Day in the Life: First Day of Classes (Post #2)

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 second post in the series

5:15am | I wake up. Eat breakfast and drink coffee. I read for about forty-five minutes, and get ready to leave for school.

7:00am | I’m out the door – about 10 minutes later than I hoped for. My commute is 12 minutes. It’s humid this morning, so I’m easily sweating by the time I lock up my bike in the school parking lot.

7:15am | I walk in and “clock myself in” by moving my time card to the “in” column. I check my mailbox and there’s nothing in it. I’m new to the school, so I don’t know any of the office staff, but one them catches my attention to give me my daily attendance just before I walk out of the office. En route to my classroom I unexpectedly run into a teacher friend who participated in the NYU RET with me two summers ago. We were both shocked to see one another. We catch up for a few minutes and wish each other well on the first day of classes.

7:20am | I get to my classroom. I spend some time preparing for the day’s plan with the students: a get-to-know-their-teacher activity. I don’t like the whole syllabus-and-class expectations thing on the first day. It’s dry and the kids are going to forget it all anyway. Because no one knows me, I need for the students to have some sense of who I am. Plus, I want to spend some just talking with them, interacting. I prepare ten questions about myself on some slides. I add some photos. I’ll present the question (e.g. how long have I been a teacher?) and allow the kids do some fun, strategic guessing before I reveal the answer. I take care of some other odds and ends before I head out to first period.

8:05am | I make my way down to my first period algebra 2 class, which is down the hall. The class technically begins at 8:15, but I need to arrive early to get situated. The period 0 teacher is closing her lesson. When the kids arrive, I’m hurriedly connecting up my laptop to the SMARTBoard. I do manage to catch some of them at the door as they walk in. I welcome them and yield a warm smile.

I greet the students collectively. This class marks a milestone for me and I proudly let them know this. They’re special. They are the first class I’ve taught at the school. I run through the activity and it seems to get better over the course of the period. I feel the kids really get a sense of who I am and why I came to the school. They also learn about how I teach – as if I had a son or daughter the roster. I can tell that this hits home with them. This particular class is full of upperclassmen and they’re obviously excited about seeing all of their friends again. The energy in the room is great, something I hope maintains itself given that its first period. Around five students walk in late through the period and I take a mental note to get a late log set up.

9:03am | Period two and three are preps for me, meaning that I do not teach. It’s basically time that I can use to plan, get stuff done, etc. I hit up the library. There are students and a teacher that I don’t know. I had my period 1 kids create name tents and had them to give me feedback on the inside of it (e.g. Sara Vanderwerf), so I look at these and write some responses on each one. I print out three #ObserveMe posters to hang outside of the classrooms where I teach. I make my way back to my room during period 3 and get some work done. My to do list is slowly growing throughout the day. Probably the best teacher in the school is teaching in my room this period and he doesn’t mind that I linger at my desk in the back. Inside, I’m really stoked about this and am looking forward to taking some cues from him. I set up an email group for one of my classes. I manage to scarf down two tangerines.

10:39am | Period 4 algebra 2 begins, my second class of the day. This class is in my room. I arrive in time to set up my computer and greet most of the kids at the door. This time the activity goes better than period 1. I’m more dramatic with the questions and the answers. I leave them on the edge of their seat on several occasions. Overall, it’s fun and engaging. Although, I come to the realization that I’m talking a lot.

11:27am | I have another algebra 2 class period 5 which is directly across the hall. This is an honors class. (I’m developing feelings tracking students that I haven’t finalized yet. More to come on this.) The start of the class is weird for me. After closing out my period 4 and seeing every student out, I look across the hall and expect to see all of my students in the hallways waiting for me to walk into the classroom – so that they can do the same. Instead, I see a full classroom of students sitting at their desks. I look inside and think, there’s no way those are my students. I even ask an AP nearby if period 4 ended, thinking that these students are from the previous class. They were my students. This blew me away. The students simply came in orderly, sat down, and patiently waited for me. What does this say about my previous experiences? I’ll always remember this moment.

I walk in and learn of a deaf student enrolled in the class (from her interpreter). That’s a first for me and sets a billion questions racing in my head. I have to gather myself as I haphazardly get my computer set up and greet the class. Again, there’s very good energy from this crew. I really like them. There are a couple of young ladies in the back that quietly talk amongst themselves all period. Mental note taken when I create seating assignments.

12:15pm | Lunch! The day has been a blur so far and I’m so glad to be able to sit, gather my thoughts, and eat. I run down to the AP’s office to use her microwave to heat up my food. Chicken meatballs, quinoa, mash, and a salad. It’s delicious and hits the spot. While eating, my to do list grows even more. Thanks Evernote. I meet up with the special education teacher that I’m co-teaching algebra 1 with during period 8 to finalize our plans.

1:03pm | My period 7 algebra 2 class is in my room. Things go well. This is much smaller group than all of the others and I like it. By this point, my throat is sore and my voice raspy. This is partly the result of a restful summer. Also, did I mention that I’m talking a lot? I realize during the course of the period that I have really positive feelings about this class. No sure what it is. Call it teacher’s intuition. Or maybe it’s because I know that it’s close to the end of the day.

1:51pm | My last class of the day is also in my room. Whew. By this point I’m not sure that I can make it across the finish line. My co-teacher walks in and we greet the kids as they walk in. Moderately sized group. I modify and shorten my question session with the kids. My co-teacher answers the questions as well. He then goes into course expectations and the grading policy. We’re pleased with the group and he gives me a run down after class about some of the students that he knows from last year and over the summer. (I have thoughts about this commonly adopted strategy to exchange info concerning previous students. Post coming soon.)

2:45pm | I sit at my desk, spent. The principal and couple of teachers come in and ask how the day was. This seems like a thing here. We check up on one another, especially new teachers. I like that. I’ve been made so incredibly welcome during this transitional stage of my career. It’s a family. I spend the next two hours providing feedback on name tents, making more to-dos, and hanging up my #ObserveMe posters. I leave school and arrive home at 5:33 pm. I conclude the day with a gingerly walk around the neighborhood and relax.

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 was felt that my new students connected with me on the first day. The question and answer session proved to be a hit, despite my seemingly endless talking. Really proud of this since strong relationships with students are incredibly important. At the same time, I am concerned that some of the quieter students may have been put off by the whole thing. I saw some looks that were in realm of, “really?”

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?

Being a teacher means being always on from the moment you walk into the building. Not even lunch is sacred. It comes with the territory. I most look forward to interacting with students. Talking with them. Finding them. It makes me forget about all the other stresses that teaching can bring.

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 asked the students to guess how long I’ve lived in NYC. The answers were all over the board. After I shared the answer of ten years, the follow-up question was how often I visit The Bronx. They didn’t know this, but I’ve lived in The Bronx for all of those ten years. My impression was that they weren’t expecting me to reside in a borough not associated with being White. Instead, they figured that I may come to The Bronx to teach and go home to “another” borough. The conversation brought up lots of questions for me that I’m still wrapping my head around. More food for thought on my deep analysis of stereotyping and cultural relevant pedagogy.

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?

Concrete steps towards my goals should begin the rollout of instructional routines and group norms next week. I’m adopting the Mathematicians Beyond White Dudes initiative from Annie Perkins this year, which I will present next week as well. I’ll be posting and sharing the success of a vast array of minority mathematicians throughout the year.

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



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