Day in the Life: January 24, 2017 (Post #7)

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 seventh post in the series.

5:30am | I wake up, tired. I was up late last night working on my Math for America Renewal Master Teacher essays. With plenty of reflection and a lot of editing, I’ve completed two of the required three. This morning I spend a half hour reading The Mathemetician’s Shiva, which I’ve almost finished. It’s a fun read. A good amount of mathematics and mathematics history throughout. I’ve also learned a lot about the Jewish culture.

6:15am | I crack open the laptop to start drafting this post, turn on the radio, and enjoy some brekky. I finish my maple nut oatmeal, eat my banana, hop in the shower, and I’m out the door around 7.

It’s going to rain all day, something about a Nor’easter. To avoid be drenched this morning and evening when I head to MfA, I opt to leave the bike at home. As a result, my commute sucks.

7:35am | I arrive at school. Today’s the first day of Regents Exams, a.k.a. state exams. They last four days. I enter the main office to move my time card and look for the proctoring schedule for the day. It’s posted daily and we’re supposed to check it to see if we’re proctoring that day. This is weird to me since at my old school we were given our proctoring schedule for the entire week up front. Whatever. The schedule isn’t posted yet. I’m told it’ll be posted by 8am.

7:40am | I go up to my room and sit at my desk to begin the process of finalizing grades. The Spanish teacher comes in and we chat for a bit about various odds and ends. I mention that, one semester into my new school, and I’m finally beginning to develop questions about how and why things are done here. It’s peculiar for me to be so overwhelmed that I cannot even think of a question about my surroundings. That was my first semester. Speaking to him, and formulating questions, is a tell tale sign that the dust is finally starting to settle on my transition here.

8:05am | The proctoring schedule is finally posted and I am not proctoring today. This is great news because I have several big ticket items on my To Do list.

Someone brought a small batch of coffee this morning for the teachers. Woohoo. A pleasant surprise. I sip my coffee and catch up with the department chair about a conversation we started yesterday. During our after school meetings, I had two of the aforementioned questions running through my head. I wondered why the third marking period (there are three per semester, six per year) is weighted double compared to the first two and why our school has “honors” classes. The simple answer to both of these questions from everyone was simply, because this is how we’ve always done it.  More on this later.

8:30am | I find a quiet, empty classroom to work on getting grades done. It’s really just a matter of data entry at this point. I manage to knock it out in a little over an hour.

10:00am | I hunker down to spend some time writing my third and final MfA essay. I really want to get this done today because I also have a Big Apple Award essay and video that I must finish this week as well. Not to mention lots of planning for next week.

12:00pm | Progress on my essay slowing. It’s a sign that I need to take a break. I walk down the hall and shoot the breeze with a few colleagues. Two of them are in their third year and one is grizzled veteran of 15 years. We talked about how long it takes for a teacher to “get” it, the impact of changing schools on one’s career, and George W. Bush.

I also run into my department chair again, along with my AP. They’re gearing up for a meeting. Small talk ensues, but I do remind them of an idea I spoke to both of them about in weeks past: a mathematics elective course for next year. They’re both on board, but let’s hope scheduling permits it.

12:45pm | I grab my lunch from my room and head back to my bunker. I see an email reminding me that today is the first day of registration for the spring MfA workshops. Mental note taken. I eat my lunch and continue on my essay.

2:35pm | Still writing. It’s not that the essay is long, I’m just slow. I would say it’s 80% complete. At some point I call the DOE for a password reset on my email. I haven’t called in a while. It’s much, much improved from what it was years ago. I can actually hear the representative.

4:00pm | I register for a couple MfA workshops. Both are focused on mathematics, puzzles, and starting an after school math club.

The last session of the Racially Relevant PLT is tonight and I have to hustle if I want to make it there on time. I leave school in a haste.

