Category Archives: Day in the Life

Testing Day

Thursday, April 13, 2017 – Testing day

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.

Today is the last of four days of testing at our school for the sixth grade.  The students have been on a special schedule all four days.  From 8:00 – 8:30 they are in their testing rooms to get iPads set up, attendance taken, and settle down.  This allows enough time for anyone late to school to still get into the testing room.  At 8:30 we start, taking two tests with a break in between.  We finish up around 10:30, and then the kids have free time in the testing room.  At 11:20 they go to class and run their normal schedule for the rest of the day.

I’m very lucky because I’m in a private school.  These test results are primarily used to give us data on how our instruction is working for the class as a whole.  I think they also go on the kids’ transcripts for when they apply to high school.  The extent of the preparation we do is to teach our curriculum.  I did include a warmup this week on percent problems, because we hadn’t discussed those since that unit, and I expect that it is on the test.  Otherwise, it’s just business as usual.

7:30 – I arrive at school.  There are a couple of students there to see me for extra help on tests they would like to retake.

8:00 – Everyone is here, so we take attendance and head for the chapel.  Thursday is our once a week chapel day, and because it is Holy week, we are doing “Stations of the Cross” today.  We’re expecting the chapel to run longer than the normal service.  I stress to the group that this is a solemn time and as we walk in and out of chapel we should be quietly reflecting on Christ’s crucifixion, not chatting about our plans for the weekend.

8:45 – The chapel service was lovely and actually not much longer than normal.  We head back to the room to get ready for testing.  I tell kids to get their snacks from their lockers, use the restroom, get a drink, and be ready to start at 9:00.

9:00 – We go through the instructions word for word, one more time.  The kids know that I am required to read them word for word, so they are patient.  I tease one girl for clicking “ok” on a pop-up box before I actually tell them to click “ok”.  This is a verbal reasoning test that lasts 30 minutes.  It is uneventful.

9:45 – Everyone is done with the first test and we take a snack and restroom break.  The teacher who is floating pops in, so I go for a cup of coffee and the restroom myself.

10:00 – Everyone is back in their seats and we start the next test.  This one is vocabulary, and it is only 20 minutes.  How nice to finish with something short and relatively easy.

10:30 – We’re all done and I call over to see if the gym is available.  Yesterday we just played games and read in my classroom, but I don’t want these kids to feel like they missed out on recess time.  I can’t reach anyone, and they seem perfectly happy playing in my room, so I leave it alone.

11:20 – I send the kids off to class and try to get some work done.  I also eat my lunch and decide to pop across the street for dessert.  I get a smoothie.  It’s delicious.

12:50 – The kids are fidgety after testing, but they seem to settle in after a couple of minutes.  I felt like my lesson on surface area didn’t make sense yesterday, so I try a different approach.  I don’t teach nets because I think they are confusing and just an extra layer of math for the kids to learn.  Yesterday I told them to just find the area of each side.  That was too vague.  Today, we start by looking at a cube.  I ask them what the sides are called.  They say “faces”.  I say, ok, that’s what math people call them.  What do normal people call them?  They are stumped.  I point to one and ask “What is this called?”  Someone says “The top.”  I write “top” on the board.  In seconds we have a list of all six sides.  They I start asking how to find the area of each side.  We find them and add them up.  We repeat the process with a rectangular prism and finally a triangular prism.  They seem to have the hang of it, so they return to practicing on the worksheet I gave out yesterday.  I’m pleased that it went better the second time around.

1:40 – My next class comes in and we repeat the lesson from the previous period.  They were less confused going in because I did a better job with them yesterday.  We practice finding surface areas.  One or two students are finding the volume, so we talk about the difference.  One student is finding the area of only one side.  I’m not sure how she picked that one side.  We talk about all the other sides and how you have to include all of them.  Someone or other has their hand up throughout the class, which makes me feel needed, but also makes me wonder if I didn’t give enough instruction before letting them practice.

