Day in the Life: First Day of School for Teachers (Post #1)

I’ve decided to chronicle this school year through my blog. It’s part of Tina Cardone’s Day in the Life book project. This is the first post in the series

5:45am | Rise and shine. I’m a morning person, always have been. I love waking up to the morning sun, birds, and fresh air. It’s usually the time when I get a good chunk of my reading and writing done. Right now I’m reading For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too by Cristopher Emdin. I read for half an hour, eat some breakfast. Drink coffee. Get ready to leave.

7:15am | I’m out the door. I bike to school everyday. The ride is brief, about 12 minutes, but The Bronx is notorious hilly. I think of it as a morning workout, my version of going to the gym or running. Today, before I head to school, I make a quick loop around to the library to return a book. I love the New York Public Library.

7:35am | I arrive at school far later than I ever would during the school year, but since there are no students today, I don’t care. I lock up my bike for the first time in the school parking lot. I plan to leave my U-lock attached to the gate so I don’t have to lug it back and forth from home everyday. This is a big change for me since last year I kept my bicycle in my classroom.

Last week I was at school and found a classroom that I’ll be teaching in to store all of my teacher crap, so I go upstairs to that room. Since I’m new and know no one, I have no other logical place to go. A colleague from the math department comes in mentions that there’s breakfast down the hall. Nice. Since I already filled up at home, I snack on a few pieces of honeydew and sip some juice. As everyone mingles, I introduce myself to a few people and greet my new math department colleagues, but it’s mainly a big reunion for everyone else after a long summer. Myself and another new science teacher huddle together near the center of it all and talk for a bit. I feel isolated.

8:03am | I head to the school library to prepare for the morning festivities. The principal opens things up. He’s the founding principal and gives everything the has to the school. Super committed. He introduces the new teachers, myself included. Everyone claps. He then gets into the school’s history and why we’re all here. His talk is inspiring. It’s essentially a pep talk and serves its purpose. I love listening to people speak and this is no different. The man has a presence that is unmistakable. He also addresses the school’s performance last year and reveals the school’s goals for the year: a renewed focus on relationships, concentrated effort on the lowest-third students, and the idea of teacher as educator.

The assistant principals are up next. They do their thing and hit on lots of things from accessing email to observations. At this point it’s been over two hours with no break, so I’m fidgety and off-kilter. We take a 10-minute break at 10:30. I go back to the leftover breakfast and snag a muffin. More juice. I return to the library and the APs finish their presentation.

11:25am | Department meetings. This is the first formal meeting with all of my new colleagues. They welcome me to the team. I pitch in when they start reflecting on the goal from last year, precision of language. Specifically, the proper use of mathematics vocabulary. One way they addressed this was by using sentence starters. I mentioned that it’d possibly be good for us to have sentence starters that aren’t specific to any one concept. Things are running behind schedule, so we break for lunch.

12:00pm | The kitchen staff prepared lunch for the faculty. One word: amazing. The food itself, yeah, but the fact that they would prepare us food is incredible. Oddly, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had lunch that is usually eaten by students. It was so well-balanced and nutritious.

1:04pm | The math department reunites. We pick up where we left off and somewhere during the course of our discussion, I mention my work with facilitating the video club the last couple of years. The team seems intrigued by the idea and decided it would be something they’d want to try this year. The department chair gets pulled out which signals the unofficial close of our meeting. I briefly meet my co-teacher for my period 8 algebra 1 class.

1:40pm | The rest of the day is spent in the classroom prepping my room. I use the word “my” very loosely because I quickly learned that I’m only teaching 60% of my class load there and it’s shared with five other teachers. (So it’s not really mine, but for simplicity I’ll use the determiner “my” from here on out.) This is a drastically different experience for me because I’ve had my own room for the last seven years. Here’s to becoming a more mobile teacher!

I spend about two hours cleaning and decluttering the room. It’s a mess. There were books in there dating back to JFK’s presidency. OK, that’s a stretch, but hopefully you get my point. Next, I turned to the layout of the room. This is a high priority for me. I rearrange the desks and other furniture into something that feels much more inviting. After about 30 minutes of moving things around, I go with several “U” shaped groups around the room and moved my desk and cabinet to the rear. I also open up the shades to let more light in. A few people stop by and compliment the new look and feel that the room now has. I hope that the teachers sharing it will feel the same.

After detoxifying the desk, I organize it with some of my things. I like a tidy, organized work space. My productivity hinges on it. I hang up a few things around the room, sit a while to catch up on email, and call it a day. One more day before students.

5:37pm | I arrive home and enjoy some family time before dozing off to sleep around 10pm.

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 felt really good after I arranged my classroom. When I initially walked in the room, the desks were in disarray and there was old, unused crap everywhere. It didn’t feel like a place where learning is supposed to happen. At the same time, because I share the room with others, it was terribly inconsiderate of me not to consult those teachers before situating the room. This may come back to bite me.

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?

When it comes to challenges, transitioning to a new school after a decade in my old one takes the cake. That said, I’m really looking forward to meeting the kids in a couple of days. Once I start building relationships with my students, everything else will take care of itself.

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.

Today I spoke with a veteran teacher who joined the school last year. He and I were both reminded just how much of a risk we by leaving everything to reestablish ourselves in another school community. It was a great conversation that helped me keep things in perspective…and not feel totally alone.

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?

Here are my goals for 2016-17, there are several. I sort of prioritized, so the big ones are a strong focus on instructional routines, establishing a more culturally relevant stance as a teacher, and having my students be more interdependent via group norms.

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

I’ve been working on curriculum a lot during the last few weeks, particularly on the Algebra 2 side of things. I’m adopting a somewhat new course sequence, so we’ll see how it goes.


2 thoughts on “Day in the Life: First Day of School for Teachers (Post #1)”

  1. New places are tough! I’m sure you’ll find your groove and your teacher-people soon. But now I’m in suspense….what did the other Ts think of the layout? And where are you for the other 40% of the time?

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