Category Archives: Day in the Life

#DITLife : March 8, 2017

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?

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. 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.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. I’ve gotten slightly more consistent in closing out lessons, but haven’t made much progress on doing it daily.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. 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.

 

 

#DITLife: January 8, 2017

Today is Sunday and the last day of winter break, and I got sick Friday (thanks Dad :P). Since today was both a vacation day and I stayed in bed sick, this will be brief. Also, today was boring, but necessary because teaching while sick is horrible.

Wake up: 7 am (no alarm…story of my life)
Read Station Eleven
Binge watch Vikings Season 4 on Hulu
Eat Lunch at 1:30
Continue being sick
Bing watch some more, while doing a few chores around the house.
Watch NFL Playoffs (Sadly, the Packers beat the Giants…)
Make dinner ~7
Make cookie dough for an advisee’s birthday that was over break. We’ll celebrate on Tuesday, our first day back with students.
Scroll through twitter and watch Meryl Streep tell us what’s up.
Write this post at about 9 and go to bed so I’m ready for the first day of Semester two, and hopefully not sick.

Reflection Questions:

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?

 

Not really applicable since today is Sunday. My biggest decision was do I stay in today and hope I get better or risk getting worse when I have to work. I erred on the side of caution – here’s hoping to I don’t get crazy sick anyway.

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?

 

 

Unrelated to today, but the last few weeks were incredibly exhausting and little felt worth it. I spent a lot of break sitting in a chair watching football and didn’t do work – a first for weeks. I need more of that not working or this will be my last year in the classroom. 

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.

 

I wrote a letter of recommendation on my flight back home that made me cry for an amazing young man. I kept him in the loop about my progress, and he kept me in the loop if he needed me to send it out to more schools.  I hope that the time I invested letting him know I was there and working with him over break leads to me knowing him a little bit more. He’s a great person, and I hope the admissions counselors get that from my letter.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  


Goals: As mentioned, I’ve not made much progress because it’s been such a rough fall semester, but I have reflected on what it means for a goal to be reasonable. I realized that I was seeking change too quickly for some pretty BIG changes within my practice. That has made me more motivated to make smaller changes in the coming months – like those I planned on improving since the beginning of this DITL project.

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

I’ve never felt that this graphic has more vividly described my academic year as it does right now. My lows were so low its hard to describe. Here’s to hoping we keep moving on up, and out of that bad place I was in a few weeks ago.

phases

Day in the Life: October 8

This year I’m part of an MTBOS community sharing experiences of our year together to reflect and grow.

Today is October 8 – Saturday and the first day of fall break. Arizona does this awesome thing where there is a week off in the fall just like spring break. It is drastically needed to spend some time away and recover from a challenging first quarter.

7 am: Wake up without an alarm. One of my best friends is in town for a wedding. This was the first time we’ve had a chance to chat since he arrived Thursday night because of wedding duties and school for me. We talked about our lives and how his PhD program was kicking his butt – he’ll make it though.

9:30 Take my friend to the pre-wedding gathering because it was about 10 minutes from my apartment. Small world right?

11: Made it back to my apartment and started grading. Our first quarter ended yesterday so I was working to finish grades before my vacation to Florida. I worked until about 6 pm (with some breaks, watching football and being pissed on twitter about Donald Trump’s ridiculously misogynistic comments). Trump definitely derailed my plans to be finished work because I’m pretty pissed that someone who could say those things is still in the running for President. I finished all the grading, but still have comments to upload for students.

After 6 I ended the day by continuing to watch football and then continuing to read “For White Folks” – a book on what white folks can do to make their students more successful and feel more included in our classrooms. Dr. Emdin shares his perspective and is making me think critically about my classroom, my biases and how to improve my most challenging courses.

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?

No teacher moves – Saturday!

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?

Looking forward to fall break. I’m hopping on a plane to go to Tampa to see my parents for the week.

I’m still struggling to find a balance between personal and professional lives but there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon 🙂

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.

Personally, I love that one of my best friends is here in town. I haven’t seen him in years and he’s a pretty awesome dude.

Professionally, I had to have our dean have conversations with multiple students to the office for making a suicide pact in my class for all to hear (it turns out in jest, but not appropriate either way). While I told them I had to follow up with administration legally they were pretty bummed and upset that I couldn’t understand it was a joke. I continued to emphasize that mental health and suicide is personal – not a joke – and our class needs to be a safe space for everyone. I’m hoping that my honest and firm stance will allow them to understand it is unacceptable and allow them to have a greater empathy for others.

What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. I’m surviving…that second part? I don’t think I’m doing a good job at all….
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. This hasn’t happened intentionally or consistently in weeks. Break should give me a chance to refocus
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. Nope. Hoping break gives me a chance to make progress. My fourth hour (the remedial class) gives me biggest concern because students are not engaged or making progress.

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

This conversation I wrote about earlier because it has slowly transformed my classroom based on survey’s we took before break.

Day in the Life: August 8th

This year, I’m part of an #MTBoS community recording the  days of our lives. Follow us throughout our journey at #DITLife.

