#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.

 

#DITLife: October 16, 2016

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

12:46pm – I’m just getting settled at the coffee shop to work for the day. I didn’t get out of bed really until 9 (even though I had been up since 7 thinking of the hundreds of things on my to-do list), then I puttered around the house putting something in the slow cooker for dinner and just generally being slow. Plus the best coffeeshop in the area is a 10 minute bus ride, and it’s always packed in the middle of the day. But I managed to find a seat across from Sam with a plug so I’m good to go.

There’s so much to do I don’t really know where to start. I worked for about 5 hours yesterday and barely made a dent. I have to register half the senior class for their IB exams, and work on plans for this week, and start writing letters of recommendation that have a Nov. 1st deadline. I have 22  letters to write, most of which I agreed to back when I thought I would be the 10th grade team leader with a partner. Being the 12th grade team leader by myself is kicking my ass. Plus I forgot how much work writing a curriculum from scratch is. Overall I think we’re doing a good job with Algebra 2, but it’s a lot of work. And I’m not going to even think about the grading I have in my bag because that can wait and these other things simply cannot. So off to work I go.

3:17 pm – Finally finished registering students for their IB exams. That’s 2.5 hours I’ll never get back. The question is do I jump right into a letter of rec (since that’s what stressing me out the most) or do I give my brain a break and do some planning? Planning is energizing for me so maybe I’ll do that until 3:45. But I really, really, really have to get at least one letter done today. Rip the bandaid off.

4:18 pm – A lesson is planned (not even the one I meant to plan) but still no letter of rec. I really want to plan Thursday’s lesson for Algebra 2 but I’m forcing myself to write. Ugh.

5:30 pm – Finally done the first letter. I wasn’t writing for that whole time, there were also emails from a student asking about their quiz tomorrow and some emails from my co-planners about lessons later this week I was responding to. But I did spend about an hour on it. It was the first college rec I’ve ever written so I had to get my head into the right place. And I think it still has to be edited, but I’ve at least gotten the ball rolling. It’s one of those things that just learning how to think about it makes the whole process easier. Plus this wasn’t a student I was exceptionally close with so I had less of a thesis walking in. But it was nice to write, and from an objective point of view it was fun to think of nice things to stay about them. But I’m spent. I’m going to spend the rest of the night on the couch with my boyfriend watching TV.

6:23 pm – Ok, NOW I’m leaving. Had to write an email about a student in crisis. Never a dull moment. Sad Sundays are the worst.

The rest of the night was spent eating pot roast and watching TV. Specifically Westworld which everyone should be watching!

Reflection (Written on 10/26/16)

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?

 

 

Honestly when I’m working at the coffeeshop I don’t see myself as making a ton of decisions, but I probably was with regards to how the lesson I was planning was structured. I’ve been continually making an effort this year to get kids to make discoveries on their own. I think it’s been going well overall, and I try to save any “direct instruction” for after they’ve already had a go at the concept first.

The downside to that is we’re not making enough time for just practice, and test scores reflect that. I think we need to figure out how to reach a better balance of practice and inquiry. Trying to find this balance is really tricky, especially with a new curriculum that we’re writing as we go.

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 PSAT day, and we always have workshops for our seniors. I was super, super, super stressed out about it all last week. Especially when I found out a few days before I’d have to lead a workshop. But when I started the workshop by telling the kids I was their Grade Leader I actually had one group that cheered. That was really flattering and nice to hear.

That said, all last week BEFORE the workshops was rough. I was so stressed out and overwhelmed and wondering how I would continue to get through the year. That part is exhausting. I want to be a teacher leader but there’s so much pressure to not waste other people’s time.

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.

 

Almost every time I go to the coffee shop I sit down and work with Sam. It’s great because I have someone I can talk through ideas with, or even just vent to. And while I hesitate to call my work “misery”, misery does love company.  Having that relationship with someone not in my school is so important, and it makes Sad Sundays more bearable.

A more recent example (that happened yesterday, so about a week after the blog post was initially written) was when some of the seniors came to talk to me. Right now they have an EE due and college applications are coming up, all on top of regular high school stress. It was nice that they came to talk to me, and I think I handled the interactions well. I validated their feelings and also gave them steps to move forward. I know they don’t always see it but I do love the kids and it’s stressful for me that they’re so overwrought. But many of them do see it, and they show they appreciate it in their own way.

