Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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 – I’m at work and a couple of students who need help are walking in with me.  I ask them to wait while I drop my lunch in the fridge and we go to study.  There are about 8 kids in for extra help this morning, and I feel like I don’t spend enough time with any of them.  What can you do?

8:00 – I think we have advisory, but the boys tell me that they have health today, and right as I’m about to call the science teacher and ask he calls me to tell them they have health.  I thought it was Friday this week, but this week has been crazy, so he totally understands my confusion.  Off they go.  This is nice because I have plenty of work to do, entering citizenship grades and editing the test I’m giving tomorrow.  Also, my principal sent a link about some Pixar based math lessons on Khan Academy so I check that out.  It looks awesome!  That’s really exciting.

8:25 – The boys come back because the video wasn’t working so they were sent back to advisory.  Lucky that I hadn’t gone to make copies!  Since there are only 10 minutes left I let them goof around on their iPads for the remaining time.  We have a new math video game called Fog Stone Isle that we’re demoing and they are having some glitches that we try to address.

8:35 – Advisory is over and I’ll off p2 today, so I go to do some copying and laminating.  I need to cut out the laminating for a game we’re playing after lunch.

9:30 – My first seventh-grade class comes in. We missed class yesterday because of a tornado alert, so they need the lesson that I taught the other section yesterday.  We’re scheduled for a quiz, and technically yesterday’s lesson isn’t on the quiz.  However, it helps, especially with the bonus, so I’m postponing their quiz to tomorrow.  They seem ok with that.

I’m amazed to discover that they are completely stumped on how to connect the context we’ve been using to study equations (frog jumping contests from Cathy Fosnot) to symbolic equations.  I try to walk them through it using Algebra Tiles.  Later I realize that I should have used an open number line instead.

10:20 – My advisory comes in for their snack break.  It is uneventful.

10:30 – My second seventh-grade class comes in and takes their quiz.  After the quiz, I show them the open number line explanation that I thought about last period.  They seem to understand.  We’ll see if it sticks with them tomorrow.

11:20 – I was supposed to cover a class for a colleague who is doing an activity with visiting prospective students, but the division secretary noticed that a sub already on campus was free that period and asked him to do it.  I go to meet with the counselor to talk about a student that I’m struggling to communicate with.  I explain things to the student and she says she understands and then proceeds to do things that bear no apparent connection to what we discussed.  The conversation winds up lasting the whole period, as we discuss other students of concern as well.

12:15 – I go to lunch and eat as quickly as I can because I need to be at recess soon.

12:30 – I go to recess.  On the way downstairs, a tutor stops me to ask for extra material for one of her students to study.  She is surprised when I tell her that the trimester ends next Friday, so the last day for late work and redos is a week from today.

My principal is at recess, which usually means that one of the teachers on duty is absent. He and I talk about the Pixar/Khan academy material he sent this morning.  He says that he wants to offer a class on that next year. I immediately ask if I can teach it, which makes him laugh because I already have an extra class assigned to me, so my schedule is bursting at the seams.  I really do want to teach it, though.

12:45 – On the way in from recess, my principal and I discuss one of my advisees who is experiencing a tough time socially.  We agree that for now we just need to keep an eye on the situation and be supportive. We agree to touch base again if more action is necessary.

12:50 – My sixth graders come in and we do a warm up from Mashup Math that was actually for Valentine’s Day.  Oh well, better late than never.  The kids really like equation solving puzzles.  Our lesson is on matching inequalities to their graphs.  The kids work on that while I cut out the laminated pieces from this morning so we can play the game on the back of the paper. After a few minutes, I realize they are stuck. I didn’t realize that on this sheet you have to solve the inequalities first, and we haven’t talked about that yet. I show them how to use trial and error to match the inequalities to their graphs.  I am frustrated with myself that I didn’t notice sooner.

1:40 – My second sixth-grade class comes in, and while they do the warm up I finish cutting out the game pieces.  We play a game where they evaluate inequalities with random numbers and the person with the most true answers wins.  It amazes me how much they struggle to follow written directions.  I want to jump in and rescue them by telling them how to play the game, but decide it is better to keep pointing them back to the written instructions when they ask me questions.  I don’t just say “read it again”, I run my finger along the pertinent spot in the directions that answers their specific question.  They finish the game and we talk about how to match the inequalities to their graphs.

2:30 – My third group of sixth-graders is here. We start with a planner check to make sure that everyone has the homework and upcoming assignments written down for all their classes. Then we do the warm up and play the game. They are not as focused this late in the day, so the game takes the whole period.

3:15 – I dismiss my class. A seventh-grader comes in who needs to retake a test. I pull up the retake and see a note that I haven’t rewritten it from the first version yet. I race through the questions editing them slightly and print it out. It will have to do.