2:30 – This class didn’t meet yesterday because of the testing schedule (we have a rotating schedule.)  We watch act three of @robertkaplinsky file cabinet 3-act task.  Several people say “I got 864 for four sides because I didn’t think about the handles.  Is that right or is it wrong?”  I try to engage them in a conversation about what “right” and “wrong” mean in this context.  No one would think about the handles until they actually put on the sticky notes, I argue.  So 864 is a perfectly reasonable expectation.  Life isn’t like a perfectly set up math problem.  I’m not sure they understand.  We move on to calculating surface area in a more general way.  I explain to them that there are lots of formulas, but all you need to do is list the sides, find each one’s area, and add them up.  We do a couple, and I give them one to try on their own.  I tell them they are dismissed when they have gotten it right.  Most of the kids actually get it, although a couple just get answers from friends.  I talk with them about why that isn’t helpful.  When there are 3 kids left, we work the problem together so they can succeed, and go home.

3:30 – I have two kids with me after school.  One is taking a test.  The other is studying for a retake.  When his Mom asks what time he will be done, I say 4:30.  He doesn’t like that.  I explain that he has a late assignment to make up after the retake, plus the classwork that he didn’t do today because he chose to work on the late assignment.  When he makes his frustration with this plan clear, I assure him that it is his choice whether he does the assignments now or over the weekend.  He makes a dramatic face and says “Fine, I’ll stay!”

I’m trying to get him to show work on how to solve an equation.  He doesn’t see that you have to do the same thing to both sides, and the variables keep getting isolated as if by magic.  Finally, I take out counters and a cup.  We put 18 counters on one table and 12 on the other.  I put a cup with the 12 counters and ask him how many are in the cup if the two tables are equal.  He looks in the cup and says “None”.  I ask him how many would need to be there.  Eventually, we work out that it is six.  I put in six.  Then I ask him to get the cup by itself, while still keeping the two tables equal.  He declares it to be impossible.  We talk more.  Eventually, we each take off 12 counters.  He says “OH!  So you mean I need to subtract 120 from BOTH sides in that equation?”  I think I will faint with relief, and ask him to do just that.  He proceeds to tell me that he understands that, but everything else I’ve said today was very confusing and made no sense.  I cringe on the the inside and say thank you.

5:00 – We’re finally wrapped up and I head out.  On the way home, I talk with a friend I met in a graduate class last summer about an opening at my school.  I get nervous because I feel like she’s interviewing me.  However, I tell her the truth, good and bad, about my school.  I would really like for her to work there because she is energetic and fun and she loves teaching and loves kids.  She says she will apply for the position.

6:00 – I get home and decide to take the evening off.  It’s the start of a four-day weekend, and I need to get some down time.  I’m not my best self right now, and I want to get closer to that place before the new week starts.  Next week is our class trip, which will require extra patience for everyone involved.  I have a lot of papers to grade this weekend, but that can wait until tomorrow.

To cheer myself up, I ask my husband out to dinner.  We strategize on when all the leftovers will be eaten if we go out, and once we’re convinced that we’re not wasting food, we go across the street for fish.  Dinner is delicious.  After that, we go to a local bookstore to shop.  I find several titles.  As I’m browsing teen fiction, a woman comes up and asks me if I’m a teacher.  I say yes.  She asks me if I can help her find a book called Speak.  I tell her the author is Laurie Anderson and show her where the book is.  Her daughter comes up, and we have a chat about school and about Speak.  I ask how she knew I was a teacher.  She says “I could tell from your face.”  I have no idea what that means, but I like it.

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?

Today I asked a student to take off her non-uniform jacket during testing.  Later she put it back on.  I asked her to take it off again.  She complained that it was cold.  I told her that I had asked them to raise them temperature in the room and that the air was already shut off.  Normally I wouldn’t be worried about this, but since we were taking high stakes tests, now I’m worried that if her test scores are low, they will try to blame it on me for making her take a test when she was cold.  I should have thought it through and just ignored the jacket.

In better news, I’m glad that I put in the time that I did with the kid after school.  I did a fairly good job of not letting his very emotional state cause me to snap at him.  For this time of year, that’s saying something.

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 looking forward to next year.  I’m teaching a couple of new electives in engineering, and to make space for that I asked to be relieved of one section of 7th-grade math.  My administration actually relieved me of both of my 7th-grade sections, which means next year won’t be as crushingly busy as this year has been.  Seeing that light at the end of the tunnel is making it easier to work through the end of year crush.

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 great meeting with my headmaster last week.  I was asking for help with managing my workload and he was very willing to take an hour out of his day to help me.  We agreed that the underlying issue is that we have completed expanding our class offerings, but we haven’t finished fully staffing the expansion.  Since then, I found out that we would be adding faculty that would help resolve my issue for next year, which is great news.  But even before I knew that the time the headmaster was willing to spend with me meant a lot to me.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.

