always have. Graham‘s speech was good fun and reminded us to think about what our community teaches us. Carl‘s speech was everything I wish Dan’s blogpost had been. It was a fun look back at our group and a call to do more. Videos of all of them are available here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYBZBns1q6SLIx7RIuQNKWViI8JaGLSed

There were a bunch of other little ideas I got from people this year (bells to celebrate math, ways to create a more positive culture, resources for the group), but honestly this year was more about just getting to know people in the community better. I feel like I just got to know more people a lot better. And I had a lot more interactions that started with “Oh, you’re Mattie B”, which for the record is a really weird way to start conversations. And Sam’s big “1” buttons meant that I reached out to more people I didn’t know. And all of them seemed to be truly enjoying themselves.

Which sort of leads me into my #1TMCthing for this year: I am going to work to make the #MTBoS a more comfortable place for newbies. I’ve already started a MTBoS Ambassadors program, and I’m going to continue doing local workshops in NYC to get more people involved. Because I think this community is amazing, and they’ve helped me so much. I don’t know how we can feasibly get much bigger than we are, but I’m going to put in the work to at least try. It seems to be working out so far, but I’ll be curious to see how momentum carries us into the school year.

 

 

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#DesFellows17 Fellows Weekend in SF

Despite the hundreds of other things going on this spring, I found time to apply for the Desmos Teaching Fellowship.  I was incredibly fortunate to be selected, and the Desmos team was incredibly generous to fly us all out to San Francisco for the weekend to learn from them first hand.

Unfortunately my flight was delayed two hours, but all I missed the opening ice-breaker. We spent Friday doing “Math and Mingle”, where we just hung out in the Desmos offices and did math and met other members of the fellowship. It was a nice chill time, but I was exhausted from traveling and from just finishing the MfA Summer Think conference that ended 36 hours earlier, so I don’t know that I was as sociable as I could have been. But it was nice to see some old friends that were in the fellowship!

The next day was a full day, and in the morning Michael started by leading us through the Desmos principles for activity building. The Desmos team is just so thoughtful with how they work through activities. I need to print this list out for when I make my own, because I know I definitely don’t consider all of these points. And it’s a testament to the team that so many of their activities already do. I struggle to be creative in lessons, but maybe these principles can help me build up to something.

Then we went through a bit about the design process that Desmos uses, which was really interesting, but also REALLY overwhelming for the amount of time that we had. I kicked around the idea of an activity I kind of already had, but I don’t feel like I did it enough justice.

But that was also partly because right after the Design Process section ended, Dan showed us the new features available in the computation layer of Desmos. This feature (which is currently only available to Desmos fellows) allows the user to start tweaking some of the nuts and bolts in activity builder so that the general public is able to do all the cool things that the Desmos team has been doing. You can reference values from previous pages, you can add start buttons and trigger animations, and a whole bunch of other things I’m just now figuring out. I spent hours over the weekend just working through the CL scavenger hunt to figure out what nifty things I could make. I still have two more tasks that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I already feel much more comfortable with the syntax, and I think there are going to be some absolutely incredible activities coming out of the community soon.

After an entertaining keynote by Eli during lunch, we then had some work time on a task of our choosing, and we ended the day with break-out groups. I attended the one led by Scott and Jenn on how to lead good Desmos PDs. I’ll be helping with the Desmos Summer Institute in NYC the day after I get back from TMC, and leading a PD at MfA in the spring, so I took a lot of notes on things to include. Much like teaching, a good PD session is of the you do – we do – i do variety, and it definitely informed my outline for summer institute. Then Desmos threw us a happy hour!

Sunday was our last day, and Dan led us through a sample Desmos Calculator PD (I just realized I’ve been calling all the Desmos people by their first name without any context, but I’m cool with that). Again I picked up some tips on how to lead a good Desmos PD that I’m going to throw in my toolbox for the future. The afternoon was some more work time, then we had a speed-dating session where we got to meet new people and see what they were working on. Some of the group did some CRAZY things given we only had a couple hours to work. I just showed up my kinda lame animation that I was actually really proud of, just because I managed to figure it out all by myself.

We finished the weekend off with polos, a swag bag, and pictures. Then most people went home, but a few of us came back to Desmos HQ to watch the Game of Thrones premiere. A huge shout-out to Eli for volunteering the space and his HBO account!

It was a fantastic but exhausting weekend. If I get to go next year, I’m going to make sure to give myself a break between conferences so I have energy for both. But I learned so much that I can’t wait to start implementing in my own classroom. Using more Desmos was a goal last year that wasn’t quite realized, and I hope that this year I can finally make it happen now that I’m teaching the same courses again.

