December 16, 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.
7:20 – Ok, one more day. I can do this! I am welcomed to school by a Starbuck’s gift card in my mailbox. How nice.
7:30 – I finalize some plans for today with a colleague and open my room. I’m not expecting to see anyone for extra help today. Surprisingly a student comes in and asks me if I can give her an extra assignment to do over the break on what we’re learning next. I explain to her that she would have had to ask me for that earlier. I am with students from now until dismissal today, and I have to prepare an assignment to give her, they aren’t just something that I can pull out of thin air. The next 20 minutes are a flurry of students coming in and dropping off presents. That’s one of the nice things about teaching younger grades. Some of the cards are really sweet, telling me how much they appreciate my extra time before and after school to help them.
8:05 – Attendance is in and we’re off to the early childhood Christmas concert.
(Normally I write these blogs as the days goes on, a few sentences every hour or two. This day was so busy that the next time I thought of this blog was when I went to bed that night. I’m now finishing it up from memory several days later.)
As we’re waiting for the concert to start, I share with a college that my goal for today is not to do anything that will get me arrested. He agrees, and we promise to bail each other out should anything go badly today. I didn’t think I could be this tired and grumpy. Hopefully, my self-control will last for four more hours.
8:45 – The concert ends a little early and we decide to go to advisory until the 9:00 activity rotation starts.
8:50 – The dean of students calls everyone to the small gym for announcements of who won the door decorating contest and the ugly sweater contest. I’m thrilled to learn that the boys I advised last year have won the door decorating contest. Last year we didn’t even decorate our door because they couldn’t decide on a theme. Clearly, they’re growing up.
9:05 – Amazingly we are already done and headed to our rotation activities. On the way, a teacher tells me the schedule I posted for today is wrong. I wonder aloud how it can be wrong when I copied it from the Google Doc we created the schedule in. She says she has replaced it with the correct one. (When I check later, I see that mine was correct. This is not worth mentioning to her, despite how much I want to say it.)
I am responsible for having the kids make origami cards to give to support staff on campus. Another teacher is having them decorate cookies to give with the cards. The origami is confusing to the kids, and as I’m trying to explain it, the Spanish teacher comes in and takes over the lesson. Another day that might irritate me, but today I’m relieved. We get the cards done just in time to rotate to the next activity.
9:30 – The second group of card makers comes in. This time the origami goes more smoothly and we finish with a few minutes to spare.
10:00 – My final group of card makers is here. The athletic director has been helping out with this activity, and this time she gets up and teaches the lesson. It’s nice to have a break and be able to just pass out supplies and help kids that are stuck.
10:20 – The kids are done, so we tell them to deliver their cards and cookies and then go to the party in the music room.
10:30 – The party is well organized and attended by some parents. The kids seem to be having fun. Since there are a half dozen adults in the room, I ask my colleagues if they would mind me taking a 15-minute break. I’m such an introvert that it’s really hard for me to be with people so long without a break. They’re gracious and let me go. I bump into the headmaster and we have a good chat about the stresses of this week and how we’re looking forward to a break. I also bump into the dean of students and we go through each other’s Christmas gifts and swap a few. While we’re doing that the Spanish teacher brings me an Amazon gift card he got as an exchange for the bottle of wine I gave him earlier in the week. (Don’t tell the kids we trade their gifts!)
11:00 – After about half an hour of snacks, the teachers take the kids out to the front playground for recess. At 11:05 I finally get back out there to help supervise. A mom comes up to talk to me about struggles her kid has been having. I struggle to be attentive to her and to the kids on the playground.
11:30 – Before I know it, it is time for dismissal. We all go to the curb to wait for cars. I have a few good conversations with parents as they pick up their kiddos.
11:50 – Only two kids are left, so we drop them at the reception desk and go upstairs. I was going to get lunch and then work, but I decide to knock out my work and go home for lunch. When I get back to my desk, I discover that there is a present waiting for me. In and of itself that isn’t surprising, but this is from a Mom whose child had already given me a gift. I’ve never gotten two gifts from the same family before. This Mom also said some lovely things to me at carpool today about what an impact I’ve had on her daughter. I’m touched in a way I can’t adequately explain.
