Hanging on until Thanksgiving

November 15, 2016

The week before Thanksgiving Break

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.

7:20 Arrive at school.  Fill out info form for Secret Santa exchange (I love the holidays!)

7:30 Chat with a colleague about what the girls are talking about in advisory this morning, then head to my room to meet with students.  One seventh-grader is finishing an activity from Yummy Math on proportional reasoning, and a sixth grader is trying to unravel the differences between associative and commutative properties.  I see that on her notes she has written that there are associative properties of addition and multiplication and commutative properties of subtraction and division.  I try to imagine what I could have said yesterday that would have led her to write that down.

8:00 Take attendance and take the boys down to their “Boy World” meeting.  Once a week all the 6th-grade boys gather with a male faculty member to discusses issues related to growing up and becoming a good citizen.  Once they are settled, I head over to book fair.  Our book fair offers an opportunity for teachers to create a “wish list” of books for classroom or personal use.  Then parents may choose to purchase books from that list for them as a gift.  I think this is a lovely tradition and I’m happy to take part.

8:25 Return from book fair. I have 10 minutes until my next class and no other off periods today, so it is hard to prioritize what to do.  I decide to schedule a couple of doctor’s appointments.  Their offices are always closed by the time I remember to call.  Go figure, none of them are open because it’s before 9 am.  Seriously?  I luck out with the third one and get one appointment scheduled.

8:40 The 7th graders come in to work on the “what if Barbie were as tall as me” projects.  Some groups are still trying to figure out how to set up their proportions.  Others have finished their calculations and are starting to draw on butcher paper.  I explain to them that I will be out tomorrow for jury duty, so they need to work together and follow the directions carefully.  I recap what they should complete tomorrow, and what to do on Thursday just in case I get picked.  They ask what jury duty is, which gives me a chance to explain civic responsibility.

9:30 My technology integration meeting is canceled, so I have a chance to breathe.  I get a cup of coffee and then finish up the sub plans for tomorrow. I also had time to read the article that we received yesterday at 3:00 and were supposed to read before today’s faculty meeting at 3:45. (Also, grades and comments are due at noon today, so no pressure.)

10:15 Time for the boys to come in for their morning snack break. Maybe now I can drink that coffee. And tell word to stop automatically putting a period in every time I put two spaces. I put my own punctuation and it keeps making me have two periods there. Go figure.

10:35 The seventh graders in this class don’t work as quickly (as a group) so there are fewer groups actually starting their sketches today. I hope they can figure out what to do when I’m gone tomorrow.  I encouraged them to work together to help each other while I’m out.

11:25 Today is the first day of my debate enrichment class.  There are 26 students.  I have 18 desks.  There is a plan for one of the older students to take a breakout group into another room and teach them, but I have to get the class started before he can start doing that.  It also means I’ll have to give him written notes before each class.  They told me I wouldn’t have an enrichment class this year because I’m teaching an extra math class, but apparently that plan fell through.  The kids in debate are great, except for the kid who says that the 3 topics he wants to debate are “argue, argue, argue”.  I hand him off to an 8th grader to explain what debate means.

The eighth graders in the room do an extemporaneous debate to show the 16 fifth graders what debate is about.  They do a great job arguing pro/con death penalty. After that, we debrief on what debate looks like and the difference between debating and arguing.  Next time the class meets, two of the eighth graders will take half the fifth graders and teach them the same lesson I’m teaching the rest of the kids. I think this elective is going to be fun.

12:15. Debate is gone and I have half an hour to find lunch and eat. The cafeteria scares me, so I walk across the street to Starbucks and pick up a sandwich and a coffee.

12:50 The sixth graders come in and we do a warmup on finding mistakes in order of operations problems.  This is to get them ready for tomorrow’s quiz.  We also take a practice quiz which winds up taking the entire class period.  The next two classes have the same lesson.  For some reason, my seventh-period class cannot control their talking today.  I’m trying to be polite, but it isn’t easy.  We’re all getting tired.

3:15 We’re done with class for today so I head for dismissal duty and then the faculty meeting.

3:45 There are several issues that cause friction in the faculty meeting.  I try not to be negative, but when they’re asking for feedback, I want to give honest feedback.  It’s a balancing act.  Still, it’s always tricky to give your boss constructive criticism in a public setting.

5:15 We’re done, and I’m heading home.

6:30 Wow, traffic was worse than usual tonight.  I respond to an email from a parent about the students’ Christmas party.  I’ll have to check my email one more time before bed, to see if anyone has questions about tomorrow’s quiz.  Other than that, I’m done.

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?

Asking the eighth-graders to demonstrate what debate looks like was a solid move.  No amount of me telling the younger students what to expect would have had the impact of seeing it.  Also, giving the eighth graders the chance to take a leadership role was good for me and for them.  I’m looking forward to partnering with the two students that will be helping me to teach the class.

I’m not happy with the ways I tried to control the chatter in 7th period.  I want to maintain a positive atmosphere in my room, and so I normally redirect conversation by saying “Talk about math.”  But when that isn’t enough, I don’t have a lot to fall back on.  That’s something I need to improve.  The real issue was that the practice quiz wasn’t a rich engaging task.  However, we needed to practice our skills before the quiz.  I need to think of a way to get the practice done that is more engaging, so there will be less socializing.

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 really holding my breath for Thanksgiving break.  My father is coming to visit and I’m so excited to see him.  Last week I had a migraine that lasted from Thursday through Sunday.  Since grades and comments were due Tuesday this week, I had to work through it.  I just started getting these headaches recently, so I’m still looking for effective treatments and learning how to work through them.  I slept a lot this weekend, so now I’m behind on planning and grading.  A week to catch up on planning and rest will go a long way.

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 have a student who is very shy about asking questions or talking to me.  I recently had a call from her mother asking for points back on an assignment that was turned in late.  Unbeknownst to me, the student had been sick, and therefore unable to complete the assignment.  I said that I would be happy to regrade it, but my requirement was that the student come in and tell me that it was late for personal reasons.  I said the mother could accompany her for moral support, but the student had to tell me herself.  She did, and since then she’s been doing a great job asking questions in class.  I think we broke the ice, and she decided that talking to me is ok after all.  I’m so glad that I stuck to my guns and asked for the student to speak to me herself.

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?

I’m learning that there are some skills that have natural contexts and others that don’t.  I can find a context for every skill, I think, but sometimes you just need some tools in your toolbox.  In hindsight, I think it is ok that I taught kids to convert fractions, decimals, and percents with no context.  We immediately put those skills to use in our shopping project.  But to do the project, we needed the skills.  I’m sure my perspective on this will grow with time, but so far I am pleased with my progress.

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

I have one parent that is very demanding and seems to want to tell me how to do my job.  She also wants immediate feedback, seemingly on a daily basis.  On the flip side, I have many parents who are absolutely delightful and are very supportive.  When we had parent conferences last week, all ten of my advisee’s conferences went extremely well.  I have to focus on the many, many good relationships I have and not spend too much energy on that one troublesome relationship.  Even in that case, we both want what is best for her child.  We just don’t agree on what that is right now.  I am hopeful that in time we will find some common ground.

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