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?

It’s always amazing that the first thing to go when you’re running out of time is the exit slip. That’s happened twice in the last week. I worry that I’m not getting nearly as much feedback as I should be from the students, and I’m worried I’m giving even less feedback. Plus from what I understand the quiz we gave last week was a mess which further heightens this feeling that I’m not doing enough. I just don’t know how to find more time in the lessons.

I also feel kind of frantic about their note-taking. I’m doing better than I have in the past, but nowhere near as well as I think I could be doing. I really want to give a notebook quiz but that requires me to make it (and other versions so kids don’t cheat) and then check it and it’s just exhausting. But if you wait too long then kids are already set in their ways and it’s impossible to move them. Maybe I’ll try to make time for that today.

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

 

The “Explore MTBoS” workshop I lead at MfA was really successful! We got a ton of positive feedback which was great.

I know this post sounds super stressed out, but it’s been a stressful couple of weeks. Things have calmed down significantly now (hence why I finally have time to complete my reflections).

 

 

#DITLife: September 16, 2016

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

7:24 am – Just got into work. Getting up this morning was a struggle. I was so excited to finally reach Friday, and was giving myself a pat on the back for surviving my first full week back. Then I realized we had Monday off and it’s only been four days, and started to become concerned that I won’t survive the year. It’s currently somewhere in the low 70s but I still get to work sweaty. But it finally feels like autumn which makes me so happy. I may treat myself to a pumpkin coffee later today. Treat yo self.

This morning before class I want to set up Plickers for my Studies kids. I also need to tweak some slides for Algebra 2. Other to-dos for the day are to make sure everything is ready for Monday and I have to call home for a few students. After school we have an Extracurricular fair instead of any meetings, but I’m not advising any clubs because there’s just too much else going on. But I feel super guilty about it, especially when every kid that’s asked has been so understanding and nice. My hat’s off to anyone that runs some extracurricular, I haven’t figured out how to balance my time that well yet. I see other teachers with the same level of experience I have, with the same number of new preps, and they make it work. But as it is I’m here until 6 most nights. I know it would be rewarding, I just haven’t figured it out yet. I’m feeling super guilty just writing this so on to other things.

This first week back has been very stressful. I find myself getting more annoyed at things than I have in the past. Not at the students, but at other things happening, especially things that to me shouldn’t have been as bumpy as they were. This is vague, I know. But hopefully things are smoothing out and I can get back to just focusing on the 1000 things I have to do.

We’re covering cumulative frequency graphs in Studies. I’ve really struggled with the order for this course. It made sense to me to do Measures of Central Tendency early in the unit, but the textbook puts it somewhere in the middle, which normally I wouldn’t care about except all the practice problems for that section mention stuff they haven’t learned otherwise. In a perfect world I’d make my own practice questions but A) The teacher that taught this before me used the book religiously, and B) we have a serious paper shortage at our school so I can’t print out worksheets every night. It’s not a huge deal in the end, but it threw off my planning. Mainly because I wanted to use a quiz that was already created but now I think I have to change it slightly.

In Algebra 2 we’re doing sequences and series. I’m giving an exit slip today (which is something I haven’t done in years) to check in ahead of the exam next week. I think the classes are going ok but co-planning with two other people has presented some interesting challenges. Least of all is finding time for all three of us to meet. But each of us has slightly different styles so we wind up with three versions of the slides.

8:37 am – Managed to knock out all my to-dos. Just remembered I have to go set-up the book check-out survey on an extra laptop, so running to do that. Classes are short on Friday.

10:07 am – Today does not feel successful. Right as my first class was starting I got an email that we were having a Fire Drill in 15 minutes, so the lesson that I had planned for my already limited 40 minute class got cut down by about 10 minutes. And I say 40 minutes, but really that includes a 3-5 minute passing time. I use a range because there’s only one bell to mark the end of a period, not a second passing bell to mark the beginning, so class length is sort of decided by how long it takes students to mosey to my room.