1:45 – I still haven’t finished the work I wanted to do. I have cleaned my desk and my classroom. I have not graded the projects hanging on the walls. They are life-sized Barbie scale drawings we made from measuring the dolls. I decide to roll them up and take them home so I can leave.
2:00 – I’m on my way to Christmas break. I have a lengthy to-do list of things to grade and things to prepare for January, but those can wait for another day. For now, I’m expecting a personal call at 2:30, so I head to Salata to grab a salad and take my call. Then I’m home for the holidays!
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 very pleased that I was able to keep my cool with my colleagues this week, for instance when my friend corrected my schedule and it was hers that was in error. It didn’t matter, as long as we were all telling the kids the same thing.
I wish I had been able to keep my cool with students as well. During 8th period on the 15th , I put kids in time-out for the first time in 20 years of teaching. They were supposed to be playing a game (war comparing positive and negative fractions and decimals.) Instead, they were wandering around the room. When I got them reseated, they were still not participating. I told them to put their heads down. Was that really necessary? Maybe I should have let it go.
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 am definitely looking forward to break. Last week I had three days in the week that I had zero off periods. That is part of why I am so tired and cranky right now. As I said on Facebook, I can’t remember ever working this many late nights and still being so far behind on planning and grading. I sent my principal a note saying “By the way, I’m not sure you realized how busy I am right now. Honestly, I’m not sure I realized it either until this week.” Something is going to have to change between now and May or I’m not going to make it.
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 gave my seventh graders a test on Tuesday, and based on the questions they asked and how long they took to finish, I got them impression that it hadn’t gone well. Rather than grading the tests, we debriefed the next day, looked at some strategies, and spent time practicing. The next day, I gave them back their tests with some loose leaf paper and had them correct anything that they wanted to correct. They were very appreciative of the chance to review and improve their work. It was interesting that a couple of them really wanted me to tell them which problems were right and wrong before they revisited the test. I told them that I wanted them to make that decision, based on what we had reviewed. I’m hoping that this decision showed them that what is important to me is that they learn the material, even if that means we need to take more than one attempt to do it.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. How is your goal progressing?
I feel like I’ve started to lose track of my goal is all the daily flurries of teaching. I just taught a whole unit on percent applications to my seventh graders, and it wasn’t until the end that I realized how much trouble they were having identifying what was happening in each story. If they had been drawing bar diagrams (or similar representations) then maybe they would have been able to see what is the part, what is the whole, etc. I need to stay focused on the importance of sense-making. I need to continue to focus on one or two good problems each day, not five or ten rote problems.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
Today (12/20) I had a fabulous phone conference with a friend I went to grad school with 15 years ago. She is now a professor in the education department at Syracuse University, and she was giving me an introduction on how to do lesson study in a small school like mine, where the math department isn’t big enough to do it by ourselves. We had a great conversation, and I have sent a message to the admin team asking for their blessing for me to start a lesson study group at our school. I’ve already received a positive response from the headmaster. I have a few colleagues in mind that I really hope will join, but I’m going to invite the entire middle school faculty so that no one feels left out. Although I can’t imagine adding one more thing to my plate, I’m so excited about the idea of having colleagues to collaborate with again (something I miss from my last school) that I’m willing to put in the extra work. Let’s hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew.
Also, this trimester I have a new course that meets 2 days a week. It’s a sort of “Introduction to Debate” class. It’s amazing how much a little thing like that adds to my schedule. In addition to the 2 periods a week, it’s the prep time to teach something I don’t know much about. I’m hoping that the prep time will decrease once I get into a routine. If it does not, I’m going to ask them to find someone else to take this class on for Trimester 3. I need to keep my focus on the 5 math classes that I’m teaching. Also, on a personal note, I’m hoping to audit a class at the local seminary this spring, so I need some room in my schedule. The class meets 4 Saturdays in the spring, which seems doable. But, since I have to put in at least half a day on Saturday to make my week work, it might not fit in my schedule. We’ll see. Spring semester always has more 3-day weekends than fall, so hopefully we are over the hump for this year.