4:30pm | On the subway to MfA. I swear I’m going to be late. I love my bike, but I really do miss riding the subway every day. At my previous school I commuted by subway over an hour each way. It was great. The people and culture on the New York City subway are so damn inspiring. Plus, I’m a total people watcher. I settle in for more of The Mathematician’s Shiva.

5:20pm | Surprisingly, I’m don’t arrive late. If fact, I have a few minutes to spare.

The PLT begins and the theme is Next Steps. The facilitators are Wendy Menard and Jose Luis Vilson. They’re awesome. The discussion gets fairly off topic after some time, but no one seems to mind. Everyone has openly accepted the fact that discussions around race and identity usually take a mind of their own. We talk about how we can extend our conversations beyond our small twelve-person group and into our respective schools. Some folks mention bringing the conversation to colleagues and administrators. Some vow to simply let their voice, and truth, be heard more. We talk about how best to engage white men in race relations. We share stories from our schools. We also touch on the Women’s March from this past weekend. This is the fourth and final session, and every single one of them has grabbed me, shook me, and sent my mind to place that I’ve never been.

7:40pm | On the train home. I complete The Mathematician’s Shiva and begin, excitedly, Hidden Figures.

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 brought up a few things in conversation today that I’m really proud of. The first was when I questioned the purpose of honors classes at my school with my department Chair. In my opinion, this structure has created a social hierarchy in which some students feel “less smart” than others. It’s a real thing, I’ve seen it and overheard students talking about it.

I’m also super excited about getting closer to teaching a legit mathematics elective course. Mathematics was one of the founding principles of my school and, sadly, there is a glaring lack of mathematics-based initiatives that exist right now. I want to try and change that. What’s great is that I got word from leadership at the end of the day today that there are plans for me to teach a Discrete Mathematics course in the near future. My pitch worked! It was due in part because of a follow-up discussion I induced today. There are still lots of moving pieces to make it happen, but I feel it’s slowly becoming a reality.

Lastly, I was really proud of the fact that I asked a colleague of mine to write a “guest” post right here on my blog. I’ve never done this before, but he’s quite the inspiration and I’d love to share some of this work.

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?

After a taxing first semester, I welcome the second semester with open arms. I feel that I’m in a much, much better mental space now than I was in for basically all of semester one. From a new curriculum to adjusting to a new school culture to collaboration with colleagues, it’s crazy how big of a difference one semester can make.

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.

Regents week opens itself to relational moments. There is no teaching for a week so all we teachers have is time. The conversation I had today with a few teachers was pretty interesting. It varied in focus, but basically centered around teacher development. One comment especially stood out.

I was talking about my first few years of teaching, comparing them to the gentlemen I was speaking with. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but after I finished my thought he remarked that when I’m talking about teaching…it’s as if I’m talking about love. I’m still gathering my thoughts on this one, so stay tuned.

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?

Regarding the goals I set out for myself in September:

I recently expressed disappointment regarding my lack of use of Instructional Routines. This was a major goal of mine this year that I’ve essentially abandoned.

In honor of Black History Month and to build on my goal starting conversations around race and identity, I have hopes of developing a Black mathematicians project for my students. The goal is to get them to research and present one renown Black mathematician. I never design projects for my students, so this is a big deal.

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

She’ll probably never read this, but I want to express my gratitude for my assistant principal for being so supportive of me this year. From our initial contact last summer when she enthusiastically volunteered to help me lug all my junk up to my classroom (which was no easy task), she’s been but an outstanding AP. She politicked her way into getting me signed up for the Dan Meyer PD series. She got my room a printer. She’s supporting my math elective idea. She’s also completed a couple of recommendations for me. She’s always got a gigantic smile waiting for me. At some point this month I realized that I may have been taking her for granted. Thank you Ms. K.

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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 over think 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:

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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.

 

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Day in the Life: November 24, 2016 (Post #5)

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 fifth post in the series.

Today is Thanksgiving. By far my favorite holiday, but not because of the food.

