So back to the idea of “New Year, New School, New Me”, I want to set forth some goals for the coming year. Plus I was asked to do this for my observation cycle so I might as well double up. Plus this helps me to procrastinate even further on doing ACTUAL work for the school year. So here goes:

1) Find a better work-life balance 


Last year I would be at school until at least 6 most days, then endure my hour long commute only to get home and work another 3-4 hours every night. Five hours of sleep and back at it the next morning. It was awful. In fact, the stress of it caused a spot on my beard to go white (which is now back to normal somehow). Granted it was my first year, and granted it was a shitshow for other reasons, but I’m never doing that again (at least not consistently). Thankfully this year I have planning partners for both of my preps, plus a curriculum for both has already been created, so I’m ahead of the game there. Plus I have a much better sense of what will and won’t work, and my kids are generally higher skilled than my kids last year so I don’t have to try to anticipate every single misconception that has ever been made in the history of math ever. I’ve also gotten much better at the “Any more work on this would not be productive so let’s go with it and remember to improve it for next year” frame of mind. Hopefully this all means I can watch TV and see my boyfriend and sleep normally and maybe even work out occasionally. 

2) Be better about calling home and building relationships with parents

Simpsons - Parent Teacher Conferences


I hate calling home. To be more specific, I hate using the phone at all. I never call my friends and only call my parents because my mother refuses to use technology of any sort beyond her universal remote. But calling parents especially fills me with dread. And not just because I have something bad to say. Even calling to say “Johnny did great today!” scares the crap out of me. But it’s important and it needs to happen and it will probably solve several problems that I have with behavior. So I just need to suck it up and make the call and eventually I’ll just get desensitized to it. 

3) Giving Better Feedback

a.k.a. giving assignments back right away instead of a semester later. Get your shit together, Mattie B.

4) Nixing More Tricks

I don’t remember where I heard it, but somewhere on the #MTBoS I heard someone say that we shouldn’t say FOIL, and instead should refer to it as the Distributive Property (or as that teacher called it, The Claw, which I used every time and my kids always rolled their eyes at). So I decided to do this. It wasn’t until this summer that I realized that was part of the Nix The Tricks campaign going on. But I loved it and I was proud of myself for not relying on that old trick (although of course I used others). 

This year, I’m setting my sights on the idea of “cancelling” when solving equations. And mainly that “Cancelling” as an operation doesn’t make any sense. We use it to describe both dividing to 1 and subtracting to zero, and you can’t really “Undo” cancelling (Are you going to “renew” that 2? Is math now like the tv show Jericho?). I’ll be following Glenn’s rules, using posters that Meg made (shown below).  The goal being to make stronger mathematicians. I’m sure I’ll slip up, but as with any goal, success is a process.  


So that’s all of them. Four is maybe too many, but it’s a long school year and hopefully I’m in a good position.

Now off to make lunch for the week so I can procrastinate some more. 


A fortnight and a half

So I’ve survived three weeks.

If you’d asked me last weekend how it was going I would have said “Well, it’s tough, but there’s also some really great parts.”

Then this past week happened.

I have been struggling with curriculum development for about four months now. My lesson planning skills are pretty good, but big picture has been difficult and my stress about it has been nigh on paralyzing. But after looking at the Common Core appendix and stealing some stuff from my friends at another school, I thought I was on the right track.  Then Tuesday afternoon I get pulled into a meeting, the basic premise of which was “I love what you’re doing, this is how math instruction should be, but it’s not working for our kids and I need you to change everything.” Or at least that was my takeaway from it.  Mind you this was after a Monday when a student had a seizure and I had to start teaching an extra class on Microsoft Office and there was a neighborhood shooting outside , and after a Tuesday that was just generally terrible. So I had my first cry of the year.  Good times.

Then I spent the next four days in a spiral of confusion and no confidence and on more than one occasion considered just not going back to work. But Friday after a particularly terrible class, I spoke with the other math teacher at the school and decided to completely reboot things. I’m now moving away from the Common Core slightly back to a more traditional approach, but trying to work in some of the CCLS along the way. We’ll see how this goes, especially come exam time.  The good news is this change is Just in time for my first official observation on Tuesday. *jazz hands*

I still struggle with my 7th period, but I keep getting told that’s my pacing issue. Maybe it will get better once I have new material to work with? Who knows. I’m asking other people to come in and observe so I can get more feedback.

It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve been building relationships with some of the kids. I’ve gotten some great exit slips out of them about what they’ve learned. The quizzes weren’t a complete disaster.

Here are some takeaways so far:

  • They told me starting a new school was a lot of work. That is an understatement.
  • Working with administrators that have a Math background is very, very complicated.
  • In any situation, there are resources available that can help you, and resources available that can make you develop a drinking a problem. Figure those out early and only seek out ones that will help. (I knew this before, it’s probably my biggest takeaway from my 20s. But it has been reinforced a thousand times over the last three weeks).
  • My first year of teaching is difficult, but not in the ways I expected. I knew there would be long nights and poorly planned lessons and missteps galore when dealing with students. I was prepared for that and even when it sucks I can tell myself “Well, you’ll get better.” What I wasn’t prepared for was all the other stress that popped up. A lot of which ties into the “Starting a New School” thing.
  • I’m officially tired of being told “Your first year of teaching will suck” every time I have a bad day. It’s ceased to be helpful.
  • Kids are hilarious and complex, even when they’re being a pain in the ass. I yelled at a student to get out and not come back one day, and after I apologized we seem to be getting along better than we did before.
  • I need to get over myself, just in a very general sense.

So yeah. It’s been rough. But yesterday we went to the Citywide high school fair and we brought along some student ambassadors, and they were amazing. They were selling our school like nobody’s business and it was amazing and awesome.  On Tuesday students were staying after school and teaching us slang. PS – Giving Neck needs to stop right now.

I’m off to plan my first rebooted lesson. My co-worker compared it to the Batman films.  So we’re now in the “Algebra Begins” period of my year.  I may start teaching in a Batman voice.