Although I have a concrete plan for how to differentiate for the entire class, there is no time to implement it this year.  I will revamp a couple of units over the summer and use them next year.  It really helps that I’m only teaching sixth-grade math next year, so I only have one class to re-write instead of two.

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

I know one of the questions we hoped to answer with this project is what the ebb and flow of a school year feels like for teachers.  I’ve always said that February is the toughest because the refreshment of winter break is over and spring break hasn’t come.  I still think that is true.  But I also realize that April and May are chock full of special events, special schedules, and a frenzied to-do list of all the things that need to be finished before school ends.  This week, two of the four days I had no off period at all.  Every one of them was taken up with either testing or a meeting.  It wasn’t just the testing schedule that caused that, though, because last week, I had three days with no off period that wasn’t a scheduled meeting.  This is partly because I teach one extra class, but also because there is just a lot going on right now.  We’re trying to get kids to end the year strong.  We’re trying to get summer work assignments ready.  We’re thinking about courses that will be offered next year.  We’re trying to get ready to go on the class trip.  I’ll be really glad when summer gets here.  Between graduate work and summer school, I only get three weeks off in the summer, and those are in July, but I’m still looking forward to it.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

January 15, a Sunday

January 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.

Today is a Sunday.  I believe that Sunday should be reserved for public and private worship of the Lord and for rest, so I don’t do any school work or hobbies on Sunday.  I started this practice about 5 years ago, and it has been a great blessing to me in that time.  Having some distance from my school work refreshes me for another week at work.

9:35 am – I wake up because someone is knocking on my front door.  Trying to fix my bed-head and hoping my PJs look ok, I answer the door.  It is our back neighbor saying he wants to replace the fence.  That sounds like great news to me, because it really needs it.  I tell him we are happy to split the costs.

Now that my husband and I are awake, we get up and fix breakfast.  I shower and dress for church.

10:55 – Church is a pleasure today.  We’re studying the book of Genesis right now.  Afterwards, I say hello to some friends and head home.

1:00 – We eat lunch, and then I read a chapter in the book I’m reading called “Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts.”

2:30 – I take a nap.

4:30 – I get up and get ready to go back to church.  I’m assigned to the nursery tonight, but sometimes there are no kids in there and I get to go to church.  That is what happens tonight.  In the evenings, we are studying 1 Peter. The sermon is about humility and submission.  I struggle with pride in myself and my work, so this is a good one for me.  Afterwards I ask the pastor if submitting to the leaders placed over us still allows room for me to call my Congressman and express my opinions on pending legislation.  He assures me that it does.  I also ask him about a work meeting that is required and is on a Sunday.  I have a meeting with the headmaster on Tuesday to ask to be excused.  My pastor assures me that if my headmaster requires me to attend, then it becomes a deed of necessity for me to attend, so it will not be a sin. I chat with friends and find out that one of my good friends is expecting (her fifth!)  God is good.

7:00 – I spent so long chatting that it’s too late to cook meatloaf as planned for dinner.  I heat up some leftover pizza and my husband makes himself an omelet.  We spend some time chatting and feed and walk the dogs.

9:30 – I go to bed so that I can be ready for another day.

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?

Taking Sundays off was a difficult decision for me at first.  I wonder if students and parents will be frustrated if they email me late Saturday and don’t receive a response until Monday morning.  Being at a religious school has made that concern diminish a bit, but not entirely.

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 that late January into February is the most difficult time of the year for me.  I become tired and short tempered.  The joy of the holidays is past, but the excitement of summer is still far away.  The long days of planning, teaching, and grading start to become a grind.  However, I remember how much I enjoyed seeing my students the day after Christmas break ended.  I really do love my job.  I just don’t always like 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 recently had a student who is normally quite pleasant act very rudely to me in class.  I asked her advisor if something was going on with her, but she didn’t know of anything.  I suppose everyone has a bad day sometimes, but I was surprised how disappointed I was by having it happen with this particular student that I thought liked me.  I guess even a veteran teacher still wants to be liked on some level.  I’m pleased to report that her mood and behavior improved since then.

