The last day before Thanksgiving Break

November 18, 2016

The day 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.

At my school, the day before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents and Friends day.  There are no classes and the whole day has an open-house feel to it.  Students take their grandparents and friends for tours of the campus, see an art exhibit, shop at the book fair, and attend chapel.  It is a half-day, so we’ll all be done by noon.  Part of me enjoys days like this where we build community, but another part of me is frustrated by having to spend a day at work when I’m not getting to teach anyone anything.

7:10 Arrive at school.  We can’t park on campus today because all the spots are needed for the valet parking for grandparents and friends visiting today. I’ve gotten here too late to score a parking spot in the store lot across the street, so I need to park around the corner on a side-street.

7:20 Finish walking to campus and set up.  On the way in, a parent volunteer stops me to hand me a book that a student bought for me from my book fair wish list.  What a nice way to start the day!  I love books.

Yesterday I griped to a colleague that two adults who knew I had jury duty Wednesday had asked me Thursday morning if I had graded Wednesday’s quiz.  I expect this from students, but from adults?  So, when I walk in my friend greets me with “You got those quizzes graded yet?”  My response is somewhat appropriately grumpy and we both laugh.

7:30 I catch up on Twitter posts while kids wander in and out of the room while waiting for their grandparents to arrive.  Some don’t have friends coming and they came to school anyway, so we buddy them up with another family and send them on their way.  No reason for them to sit in my classroom doing puzzles all day long.

7:45 A student is unclear on where to meet his grandparents so I go down to ask the headmaster what to do.  He always stands on the sidewalk and greets each student by name every morning.  That’s one of the things that first attracted me to this school.  I tell the receptionist that if anyone is looking for that student, he is in my room.  On the way back up to my room, I stop to pick up the two spirit shirts that I ordered last week.  Now I can wear them on the last Friday of the month with my jeans.  I got one of each spirit color so the kids wouldn’t think I’m taking sides.  The parent guild volunteer laughs when I say that.

8:00 Some kids go to chapel.  Others stay in my room playing games while they wait for their grandparents to arrive.  They’re pretty loud and I have a headache, but I can’t really expect them to stay quiet during free time.  They’re just being kids.

Over the next few hours, families wander in and out on campus tours.  I introduce myself and discuss my philosophy of math education as much or as little as they seem to show interest.  I hope that I’m representing the school in a good light. Overall the kids seem happy to show their family members around and many are very engaged discussing what we’ve been doing in math recently.

10:30 Most of the families have either gone to chapel or left for the day.  A few kids come to hang out in my room.  They ask me questions about time zones and the Pythagorean theorem and other random things.  It’s nice to just be with kids again.

10:55 The kids leave to wander around campus until it is time for them to get picked up at 11:30. I think about what I want to accomplish before I leave at noon.  The more I can get done today, the less I’ll have to do over the break.

11:30 Two colleagues just informed me that all the kids are gone and the rest of the faculty has already left.  I guess noon was just an estimate.  I’m off to start my holiday.  Plenty of time to grade papers and plan lessons 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 was happy to be able to tell a set of grandparents this story about their grandson.  At this week’s faculty meeting, we were asked to say what our favorite thing was that happened in trimester one.  Mine was that this (reluctant) student voluntarily came into my room before school one day and told me a math joke.  He then told me several other math jokes in following days.  The fact that he was voluntarily coming into my room and talking about math was the  best thing that happened all trimester.

I’m a little worried that it wasn’t ok for me to let those three kids go wander around campus for the last half hour of the day.  In Middle School, we always supervise our students, but today is such an unstructured day, and I didn’t want them to feel like they were trapped in my room.  I did remind them not to leave campus without an adult.  I just hope that we can find them fairly quickly when their parents come to pick them up.

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?

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the idea of having an enrichment class added to my schedule.  Last year they told me that I wouldn’t have one since I had an extra section of math.  But then, after the fourth time they asked me to do one this year, I broke down and said yes.  I feel overwhelmed and I’m not doing my job as well as I would like.  I’m sleeping less this year because I work so much, which is crazy.  I’m not a college student anymore; I’m a middle-aged woman.  I’m not sure how to resolve this in a way that I can live with.  I’m going to have to change something about the way I am doing my work to make it go faster, and I can’t help thinking of that as cutting corners.  I don’t see how I can make things any more efficient than I already have.  Hopefully, I’ll think of something soon.

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 was happy to have some time to discuss issues with my division head this week.  Last year I was in his office a lot with questions and asking for suggestions.  This year both of us are busier, and I have less time to collaborate with him on my work. I appreciate his gift for using words to build consensus and want to learn from him in that regard.  That was exactly what we discussed when I went to him this week for help relating to a parent that doesn’t understand my teaching style.

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?

As I plan my lessons for the next two units, I’m going to be mindful of including as much problem based learning as I can.  I purchased a book from Cathy Fosnot’s series that I’m planning to use for my equations unit.  I hope that it will be a good structure for them learning equations with understanding.

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

I met a Mom who was picking up her daughter yesterday, and she was thanking me for teaching her daughter.  She said that usually math was a problem for her and this year it wasn’t.  I told her how much I appreciate her daughter’s somewhat sassy and very insightful questions about why I make some of the “teacher moves” that I make.  I’ve never had a student who asked about why I teach the way I do before, and I love getting to talk about it.  The student looked mildly embarrassed when I called her questions sassy, but I think overall she understood that it was a compliment.

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