Since its an obvious non-teaching day that’s full of relaxing, cooking, and family, I thought I’d stray away from the norm and make a list of some of the things I’m thankful for so far this school year. Here goes, in no particular order.

  1. My school. Although this year has been incredibly taxing, I’m still grateful for my new school community. I’m thankful for the risk I took in joining my new school community. They’ve accepted me into their family and believe that I can make a difference in the lives of our students. I appreciate that.
  2. My first period class. I’ve never had a first period class with as much energy as they have. It must be all those damn iced coffees they in with. But to top it off, they’re seniors. Go figure. The challenge they’ve present to me this year is something new to my career. But they’ve grown on me. They’re a puzzle that I’ve yet to solve…and I’m grateful for that.
  3. My fourth period class. Each one of these guys and gals are representative of the “average student” at my school. By teaching them, they’re grounded me the most of all my classes this year. I’ve started some yearlong Rock, Paper, Scissors battles with a few students from this class. It’s totally random and I love it. For the record, I’m up in all of them.
  4. My fifth period class. This is by far the most advanced group of students I’ve ever taught. They’re work ethic is through the roof. Without knowing it, they’ve challenged me to be a better teacher in ways that no class of students ever has. We have this awesome moment each day where they give me a round of applause when I walk in at the beginning of class (during the previous period I teach across the hall). On the days I arrive earlier than usual, I clap for them as they arrive. This has now spread to applauding anytime anyone comes into our room. It’s weird and quirky, but I so appreciate this tradition.
  5. My ninth period class. This is the first class I’ve co-taught in a few years plus the true first algebra 1 class I’ve had in nine years. I’m learning so much about co-teaching and curriculum with these guys. My co-teacher is easy to work with and takes care of business…which I am very thankful for. I haven’t given as much care and attention to our lessons as my other classes and I’m personally disappointed on that front.
  6. My colleagues. My in-school peeps have made me part of the team and never looked back. They see me an as enhancement of what they’ve already built – and that feels good. Jeff is a breath of fresh air…someone that takes his craft even more seriously than I do – and he’s damn good at it. He has provided so much inspiration for my classroom this year. I need to steal his brain. And my new AP is going above and beyond for me, and I haven’t really expressed to her how much I really appreciate that, especially given my experiences in the past.
  7. Math for America. I’ve had a very busy fall term with MfA…probably too busy. But, they have have given me the opportunity to facilitate a book club and given me a space to explore all of the race and identity issues that have been on my mind since the spring. Now I’m pushing myself even further by doing something unimaginable: planning the first ever MfA summer conference.
  8. My struggles. As a teacher and as a professional, I’ve felt weaker and less apt than ever this school year. It could be the stress talking, but I feel like I’m a first year teacher. Something as simple as printing the day’s handout is a huge challenge right now. But I’m thankful because this dip in performance and my frustration related to it has given me the gift of a struggler’s perspective. I’m learning so much about what it means to start over.

 

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?

This month I learned that I have a student that is selective mute. Not September, this month. She’s been in my class since the beginning of the year and I didn’t know until recently that she’s selective mute. Crazy. I should have noticed something was up earlier in the year when I called on her to provide an answer and all the kids looked at each other like, “he doesn’t know?” Or the many other times when I pulled up to her desk and asked her a question and always thought that she was just really, really shy when didn’t respond.

Anyways, long story short, I severely dropped the ball on this situation.

Thankfully during parent teacher conference this month her mom came in. She only speaks Spanish, so I had someone come into the classroom and translate. It went really, really well and that was the first moment when I fully understood this student and her needs. Since then we meet before school to talk about how things are going in class and I’ve set up a non-verbal cue system that enables her to communicate her level of understanding with me and ask questions. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come in this short time span.

She doesn’t even know it, but she’s making me an immensely better, and more thoughtful, educator.

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?

This is my first year teaching algebra 2 Common Core and I’m struggling with fully aligning my lessons with the new expectations. I have no major beef with the Common Core standards…or should I say, I have no time to analyze them enough to formulate a complaint.