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 on track to go the whole year with lessons that I have gathered from a variety of different sources, none of which are the textbook we use.  I’m trying to make sure that I have students develop concepts that lead them to algorithms, not tell them algorithms first and then explain why they work.  Unfortunately, my textbook starts with the punchline on every lesson. I’ve started looking at a textbook designed with concept development in mind for future adoption.

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

I’m pleased to report that my headmaster did excuse me from the Sunday reception that we were asked to attend.  He was very gracious and understood my reason for asking for the exception. I am always uncomfortable asking for special treatment, but everyone needs a little grace sometimes.

First day after Christmas Break

January 3, 2017

Welcome back!

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.

Today is our first day of classes after Christmas Break.  We had an in-service yesterday.  Because I work at a school with compassionate administrators, we only had 2 hours of meetings and the rest of the day was for working in our rooms.

7:10 – Arrive at school.  I’m trying to remember my morning routine.  Hopefully, I didn’t forget anything at home.

7:30 – I’m in my classroom and ready to receive students.  I’m also looking for some manipulatives that I know I have and can’t find.  I last saw them in August, so there is no telling where they are now.  I bought poker chips to use as a back-up, but since they cost $25, I would rather find the color tiles and return the poker chips to get my money back.

7:50 – The boys trickle in.  My goodness are they loud!  After 2 weeks of peace and quiet with my husband, I forgot what it was like to be around a bunch of kids.

8:00 – We go down to the “Boy’s World” meeting where the boys of the grade gather for character development lessons.  This is run by one of our admin team, so I am excused to work in my room this period.  Yay!

8:10 – One of my students pops in and asks if everyone else is at Boy World.  Well, better late than never!  I go for coffee and think about what I need to do first.

8:28 – I’m back with my coffee.  The consensus in the faculty lounge is that no one knows if there is a faculty meeting today or not.  The principal’s secretary said that he asked her if there was a meeting, and now the members of the admin team are emailing each other to decide.  We just had a meeting yesterday, but perhaps we need one today as well.  I hope not – I’m going to be exhausted after teaching 5 classes for the first time in weeks.

One of the things on my plate for this semester is to add enrichment for the students who already knew all of sixth-grade math before they entered sixth grade.  I’m thinking about asking my star pupil from last year (now an 8th grader) if he wants to help me offer the sessions after school.  The dean of students said that I can offer him volunteer hours for it, which goes to his NJHS requirement.  I’m going to email him and see what he thinks.  I also need to write an introductory email to the parents letting them know about this opportunity.  I’ll have my principal read it before I send it out.  He’s great at word smithing and always helps me to stay out of trouble.

9:00 – I’ve got a class coming in half an hour and I just realized that I forgot to grade one last component of their project.  I’m going to get that done quickly so I can return them.  I especially want to get these turned back because there are a few kids that never emailed me that last component (despite several personal reminders) and I want them to get it to me asap.

9:30 – It’s good to see the kids again after the break.  They are happy to see a WODB problem as their warmup, and they get right to work.  I pass back papers while they are working.  We discuss the warmup and then use color tiles to build patterns formed by linear equations as the value of the variable changes.  This isn’t something any of us have done before, so I learn how to explain the directions from the questions that they ask me.  After the students have finished, we rotate places and they guess the expression modeled by another group.  This is an activity I heard about from my informal twitter mentor, @MarkChubb3.  We debrief with a conversation about how variables are used in different ways in math, and what differences there are between expressions and equations (our next two topics.)

10:15 – My boys come in to eat their snack.  I’ll see them in class after lunch.

10:30 – I teach another class of seventh graders, and this time I front load the activity with the discussion about how variables are used in math.  They seem to have a better understanding of the activity because they finish it more quickly and with less input from me.  We have time for each group to rotate around to every other group’s patterns and see them.  We then debrief with a continuation of the discussion about expressions and equations and some of the vocabulary used to work with each one.

11:25 – I’m off until lunch duty at 12:30. I try to get some personal phone calls taken care of and record test grades for my 6th graders, so they can get their tests back today as well.  I also need to make seating charts for the sixth graders.  It’s always a challenge to remember who can’t sit together because they annoy each other, or who can’t sit together because they’re such good friends that they distract each other.  For whatever reason, that kind of information just doesn’t stick with me.

12:10 – Well, the seating charts are done, but the grades aren’t recorded yet.  Maybe I can get it done in class while they’re playing the integer number line game.  We’ll see.  They can always wait one more day.  I definitely have to go to lunch, since I only have 20 minutes until my recess duty starts.

