Summer “Break”

June 15, 2017

Summer “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.

I love summer because it is when I get time to do all the things that there is no time for during the school year.  In today’s case, it means doing the only thing that I love more than I love teaching – being a student.

My day starts off at 7:20 when I get out of bed to get ready for school.  This is an hour later than a teaching day, which is delightful in and of itself.  I’m ready and out the door by 7:45, which is a little late, but not too bad.  My tire pressure light is on, but I don’t have time to check the air in my tires right now because I’m giving a presentation at 8:30 and I don’t want to be late.  That light usually comes on pretty easily, so I’m sure it will be fine.

I get to school at 8:15. The campus where my summer professional development/graduate class is meeting is just around the corner from where I teach, so the commute is similar.  At 8:35 we have most of the students in the class and 3 of the 4 people in my book study group, so we begin our presentation.  Our fourth group member shows up shortly thereafter.  The presentation goes smoothly.  The book that we are studying is Cathy Seeley’s “Smarter Than We Think”, and we are talking about the difference between memorization and understanding, which is one of my favorite topics.  My specific presentation point is “using rich tasks”.  I include a number of links, including a “My favorite place to find rich tasks” list from the #MTBoS.

After the book study presentations, we spent an hour and a half going through stations with the teachers from the elementary group.  The activities cover the spectrum from early childhood through middle school.  I love getting the perspective of the lower grade teachers so that I can understand more about how children develop their math knowledge.

After the stations are done we eat lunch.  At lunch, a few of us decide to go for drinks at the end of the day, since it is the last day of our two-week course.  After lunch, we take a couple of surveys.  I finish one early and spend some time talking with my instructor about doctoral programs.  This course has really inspired me to spread the philosophies that they’re teaching like a virus to every math teacher in the world.  I’ve decided to start with a 5-course sequence that will allow me to become certified in Texas as a master mathematics teacher (MMT).  If I’m still having fun after that, I can apply those 5 courses and the 2 I’ve taken this summer and last summer toward a doctoral program.  I’ll be 1/3 of the way through my coursework at that point, which is enough of a start that I’d hopefully have the momentum to finish.  Then I can teach kids during the school year and teach adults during the summer.  While we watch some of the video interviews that people have created of “How I use math in the real world”, I register to take the GRE.  Again.  It’s my third time because my scores keep expiring between degrees.

At 2:00 we’re done and everyone goes their separate ways talking about how excited they are to be on summer break.  I reflect on the fact that I’m teaching summer school for three of the next four weeks and wonder if it was a good choice.  I’m tired and I would love to have a break.  However, I don’t do well with free time, so I think that the two weeks I’m getting off at the end of July will be enough of a break for me.  I just have to hang on until then.  Three of us go to a bar and have drinks.  We have a great time talking about our struggles and successes in teaching.  A friend observes that although we all teach in different environments, one in HISD, one in a charter school, and me in a private school, that challenges that we face are remarkably similar.  How do I connect with the students?  How do I teach them to be thoughtful and responsible?  And why is keeping your locker organized such a challenge?

After a while, we decide to head out.  I go across the street to my school to see if I can find out about our graduate school tuition support program.  it’s a new program and no one seems to have the details.  I run some errands and manage to get home around six.  I try to register for the test to become certified to teach math in Texas, but their system is so byzantine that I can’t figure it out.  They’re already closed for the day, so I’ll have to call them tomorrow.  Since I teach in private school, I’ve never needed to add a math certification to my science certification. However, the MMT program requires a current math certification, so if I want one, I’ll have to get the other.  Since they have an option for grades 4 – 8, it shouldn’t be a significant hurdle.  If I wanted to get the 7 – 12 version, I would definitely have to study my pre-calc and calculus.  Since I’m teaching 6th grade next year, the 4 – 8 option makes more sense for me.

Well, I’m going to call it a day.  I have a quilt class on Saturday and I need to get some fabric pressed and cut to be ready for that.  Tomorrow I can get my lessons ready for the first day of summer camp on Monday.  No rest for the weary.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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?

Since I was a student today, instead of a teacher, I made a lot fewer decisions than I would have normally.  I’m glad that I reached out to make a connection socially with a couple of the other teachers in my class.  The great thing about our profession is that it is a collaborative effort.

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 still trying to rebound from how tired I was at the end of the school year.  Last Sunday I sat at the breakfast table looking forward to going to church, as I do every week.  When it was time to get up and go, I couldn’t do it.  I wound up getting up and going back to bed instead.  I didn’t get up again until about seven in the evening.  After sleeping all day, I was still able to sleep all night.  Clearly, I was tired.  Still, this course is wonderful and I’m glad that I’m enrolled in it, even if I did miss a day of church from all the nights I was up past midnight last week studying.

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 peer make fun of me in class last week, and it hurt my feelings.  Two relational moments came out of that.  I made a point of getting to know her better since we needed to work together during the course of the class. And, when I wrote about that decision in a journal entry for my class, I had a relational moment with my instructors when they told me how much they appreciated my effort. They said that they were inspired by my response to the situation, which really made me feel good.

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?

My goal for the summer is to catalog all the work that I did revising my lessons for sixth and seventh grade last school year.  I have all the paperwork, but it hasn’t made it into the designated binders yet.  I’d like to get that done before my vacation at the end of July so that all those resources are ready to use next year.

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

I met a lot of wonderful colleagues in my graduate class.  I had a great talk with a middle school teacher about privilege and how we can help students in underrepresented groups to achieve.  The next day she told me that our conversation had spurred her to finish her administrator’s certification so she could influence hiring and have a larger impact on education.  We agreed to keep in touch so that we could network and extend our influence.  I met another engineer turned teacher who has great ideas about helping me develop my engineering curriculum for next year. She told me about the technology courses that she took in the UK and how they got her hooked on engineering in middle school.  I just love talking with other educators who are passionate about their work.  Sometimes all the griping you hear in the course of a regular school day can bring you down.  Being with people who are excited about teaching is like a breath of fresh air.

 

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