Instead, my issue is ensuring that my lessons serve my students well. In other words, I want to be the best test prep machine that I can be. I’ve been hit or miss on this lately.

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’m beginning to get used to working on an island. This is sad to me. For years, I was so accustomed to feeding off of the energy from my department. There seems to be no time for any of that anymore.

Also, I’ve definitely feel inadequate at times through this last month. I realized that there’s an underlying assumption in the building that you are good enough to succeed on your own, that you shouldn’t outwardly seek help. If I do, there’s something that I’m doing wrong. I get that I could always be better, but it irks me when folks take offense to my ignorance. I need you to genuinely help me. Don’t help me and then look down on me because I needed help.

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?

My homework policy/routine is improving. This month, to help better accountability and share ownership of the class with my students, I started having a student perform the homework check at the start of class.

There are is a homework leader in each group who checks everyone’s homework. I used to go around and have the leaders inform me who did and who did not do he homework each day. That would take forever and I’d have no time to qualitatively assess their homework because I was so worried about checking off for completion. Now, I select one of those leaders to go around the classroom with a clipboard and check in with each of the other homework leaders and make note of everyone’s homework. That frees me up to bounce around the classroom to qualitatively analyze student homework. This then leads to a whole group discussion about “target” problems (designated by me) from the homework. I’m now much more in sync with how they’re doing on the homework on a daily basis.

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

As I mentioned above, I’m struggling. But I will say that there was a moment this when I realized that things were really starting to slow down for me. I cannot recall the exact moment, but I do remember feeling more at ease with my planning, my students, and my overall transition to a new school.

 

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Day in the Life: October 24, 2016 (Post #4)

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 fourth post in the series.

5:30am | I wake up. I rode the Tour de Bronx yesterday, so I’m somewhat sore. To add to the that, on my way back home from the ride I had a pretty nice spill over my handlebars avoiding a young boy in a crosswalk. It could have been worse, especially for the boy. Thankfully, I just have some minor dings.

I have breakfast, read a bit, and I’m out the door.

6:55am |  About halfway to school I hear a dreadful sound….pisssssss. A flat tire. I don’t have a pump or any tubes with me so I hail an Uber back home to drop off my bike. Unfortunately, I still haven’t replaced the front wheel on my other bike that got damaged by a careless driver, so I’m forced to take public transportation. Rushed and flustered, I arrive at school at 7:55am. I spend the few minutes I have before first period prepping the lesson on introducing inverse functions.

8:12am | First period. The lesson on inverse functions is mediocre at best. I adapt Bob Lochel’s approach, but the kids struggle to make the connection between the coordinate pairs of inverse functions. The class is composed of seniors who aren’t particularly in love with math, so my struggles with them are compounded. I still haven’t figured this class out. This is their second year in algebra 2 (by design), so some of them immediately begin using the procedure for finding the inverse of a function (interchange x and y and solve for y).

9:00am | On top of a crazy, upside-down morning, I have a coverage 2nd period for a teacher that is absent today. It’s a good group of kids, but it eats up one of my preps which I definitely need on a day like today to catch up. I recognize many students from the class and realize that I actually know students now.

10:00am | Finally back in my room for a period to sit and work. I tweak my intro to inverse functions from first period for period 4 and prep my lessons for periods 5 and 8. I send out a couple of emails, one of which is a letter of reference for student at my previous school.

10:40am | My period 4 students walk in. I do my best to give high-fives on entry. It really does have a positive impact on the start of class. They’re also investigating what it means for two functions to be inverses of one another. The lesson goes slightly better than with 1st period, but the students still have trouble discovering the relationship between the domain and range of inverse functions. I am forced to walk them through the tail end of the lesson.

On a semi-unrelated note, I also realize at the end of the period that the homework questions this year haven’t been fully aligned with the lesson. This explains a lot.