I usually blog as the day goes by so that I can capture the realities of my day.  By the time I got back to this blog post, it was three days later, and honestly, I’ve forgotten what happened that afternoon.  I know that I taught three classes, did dismissal duty, and then went home fairly early because I was tired. (The faculty meeting was, in fact, canceled.)

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?

Everything was such a blur, I really don’t remember.  I can address one from today (1/6/17.)  Mid-day I really didn’t feel like teaching my afternoon classes, so I spoke with a colleague to get a pep-talk.  He surprised by saying “So you don’t feel like teaching?  Don’t.  Play a game with them.  Honor how you feel.”  I considered it and then decided to teach the lesson I had planned.  I’m proud of myself for sticking to my values and making every minute count.  However, I worry that I was grouchy and the value that I got in math learning I might have lost in student relationships.  They certainly wanted to talk not work, and I had to tell them that if they didn’t finish their classwork, it would be homework. I rarely do that, and I definitely don’t believe in using work as punishment. However, I didn’t have a creative idea for how to keep them focused on a Friday afternoon when we’re all tired from adjusting back to our routine.

Ideally, my lessons are so engaging that the kids complete them willingly, but this one wasn’t up to my usual standard, and honestly I’m not sure it would have mattered if it were. We’re all looking forward to the weekend.

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?

Coming back to work after a long break is very difficult for me.  It takes me a long time to unwind, and then it takes me a long time to get moving again.  I always feel like taking a vacation kills my productivity.  However, I know that I was more patient with the kids today than I was before the break, so I definitely needed it.  I’m looking forward to reaching a more even keel where I’m not so invested in work all the time that taking a couple of weeks of is such a shock.

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.

The kids were very excited to share their holiday adventures with me.  I feel like having these conversations about my life and their lives gives them a point where they can connect with me and I can connect with them. It always amazes me how they forget most of what I say about math, but they seem to remember the smallest personal things about me, like my dog’s name or that I got a new FitBit.

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?

There were so many things that I added this year, and I realize that some of them have faded away.  For instance, today a student was sad because he was raising his hand and everyone else was just calling out answers.  At the beginning of the year, I really made an effort to stop kids from blurting out answers, because I wanted everyone to have time to think and a chance to contribute.  That is something I would like to revisit.  I’m sure there are other small things, like having a student repeat my instructions back before we start a task that I could also re-implement. (Sometimes it feels like changing my teaching habits is like stretching a rubber band. Without constant tension, it goes right back to how it is naturally.  I wonder how long I will need to consciously change a technique before it becomes a habit?)

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

Since going back to work from the break, I’ve made a conscious effort to stop thinking and talking about work non-stop.  While my husband certainly appreciates this, I’m mostly doing it for myself.  I need to have time that I am not working in order to be refreshed and ready for students when I am teaching.  Constantly thinking about school doesn’t get much work done, but it creates a lot of stress and exhaustion.  I feel like I’m always on the rat wheel, and I don’t know how to get off.  But after Christmas break, it seems so easy.  How do I stop? Just stop. Do something else, think about something else, stop the impulse to tell my husband every minute of my day.  I think this is an important change for me. After all, a teaching career is a marathon, not a sprint.  Even a single year of teaching cannot be viewed as a sprint.  You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.  For that reason, my word for 2017 is “balance.”

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.

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.

October 15, Blessed Saturday

Saturday, October 15, 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.

Ah, blessed Saturday.  This is the only day of the week that I can sleep in.  At 6:24 am, my husband suddenly says “Dear, I think we both overslept.”  I remind him that it is Saturday, and we both go back to sleep.

At 9:30 I get up and eat breakfast.  A quick survey of social media shows that people are still arguing about the presidential election, as expected.  I eat some scones that my husband cooked and get dressed.

At 11:00 I leave the house to run errands and get my mammogram done.  Since I reserve Sunday for church services and related religious activities, I only have Saturday to do everything that didn’t get done during the week, both personal and work-related.  I fill up my car and head to the breast clinic.  As I’m filling out my paperwork, a woman sits down with a Saxon math book and a grade book in hand.  The woman on the other side asks if she is a teacher.  It turns out that there are four of us who are teachers, all sitting together in the waiting room.  Lucky for us this clinic offers Saturday appointments!