And now to get ready for TMC…

The First Annual #MfASummerThink 2017

Today is the last day of the very first MfA Summer Think conference. Over the course of two and a half days we’ve had three featured speakers, three short support sessions, and a Deep Dive session where we got to focus on one idea for over 5 hours. It’s been a really great experience to spend more devoted time with other MfA teachers that I usually just see in short bursts.

For my Deep Dive I chose to do the “Curriculum Reboot: Design Challenge as Assessment” by Vielca. The idea is you give students a specific task that they have to design a solution for. We started our session by taking 35 minutes to create a marble slide that has to have the longest time. I’d never met anyone in my group, but by the end of those 35 minutes we were working as a team and getting so involved. I really like this structure for getting students involved, but the whole time I was thinking that it’s really hard to come up with these sorts of challenges. Vielca then took time to address those concerns, and give us time to work in groups to come up with project ideas. By the end, I had created an idea for Algebra 2 that has students creating different pieces of a Mars rover using different functions. As ideas go it’s an OK start, but I’m not super in love with it. But this workshop was a great reminder for me to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try to do more project-based learning.

The coolest part about the Deep Dives, however, was the share-out at the end of the conference. When it was originally suggested that we have an “exposition” to share out everything we’d done, I was a little skeptical. Obviously not because I think it’s bad to share, but I wasn’t sure how it would logistically work. But the idea that I think Leah came up with to have tri-fold boards was fantastic. It was like a mini science fair, and we got to see so many great ideas that are shared. I think one of the biggest areas for improvement for MfA is resource sharing, and even something as simple as this share-out gave me ideas for the future which I really appreciated.

For the support sessions, I got to choose two because I was leading one myself. The first one I chose was about Opportunities for Productive Struggle, led by Heidi and Melanie. They gave us a ton of research on the value of productive struggle, and some example problems that they use in their own classrooms. It’s clear that both of them put a ton of work into their session, which was awesome. I think it’d be a really cool project to sit down and come up with specific banks of problems for each subject (Alg 1, Alg 2, Geo, etc) that are available online.

The second support session I got to choose was about Concrete Demonstrations for Abstract Ideas by Samantha. I loved her energy so much, and the presentation was a lot of fun. Her examples were more for Chem because that’s what she teaches, but it was a good reminder that so much of what we do is abstract and we need to find ways to make it more real for kids. I think even Desmos can be a good way to make the subject more tangible for kids, and I need to utilize it more this coming year.

The session I led was just about the MTBoS. Not to diminish how awesome I think the topic is, but I’ve done the presentation before so it wasn’t much new. But I think everyone got something significant out of it, which I’m always proud of. The more people I can get hooked on the #MTBoS, the stronger both MfA and MTBoS become. I love having a phenomenal community of educators that I can steal borrow from constantly.

All of the workshops aside, the most interesting thing I got out of the conference was planning it. Brian (who I knew from the MTBoS) had sent out a note on the MfA network to join a conference planning committee.  He had sent his TMC to Courtney Allison at MfA, which led to a conference planning committee. Given how much I get out of TMC every year I made it a point to attend, and I’m so glad I did. Working with Brian and Courtney G and Leah and Carl and Sony and Diana over the last six months has been educational and informative. I kind of pushed hard for the basic structure to mirror Twitter Math Camp (with deep dives and support sessions) and from the feedback I got from participants I’m glad that I did. And I’m excited to try this whole thing again next year. Hopefully it will be a lot less work since we already have a framework to build on. And hopefully more people will be eager to sign-up after hearing about all of the amazing work we did!

 

 

#DITLife: June 28, 2017 – Last Day of School!

10:15am – Sitting here waiting to give out report cards to some sophomores. Today I got up at normal time, swung by a fancy donut place for a treat for my department, and came to school. It’s been super laid-back today since kids just come in to grab their report cards and leave. Some of the seniors have come back just to say hi, and the staff is all being very relaxed and casual.

I stayed until 6pm last night packing up my room, so there’s not a ton left to do today. A few odds and ends need to make their way into a locker and then we’re good to go.

Just requested the certificate for an optical exam, and I found a new dentist. Summer is this amazing time where I actually get to take care of my health and to-do list. Everyone jokes about how we get summers off, but that time is really the only way this job is manageable. It’s not like I can schedule appointments during the day if I get here at 7 and leave at 5.

12:02pm – Our hours are officially up, so I have to turn off my laptop and stow it for the summer. We have an end-of-year happy hour and then I get to relax for a few days.

This July I have an MfA conference in NYC, my Desmos Fellowship in San Francisco, and TMC in Atlanta. Then in August is a wedding in Seattle. The rest of the time will be spent being as lazy as possible while catching up on video games and TV. I’m so excited my head is spinning.

