Below is an account of a day in the life of me, a teacher, on March 8th as part of an exercise to reflect throughout the year with other teachers and share what teaching can be like for others.
Wednesday, March 8th was the day before the sophomore trip to New Mexico to visit universities. I was going on that trip and then spring break began, so this was the last day I saw my classes before spring break.
5:30 am: Wake up and do morning things (read articles, shower, eat breakfast, etc.)
6:45 I finally left for work. I’ve been delaying my departure more and more throughout this semester, but still getting on time early enough to get anything done I need to in the morning.
7:05 Arrive at school and complete a litany of miscellaneous tasks. First, I had to write a calculus quiz on derivatives of trigonometric functions and create a key so I could check it faster. I also took out my sidewalk chalk to make targets for students in Algebra 1 to toss sticks at to gather data for their quarter project. As I chatted with teachers before the day in the work room we also looked up the etymology of the word “robot” – derived from the Czech word for “forced labor.”
7:40 First period began. My precalculus students were taking an end of quarter quiz on trigonometry so while they did that I worked on creating a key for their test and then making groups for the Algebra 1 projects students were doing later that day. Lots of students didn’t finish their test in the allotted time and would have to finish by the end of the day since I’d be out the next two days of school.
8:46: Algebra 1. I introduced student projects where they tossed popsicle sticks towards a chalk mark outside and measured the distance from the mark to the stick. Then on Thursday they would give me statistics to convince me that their group was the most consistent at getting closest to the mark. We went outside because in Phoenix it is already almost 90 degrees out and there’s plenty of space. During this class, I had two boys who claimed they could not work with each other – although I had never heard of this before. Just in case, when we went outside, I popped into my principal’s office and asked if there was a problem she knew between those students. She didn’t know of one, so I kept them together. While I had stepped out, my co-teacher was working with a group that was struggling, but the group with the students who claimed they could not work together had spent time kicking a soccer ball and playing with a meter stick while their third partner was beginning to do the work. Eventually, I got them all back on task and working together by giving each person an explicit role to work on and hovering over them pretty frequently. As students collected their data, they should have begun working on calculating some statistics so they wouldn’t run out of time tomorrow. Very few did so they will have to figure it out without me tomorrow.
9:50: AP Calculus. We reviewed the derivatives of all 6 trigonometric functions using a Kahoot review game. I hadn’t played before because I don’t like how it requires and emphasizes how fast you get the correct answer, but this was the first time our content should be recalled quickly. My students however had played….and were a little too excited. About a third of the way through the review, the other math teacher popped in and said we were way too loud and that her class couldn’t focus with our yelling. I guess Calculus was a little bit too fun…
As we wrapped up our review, students took a quiz. I attempted to grade them, but misplaced the answer key I had made in the morning. Grading definitely didn’t go as fast as I wanted to but I kept making progress.
10:51 – 11:24 Lunch and announcements.
11:28-11:56 On Wednesdays in Advisory, we get to choose what we’d like to do. Since my advisory is the sophomore boys who always have too much energy, we always go outside to play soccer, basketball, capture the flag or just hang out outside with other students. Today, I was watching folks play soccer and for the second time in about two months someone kicked a ball in my direction and unintentionally hit my crotch. It takes a lot sometimes not to curse and yell around students, but I stayed strong put a smile on my face and kept going about my afternoon. As advisory ended, each student I saw that I knew was going on the trip tomorrow I asked them what time we were meeting in the morning (6:00) because I forgot to do that when we were in my room earlier in the period.
12:00 I had another Algebra class so I introduced the project and set groups up to go outside. No drama this time and a lot of students finished their data collection quicker. My co-teacher and I had to be a lot more strategic with who we were working with because a lot more students in this class need more constant support. I spent a lot of my time with all the groups keeping them on task while she focused on just one or two groups that struggled more. I also brought out my laptop for my struggling groups so that they could use a spreadsheet to organize their data to make finding their median a lot simpler. I wish I would have thought of that ahead of time for all the students so I could have had everyone use a laptop and spreadsheet so they could save time for more mathematically important things than organizing numbers. There’s always next year 🙂
1:01 5th period is my prep. I worked on grading any assignments that I could, including quizzes from 3rd period and make up work so I was all caught up before spring break.
2:06 6th period is my final section of Algebra 1. Once again, a lot of students finished collecting their data a lot quicker than my earlier sections of Algebra 1. Quite a few other classes were outside since the weather was nice including the psychology class that was working on an experiment near us. Since our data collection finished, I should have pulled students back inside so they wouldn’t be distracted by others. I was also interrupted by the Barcelona- PSG soccer game since it was ending during this class. Each goal scored was another interruption in effort to finish their project. And, then for the first time today, a student threw a meter stick towards another student. He was sent to the office.
3:10 After school, I had a lot of precalculus students pop in to finish their test. This is the first time I’ve had a lot of students choose to come in after a test to finish immediately after. It was a nice and pleasant surprise. While they were working on their tests, I made posters from butcher paper for my algebra 1 kids to work on tomorrow without me about their data.
3:45 Students had finished their tests. Today after school is an after school showcase and as the robotics sponsor I planned on attending to support my kiddos as they presented their hard and amazing work in their first season. However, spending 3.5 hours outside was a little much and I didn’t drink enough water. I wasn’t feeling well so I just checked in with a few people on the team and left to go home at 4:00
4:30 At home I cooked and packed for the trip to New Mexico that I left the next day.
7:00 I remembered that my principal asked me to give her assignments for students that were failing Algebra 1 that they could work on Friday during sessions. I went through the grade book and made custom assignments for each student for two or three of the most recent things they were missing or did not do well on (although students themselves should have done this throughout the entire quarter, but I’m a team player).
8:30 I finished printing out make up work for students and was packed for my upcoming trip. I went to bed because the next day was a super early start.
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?
Since today was mostly a test day, there weren’t a ton of teacher moves I had to make today. My biggest move was probably adapting in my afternoon classes to give a little more support to struggling learners by using a spreadsheet to speed up the process of organizing data.
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?
Spring break essentially started today. I’ve been looking forward to vacation for a few weeks now 🙂
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 isn’t every day that a group of 15 seniors start yelling about derivatives in class incredibly loudly. Our not so calm demeanour hopefully built onto the relationships we have together in Calculus.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.
Subsequent posts: What have you been doing to work toward your goal? How do you feel you are doing?
- Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
- Since this quarter has come to an end I actually feel like I’m making progress and doing a better job more consistently. Three preps with zero resources is a doable task – 4 was insane.
- Close lessons to summarize student thinking
- I’ve gotten slightly more consistent in closing out lessons, but haven’t made much progress on doing it daily.
- Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
- There’s a huge apathy problem in our 9th grade students. Even after an exciting beginning to a lesson, they are not willing to continue working through a task and try new things. It is definitely concerning. I’ve also taken to differentiating my classes as a priority instead of explicitly focusing on engagement. My precalculus class has started to run as two independent courses – one for students taking calculus next year and a larger group for students that are not on the Calculus track. This has allowed me to challenge more students where they are and prepare them for what their future holds. It is a logistical nightmare occasionally, but we are making progress and I’m proud of what the class is beginning to look like.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
I keep debating if I’m meant to be in this profession much longer. I keep waffling, but I have recently decided I’ll be back for year six. Much beyond that is about finding a way to make this career sustainable because right now it is not.