October 15, Blessed Saturday

Saturday, October 15, 2016

This blog post is part of an ongoing series to capture a Day in the Life of a Teacher, a collective project started by Tina Cardone @crstn85.

Ah, blessed Saturday.  This is the only day of the week that I can sleep in.  At 6:24 am, my husband suddenly says “Dear, I think we both overslept.”  I remind him that it is Saturday, and we both go back to sleep.

At 9:30 I get up and eat breakfast.  A quick survey of social media shows that people are still arguing about the presidential election, as expected.  I eat some scones that my husband cooked and get dressed.

At 11:00 I leave the house to run errands and get my mammogram done.  Since I reserve Sunday for church services and related religious activities, I only have Saturday to do everything that didn’t get done during the week, both personal and work-related.  I fill up my car and head to the breast clinic.  As I’m filling out my paperwork, a woman sits down with a Saxon math book and a grade book in hand.  The woman on the other side asks if she is a teacher.  It turns out that there are four of us who are teachers, all sitting together in the waiting room.  Lucky for us this clinic offers Saturday appointments!

After my screening, I run over to the library and drop off my books that are due this week.  Then I pick up my husband and my backpack from home.  We have lunch out at Salata and then head to Starbucks to settle in and do school work for the rest of the afternoon.  It takes visits to 3 different locations to find one that actually has an open table where we can work.  Starbucks is very popular on Saturdays in my part of town.

I gave tests yesterday, and I know there are a small handful of children that didn’t finish.  I encouraged them to come after school to finish up while the material was fresh in their minds, but some couldn’t change their carpool arrangements and will have to finish Monday.  I asked them to write “Not finished” on the top of their tests, but I’m concerned that I will accidentally grade a paper for a student who didn’t finish and didn’t write me a note.  However, since it takes me several hours to grade a test, this is my best opportunity to get it done.  I don’t want to wait until next Saturday because they deserve to get their feedback in a few days, not a few weeks.  I’ll just set aside any paper that looks significantly unfinished and hope for the best.

It’s 6:00 and the sixth-grade tests are finished.  I only had two perfect papers this time, which is down quite a few from the number I had on the first test.  I thought decimals were easier than fractions, but maybe I wrote harder questions to compensate.  Or maybe they didn’t study as much because they think decimals are easier.  Hard to say.  I noticed that my twins who are new to the school this year left remainders on their division problems.  Since I didn’t teach about that, but just reminded them to keep dividing as they were taught last year, I have emailed the girls to ask them to come into tutorial so I can teach them about this.  I went back and regraded their papers to give back the points I took off for leaving the remainders.  When I wondered aloud if other kids (who made the same error) would complain, he reminded me that the important thing is to treat my students equitably, not equally.  Good advice.  We’re going to head home for dinner.  I need to choose between grading the seventh-grade tests, doing some more detailed planning for next week, or taking a break after dinner.

After catching up on some email and FB, I’ve decided I’m done working for today.  I’m going to finish this post and hit Netflix.  The work is never ending, so the idea of “getting everything done” isn’t realistic.  Better to rest and be ready for next week.

Reflection questions:

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’m really proud of regrading those two papers to give credit for the girls who didn’t learn last year how to deal with remainders.  That was a little extra work on my part, but it was fair to them.  I could say “Well they should have asked me about that when I said not to leave a remainder”, but in all likelihood, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.  Better to just teach them the material.  On the flip side, that same decision is one I’m worried about having to defend.  There were one or two people who did have the opportunity to learn that last year and didn’t.  It’s sort of a slippery slope to say “I’ll only grade you on what you’ve learned so far.”  That would give everyone a perfect paper by definition.

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 feel like every time I turn around lately, I step in something.  It’s frustrating because I start to dread going to work.  I feel like I don’t know what’s going to go wrong next.  However, I’ve gotten some really positive feedback from my headmaster during a couple of those situations.  If the situation hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have had any reason to praise me, and the praise was very nice to hear.  So, you take the good with the bad.

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.

A co-worker told me yesterday that he really likes a student in my advisory.  I was surprised, because, after that student’s interview, this teacher was very negative about that student.  When I expressed my confusion, the teacher said: “I was wrong about him.”  It made me so happy to see a co-worker be able to change his mind about a student and see the best in him.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

We’re starting new units in both of my classes next week.  I’m going to teach fraction, decimal, and percent equivalence in sixth grade.  I’m teaching rates, ratios, and proportions in seventh.  In the sixth grade class, I’m not doing a lot to change the delivery of the material from last year.  But in seventh, I’m pushing to have a lot more real-world applications and student-centered lessons.  Because this topic is so easy to connect to the real world, I have a lot of different options for 3-act tasks and authentic assessments.  The sixth graders will do this same topic soon, so they will benefit from these applications as well.  I’m realizing that sometimes you need to teach skills and it is ok if they are not saturated with context.  When the context is genuine, then you apply it like crazy, and use the skills that you learned before in the new context.

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

I’ve decided that to help me focus on the positive, I’m going to make a short list of “things I did well today” in my planner at the end of each day.  I, like many teachers I know, naturally focus on the things that go wrong.  I feel like I’ve been doing that even more than usual this year.  To combat that tendency, I’m starting a “brag book” on myself.  Hopefully, when I’m feeling like I just stepped in something again, I can look back at my successes and feel like I can soldier on.


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