You may have noticed that I didn’t write for April or about parent teacher conferences and that was an intentional choice – at that time I decided not to return to my school and most of what I would have had to say would have been raw and not appropriate to share in this forum. Bureaucracy has made me leave my school – and most likely the classroom.
Back to our regularly scheduled saga of what a day looks like.
We have less than 20 days left until the end of the year…and summer can’t come fast enough.
5:45 Wake up and get ready to roll time, by 6:40 I was out on the road and once at school I went to the copiers and made my worksheets for Algebra 1 and attempted to find my review packet for AP Calculus.
7:30 Today began teacher appreciation week and today we were treated with doughnuts and coffee. I shouldn’t have either (caffine makes me jittery) but I can’t resist free stuff :p
7:45: Precalculus begins. Students are working on projects researching the tax code, making piecewise functions and determining taxes for various incomes. Its a pretty intense project but I intentionally want them to dig into the IRS forms to show that they aren’t very scary and accessible (even though we don’t talk about taxes besides getting rid of the notion that moving up a bracket makes all your income taxed at the higher bracket). While most students were good to go on their own, one student was recently involved in a scooter accident and out of class for a week. I worked with him, caught him up and modified the assignment so he would be able to complete it in the time we had left to complete the task. Luckily, he’s a hard worker and was able to finish a majority of the modified task in the period. Somewhere in class, I spilled my coffee and made the remark “That’s why I shouldn’t have coffee”…whoops.
8:51 My first algebra class began with working to review multiplying binomials to prepare on learning completing the square to solve quadratics. Since it was a review of one of the first skills we learned in August, I was monitoring student work and grading work as they finished. At the end of class, I gave an assessment to grade because so many students were rocking the task and I wanted to have something to put in the gradebook to reflect their knowledge from the day.
9:56 In AP Calculus I’ve had my class of 15 tiered into two groups for almost a month. The four students taking the AP Calculus Exam the next day worked on customized review questions based on what they wanted to review. I was able to give each personal feedback and get them some personal love before the test. This split class has been a great way to address individual misconceptions and prepare the few students taking the exam more adequately than working whole class with the time left. I ended with a confidence pep talk about how hard they’ve worked and that they’ll be fine. While we haven’t had much success in the past, this group of students is the best prepared yet so I think we’ll have better scores than last year. Other students worked on their final projects – creating a children’s book that taught a Calculus.
Lunch time: I chatted with my lunch buddy in the work room about planning a teacher camping trip in the coming weeks. Then, we moved our conversation to the 9th graders – we both have noticed an unparalleled measure of apathy and laziness that dramatically impacts our classes. We haven’t found anything all year to make students consistently produce work – and with just 3 weeks left both the students and teachers are tired.
Advisory: For each individual 10th grade boy, I made a “grade predictor” that showed what grades they have and what they need to score on their final to get the desired final grade in the course. Some conversations were awesome – you only need a 70% to get an A in 4 of your classes YAY YOU! Other conversations were more challenging – you cannot pass two of your classes no matter what….so what are we going to do? Those conversations were rough, but I think necessary to try to adjust focus where passing is still possible.
12:00 4th Hour: Algebra 1. This class has a large group of students with IEPs in it. My coteacher and I finally figured out their special sauce – split them up into two smaller groups as much as possible. After doing a quick review, my coteacher took 5 of our 18 kids to another room and I worked with the rest by walking around, playing jams and checking work as students finished. It was a really productive day since more people were able to be focused in class instead of being distracted by each other.
1:01 On my planning period, I worked to find a worksheet on an introduction to limits for Precalculus and I wrote a worksheet to introduce the first steps to competing the square since I couldn’t find anything scaffolded to help students like I wanted. After school today, I had an interview for a position as a Coach with the Arizona Charter School Association and had to present a 12 minute PD session in it. I miscalculated how much time I needed to practice for the interview and just wrapped up a few minutes before my last class began.
2:06 Algebra 1: This is my smallest class and today they were crazy squirrely. I had two students show up late (for no reason) and students kept talking and chatting with each other during our brief review. I gave out lots of consequences to students – which wasn’t ideal and clearly negative but I’ve gotta teach. Like my other algebra sections, I let students handle most of the work while I walked around with my dinosaur stamp and checked for accuracy. However, unlike in my other classes, I had a few students that were not making any progress by choice – even with reminders to get on task (reminding me of the conversation I had at lunch about apathy).
3:10 After school I clean up my room from nerves then hang out with the counselor and the Principal at the front desk to make sure everything is ready for AP testing tomorrow. They know their stuff so of course everything is ready. I made some final copies for my interview and then left for my interview at 3:45.
Traffic sucks and I’m spoiled by avoiding highways on the way to work.
4:30 My interview for the coaching positon begins with my PD session, followed by a feedback session for a lesson we saw. I think I did the best I could and left confident that there was nothing I could have done differently, so regardless of if I’m offered the job I’m satisified with my performance.
5:30 On the road, and happy with my work, I stopped by one of my favorite local places in Phoenix to eat – a fast-casual eatery like Chipotle but serves enchiladas instead. Once at home at 7, I chatted with some folks about my interview and how it went. I spent some time on the couch mindlessly watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.
8:50 I remember I planned on baking muffins for my Calculus kiddos for their test…so I begin baking banana muffins.
10:00 Muffins done. I’m done. Bed time.
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?
My “best” teacher move of the day was working to modify the student’s work who was absent for a week from class. Chatting with him and not making the assignment an extra burden was the least I could do for his situation.
My worst teacher move was clearly how I handled my rowdy end of day class – it wasn’t what I want my classroom to be. But today…that’s what it was.
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?
The greatest challenge has been working with my advisory and sharing amazing moments with them over the past weeks while knowing I’m leaving and they don’t yet. Its hard to bear that, but its probably best.
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.
Since deciding to no longer work at my current school, my principal has been gracious and amazing as I figure out what my next steps are. I truly appreciate the kindness she’s had during this transition and know how much she values me as a person and as an employee.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.
- Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
- That first part I’m good with. Do a good job? I don’t think it is possible to do the best job given the resources I have and what I’m asked to do. And that’s a main reason I’m leaving – when I asked for help and explicit actions nothing was done to ease the burden and make sure next year was better than this one.
- Close lessons to summarize student thinking
- This hasn’t happened in awhile…and I’ve started to notice that it is being detrimental to student learning. However, this does reaffirm the need for closing out lessons for students in my future classroom.
- Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
- Overall this year, I think it has professionally been a wash. While occasionally I made progress, I couldn’t personally sustain the energy to implement a new tool with fidelity long enough to make it a part of my practice. This career isn’t easy – and anyone who thinks so is sorely misinformed.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
I wrote this at the end of my March 8th post:
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.
All the problems I had in this job were solvable and created by poor leadership decisions at a district level and a toxic political environment that has politicians believe that anyone can do this job and that we aren’t worth being paid a living wage. I wonder what would happen if we had well informed legislators making decisions…