11:27am | Period 5. This group is one day ahead of my other class, so today we’re focused on the algorithm to find the inverse of a function (interchange x and y and solve for y)Things go smoothly. The students spend over half of the period in groups working collaboratively. The energy in the room is great, the conversation is engaging, and the time flies…and as all this is happening, I realize that this sort of what I hoped for group work this year. But this is one of the few times (like 3) that it’s actually happened. Before today, if students are working in groups, it’s usually for a couple of minutes and then we come back together as a whole group. I must structure more time where students are working without me.

12:15pm | This is “lunch,” whatever that means. I spend most of the time prepping for my periods 7 and 8, meeting with a co-teacher, and making copies. The day is a blur. I take a couple bites of a sandwich just before the bell rings.

1:03pm | Period 7 is retaking a checkpoint (i.e. exam) from last week. The period is low-key. I spend some time at the beginning and end of the period connecting with one of the more challenging students. I sit next to her and chat. She’s an awesome young lady with loads of energy…and she’s growing on me. After this period, I can sense the day getting better.

1:53pm | I welcome my lone group of freshman to period 9 algebra. A great group. We’re studying linear equations. Due to a lack of common planning, my co-teacher and I haven’t really ironed out the details of the lesson…and it shows. The goal was to have students identify the series of operations performed on the variable and then use this to discover the series of inverse operations that would need to be performed to “reverse” those operations. Let’s just say a second day is needed.

2:40pm | Faculty meeting. We meet as an entire faculty and then break off into co-planning teams. My co-teacher also teaches with two other members of the math team, so it’s all over the place. We talk moving some ninth graders around and also some structures for tracking understanding. A colleague mentions how he has one or two “focus” questions for his daily homework check. He takes note of which students get it and don’t by means of his formative assessment and uses this info for intervention purposes. I love this and make a note to start doing it in some form. I manage to spend some time structuring the parallel teaching that we hope to begin implementing later in the week. We hope it turns into somewhat of the norm.

4:00pm | Grades for the marking period are due this week, so continue the process of finalizing those for around 30 minutes. I targeted some kids a few weeks ago as in danger of failing and I’m please that many of them are not going to fail due to some tutoring that I did with them.

4:30pm | I get word that there’s a girls volleyball game, so I head down the gym to end this stressful day on a high note. It doesn’t disappoint. I don’t any of the girls on the team, but I love attending school sporting events. I have great conversation with a few students (one of which is mine) selling goodies at the game as well as the drama teacher who also attended. She’s also in her first year at the school.

5:15pm | I’m too lazy to catch a bus, so I hail another Uber back home. My bike has spoiled me.

I’m still backed up from the day, so I spend about a half-hour on some planning when I arrive home. I do everything I can to stay away from work on weekday evenings, but today was one of those rare occasions where it was absolutely necessary. I’m exhausted and get to bed around 9:30.

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 hope was to have students more or less stumble upon the relationship between inverse functions. The planning was there. What ended up happening in large part was me forcing this discovery by telling students what they should have found out themselves. Their learning didn’t come naturally. Should I have left them to struggle? How could I have made the activity better align to my goal?

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?

My days this year have been so long…and grueling. I don’t think I’ve had days this taxing since my first year of teaching. Seriously. I find myself constantly planning to keep my head above water and my classroom routines are essentially nonexistent.

My students are AWESOME and they are very capable of amazing things. But right now, in many ways, I’m holding them back.

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.

The after school interactions at the volleyball game were truly a breath of fresh air. For some reason, I feel I’ll always remember these moments that I spent with the students. They were laid back, natural, and just what I needed.

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?

Goals? Today marked the close of the first marking period and work towards my goals has been fairly minimal thus far. Most of my energy so far this year has been dedicated to establishing standards-based grading with students who are accustomed to traditional means of assessment. This has been exhausting. But this has help me improve my SBG structure to better reflect student learning…I think. More on this later.

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

It’s almost November. Wow.

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.

 

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