4:00 – My student is done with his retake and asks for some extra help on the topic for tomorrow’s quiz. It turns out that he actually knows all he needs to know for the quiz, it’s the material we just started today that confused him.  We do some practice and he leaves.

4:30 – I’m trying to sort out what order to teach the next few lessons for my pre-Algebra classes. We’re finishing up multi-step equations and starting inequalities. Normally I would practice equations more before moving to inequalities, but I’m going to a conference next week and I’ll be out Thursday and Friday.  I would rather introduce the new material now and then have them practice both topics while I’m gone.  I find some lessons that I like in a resource from the local Education Service Center and run them off.

5:00 – I head home.  Traffic is ok today, so I get home before 6.  When I get home, I need to grade a couple of quizzes that kids took late and then scan them and email them.  The test is tomorrow, so they should be able to see how they did on the quiz.  I don’t normally have to do this, but I didn’t remember to grade their late papers before today.

6:45 – I recently had the tech department push an app called Fog Stone Isle to the sixth grader’s iPads.  I didn’t say anything to my classes, but I did ask my advisees to try it out.  Word has spread and students are asking for the class code so they can play beyond the demo.  I send out emails to each of my three sixth grade classes with their class codes.  I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into my formal classroom, but for now, they can just have fun playing.  The game is a cross between Minecraft and a fraction operations tutorial.

7:00 – My husband and I are talking about going to Starbucks to grade papers, but I just need to take a break.  I’m going to stay home and watch the movie that he bought me for Valentine’s day.  Plenty of time to do more tomorrow.

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 very pleased with postponing the test for one class of my seventh graders. It wasn’t what they expected, but it was the right decision for them and they seemed to understand my reasoning.  I’m less pleased with my lack of sufficient preparation for my first sixth-grade class and my student who needed a retake.  These are the kinds of things that fall through the cracks when I am too busy.  If the laminating had been done and cut out, I could have just pulled the first activity and switched to the second, but the laminator was already off for the day when I went to do it yesterday and I didn’t want to wait half an hour for it to warm up.  I meant to cut the pieces out during the period before lunch, but the meeting with that counselor, although less urgent, was more important.

None of these are high stakes errors.  Everyone will bounce back and learn what they need to learn.  We will be fine.  But that isn’t the level of preparation that I like to have for my students.

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 find this time of year to be the lowest point for me emotionally.  I’m tired and I’m rushed.  There are too many things to do and not enough time.  That leads to mistakes, like the lesson I taught my first sixth-grade class today, which I should have done next week instead.  I’m looking forward to the conference I’m attending next week, which will give me ideas for my engineering course next year.  I’m also looking forward to spring break.  After spring break I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m looking forward to the conference I’m attending next week, which will give me ideas for my engineering course next year.  I’m also looking forward to spring break.  After spring break I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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 had a student confide in me about some social difficulties he is having.  He is such a sweet kid and my heart just breaks for him. Honestly, I think sometimes the other kids pick on him because he is so nice that they are uncomfortable.  What they see as brown nosing is actually genuine kindness.  I wish that I could help him more, but I am so pleased that he is comfortable sharing his feelings with me.

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’ve made a lot of progress toward differentiating my instruction this month. I attended a webinar before Christmas that gave some great ideas.  The one that is helping me now is the idea that each lesson should have a “Goldilocks” approach, where there is some material that is too easy, some that is too hard, and some that is just right for everyone.  It is easy to cover that range, because I’m pretty sure what is easy enough that everyone can do it and what is hard enough that no one can do it.  Then I just have to make sure that I move smoothly from one end to the other, so that everyone finds some sweet spot in the middle.  I hope that by doing this my lower functioning kids will feel supported while my higher functioning kids feel challenged, all at the same time.

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

I’ve had great results from lagging my homework and tests.  This is from the same webinar, which was a Big Marker/Global Math session led by Henri Picciotto.  We study a topic one week, do homework on it the next week, and assess it the third week.  This has led to a consistent 5 point bump in the mean scores on my assessments, which is a bigger immediate impact than I’ve seen with any other change I’ve made to my teaching. I couldn’t be happier with the results!  It also has other benefits beyond increased exposure to each topic.  If we miss a day because of weather or something, I don’t have to reschedule my test.  If someone else really wants to test on the same day as my test, it’s no big deal for me to move one day forward or backward, because we’re studying the next topic already.  If a student is absent the day before the test, they are still prepared to take it when they return.  Everyone has time to come in and get extra help if they don’t understand something.  Test reviews can be handed out a week before the test, instead of the day or two before.  This really is one of the best and simplest changes I’ve ever made to my classroom.






One thought on “Wednesday, February 15, 2017

  1. quantgal

    These posts are really great. I love how you do a play by play of your day and then add the reflection piece. You are really harnessing the actions and thoughts of teachers. This is a career that you need have detailed plans for and be incredibly organized and then be totally flexible and responsive to all the events, questions and needs that interfere with those plans and systems.



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