I think the Studies lesson went well, but I keep going back to the pacing and wondering if I’ve put things in the wrong order. Since we started talking about frequency tables, it made sense to just extend that to cumulative frequency and graphs, but it still feels not ideal. I spend so much time stressing about little things like this that the kids probably don’t even think about. All we really lost after the fire drill was the last slide, which might have been too hard anyway, so I’m not too broken up about it.

The problem is a little thing like a practically unannounced Fire Drill has ripple effects for the rest of the day. I already felt flustered after 2nd period so 3rd period didn’t start very smoothly. It doesn’t help that I keep getting new students added and removed to my roster every day so I have to make the same announcements over and over again. Especially when the other teachers and I have different requirements for materials. Another thing that keeps happening in that class is, even though I’ve looked through the notes and thought about what I want to say, and I’ve taught the class before, the first time I teach from slides I didn’t personally create is always a little awkward. My transitions aren’t as smooth, my language isn’t as eloquent. I think next week I’m going to start actually writing out a quasi-script for myself for each slide so I can be really prepared.

Because of those tiny little delays, and because classes are so short, I decided to let kids work for an extra 3 minutes on the practice instead of doing the exit slip. I think it was the right decision based on time, but I hate that I can’t check in with them. I wanted to give it today so I had time over the weekend to look at the results and think about things I have to mention on Monday, but that’s not going to happen. If I can tighten up transitions a bit before my second Algebra 2 class then maybe I’ll give them the exit slips today, and use that as a predictive sample of my other class.

I still don’t know as many names in Algebra 2 as I’d like. Only a select few raise their hands, and I haven’t done things like popsicle sticks yet because my roster has changed 5 times in as many days. Also the last two days the app I use to take attendance has crashed so I haven’t even been able to check that. It’s incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m not connecting with my students at all. And what’s more rough is that as a teacher leader, there’s some expectation that I remain calm and try to support other teachers. But it’s so frustrating because seating charts need to change and rooms are already packed so it’s not always easy to find a seat, especially when the only notice I get is a child showing up at my door with a piece of paper that has my name on it. So I get cranky, but I don’t want the kids to think I’m mad at them, but I have no poker face, and it winds up just being a mess. There are a bunch of reasons why this whole scheduling thing has been messy this year, and I think it’s almost sorted now, but it’s been stressing me out a lot this last week, and has contributed to my frustration with other things that are happening.

So I have two periods off, which is maybe 75 minutes to myself. I think I may go get a coffee just so I’m out of the building and can take a breather, then it’s back to send some emails about the IB Extended Essay drafts due next week and maybe to tweak some lessons. I should also probably adjust the Studies quiz since I’m giving it on a short day and I worry it’s a little long currently. I guess I should figure out what needs to get done before I leave the building and what can wait until later.

1:49 pm – My second two classes of the day went better. I thought the Studies class would end early but there was enough house-keeping stuff with Plickers and Edmodo that I was able to fill the time. I need to start over-planning that class I think. The irony is our Algebra 2 lessons have too much stuff in them. Again I didn’t get to the exit slips in favor of more practice time. It’s really quite remarkable how much smoother a class goes the second time through. Even just taking 10 minutes to reorganize a slide makes a huge difference in how things feel to me.

After class I went and had lunch with our department in an empty room, then tried to run some errands around the building. Tried to make a phone call home but got voicemail. Tried to speak with some students about their IB Extended Essays but couldn’t find them (although admittedly I didn’t look very hard). Got into a conversation with a student asking for advice about the level of math they should be in. Always a hundred little things. I just went and got a soda, which I know is terrible for me, but I tried to get a pumpkin coffee from Dunkin Donuts earlier and they were out of the pumpkin so I’ll just treat myself in some other horribly unhealthy way (that doesn’t include happy hour).

2:37 pm – The extracurricular fair is in full swing. It’s really cool to watch kids get so excited about the things they’re doing. I’m back at my desk because I became the asshole teacher that yells at kids about their hats in the building, and decided rather than stop being an asshole I’d sit down for a bit. I realized when a student asked me a question about my office hours for the year that my office hours are my version of an extracurricular. Kids just come and hang out in my room, even if I haven’t taught them in two years, to do homework and just hang out. I’m glad I’ve helped create a reputation for having a cool room to hang out in. And just seeing where the seniors are now after teaching them the last two years is fascinating. They went from being lowly sophomores to actually in charge of all of these clubs.

