Day in the Life: December 24, 2016 (Post #6)

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 sixth post in the series.

5:30am | I rise. It’s Christmas Eve, and my second straight DITL post that’s not a teaching day. Crazy how this is working out.

My current morning reading is now Wonder by R.J. Palacio and How to Not Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg. I’ve decided that I want to read more non-educational stuff on a regular basis. Wonder is not disappointing.

Speaking of reading, earlier this year, I toyed with the idea of reading a math-themed book with my students. Something akin Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. This was sparked by an initiative at my school to get our students to include more “leisure reading” into their daily routines. I haven’t totally discarded this idea for my class, but it does seem somewhat distant at this point. Maybe spring semester?

I’m rambling. Let’s move on.

It’s Christmas Eve, raining, and the first day of winter break. That combination makes it a great time to relax with the fam. That’s exactly what I plan to do.

6:30pm | After a fairly eventful day, I arrive home from, of all places, the Emergency Room. All is well, but yeah, this was a memorable Christmas Eve.

Fittingly, the day wraps up with the wrapping of gifts. I’m a true procrastinator when it comes to wrapping Christmas presents. We are using old newspapers for wrapping paper this year. A truly brilliant move. I’m so disappointed that I haven’t adopted this strategy earlier in my life. Mark my word, I’m never buying traditional wrapping paper ever again.

By the time I hit the sheets, I think I hear Santa on the rooftop.

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?

Please see #4 below.

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?

For the last few weeks, there’s been two things running heavily through my mind:

  1. My Math for America Master Teacher renewal application
  2. My National Board Component 2 submission

I’ve known of these beasts since the summer and, within the next two months, I’ll complete both. I view both of them as cornerstones of my professional growth this school year.

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.

This month I met with my principal for a post observation meeting. The meeting occurred the day after a poorly planned lesson on the relationship between rational exponents and radicals. I considered the lesson to be as close to a crash and burn as possible.

During the meeting, I expressed my thoughts concerns about the lesson. He expressed his warms and cools. No real insights here.

What was insightful, though, was what we talked about next. I informed him how stressed out I have been this year. I explained that a new school, new curriculum, and new expectations have had a significantly negative impact on my teaching this year. The lesson he observed was evidence of this.

How he responded changed the course of my school year. He recognized and complimented my constant willingness to learn and improve, but his advice was simple: You’re an awesome teacher, stop over thinking what you do.

It is evident to him that I put considerable thought into my planning and teaching, but there’s comes a point where intuition needs to take the helm. In the moment, when we were speaking, I knew he was right. I’ve placed so much emphasis this year on making the most ideal instructional choices that I’ve begun to fear failure. Admittedly, much of teaching is counterintuitive. But I’ve silenced my prior teaching experience instead of using it to help my classes and the decisions I’ve made. Our conversation brought this fact to the surface. He enthusiastically invited me to take more risks, to stop worrying so much. That if something goes awry, he would take the blame. His bottom line was his trust in me and my choices…just don’t overthink them.

Following our meeting, I immediately felt more comfortable. A huge weight was lifted up and off my shoulders. What’s crazy is that he may never know just how important that conversation was for me.

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’ve known of it for a few years, but it wasn’t until this week that I discovered a need for Estimation 180 in my class. Let me explain.

On a Checkpoint (i.e. exam) assessing my students’ knowledge of geometric sequences and series, one question looked like this:

This is a basically a Regents problem. What surprised me was the absurdity of many of the answers I received to the second part, about the total earnings. Several students gave answers like “36,000” and a couple even submitted answers similar to “343.”

As I went through their papers, I realized that these answers really, really bothered me. These were students using a formula and pushing buttons in a calculator – and nothing else. They made absolutely no sense of the problem. What’s worse is that these insensible answers are in large part a reflection of my teaching. But what’s even worse than that? To realize this now, in my eleventh year of teaching.

I spent most of the next day talking to them about estimation and why it’s so valuable. It allows you to peer into a situation before you dive in. It builds number sense. We ran through several examples from Estimation 18o…and then handed back their Checkpoints. We talked about the above mentioned problem (along with others that students made no sense of). I told them that although I was disappointed in many of their answers, I realize that I also failed them by not putting them in a position to be mindful problem solvers.

Hence the need for Estimation 180. Now and in the future.

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

I realized this month how far away I’ve drifted from using instructional routines. I made these a high priority for my teaching this year, but somehow they’ve gotten lost. Thanks Dylan for the inspiration (and the book recommendation).

Also, the Racially Relevant and Book Club PLTs with Math for America have kicked into high gear. Lots of great conversation and resources to go around.


2 thoughts on “Day in the Life: December 24, 2016 (Post #6)”

  1. I remember reading “Innumeracy”, though not much more about it; I read largely non-educational stuff myself (depending on your definition). Glad you were enjoying your book choice. I’ve never considered newspapers for wrapping, though I’m one of those types who saves the paper to use year after year – I almost consider it a game to unwrap while doing as little damage as possible. All the best with whatever the Emergency Room story involved, yowza! And good luck with things going forwards, including Estimation180 efforts; remember, we can only do so much.

    FYI, I’ve linked/summarized this particular post in my DITLife roundup; let me know if that’s a problem. (

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