Adios for the year! Here’s to next year being calmer.

#DITLife: June 12, 2017 – LAST DAY OF CLASSES!

7:44am – It’s probably bad that I’m writing this when I didn’t finish my reflections from last month. In fact I don’t think I even finished my blog post. I was doing a thousand things and all of them were stressful and I was very unhappy. But now everything is done and I’m in much better spirits!  It helps that the seniors keep coming by to ask me to sign their yearbook. It’s a nice way to end the year.

Last week we had the senior camping trip Monday through Wednesday, and I think I’m still trying to catch up on sleep. Every day last week I’d hit a wall at like 4pm and have to go home and sleep. But this weekend I was able to finish grading my last set of Algebra 2 quizzes, so now I just have to tally homework and review a rubric for their presentations. This year my students either took the IB exam back in May, or are taking the Regents exam on Friday, so I have no finals to grade this year. And because of my responsibilities with the Senior class I’m not going to Regents grading. It’s not such a bad deal.

8:51am – Just finished my last Algebra 2 planning meeting for the year, where we basically just talked through some logistics for the end of the year and exams. Now I’m sitting in a senior study hall room signing yearbooks and entering some last grades. I should probably be more stressed than I am about various end-of-the-year things, but after the year I’ve had I kind of just want to take it easy. Or at least as easy as I can given the fact that I have so many little things to take care of. But I also have come to think that “cramming” isn’t super useful in most cases.

1:31pm – The problem with these DITLife posts is I get distracted by shiny things and wander off. During my fourth period break I wanted to visit all of the different senior electives that we offered to see how they were going. But that then turned in to long conversations with the college counselors about the school. Then during my Financial Literacy elective, I showed the kids “The Big Short” because I figured I couldn’t teach them anything.

The problem is that I got a message that seniors were just wandering the school, landing in whatever classroom they happened to find. I know they’re seniors and it’s their last day of high school, but I think that rules exist for very specific reasons. When stuff like this happens it infuriates me because I think we give them a lot of freedom, and they’re still abusing the privileges. I’ve learned to pick my battles, but it still puts me in a bad mood.

I’ve got one more Algebra 2 class to teach and then I’m done teaching for the year.

2:36pm – And I’m done teaching for the year! We still have exams to proctor, and there’s one more day at the end of the year where kids are here, but the heaviest lifting is over. Now we just have to collect their textbooks…

4:43pm – I’m not really sure how I kill time in this building, but it’s time to leave. I didn’t finish all my grading, but there’s only one thing really I still have to do. And make a DeltaMath assignment for Regents Review. But right now I’m off to MfA for a conference planning workshop. Woooooo.

#DITLife: May 16, 2017

7:41am – Yesterday was a gorgeous, wonderful day. Today it’s supposed to be high 80s. I’m bracing myself.

Today is the second-to-last day of IB exams. I meant to write a post on May 4 when my kids took their Studies exam but I ran out of time. Which is  my mantra for this year. This Grade Level Leader job is taking up ALL of my time and I hate it. Like right now, I have to plan the first two 90-min blocks for this financial literacy course I’m doing, but instead I have to finalize class lists and and work through Graduation-In-Doubt stuff, all while also trying to plan and teach Algebra 2. I hate that every blog post is me complaining about how overwhelmed and busy I am. I’ve already decided I can’t do GLL next year, but I want to communicate that with the principal, but the idea of writing an email that isn’t just “F@&# everything about this” is exhausting. I need to remember that I really, truly do love teaching, and I need to find ways to get back to focusing on that.

Today I have two proctoring assignments and two classes. In Algebra 2 we’re reviewing the midterm kids took last week (that I have yet to grade).

10:31am – Proctoring went ok. It’s just so damn boring.

Algebra 2 was also a pretty light lift, just letting kids work on their own.

11:09am – I’m in a place where I have so much work, but I’m actually being less productive. I can’t focus on anything.

11:47am – I’ve found myself in a room with a bunch of kids sort of helping a teacher, which is amusing but I’ve gotten even less accomplished.

12:11pm – Finally moved to an empty room with just me and one other teacher. Managed to make some course lists for the Post-IB rooms, but it’s kind of messy because I have no idea how many kids are going to show up.

3:33pm – Lunchtime. Today has been weird. After my 9th period I helped another teacher in their advisory to have conferences with students about what IB courses they’re taking next year.

*** I never got around to finishing this blog post because I got pulled in three different directions and then had a meeting to get to. Any reflection I would have written would have been super negative though. I was in a super, super bad place in May.***

#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.