I have a meeting for Algebra 2 planning now. I’m not sure Friday at 3pm is the best time to start planning but it’s the time we have for now.

5:04 pm – Our meeting didn’t start until slightly after 3, but then everyone was a bit punchy so we got goofy. People were coming in and talking and we were tired. But we got the unit plan done for the next unit, and planning assignments done. I’m making a Demsos activity for next Wednesday on transformations that I’m pretty excited about. We also had some time to talk about the lesson on Monday so I have a good sense of what needs to get done this weekend.

I have to make some copies for my Studies class and then maybe I’ll try to go to happy hour. My friend is having birthday drinks in Manhattan tonight but I’m so exhausted. And there’s an EdCamp tomorrow but I’m exhausted for that too (plus I have plans on Sunday and so much work to do this weekend). Who knows. But it’s Friday night so after the copies are done I’m heading out and not thinking for a bit.

Reflection (Written on 9/20/16)

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?

While I really wanted to do an exit slip, I think I made the right decision to skip it. We just learned a new concept, and kids needed some time to just practice it. Even then I don’t think they got enough practice time, but balancing everything is so tricky. If I had forced the exit slip it would have just been rushed and messy, so I think it was the right decision. I’ll push the exit slip to Monday so I can still check in but plan around it a little better.

I still think we’re rushing through material in Algebra 2. We’re so focused on the scope of what needs to get covered that we’re not going as in-depth on as many things as I’d like. Trying to find that balance is so tough. Most of the other teachers in my department are more traditional “Teach the formula, then do practice”, which makes sense when there’s just so much to cover. But it kills me because I don’t think we’re building deep mathematical understanding. I’d rather take a few days, especially at the beginning of the year, to do 3-acts and build both math curiosity and community. Right now I think we’re doing some weird hybrid and I’m not sure it’s working.

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?

 

Learning names is a serious problem. Some very, very bad part of my brain is like “Why rush to learn names of kids I won’t see after tomorrow?” which is TERRIBLE culture building. This new week I’m trying harder, but it’s still so bad. It affects how smoothly my class runs and how comfortable kids feel. I’m stressed out because my class sizes keep changing, and I’m stressed out because I feel like I don’t know any of the kids. But I think the big changes are over for now so hopefully things can settle out and I can get to know my kids. Office Hours will also start in earnest which will help. I grab some snacks and encourage kids to come hang out while they do math. they’re not always productive, but I do enjoy the time a great deal. A lot of my kids from last year have already asked if we’re doing it again which makes me happy.

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.

During Advisory students share out a rose and a thorn, and apparently one of my Algebra 2 students shared out having my class as a rose.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been rubbing other people the wrong way. All of the schedule instability has made me annoyed, and I think sometimes that comes out in front of others, but they’re always surprised by my vehemence. I think I need to work really hard to seem more calm. Especially because for the most part I’m not as upset as I sound, just…loud? I don’t know.

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’ve been pretty consistent about closing lessons, especially in Studies. I try very hard not to work until the bell, and even managed to do an exit slip. I also think I’ve done an OK job with the note-taking scaffolding, although I still forget sometimes. When I was a student teacher, I saw a teacher specifically model note-taking on a sheet of chart paper and I think I might revisit that as the year goes on.

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

Over the weekend I made my first Desmos AB activity! It took me a couple hours but I really enjoyed figuring out what I can and can’t do with the system. It’s not an especially rigorous activity, but it does have students independently exploring transformations, and I’m excited about it.

Also, tonight I’m c0-leading my first ever MfA session, and it’s on the MTBoS. I’m leading it with Sahar, but I’m still nervous. The community has done so much for me, and I just hope that I can help other people to discover how awesome it is.

#DITLife: First Day of School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

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

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

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

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

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

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

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

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

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

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

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

 

#DITLife: First Teacher PD Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection:

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

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

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

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

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

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

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

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

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

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