Monday, August 8th 2016, our sixth day of school

5 am: Wake up, shower, pack lunch eat breakfast. During breakfast I was reading through blogs on feedly and read about a practice routine I wanted to implement later in the year. I made a mental note to record it in my planning binder on my desk later that day (Triples by E. Miller)

6:07 – Leave and drive to school. I have been leaving unnecessarily early since I’ve moved across town…in part because I forgot when I woke up last year and I’m waking up earlier. Not mad about it

6:30 – I arrived at school and set up for the week by organizing papers and copy all the work for the week for AP Calculus.

6:45-7 I had a meeting with our Director of External Affairs about a grant for our robotics team we are starting this year.

At 7:20 I headed to my room to set up and get ready for the day. Good news – our school was doing NWEA MAP assessments in math classes Monday and Tuesday so I didn’t have lessons to plan for. Bad news – my first period changed to an Algebra 2 class so we could split a larger course and make better use of our man power in the department.

During the morning, most of my day was preparing and proctoring the test with all three of my classes. However, a few highlights stand out. I heard back right away about our grant – earning us $750 to get started. Then, a generous donor doubled our funding – giving our fledgling team $1500 within 6 days of school. I also connected our new assistant principal to Students Today Leaders Forever – the group we organized our spring trips through last year so they could begin a conversation.

After three periods, at 10:56, my lunch period begins (and my first bathroom break). Only four teachers have first lunch and two of us chill together in the work room. We chatted about our weekend and also about our student she had in the morning – R. He wasn’t being too successful in english class and I was wondering if it would transfer to my class.

At 11: 28 our lunch ends and we meet with our advisory – which for me is all 13 of our sophomore boys. We passed out grade reports (that were mostly blank after just the first week of school) and behavior reports (also mostly blank which is a good thing). The boys then balled up their reports and started playing trashketball – and eventually it got out of hand so I had to put an end to that.

12:00 – 4th period begins, which is statistics for me. They began their MAP test and I input grades.

1:01 – Fourth period ends, planning period begins. I chatted with our Principal about moving a few more students into my very small (11 student) Algebra 2 section – the week before we planned on moving 15. Turns out that there were more gridlocks than we thought but we identified some key students to see if we could move them. We did find two students that are both in my advisory and had been in my class before that we could move to improve culture in our class. I then went to my room and prepped for all the AP Calculus videos for my flipped class for the week, waiting for sixth hour to begin.

2:10 – sixth period begins. It began fine…then at about 2:40 the chromebooks went hay-wire and started turning on accessibility features like high contrast and zooming in. I was able to fix it for some but most of our momentum went out the window. I closed down the test session and hoped we could fix it for the next day. I didn’t have students plug in computers – which was a bad call – and I did it instead.

I also had a small incident with the student my colleague and I chatted about during lunch – he isn’t meeting our expectations and is distracting others. I moved his seat right in front of me and I probably wound’t have done that without that brief check in during lunch.

3:10 students are dismissed. I created and uploaded videos for calculus onto our course website. I also added the practice strategy I read about earlier in the day to my planning binder.

4:20 I left school for the post office. Turns out, they close at 4:30 and I was a few minutes late because of after school traffic from the larger high school nearby. I couldn’t get stamps to send in a bill – but I did drop off my early voting ballot for the fall primary.

5:00 Made it back to my apartment and finished the West Wing – watching the end of season 7. I warmed up dinner (I’ve become a Sunday cooker)  and watched Olympic swimming from 6 until 8. During my Olympic adventure, a student who transferred into Calculus emailed about how he didn’t have access for the homework assignment. I gave him an alternate assignment via email for him to complete and told him that assignment we’d make sure he had access to the next day.

8:30 – I went to bed and continued reading my book. By 9 p.m. I was asleep 🙂

Reflection Questions:

  1. Today didn’t have too many instructional decisions because it was all computer based testing. The one decision I was able to quickly and efficiently come to was sorting through and temporarily resolve the computer issues. I had to use lots of management skills, calm students and also try to figure out what was happening. While students didn’t respond perfectly, there wasn’t nearly as much chaos as there would have been earlier in my career.
  2. One big thing I’m looking forward to this year is our robotics team. The mentor last year didn’t get it started but we have super excited students who want to take part. Today we received $1500 between grants and donations – without much effort. I’m excited by the opportunity it holds for us. My biggest challenge is that I have been  taken on a new course that I haven’t taught and we don’t yet have a curriculum for. So…that makes me nervous. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that four courses with little resources for the most part, five sections and one planning period is a lot and will be a challenge.
  3. We’ve been working on building a family and fun atmosphere in our sophomore advisory since it is the first year we are all together. Both today and other days we can both joke around, enjoy each others company and know when to turn it down to get through important information. The boys are crazy, but I love them 🙂
  4. My goals for the year:
    1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
  5. Anything else to share? Not yet – but as things settle I’ll have a better perspective on both this first month and these first few weeks.