After my screening, I run over to the library and drop off my books that are due this week.  Then I pick up my husband and my backpack from home.  We have lunch out at Salata and then head to Starbucks to settle in and do school work for the rest of the afternoon.  It takes visits to 3 different locations to find one that actually has an open table where we can work.  Starbucks is very popular on Saturdays in my part of town.

I gave tests yesterday, and I know there are a small handful of children that didn’t finish.  I encouraged them to come after school to finish up while the material was fresh in their minds, but some couldn’t change their carpool arrangements and will have to finish Monday.  I asked them to write “Not finished” on the top of their tests, but I’m concerned that I will accidentally grade a paper for a student who didn’t finish and didn’t write me a note.  However, since it takes me several hours to grade a test, this is my best opportunity to get it done.  I don’t want to wait until next Saturday because they deserve to get their feedback in a few days, not a few weeks.  I’ll just set aside any paper that looks significantly unfinished and hope for the best.

It’s 6:00 and the sixth-grade tests are finished.  I only had two perfect papers this time, which is down quite a few from the number I had on the first test.  I thought decimals were easier than fractions, but maybe I wrote harder questions to compensate.  Or maybe they didn’t study as much because they think decimals are easier.  Hard to say.  I noticed that my twins who are new to the school this year left remainders on their division problems.  Since I didn’t teach about that, but just reminded them to keep dividing as they were taught last year, I have emailed the girls to ask them to come into tutorial so I can teach them about this.  I went back and regraded their papers to give back the points I took off for leaving the remainders.  When I wondered aloud if other kids (who made the same error) would complain, he reminded me that the important thing is to treat my students equitably, not equally.  Good advice.  We’re going to head home for dinner.  I need to choose between grading the seventh-grade tests, doing some more detailed planning for next week, or taking a break after dinner.

After catching up on some email and FB, I’ve decided I’m done working for today.  I’m going to finish this post and hit Netflix.  The work is never ending, so the idea of “getting everything done” isn’t realistic.  Better to rest and be ready for 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’m really proud of regrading those two papers to give credit for the girls who didn’t learn last year how to deal with remainders.  That was a little extra work on my part, but it was fair to them.  I could say “Well they should have asked me about that when I said not to leave a remainder”, but in all likelihood, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.  Better to just teach them the material.  On the flip side, that same decision is one I’m worried about having to defend.  There were one or two people who did have the opportunity to learn that last year and didn’t.  It’s sort of a slippery slope to say “I’ll only grade you on what you’ve learned so far.”  That would give everyone a perfect paper by definition.

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 feel like every time I turn around lately, I step in something.  It’s frustrating because I start to dread going to work.  I feel like I don’t know what’s going to go wrong next.  However, I’ve gotten some really positive feedback from my headmaster during a couple of those situations.  If the situation hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have had any reason to praise me, and the praise was very nice to hear.  So, you take the good with the bad.

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.

A co-worker told me yesterday that he really likes a student in my advisory.  I was surprised, because, after that student’s interview, this teacher was very negative about that student.  When I expressed my confusion, the teacher said: “I was wrong about him.”  It made me so happy to see a co-worker be able to change his mind about a student and see the best in him.

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?

We’re starting new units in both of my classes next week.  I’m going to teach fraction, decimal, and percent equivalence in sixth grade.  I’m teaching rates, ratios, and proportions in seventh.  In the sixth grade class, I’m not doing a lot to change the delivery of the material from last year.  But in seventh, I’m pushing to have a lot more real-world applications and student-centered lessons.  Because this topic is so easy to connect to the real world, I have a lot of different options for 3-act tasks and authentic assessments.  The sixth graders will do this same topic soon, so they will benefit from these applications as well.  I’m realizing that sometimes you need to teach skills and it is ok if they are not saturated with context.  When the context is genuine, then you apply it like crazy, and use the skills that you learned before in the new context.

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

I’ve decided that to help me focus on the positive, I’m going to make a short list of “things I did well today” in my planner at the end of each day.  I, like many teachers I know, naturally focus on the things that go wrong.  I feel like I’ve been doing that even more than usual this year.  To combat that tendency, I’m starting a “brag book” on myself.  Hopefully, when I’m feeling like I just stepped in something again, I can look back at my successes and feel like I can soldier on.