Day in the Life: September 24, 2016 (Post #3)

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 third post in the series.

4:45am | It’s Saturday and I’m up. Yes, willingly. I slept great. After the first full week of school, I was fulfilled, but exhausted. Today I was hoping to attend a day 1 of a two day UFT sponsored institute for National Board Certification candidates, but for a variety of reasons, that’s not going to happen. Day 2 is next Saturday and I hope to attend then.

I spend some time reading and starting this post. I stray away from my current book, Radical Equations by Robert Moses, to dive into a couple of posts from Sahar Khatri over breakfast. Ever since she mentioned on Twitter that she was going to Cuba this summer on a Fund for Teachers grant, I was looking forward to reading about her travels. While on her blog, I was also inspired by her school’s effort a couple of years ago to visit every child’s home. Talk about going above the call of duty. I also finally met Sahar in person the other day at a MfA workshop, which was really cool.

6:00am | I’m a little behind on planning my next unit for algebra 2, so I commit around 45 minutes to this.

Th remainder of the day is spent running errands, watching college football, hanging with the fam, and a trip to the library.

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 teacher-related decisions were minimal today, but certainly the best one pertained to reading Sahar’s blog. She is such an inspiration for 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?

I’m not sure whether it’s due to my own introverted disposition, the new school environment, the start of the school year, or the fact that I’m new, but I definitely feel isolated at school. I rarely have meaningful collaboration with colleagues, let alone the mathematics department. Other than rushed conversations in between classes, my conversations with math department colleagues have been nonexistent since day 1. I’m planning and reflecting on an island. It’s lonely, tiring, and I’m not used to it.

I may be overreacting here. Everything is relative. At my previous school, the mathematics department met every day for common planning. It was in our daily schedule. This is the high end of the spectrum. And I knew that meeting daily isn’t the norm in most schools, but damn do I miss it. Whether we had a protocol to examine student work or simply sat around to discuss why one of our lessons crashed and burned, I now know how indispensable this time was. It was nonlinear. It was relevant. It brought us together.

So it’s wrong for me to expect that level of collaboration, I know. But still, I hope the situation improves. Don’t get me wrong, I notice the genuine efforts on behalf of colleagues to collaborate, to reach out to one another, to connect. But it all has felt unstructured and rushed.

I just don’t want to simply get used to being on island. I don’t want hurried conversations between classes or after school to be the primary means of teamwork. It shouldn’t be that way. I cherish informal conversations, but I also need structured time to exchange ideas. Teaching, when done thoughtfully, is always going contain struggle. But collaborating with my colleagues shouldn’t.

I should mention that, technically, there is a rotating schedule for collaboration (i.e. whole school, grade teams, departments) every Monday after school, but I have yet to feel sincerely connected to any of those conversations. Again, I hope this changes.

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.

Things at school seem to be happening so fast for me. Everyday feels like a blur. It has gotten better since the first day of school, but it still feels like I blink and the day is over.

One day this week, when the day was over, I had an impromptu conversation with a colleague. The basic premise revolved around my contributions to the school and how that will look for me. I had, and still have, so many questions about how to begin establishing myself while helping to move my new school forward. He helped answer some of those. Unexpectedly, it lasted about an hour and was the most insightful conversation I’ve had all year. It was candid and real. I really appreciated this.

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?

I have made some headway on my goals for the year. My Mathematicians Beyond White Dudes is going well. I’ve stepped up my parental outreach. I’m using instructional routines to emphasize mathematical structure. I’ve done minimal work with mistakes. I have what seems like a respectable homework system.

With all of that said, I’ve mainly  been trying to keep my head above water these first few weeks. There’s still so much to accomplish from a goals perspective. The struggle is real.

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

I’ve felt a huge range of emotions these first few weeks of school. Seriously, I am all over the place. Euphoric one day, in the dumps the next. I’m trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, but it is unbelievably hard.

In trying to connect with students, colleagues, and parents, I have realized how challenging this really is when starting from square one. I didn’t fully understand how my reputation and history played a role in my success as a teacher at my previous school. I knew all the students, all the staff, and had established relationships with all of them. Now, all of that is gone.

In short, I am redefining myself to everyone I meet. This is incredibly taxing. It takes time, even years, to fully develop. It can’t be rushed.

But that fact doesn’t make any easier to accept.


2 thoughts on “Day in the Life: September 24, 2016 (Post #3)”

  1. Wendy Menard – I am a high school math teacher in a public school in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to being passionate about math and teaching it, I love quilting, my children, and my cats - not necessarily in that order.
    Wendy Menard says:

    Hey Brian – changing schools is huge. I realized this when I made that change 5+ years ago; packing up my stuff at my old school felt like packing to move my home. It really takes 6 months-1 year to begin to feel comfortable. So hang in there. I know you are an awesome, thoughtful teacher/person, and the relationships will come. Looking forward to seeing you soon – W

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Wendy. Quietly, I look to teachers like yourself when I lack the motivation to make it through the tough days. Thanks for being a hidden source of encouragement.

      Looking forward to working with you and Jose this fall.

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