Day in the Life: April 24, 2017 (Post #10)

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 tenth post in the series.

5:30am | Rise and shine. It’s later than I would have liked, but I didn’t sleep well last night. I throw lunch together, a simple salad. Waffles for breakfast. No time to read.

6:30am | I’m out the door. The ride to school is brisk. The sun is out earlier these days and it reminds me that the end of the school year is close.

6:45am | I lock up the bike and walk into school. I make it up to my room and spend 15 minutes drilling holes in the large, 4-ft-by-4-ft whitebaords that recently picked up from Home Depot. I have these super magnets that I’ll be using to hold up the boards on the lockers in my room. It’s cheezy, but I’m so proud of this solution.

7:35am | I walk my large whiteboards down to my first period classroom. It’s painless, but pretty annoying. They’re awkward to hold for long periods of time, like down the hallway. We’ll be using the whiteboards for some VNPS and VRG action today on factoring.

I make it back to my desk and finish up plans for first period. I print out a few articles for a student who walks in. At 8:10am, I make my way down to first period.

9:00am | First period comes to an end. For what it’s worth, I consider it a win. I’ve learned so much from that class. More below. Whew.

I walk all of my crap back down to my room an decide that I need coffee. I head out to the bodega at the corner. As always, black, no sugar.

9:15am | I’m back at my desk and sit to map out a couple of other lessons for the day. Specifically, I put together the group speed dating activity for period 5. It’s a review of factoring and the conic form of a parabola.

10:05am | I run down the hallway to use the bathroom and I see one of my 7th period students wondering about. I ask her what’s up and she says tat she doesn’t want to go to lunch because her friends aren’t here today. I invite her to hang out with me in my room since it’s empty. We talk. She tells me that she’s looking for a job. I share my experiences working at Chick-fil-a. Good memories of good sandwiches ensue. She cuts up my problems for speed dating.

10:40am | Period 4 begins. Today we’re writing the conic form of the equation of a parabola. On Friday they used Desmos to explore how a parabola is the set of points equidistant from a line and a fixed point. I overview the two common forms, first vertex and then manipulating that to get standard form. I whip out the small whiteboards and pair up the kids. I post graphs of parabolas and have them practice writing the vertex and standard forms for it. They hold up their boards and we discuss. I’m always amazed at the high levels of assessment that whitebaording permits. The lesson is a keeper.

11:30am | I head across the hall for period 5, also algebra 2. This group is one day ahead of period 4. The group speed dating is going to sum up our quadratics unit. I quickly realize that the problems I included in the activity will need three days to be completely reviewed by every group. That said, I would consider the period is a success.

12:15pm | Lunch. There isn’t much planning I need to do for the remaining two periods that I teach so I manage to actually enjoy my feast, if a bare-bones salad and two oranges qualify as such.

One side note. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday there is an “Assimilation” elective that takes place in my room when I eat lunch. It basically th college advisor sharing all kinds of useful knowledge with the kids. I always stay in the room during lunch for his class. I find him to be incredibly cultured and knowledgeable on so many things. Today’s topic was real estate. It didn’t disappoint.

1:45pm | My period 7 class ends. More VNPS and VRG action. They eat it up. Pure and utter engagement for 30 minutes, easy.

My period 8 walk in. I love these kids. They’re my only ninth grade class and they keep me in touch with the younger side of high school. We’re shifting parabolas today. The lesson is rushed — we’ll need to take a closer look tomorrow.

2:35pm | On Monday, my school holds district-mandated PD for us. I head down to room 229, where the PD will take place. The focus today is curriculum maps. It’s the first of a series of four workshops on the matter. The idea is that as we close the school year, we adapt and improve the maps we currently have for next year.

The session was better than expected. I really like the teacher who ran it…and his approach was untraditional. Instead a dry, boring approach to curriculum maps, he encouraged us to look to and learn from our colleagues to help us envision the ideal student. We talked. He emphasized hard skills and soft skills as something we should gear towards. This, he argued, would help us build a curriculum map for the whole student that plays off what our colleagues believe in.

4:00pm | The faculty meeting finishes and I leave school in a haste to make it to Math for America for a interest group meeting. I’m helping plan the first-ever MfA summer conference and tonight the planning committee is getting together.

4:21pm | I get on the 6 train, doubtful that I’ll make the 5:30pm start time for the meeting.

5:05pm | Shockingly, I arrive at MfA. I grab some pizza and catch up with a few of the committee members. Our goals tonight include  improving the conference website, putting together a loose schedule of the sessions with the proposals we’ve received, and create a Google form for registration which starts tomorrow. I agree to help tackle the website with Carl Oliver.

6:35pm | Carl and I give the site a face lift. A part of the website is a blog. I write a brief post on the origins of the conference. Sometimes I still can’t believe this conference is actually happening…and that I’m helping to make it happen!

7:35pm | We wrap up a very productive meeting. Everyone heads out.

8:40pm | I arrive home after a long, yet productive, day. I wide down for a while before heading to bed at 9:30pm.

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?

Though I’ve really enjoyed teaching them, I know I’ve put my ninth grade class on the back burner of my teaching responsibilities this year. I’ve basically been teaching from a textbook with them. I’ve been improvising where I can with Desmos and other tools and strategies, but the engagement and rigor for that class is not even close where it should be. I’ve dedicated almost all of my energy to my Algebra 2 classes. I sort of regret it. One side note: they LOVE VNPS and VRG. It’s crazy.

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’ve had a couple visitors in my classroom this month, all of which from the Superintendent’s office. One was the superintendent himself, and another was in relation to the Big Apple Award that I was nominated for.

The observed lesson wasn’t ideal by any stretch. But maybe it’s fitting because that happens so often anyhow. (Thank you to 16th school trip of the season and random students from Denmark.) Nonetheless, the entire experience has been uplifting. Thank you to Mike for the humbling nomination that led to all this. Throughout everything, I couldn’t help but think of all the educators and leaders that have inspired me, like my former principal.

Regardless of the outcome, I hope that the passion, dedication, and thoughtfulness that I have for my students and school community was felt. I hope that the immense respect that I have for learning and the teaching profession also this came through.

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.

All of I can think of in response to this prompt is my first period class. Our relationship this year has been a roller coaster, but for the last couple of weeks I think we’ve really connected. I realized this month that for a good part of the year I didn’t enjoy teaching them. I wouldn’t say I was merely going through the process, but I definitely wasn’t all in. I would rarely smile. I wouldn’t listen to them.

I was too frustrated with what I thought was their lack of motivation and ability. But that was just me teaching above them. I was focusing on curriculum and standards. I was ignoring who they were. I wasn’t teaching to their strengths.

Things still aren’t perfect now. But they’re far better than they were earlier this year.

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?

Although I didn’t explicitly state them in my goals for the year, I’ve discovered a place for VNPS and VRG in classroom this past month. My recent experiences have changed my classroom forever. It’s ironic that no matter how hard you try, sometimes you simply can’t plan for the best things that happen to you. They just do. Mostly out of necessity. It was sort of like that with VNPS and VRG.

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

My National Board submission is kicking my butt. Thanks Michael for all of your help with complex numbers.


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